Between gifts and parties and trips to see family, the holidays can be an expensive time of year. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to treat yourself in the city while hardly making a dent in your bank account.
Whether you feel like lacing up your skates and hitting the rink, seeing spectacular holiday lights, or celebrating the winter solstice in the streets, there are plenty of things to do in Toronto this December that are either super cheap or completely free. Here are 10 of the best ones!
SWEATERS N’ SNOWFLAKES
A beloved patio spot in the downtown core is transforming for the holiday season! Sweaters n’ Snowflakes is pulling out all the stops for an extra special season this year, including festive photo ops, delicious eats, and, most importantly, boozy bevvies galore. No reservations are required to check out this free pop-up unless you’re doing a wine tasting or painting festive cookies. Just show up and prepare to have a good time!
Where: 621 Richmond St
When: December 3rd — 26th & 31st
CAVALCADE OF LIGHTS
Soak up the magic of the holidays with the city’s beloved annual event, the Cavalcade of Lights. This year, the free event will run until January 2 at Nathan Phillips Square. The “reimagined festivities” will transform City Hall and its surroundings into a dazzling wonderland, with skating, ice sculptures and dreamy tunnels to explore. Plus, get ready to lace up your skates and glide on the iconic twinkling rink at the square.
Where: Nathan Phillips Square
When: Nightly from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. until January 2, 2022
SKATE BY THE WATERFRONT
The Harbourfront Centre’s revamped rink is now open and it’s one of the city’s most picturesque spots for an outdoor skate. The rink is free to visit but rentals are available on-site for a small fee. The new rink is nestled along the Lake Ontario shoreline, along with an ice loop in the South Orchard that connects to the rest of the rink. And once you’re done, you can warm up with a hot drink from Boxcar Social right next door.
When: Until Sunday, March 6, 2022
Where: Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W
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SEE OVER-THE-TOP CHRISTMAS HOMES
One of the best things to do during the holiday season is to throw on a festive playlist and go on a cruise to see holiday lights. There are a few exceptional homes in this city that are worth driving out of your neighbourhood for. In fact, these houses are locally famous for bringing their A-game every year and this holiday season is no different! The best part is that they’re totally free to visit, and several of them accept donations for specific charities too.
Where: Various locations
BURLINGTON FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
Take a little trip out of the city for a breathtaking Christmas light show by the waterfront. Wander through a park filled with larger-than-life displays, twinkling lights, and multicoloured trees. Hopefully, it will be made even better with some gently falling snow. The festival is free and even dogs are welcome to join the fun!
When: Until January 8th, 2022
Where: Spencer Smith Park, 1400 Lakeshore Rd
DISTILLERY WINTER VILLAGE
Toronto’s iconic Christmas Market in the Distillery District is now open with a new name, look, and feel. Enjoy decorations like 7’ tall snow people, 11’ tall LED stars, a holly wall, Santa’s sleigh, the iconic LOVE Locks wall, and Big Heart lit up for the holiday season. You can shop from 75+ local merchants as well as new seasonal vendor cabins. You can also grab a bite at the food cabins serving raclette, schnitzel, doughnuts, jerk chicken, and much more.
Where: The Distillery District
When: Until December 31st, 2021
Price: $8 for people 6+. (Tickets needed only for Fridays after 4 PM, Saturday and Sunday)
DOGGOS’ HOWLIDAY MARKET
Is there anything better than a pup-centric event? Toronto’s getting a festive market just for dogs and dog-lovers called the Doggos’ Howliday Market, and it’s the perfect excuse to get in the holiday spirit with your four-legged friend and over a thousand other like-minded folks. You can also sip festive drinks like hot chocolate for younger folks and spiked holiday drinks for those inclined.
When: December 11th
Where: Daniel’s Spectrum, 585 Dundas Street East, Toronto, ON
Cost: Admission $15
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KENSINGTON MARKET WINTER SOLSTICE FESTIVAL
This annual event in Kensington Market is free to attend and this year, the stores will be open late and the streets filled with performers, music, and good vibes. Dress warmly for this winter night celebration and get ready to eat, shop, and enjoy the season in this beloved Toronto neighbourhood.
When: December 21st, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: Kensington Market
TORONTO MADE MARKET
Support local this holiday season and stock up on gifts made by some of the city’s best vendors. This free pop-up market will have a huge variety of handmade goods to shop for, including jewelry, candles, bath products, tasty treats, artwork, and much more. Skip the crowds and opt for some unique gifts for your loved ones that you won’t find at the mall.
When: December 19th, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: The Great Hall, 1087 Queen St W
SNOWFLAKE WALK IN HIGH PARK
Take a walk through the High Park Zoo to see rows of twinkling trees and animals all at the same time. You have until early January to enjoy this holiday activity in Toronto’s sprawling park in the west end. You can even bring your skates and hit the free enclosed rink at the park. Thet event is PWYC with a suggested amount of $10 per group.
When: Until January 8th, 2022
Where: High Park Zoo
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