Looking for things to do in Toronto in December? Here are 21 great suggestions, including things to do indoors plus tips and what to expect when visiting Toronto in December.
Visiting Toronto in December may be chilly, but it’s an experience you won’t forget. The city comes alive with a festive spirit, whether you’re experiencing the Distillery Winter Village or shopping at one of the many malls. There are gorgeous light displays and festive decorations throughout the city and plenty of fun things to do in Toronto in December.
With family just outside of Toronto, I have visited Toronto several times in December, both before and during the Christmas season. One year, we convinced Grandma to come with us on the GO Train and walk around downtown for the afternoon, and while it was chilly we all had a great time.
Prepare for the weather, or check out our recommendations for indoor things to do, and enjoy the best that Toronto has to offer this December!
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Best Things to Do in Toronto in December
As Canada’s largest city, there are always plenty of fun things to do in Toronto, including during the winter months. December sees lots of festive activities, from Christmas Markets to light displays. Here are 15 of the best things to do in Toronto, guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit.
1. Experience the Christmas Market
When visiting Toronto in December, there’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than experiencing the Distillery Winter Village.
Set in the heart of the historic Distillery District, this European-style market is not only one of the best Christmas Markets in Canada, but has also gained international recognition.
Wander the cobblestone streets, stroll under canopies of twinkling lights, and admire the festive decorations, including a gorgeous 50-foot Christmas tree that stands as the centrepiece.
There are plenty of shopping opportunities, with vendor cabins and retail shops offering a variety of holiday gifts and unique treats. Food and beverage options are plentiful as well, with seasonal delights such as mulled wine and hot chocolate from food vendors, as well as delicious food options at cafes and restaurants in the Distillery District.
And with plenty of holiday photo spots, live music, roaming elves and a chance to meet Santa, it’s no surprise that Frommer’s and CNN Travel have listed this market as one of the world’s best Christmas markets.
The Distillery Winter Village runs from November 16 to December 31, 2023.
It’s free to attend from Monday to Thursday, but tickets are required after 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
From December 18 – 31, tickets are required every day after 4 p.m.
2. Explore Other Winter Markets
Holiday Fair @ Mel Lastman Square
The Holiday Fair has now found a new home at Mel Lastman Square in the heart of North Toronto. With more than 500, 000 twinkling lights and a 60-foot Christmas tree, it’s a truly festive experience.
It’s a great place to find one-of-a-kind gifts, with local craftspeople and artisans offering their unique products.
Sip on hot chocolate or mulled wine, warm up at the fireside lounge, grab a bite to eat from the various food trucks and enjoy the entertainment. This is a dog-friendly event, although dogs must be leashed.
The Holiday Fair runs from December 1 – 23, 2023 and is accessible by TTC.
Evergreen Brick Works
The Evergreen Brick Works hosts one of Toronto’s largest sustainable holiday markets.
Here you’ll find 40 vendors, all selling locally crafted, sustainably produced and handmade items, which makes shopping for unique gifts easy.
There are also food vendors, as well as a variety of beverage options from craft beer to eggnog and mulled wine and a fire pit to sit around while enjoying your drinks.
3. Visit Nathan Phillips Square
Located in the heart of Toronto, Nathan Phillips Square is a popular spot year-round.
This large square is the home to the colourful Toronto sign, which is a perfect spot for Instagram photos. And in the winter months, the reflecting pool turns into an outdoor skating rink.
Skating outdoors is an iconic winter activity in Canada, and Nathan Phillips Square is one of the best places in Toronto to experience this. Skate rentals are available on-site if you aren’t travelling with your own skates.
During the month of December, the square is also lit up by the Calvacade of Lights festival, featuring dazzling light illuminations all around the square.
And on New Year’s Eve, there are musical performances and other celebrations at the square.
4. Go Skating Outdoors
One of the best things to do in Toronto in winter is to go skating outdoors! For an authentic winter experience in Canada, lace up your skates and head to an outdoor rink.
