There’s a reason this time of year is called the most wonderful time of year. With all the twinkling lights, holiday treats, and charming attractions, it’s hard not to feel some extra cheer during the holiday season.
There are so many festive celebrations and events around the GTA that are sure to get you in the holiday spirit. Get transported to a winter wonderland, enjoy spectacular photo opportunities, and make memories with your loved ones that you can cherish forever.
Here are some of the best light festivals and winter markets to check out around the GTA this holiday season!
1. The Distillery Winter Village
When: November 18 - December 31
Where: 55 Mill Street, Toronto
The Toronto Christmas Market may not be operating this year, but you can still experience the magic of the holidays at the Distillery District at The Distillery Winter Village. Featuring 75+ merchants, restaurants, and cafés, the Distillery District is the place to go for outdoor shopping and food cabins. During the festival, you can also explore 8 new vendor cabins offering curated seasonal items and gifts and 12 delicious food cabins. Stroll the cobblestone streets and gaze at the 50-foot tall Christmas tree in Trinity Square while being amazed by the displays and music. There will be plenty of photo walls for you to snap the perfect holiday photo and you may even catch Santa and his elves roaming around.
2. Polar Winter Festival
When: November 25 - December 26
Where: 100 Prince Edward Island Crescent, Toronto
Located at Toronto’s Bandshell Park, the Polar Winter Festival is Toronto’s biggest immersive walkthrough winter festival. Take a self-guided tour through the festival grounds and discover spectacular sights, such as giant teddy bears at Santa’s Toy Shop and tunnels of starry lights at the Polar Ice Tunnel. The kids will love taking selfies with Santa, getting photos with Elsa, the snow queen from Frozen, and have fun on the rides, which include a Christmas train and carousel. For the adults, enjoy holiday cocktails and eats in the X-Lounge, presented by Hotel X and Harlo and Honeycomb Hospitality.
3. Holiday Lights Tour
When: November 25 - December 30
Where: 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto
Take a self-guided walk and enjoy lighting displays in gardens and tunnels at Casa Loma’s Holiday Lights Tour. You’ll be dazzled by spectacular decorations, outdoor lighting displays, and live performances, all backdropped by Toronto’s majestic castle. If you purchase the VIP package, your ticket will also include a food and beverage credit.
4. Immersive Nutcracker
When: November 20 - December 26
Where: 1 Yonge St, Toronto
The producers of the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit now bring you the Immersive Nutcracker, an experience the entire family will enjoy. With magical special effects, Tchaikovsky’s music, and a life-sized nutcracker, this winter exhibit brings to life the classic Christmas story.
5. Snow Magic
When: November 13 - January 16
Where: 955 Lake Shore Blvd W, Toronto
Presented by Drive Thru Fun Co., Snow Magic is a drive through art exhibit inspired by fire, ice, and light. Taking place at Ontario Place, you can enjoy 18 art installations, interactive games, and the Snow Magic Soundtrack for FM radio all from the safety and warmth of your car. For every Snow Magic ticket sold, $1 of the proceeds will be donated to the SickKids Hospital Foundation.
6. Toronto Zoo Holiday Marketplace
When: November 19 - December 23
Where: 2000 Meadowvale Rd, Toronto
Toronto Zoo’s Front and Indo-Malayan Courtyards has been transformed into an outdoor market featuring over 90 amazing artisans, processors, and producers from local and surrounding communities. Discover holiday-inspired food and drinks from four food trucks, festive decor, handmade crafts, art, and more.
When: Select nights November 13 - December 31
Where: 1 Canada's Wonderland Drive, Vaughan
Featuring live shows, holiday entertainment, millions of spectacular lights, and hundreds of Christmas trees, Winterfest is an immersive holiday experience at Canada’s Wonderland. While walking around sipping on mulled cider and hot chocolate, spot strolling performers and the 50-foot Christmas tree on International Street. There are many activities to enjoy, such as family rides, cookie decorating with Mr. Claus, and ice-skating on Snow Flake Lake.
8. Holiday Magic at Blue
When: November 19 - January 2
Where: 190 Gord Canning Dr, The Blue Mountains
The Outdoor Village at Blue Mountain has been decked out in garlands and bows for the holiday season. The whole family will enjoy strolling the 1 km light trail and meeting winter characters, including Santa and his elves. The kids can also drop off letters to Santa at the Welcome Centre. The Village shops are the perfect place to search for a unique gift. In the evening, enjoy charming activities, such as fireworks, dining in outdoor heated igloos, and getting cozy by the fire.
9. Night of Lights
When: November 26 - January 2
Where: 80 Interchange Way, Vaughan
Night of Lights is an immersive walk-through experience at Assembly Park in Vaughan. The 45 minutes of walk-through programming features more than 1,000,000 LED lights animated and synchronized to your favourite holiday tunes.
10. Journey Into Enchantment
When: November 25 - January 8
Where: 6845 Millcreek Dr, Mississauga and 1801 Bur Oak Ave, Markham
Taking place both at the Meadowvale GO station in Mississauga and the Mount Joy GO station in Markham city, Journey Into Enchantment is the largest Christmas drive through event in the GTA. Experience over 2 million unique light decorations, 3D interactive displays, and musical lights as you drive through a 2 km route. Journey Into Enchantment will be dedicating $75,000 of the profits to various charities including Toronto SickKids, Toronto Animal Services, and Ontario Parents Advocating for Children with Cancer – OPACC.
11. Country Bright
When: December 2 - January 2
Where: 8560 Tremaine Road, Milton
Enjoy whimsical displays, life size snow globes, festive characters, immersive scenes, and a playlist of festive music at Country Bright. The ¾ km walking tour will take you through the alluring farm at Country Heritage Park, featuring 19th century barns, natural scenery, and thousands of lights. VIP tickets include free hot chocolate and a Rice Krispie treat.
12. Winter Festival of Lights
When: November 13 - February 1
Where: Throughout Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls will be illuminated for 101 nights as part of the 39th annual Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights. Featuring displays with 3 million lights along the Niagara Parkway, Dufferin Islands, and across Niagara Falls, this is Canada’s largest free outdoor art festival. You can also enjoy live, family-friendly entertainment on weekends at the indoor entertainment stage in the Hilton Hotel & Suites.
13. Rusty Griswold’s Christmas Light Display
When: November 12 - January 2
Where: 2176 Devlin Dr, Burlington
As a way of giving back to the Southern Ontario community, Rusty Griswold’s Light Display is a free light show in Burlington. Inspired by the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, the animated gingerbread house aims to capture the excitement and magic of Christmas. Watch the light show in this residential neighbourhood and listen to Christmas music from the sidewalk or the comfort of your car. You can also make a donation online in support of the SickKids Hospital Foundation.
14. Light Up the Square
When: November 20 - January 2
Where: 300 City Centre Dr, Mississauga
Enjoy lights, artful experiences, delicious food, skating, and more at Celebration Square in Mississauga. Artwork includes Prismatica by RAW Design, Carriers by Meghan Cheng, Beacon Silo by Chris Foster, and Candycombs by Monkey C Interactiv. There will also be a skating rink, 40’ Christmas tree, and heated rinkside patio.