Your guide to Toronto's holiday events: from tree-lightings to outdoor skating

Visitors take in the Toronto Distillery's Christmas market on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. This year, the tree lighting takes place on Thursday, Nov. 16. (Showwei Chu/CBC - image credit)
Visitors take in the Toronto Distillery's Christmas market on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. This year, the tree lighting takes place on Thursday, Nov. 16. (Showwei Chu/CBC - image credit)

The holidays are fast approaching and there's lots to do in the city if you're a fan of twinkly lights and great big trees.

Here's a look at some of the biggest holiday events coming up over the next bit.

This list includes large-scale events that are largely open to the public and, for the most part, free to attend. We'll be updating the list as more events are scheduled. 

Santa Claus events and photos

Scarborough Town Centre is back with Planet Santa — something it dubs "the region's most festive and immersive Santa set," totalling 4,500 square feet and a hot air balloon installation.

And if your kids want photos with Santa Claus, look no further than your local mall. Prices are generally about $15.

Cadillac Fairview malls, including Fairview, Sherway Gardens, Eaton Centre and Markville have photo sessions with Santa from Nov. 17 through to Dec. 24. Other malls like Dufferin Mall, Vaughan Mills and Square One offer Santa photos as well.

In addition to kid and family photos, Yorkdale Mall and Scarborough Town Centre are offering sessions for pet photos.

The Distillery Winter Village

The big tree-lighting ceremony takes place Thursday at 6 p.m., with Santa said to be on the guest list.

You'll need tickets to get into the annual holiday market at busy times (initially, that's Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays after 4 p.m., though more times will be ticketed in December). Organizers say proceeds go to charity.

You can find out more here.

Cavalcade of Lights

City hall's big annual event happens on Nov. 25, with the tree-lighting set to take place at 6:30 p.m.

The tree is an almost 17-metre "majestic white spruce" grown in Baldwin, Ont., according to the City of Toronto. It'll be covered with 500 ornaments and surrounded by some 300,000 lights.

There's plenty more planned for the opening night, including musical performances and dances, which you can find out about here. The outdoor skating rink should be open — the City of Toronto says its outdoor rinks typically open in late November.

Cavalcade of Lights runs until Jan. 7, 2024.

The Santa Claus Parade

The 119th Santa Claus Parade is set for Nov. 26. "The parade brings people together, regardless of their background, celebrating hope, family and love. It's part of the fabric of our community," its organizers say.

The parade begins at Christie Pits Park and finishes at St. Lawrence Market. If you're looking for a choice viewing spot, you can find the parade's map here.

Remember, there's plenty of construction downtown so plan ahead about how to get there.

No holiday windows at The Bay this year

Speaking of construction, the full closure of Queen Street downtown will see one tradition get shelved: The Bay's fancy window displays.

"We unfortunately are not able to deliver our famous Holiday window experience for customers and passersby," the store confirmed in an email statement, adding the inside of its shop will still be well-decorated.

Holiday Fair in the Square

Mel Lastman Square in North York will be transformed into a "magical winter wonderland," its organizers say.

It'll feature an artisan marketplace, a fireside lounge, rides, games and Santa Claus himself.

The Holiday Fair was created by Epilepsy Toronto in partnership with local businesses. A portion of the proceeds goes toward supporting the charity's services.

The fair is open from Dec. 1-23 at various times, but is closed on Mondays. Admission is free.

You can find out more here.

Sounds of the Season at CBC Toronto

This station's annual fundraiser in support of local food banks is set for Friday, Dec. 8 at the Toronto Broadcasting Centre.

That day will feature a special live edition of CBC Radio's Metro Morning and more fun events, but you can make a donation at any point before the year's end.

You can find more information about the event in the coming days by clicking here.

High Park Zoo Snowflake Walk

High Park Zoo is hosting a snowflake walk on Dec. 17, where guests can stroll through the zoo in the dark, see the surrounding trees lit up and hear carollers singing. The trees themselves will be "standing on parade" from Dec. 8 to Jan. 1.

The zoo says tickets are pay-what-you-can, with the suggested entry for a family being $10. It says all proceeds will go toward zoo upgrades.