If you’re looking to be wowed by Christmas lights, Toronto is the place. The city goes all out at holiday time, so much so that when you’re flying in you can see them from the lake. But once you’re on the ground, these are the ones you should see.
The Christmas Market in the Distillery District
This is by far the city’s most popular holiday destination and for good reason. It’s a little village tucked away in the city’s southeast end, lined with cobblestone streets, brick buildings and magnificent lights. What makes the experience even more worthwhile are the various illuminated installations you’ll come across around every corner — each one more Instagrammable than the last.
The Eaton Centre
Every guidebook will tell you to visit the Eaton Centre for its 230 stores, but at this time of year, it’s the Christmas lights that make it special. This season’s tree is almost 100 feet tall and it’s surrounded by the giant metallic illuminated reindeer that have become as synonymous with the Eaton Centre as the famous flying geese you probably saw in that same guidebook.
Nathan Phillips Square
The public space in front of City Hall was always a hotbed of holiday lights, but it’s even more so now since the giant “Toronto” sign was installed in 2015 for the Pan Am Games. It was originally set to be temporary, but it was so well received by Torontonians that the city decided to keep it.
You won’t find a more majestic display of Christmas lights than the one that surrounds North America’s only castle. It’s an homage to The Nutcracker and it features illuminated horses, chariots, tunnels and characters from the beloved children’s tale. Speaking of children, if you’re in Toronto with kids, then this is a great place to take them, as they offer entertainment including illusionists, ice dancers and Santa in his workshop, plus a chance to participate in festive arts and crafts. And if that doesn’t get your kids excited, perhaps this will: the pups from Paw Patrol are there on weekends.
Yorkville is Toronto’s answer to Rodeo Drive and the lights they install every winter are Beverly Hills-worthy. The trees are meticulously adorned with shimmer and the little boutiques that line Cumberland Street follow suit. You’ll overpay for your warm cuppa, but the extra money’s worth it to see the beautiful illumination.
Eighteen separate winter light exhibits illuminate the sky and the lake water through transmission and reflection. This installation is particularly important as it was curated from artists across the province. The theme for this winter was “Disruptive Engagement,” which challenged the artists to contemplate on the theme of a dark winter landscape. Very interesting stuff.
And the best place to see Christmas lights in Toronto?
Inglewood Drive. The lights themselves are nothing special as it’s simply a street in a neighbourhood in central Toronto. But everyone on the street has made a pact to put 20-foot Santas on their front lawns, so walking up and down the street with a hot coffee and a camera is well worth the cab ride up.