And if you didn’t bring your skates with you, many outdoor skating rinks in Toronto have rental equipment available.
As mentioned above, Nathan Phillips Square is a popular place to go outdoor skating.
Another of the most popular outdoor skating rinks in Toronto is at the Harbourfront Centre, which also boasts views of the CN Tower and Lake Ontario and features music and light displays on Saturdays.
Another great option is the Beltway Trail, a 1.5-kilometre trail that winds under the Gardiner Expressway, offering a unique urban experience. Skate rentals are available, and are free on Thursdays!
There are plenty of other outdoor skating rinks throughout the city as well, with most opening at the beginning of December, weather permitting.
5. Visit Casa Loma
Did you know that Toronto has its very own castle?
Built as a private home at the turn of the 20th century, Casa Loma is now a museum that’s open for the public to explore.
During the month of December, this castle is even more enchanting with its holiday celebrations. The whole family can get into the holiday fun, with activities and performances for all ages.
Inside, the castle is decorated with festive decor, including a magnificent 40 ft tall tree in the Great Hall. Festive arts & crafts and other performances add to the festivities and the gardens and tunnels are decorated with a dazzling display of lights to wander through.
Tickets can be purchased online or if you have the CityPass, entry is free.
6. Experience Glow
Looking for something indoors? The ever-popular Glow boasts that it’s Canada’s premium indoor Christmas Festival, and a place where you can get into the festive spirit and enjoy the delights of the season.
Sip on holiday drinks, shop for one-of-a-kind gifts, enjoy story time with Santa’s helpers and then visit with Santa, all under the glow of a million twinkling lights.
Everywhere you turn, there are photo opportunities to capture the magic of the holiday season.
7. Shop ’til You Drop
Toronto is full of shopping opportunities, and in December, the festive markets provide even more great options.
In addition to the holiday markets at Evergreen Brick Works, Mel Lastman Square and the Distillery District, there’s plenty of shopping to be found on Queen Street, which has a mix of unique shops and Bloor Street is another popular and upscale shopping district.
If you prefer the convenience of shopping inside, Yorkdale Shopping Centre is a favourite destination, boasting an array of brand-name stores and luxury labels to satisfy every kind of shopper.
The Toronto Eaton Centre is another great place to shop. The Eaton Centre features more than 250 stores and shops over 2 city blocks, with plenty of restaurants and fast food options to grab a bite to eat as well.
There are entrances to the stores from outside as well as inside, so you can browse the stores from the street or head inside to warm up and walk around.
During the holiday season, the Eaton Centre is festively decorated with reindeer sculptures and a huge Christmas tree, which is the highest in Canada.
8. See the CN Tower
No visit to Toronto is complete without seeing the CN Tower.
And while this Toronto icon is an impressive sight to see any time of the day, once the sun sets, the lights add a festive touch. The CN Tower is open year-round, providing views of Toronto even throughout the winter.
Take in the view from the Main Observation Area or go even higher to the Skyped, which is the highest observation platform in the Western Hemisphere. Whichever experience you choose, it’s one of the top things to do in Toronto.
9. Visit St. Lawrence Market
While in downtown Toronto, a stop at the St.Lawrence Market is a must. Recognized as one of the best food markets in the world, it’s a great spot to enjoy lunch or stop for a snack at any time.
This historic market is one of the oldest markets in Canada, featuring over 120 local vendors offering everything from seafood to cheese and spices, plus baked goods and ready-made snacks.
If you’re looking for a unique Canadian snack, St.Lawrence Market is known to have the best peameal bacon sandwiches in Toronto. There are several vendors selling these classic sandwiches, but Carousel Bakery has one of the best!
10. Capture Photos with Santa
Photos with Santa are a typical Canadian tradition and make for a great keepsake of the holiday season.
Photos and a visit with Santa are available at most malls throughout Toronto, including Yorkdale Shopping Centre and the Eaton Centre, as well as Bass Pro Shops, which is just outside of Toronto near Canada’s Wonderland.
