5 Amazing Holiday Activities near Toronto

The holiday season is upon us, and Toronto is a perfect place to celebrate! Whether you’re looking for festive light displays, outdoor activities, or indoor events, there’s something for everyone in the city (or near it!). 

Planning out your weekends for the weeks leading up to Christmas can be overwhelming but exciting - there are so many different markets, events, and activities to do throughout the holidays, where does one start? We’ve done the research to find fun activities for the whole family to enjoy so you don’t have to! Whether you’re looking for a relaxing drive through beautiful holiday light displays, or an exciting day tubing in the snow, there’s something for everyone!

Walk or Drive-thru festive light shows

When we think of the holidays the first thing to come to mind is twinkling, colourful lights on a cold, snowy night - there’s something about it that is so nostalgic! Mississauga has an amazing walkable light show called ‘Illumi’ by Cavalia that can be seen from the 407. A dazzling display of lights, Illumi is the largest light show in the WORLD with more than 20 million lights across a 600,000 square foot site (which is about 10 football fields!).

If walking isn’t your thing, we’ve also found a drivable light show! A Journey Into Enchantment is a drive-thru light show experience located just outside of Toronto in Pickering, ON. With over 2 million lights illuminating a 2 km route, this light show features favourite holiday characters, a dazzling tunnel, transitions from 2D to 3D displays, musical lights, and so much more. 

Illumi Starting at $22.95 CAD

A Journey Into Enchantment Starting at $28.95 CAD

Brave the outdoors with skating in the brisk air

A Canadian favourite - ice skating. You can’t go wrong with a little exercise, fresh air, and a lot of fun! Get your family and friends out and about this year by visiting one of many free ice skating rinks. If you’re looking for a unique experience, visit ‘Winter at The Bentway’ in Toronto located under the Gardiner. This 220m figure-eight skating trail is open from December 16, 2023 through February 19, 2024 Not only is this a fun skating trail, but The Bentway also hosts fun activities like the Polar Bear Skate, free workshops, family programming, art, and more. If you forgot your skates or don’t own a pair, don’t fret! The Bentway has rentals available, including free rental days!

In the heart of Toronto, you’ll find Nathan Phillips Square skating rink. People from all around come to visit this location for a fun day skating, and if you’re new to the activity, there are skate rentals on the property! Bonus - Nathan Phillips Square also hosts the Cavalcade of Lights, a free event with a beautiful array of festive lights and a tree lighting ceremony that takes place from November 25 - January 7th. Catch the tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, November 25 at 6:30pm!

Winter at The Bentway - FREE

Nathan Phillips Square - FREE 

Get active with snow tubing

Another fun outdoor activity - snow tubing! If you’ve never been, snow tubing is truly an enjoyable event for families, couples, or with friends! A great way to brave the cold and snow with great laughs, fun, and excitement, snow tubing is a must-do for the holiday season. Horseshoe Valley located in Barrie, ON (about 127 km from Toronto) is home to Ontario's longest snow tubing hill. Horseshoe Valley also has a plethora of other winter activities including skiing/snowboarding, cross country skiing, fat tire biking, snowshoeing, slopeside skating, and snowmobiling! 

If you’re looking for a little shorter drive, Lakeridge Ski Resort located in Uxbridge (about 67 km from Toronto). Lakeridge also offers skiing and snowboarding, as well as lessons to learn how to ski / snowboard! 

Horseshoe Valley Starting at $26 CAD

Lakeridge Ski Resort Starting at $35 CAD

Shop local at Christmas markets

The Distillery in Toronto puts on a beautiful Winter Village experience each year which features holiday photo opps, vendor cabins, retailer shopping, and lots of food and beverage options. Best known for its majestic centrepiece Christmas tree in Trinity Square, this outdoor holiday themed market is a must for the holidays! The Winter Village is open from Nov. 16 2023 - Jan. 7 2024 with ticket purchases being required for specific days / times of the week. 

Another famously festive market is Canada’s Wonderland WinterFest which runs from Nov. 17 2023 - Jan. 6, 2024. Canada’s Wonderland is an amusement park known for its fast and tall roller coasters, but each holiday season, the park transforms into an immersive holiday experience for the whole family. With ice-skating on Snow Flake Lake, live shows and holiday entertainment, exciting rides, twinkling lights, beautiful Christmas trees around the park, food, and festive vendors, this event is a must-see for all! 

Distillery Winter Village Starting at $15 CAD

Canada’s Wonderland WinterFest Starting at $29.99 

Enjoy a cozy mug of hot chocolate

The holidays can be busy, VERY busy, so sometimes, we’re just looking for a nice and relaxing activity to enjoy with the family, or for a date night. What’s more relaxing than sipping on a traditional, delicious and rich hot chocolate? We have two locations we highly recommend for a decadent cup of hot cocoa - Soma Chocolatemaker and Cacao 70. Soma Chocolaemaker creates a ‘drinking chocolate’ menu item that we highly recommend - you can choose to have it as served, which is an intense shot of chocolate, or you can opt to have it prepared the more traditional way, in a mug with hot water or milk. They usually offer a variety of flavours of chocolate too, such as mint or orange, so be on the lookout for those to switch it up! Cacao 70 prepares a delicious Factory Hot Chocolate which is melted dark or milk chocolate made in their Montreal factory with dark or milk hot chocolate base on the side. You can also substitute for almond or soy milk or add extra marshmallows or whipped cream! Delicious! And conveniently, both of these branches have locations in the Distillery District, so you can enjoy a Christmas Market and a hot chocolate treat all in one!

What to order: Drinking Chocolate 

What to order: Cacao 70 Factory Hot Chocolate

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