This month is jam-packed with holiday festivities from visits with Santa to holiday lighting displays, concerts, plays, markets, and Frozen character meet-and-greets. Here are our top picks for for kids in Toronto this December.
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1. Santa Claus Parades
Did you think Santa flew back to the North Pole after all his parade appearances in November? Not so! Two parades take place December 6: the Lakeshore Santa Claus Parade and the Whitby Santa Claus Parade. The City of Burlington Christmas Parade takes place on December 7.
2. Family Concerts
Love music? December brings several kid-friendly music performances:
Stewart Goodyear on piano accompanied by the Toronto Children’s Chorus.
Joy to the World Christmas Concert, with performances by the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble TrypTych Chamber Choir, and the concert choir of the University of Toronto a tScarborough.
Music and Truffles: Classical Music for Young People series, continuing this month with Piano Dialogue: David Jalbert and Wonny Song, featuring two young Canadian pianists performing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” and Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite”.
Tafelmusik Sing-Along Messiah, an annual tradition taking place Sunday, December 21 this year.
3. Christmas and Winter Festivals
The Navidad is never-ending this month, with back-to-back seasonal festivals in and around the city, including Magical Christmas Forest at the Kortright Centre (Dec. 5–6, 12–13, 19–20); Santa in the Junction (Dec. 7); the Fort York Frost Fair (Dec. 6–7) is a historic holiday fair paired with a market.
Not a Christmas festival per-se (but with Santa sightings) is the free Winterfest on Toronto’s Waterfront (Dec. 13, 14, 20, and 21). See a Frozen Ice Queen and Ice Princess show and meet the characters, have your pet’s photo taken with Santa, see a dog stunt show, meet the Lollipop Princess, see a magician, and more.
Plenty of historical Christmas events are taking place, too; among them: Victorian Christmas at Dundurn Castle in Hamilton; Christmas in the Pioneer Spirit in Stoney Creek; Victorian Christmas at Mackenzie House in downtown Toronto; Christmas Open House at Colborne Lodge in High Park; and a Victorian Christmas in the Village at Christmas at Black Creek.
4. Theater and Dance Performances
There are so many theater and dance shows for kids this month that we’ve separated them out here. ‘Tis the season to enjoy Toronto’s cultural plenty!
Holiday Shows for Kids
A Christmas Carol at Solar Stage (Dec. 6–7)
A Christmas Carol at Todmorden Mills (Nov. 27–Dec. 7)
Soulpepper Theatre’s A Christmas Carol (Nov. 27–Dec. 27)
The Nutcracker performed by the National Ballet of Canada (Dec. 13–Jan. 3)
Humber River Shakespeare Co. presents A Christmas Carol (Dec. 17)
Ballet Jörgen’s The Nutcracker (Dec. 17–30)
The Bear (Dec. 7)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre (Dec. 14)
Non-Holiday Shows for Kids
Hansel & Gretel (Dec. 3–14)
Puss in Boots (Dec. 6)
The Ice Queen at Lower Ossington Theatre (Dec. 13–28)
The Snow Queen at Solar Stage (Dec. 13–Jan. 4)
Frozen Show and Party (Dec. 13)
Disney on Ice: Treasure Trove (Dec. 19–28)
Potted Potter at the Panasonic Theatre (Dec. 17–Jan. 11)
Cinderella: A Ross Petty Production (Nov. 21–Jan. 4)
James and the Giant Peach (Nov. 24–Dec. 21)
Kim’s Convenience at Soulpepper Theatre (Nov. 27–Dec. 28)
These aren’t just for shopping: at seasonal markets throughout the city you’ll find live music and diversions for kids, plus seasonal treats, and visits from Santa.
Get Fido’s Christmas portrait with Santa during Winterfest at PawsWay (Dec. 13, 14, 20, 21) on the waterfront or at Christmas in the City at the Eaton Center (Dec. 4 and Dec. 14) at designated times. Proceeds support the Toronto Humane Society.
7. Santa Speedo Run
See Santa run (in a Speedo!) Older kids will get a kick out of the annual Santa Speedo Run (Dec. 13), with runners hitting the street in their red swimsuits to raise money for the SickKids Foundation.
8. Chanukah Celebrations
9. Earth Rangers at the ROM
Learn about the importance of protecting animals and preserving the environment and meet real wild animals at Earth Rangers Wild Journey (Dec. 27–Jan. 4), a kid-geared show from the Kids’ Conservation Organization at the Royal Ontario Museum.
10. Christmas Flower Show
The Christmas Flower Show (Dec. 1–mid-Jan.; free) at Allan Gardens Conservatory is ongoing through mid-January, with seasonal topiary masterpieces and 30+ varieties of poinsettia. But December 1 is the opening day, with horse and wagon rides, carolers, hot apple cider, and a visit from Santa.
11. Winter Festival of Lights
Head to Niagara Falls at least once this season to see the Winter Festival of Lights (Nov. 15–Jan. 15), a 5-km illumination route along the waterfront. The falls themselves are illuminated every night beginning at 5 pm (through Jan. 31).
12. Ice Skating
The city’s ice rinks are open and ready for skating! You can also sign up for learn-to-skate programs like those at the Harbourfront Centre.
13. Wintry Getaways
Plan a family getaway or day trip that keeps you moving! See our suggestions for active winter excursions in Toronto and further afield for skating, skiing, snowboarding, dog-sledding, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.
14. New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillip’s Square
At the City of Toronto annual New Year’s Eve fest, you can skate on the ice rink surrounded by a festive light display to DJ-spun tunes and live performances. At midnight, the annual fireworks spectacular kicks off.
15. Ways to Give Back
There are many ways to give this holiday season. It’s a great opportunity to teach kids about giving. Here are a few ways to get involved:
Snowball Express Toy Drive: Winterfest on Toronto’s Waterfront (Dec.13, 14, 20, 21): have fun with art and crafts for kids and donate new toys for children in need.
Habitat for Humanity’s GTA Gingerbread Party (Dec. 6–7): decorate a gingerbread house in support of Habitat for Humanity
The Mayor’s Annual Toy Drive (through Dec. 24): a city-wide toy drive with drop-offs throughout the city
Toy Mountain at Eaton Center (through Dec. 24): Drop off a new unwrapped toy or gift for a child on Level 1 in front of the fountain.
CBC’s Sounds of the Season (Dec. 5): a day in support of local food banks, with music performances, CBC personalities, a silent auction, and Kids’ CBC Artzooka.
Toy Drive at the Shops at Don Mills (Dec. 4): give while you enjoy the tree lighting and Santa photo ops; plus, all donors receive multiple coupons for local shops and restaurants
IMAGE: ANDREW BADGLEY/FLICKR CC
Read more: How To Encourage Kids to Give Back