11. See a Hockey Game
A traditional Canadian winter experience is to watch a hockey game and Toronto proudly hosts one of the six original NHL teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The team plays its home games at the Scotiabank Arena, and throughout December, there will be quite a few home games.
Be sure to check the schedule ahead of time for game dates and times, so you can get tickets to see the Leafs in action.
12. Take a Winter Walk through High Park
High Park is not only a beautiful destination in the spring and summer but also a lovely place to explore in the winter.
Enjoy a peaceful walk through snow-covered trails, visit the picturesque Grenadier Pond, and even spot some winter wildlife.
It’s a perfect opportunity to get outdoors and one of the best free places to visit in Toronto in winter!
13. Experience the Toronto Zoo
Open year-round, the Toronto Zoo is a fun place to visit if you’re in Toronto in December. It’s just outside the downtown area but is easy to reach by car or public transit.
There are 10km of trails through the zoo, and many animals, including polar bears, Arctic wolves and other Canadian animals can be seen in their natural wintery setting.
And when the chill gets to you, step into one of the four indoor tropical pavilions to warm up. Here you’ll find insects, spiders and reptiles, including the two-toed sloth, gorillas, pygmy hippos and ring-tailed lemurs, or some of the iconic animals of the Australasia region, such as the wombat and my kids’ favourite, the Komodo dragon.
See what’s open during the winter months here.
14. Visit Toronto Islands
Toronto Island is a popular place to visit in the summer, but it’s also a great spot to visit year-round.
Although the ferries don’t run as often as they do in the summer, there is one route that operates in the winter months, leaving from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal.
It’s a 15-minute ride across the harbour, providing great views of the city. Once there, you can explore the island on one of the trails, or just just head back to the city and enjoy the view of Toronto’s skyline.
15. Experience New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillips Square
I mentioned Nathan Phillips Square above, but it takes on a whole new level of excitement for New Year’s Eve.
This large event space is home to City Hall, and one of the most popular spots in Toronto to welcome the New Year. As the clock counts down to midnight, the square comes alive with entertainment and live music, and then as the clock strikes midnight, there’s a fireworks display to ring in the New Year.
It’s a free, family-friendly celebration and one of the premier Toronto events in December.
Indoor Things to Do in Toronto in December
When the weather outside is less than inviting, or you just want to escape the chill and warm up indoors, these activities are sure to keep entertained and warm.
Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
As one of Toronto’s most popular tourist attractions, the ROM is a fascinating museum with an extensive collection of artifacts from around the world. Tickets can be purchased online here.
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
Home to over 95,000 works, ranging from contemporary art to historical masterpieces, the AGO provides a rich cultural experience. If you’re visiting Toronto on a Wednesday, admission is free in the evening.
Ontario Science Centre
As one of the first interactive science museums in the world, the Ontario Science Centre is a must for anyone visiting Toronto with kids.
Featuring more than 500 engaging experiences and a dedicated discovery area for kids under eight, it’s a perfect place for young minds to explore and learn.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada
Located at the base of the CN Tower, Ripley’s is the country’s largest indoor aquarium. With interactive and underwater exhibits, it’s a fantastic family destination, but it’s wise to plan your visit during the week if possible, to avoid the crowds.
Bata Shoe Museum
This unique museum explores the evolution of footwear, with over 15,000 shoe exhibits from ancient Egyptian sandals to 20th-century fashion. Tickets can be purchased online.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Hockey is Canadian through and through, in fact, it’s Canada’s national winter sport and most Canadians can tell you they’ve played hockey at least some time in their life (or at least watched a few games).
Located right in the heart of downtown Toronto, the Hockey Hall of Fame celebrates the history of this iconic Canadian sport and features memorabilia, including game jerseys and Stanley Cup rings, interactive exhibits and displays, as well as a chance to see the legendary Stanley Cup.
Looking for more kid-friendly things to do?
Here’s a whole post on the best things to do in Toronto with kids.
Day Trips from Toronto in December
While there are plenty of things to do in Toronto to keep you busy for days, here are some great day trips if you’re looking to get out of the city for a bit.
Niagara Falls is one of the world’s most renowned natural wonders. Known for its awe-inspiring beauty, the falls are a must when visiting Ontario, and an easy day trip from Toronto.
As one of the world’s largest waterfalls, Niagara Falls never ceases to amaze. Visit during the day to marvel at the sheer force and power of the falls, and in the evening, the falls are illuminated with festive colours as well as a lighting display on the hour.
Niagara Falls is also home to the Winter Festival of Lights, with spectacular displays and millions of lights illuminating the area around the falls.
Stroll along the paths near the falls or head to Dufferin Islands for more amazing light displays. The Winter Festival of Lights is one of the best holiday events in Southern Ontario and one that we try to see each year.
Niagara Falls is just over a 1.5-hour drive from Toronto and makes for a great day trip from the capital city, or you can opt for a guided tour, which provides transportation. But if you have more time to spend, there are plenty of things to do in Niagara Falls, including visiting the Butterfly Conservatory, the Bird Kingdom, the Floral Showhouse or the Niagara Power Generating Station.
Blue Mountain, Collingwood
Blue Mountain, set in the picturesque town of Collingwood, is a renowned winter sports destination and a fantastic place to embrace the holiday spirit.
Whether you’re an avid skier or snowboarder or prefer to snowshoe, the slopes and trails offer plenty of opportunities for fun and adventure.
In addition to the slopes, Blue Mountain is also decorated with festive lights and decor, with holiday music and fires to warm up beside, and a 1-kilometre Holiday Light Trail through the Village with interactive light displays.
DeerHurst Resort, Huntsville
Another fun getaway not too far from Toronto is Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville.
While there’s no guarantee that there will be snow, there’s a pretty good chance of at least a bit of white stuff on the ground. But whether or not there’s snow, there’s plenty to do at the resort.
With a Holiday Fun Zone, magic workshops and arts & crafts for the kids, as well as a refrigerated ice skating rink and family holiday scavenger hunts, it’s guaranteed to be a great time for everyone in the family. And there are plenty of fun kid-friendly things to do in Huntsville if you feel like exploring outside of the resort.
Where to Stay in Toronto
Toronto offers a diverse range of accommodation options, from family-friendly options to a luxurious hotel in the heart of the city. Here are our top recommendations.
If you’re travelling with kids, the Chelsea Hotel is an excellent choice.
Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, the Chelsea offers a warm and welcoming atmosphere with plenty of amenities catering to families.
The hotel features a family-friendly pool with a giant indoor waterslide – a hit with many kids, mine included.
Additionally, the Chelsea Hotel boasts comfortable rooms, an on-site restaurant, and a central location, making it convenient to explore many of Toronto’s attractions.
Toronto in December Weather
December in Toronto begins to get a bit chilly. As the month progresses, the city experiences a gradual drop in temperature, which often hovers around the freezing mark.
There are some years where I’ve worn a sweatshirt on the first weekend of the month, but others where we’ve had snow by the middle of the month. Snowfall is common, but it doesn’t often stay on the ground during December.
Temperatures can be chilly though, with average highs around 3° Celsius (37°F) and lows dipping below freezing.
It’s essential to bundle up with warm clothing, including layers and a good winter hat, gloves and a hat to stay comfortable while exploring the city or doing any winter activities in Toronto.
Visiting Toronto in December: Good Things to Know
Use the PATH: Toronto’s extensive underground pedestrian walkway, known as the PATH, is a true winter lifesaver. It offers a network of interconnected walkways and tunnels, keeping you sheltered from the cold as you navigate the downtown area of the city.
You can access various attractions, such as the Eaton Centre, the Hockey Hall of Fame and Toronto City Hall without ever stepping outside.
Subway and Public Transit: The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) offers a variety of public transit, including trams and the underground subway. The subway is not only an efficient way to get around the city, but also a warm one. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time with the PRESTO card, or fares can be paid with debit, credit or exact cash on any of the TTC lines.
Public Holidays: Christmas Day is a significant holiday in Toronto, and as such, most stores will be closed on December 25th. Many stores also tend to close early on Christmas Eve, usually around 5 or 6 p.m. While some restaurants will be open on Christmas Day, it’s advisable to make reservations in advance if needed.
Holiday Shopping Rush: December 23rd and 24th are two of the busiest days at malls and shopping centres, as last-minute shoppers search for the perfect gifts. If you’re planning some holiday shopping, it’s a good idea to get an early start or be prepared for larger crowds and long lines on these days.
Airports: The Friday before Christmas is typically the busiest day at Toronto’s airports, so if you’re travelling to the city at this time, it’s a wise idea to factor in potential delays and long waits.
Boxing Day Shopping: Boxing Day, celebrated on December 26th is another significant shopping event in Toronto. While it’s not as crazy as American Thanksgiving sales, stores often offer big discounts and good sales on this day. Parking lots at malls can be crowded, so it’s advisable to use public transportation. Be prepared for the possibility of lines outside of popular stores as shoppers take advantage of post-holiday sales.
General Tips for Visiting Toronto
Currency: In Toronto, the currencyis the Canadian dollar. We have colourful bills, including $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100, as well as coins for 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 1 dollar, the “loonie”, and 2 dollars, the “toonie”.
Electricity: Toronto, and the rest of Canada, operates on 110V, which is the same voltage as in the United States and many other places in North America. If you’re travelling from a country with a different voltage, be sure to bring any adaptors or converters.
Tax: The tax rate in Ontario is 13%, and it’s generally not included in the prices you see on the shelves. However, there are some exceptions, such as the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), where wine and beer prices are typically displayed with the tax already included.
Tipping: In restaurants, it’s common to tip between 15-20% on top of the bill, depending on the quality of service. Tipping is also customary in other service industries, including hotel staff, taxi drivers, valet parking, hairdressers, manicurists and aestheticians.
Time Zone: Toronto operates in the Eastern Time Zone, which is UTC -4, and follows Daylight Savings Time, which means the clocks turn back an hour in the fall (usually the first weekend in November) and ahead an hour in March (the second weekend in March).
FAQ: Visiting Toronto in December
December can be a great time to visit Toronto. It’s considered the low season for tourism, which means fewer crowds and potentially lower prices for accommodations and attractions.
There are plenty of fun things to do in Toronto at Christmas. From the Distillery Winter Village and other holiday markets to special festive events at the Toronto Zoo and Canada’s Wonderland, as well as light displays and holiday decorations throughout the city, there are plenty of holiday events for everyone in the family to enjoy.
The best time to visit Toronto depends on your preferences. Spring and summer are ideal for outdoor activities and festivals, but fall offers beautiful foliage and smaller crowds. If you enjoy winter activities and holiday festivities, December is a fantastic choice.
Toronto can be chilly in December, with temperatures hovering around freezing. However, it’s not the chilliest month, but it’s important to dress warmly with layers to stay comfortable. Here’s a packing list for Southern Ontario in the Winter.
While there’s a chance of snow in December, it’s not guaranteed. Toronto occasionally experiences a white Christmas, but it’s to a consistent occurrence.. Although we’ve had several years with snowfall on Boxing Day, and one year that I can remember with a large snowstorm that cancelled the last day of school, snowfall in December is not likely. Be prepared for winter weather, but don’t be disappointed if there’s no snow.
Final Thoughts: Things to Do in December in Toronto
Visiting Toronto in December is an experience not to be missed. The city comes alive with festive cheer and adds to the exciting experiences that Toronto has to offer.
From exploring the city’s many indoor attractions to embracing the chilly outdoors with ice skating and holiday markets, Toronto offers a variety of activities for every traveller.
Whether you’re enjoying the Christmas markets, picking up some last-minute gifts or experiencing one of the city’s world-class attractions, visiting Toronto in December is sure to create lasting memories.