Toronto in December – 15 Best Winter Activities for Families 2023

Toronto in December - icy Skyline

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Toronto is an incredibly vibrant and multicultural city. Filled with amazing attractions, a wonderful food scene, great nightlife, theatre, sports, and so much more, this city has plenty to offer. And although the majority of tourists prefer to visit during the summer months, those willing to brave the cold and visit Toronto in December are in for a real treat. The city comes alive with holiday fairs, celebrations, light shows and a ton of family-friendly activities that make Toronto the place to be for some winter fun.

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Why Visit Toronto in December?

Take it from a pair of native Torontonians (yep, Hubby and I were both born in this fabulous city!), there are so many reasons to visit Toronto in December. As I mentioned, the city definitely comes alive during the festive season.

From gorgeous light displays to amazing seasonal attractions, parades, holiday markets, ice skating, and let’s not forget the food, it really is up to what you and your family are interested in doing.

Toronto-in-December-Princes-Gates

Toronto Weather in December

While Toronto isn’t known for its extreme temperatures, it does tend to get quite chilly in the winter. And especially when you factor in the wind chill, which is something you had better familiarize yourself with if you’re not Canadian, it can actually get quite cold.

So how cold does it really get? The temperature usually dips below the freezing point from December to March.

You can expect temperatures to hover around -3°C (25°F) in December, which is actually quite manageable. Having said that, it definitely is not unheard of for the temperatures to suddenly drop down to -15°C (5°F), so it’s best to be prepared.

As far as snow is concerned, Toronto usually gets its first snowfall between late October and early November. And for the most part, the snow usually hangs around until the end of March most years.

Toronto-skyline-from-island

What to Pack for Toronto in December?

As we mentioned above, Toronto can get quite chilly and snowy in December. So if you are planning to visit the outdoor attractions we have listed a bit later in this post, you will definitely want to come prepared for the weather.

After all, if you are cold, or have wet feet or frozen fingers, you are probably not going to have a good time. And that holds especially true for younger kids.

So we have put together a list of essential items you will need to pack for Toronto in the winter:

  • Parka or winter jacket – Toronto gets pretty cold in December. Not to mention when the wind chill kicks in it makes it feel even colder! Be sure to wear a warm parka or winter jacket. This winter jacket from North Face is very similar to the ones we own.
  • Winter boots – When visiting Toronto in December you should definitely be wearing winter boots. Spending the day exploring the Christmas markets and wandering around the city will be much more pleasant with warm and dry feet. The boots should be waterproof with a good grip. These Sorel boots have been keeping our families’ toes toasty for years.
  • Scarf – Blanket scarves are great at keeping you warm and cozy. Check out this warm plaid scarf here. However, if I am hiking or tobogganing, I definitely prefer to wear a neck gator to keep me warm, without overheating. These Merino wool ones are my fave.
  • Beanie or warm hat – You definitely need to make sure your head and ears stay warm. I have this fleece-lined beanie (with and without a pom pom!) that I just love. And if you have long hair that you want to wear up, a thick headband will work nicely.
  • Gloves – Keeping your hands warm is a definite must when visiting Toronto in December. These insulated and waterproof gloves are similar to the ones we own, and are awesome! And if your hands tend to get really cold, you could always add a Hot Hands packet inside for an extra boost of heat!
  • Base Layers – We have been wearing thermal base layers for years now. They have definitely saved us from many frigid Canadian temps! These “long johns” are super lightweight and perfect to wear under a sweater. And the best part is, they leave you feeling dry and warm without the bulk!
girl-and-snowman
  • Warm Socks – A great pair of warm, but moisture-wicking, socks are a must if you are spending the day outside. We love these thermal Merino wool socks because they keep our feet warm and comfy. And no, contrary to popular belief, they are not itchy!
  • Snow Pants – These are not just for kids either. If you are planning to spend a day out tobogganing or ice skating, a great pair of snow pants will keep you warm and dry. These are similar to the ones we have, and they are fabulous!
  • Polarized Sunglasses – Since the sun reflects off the snow and can get pretty blinding, you’ll need some polarized sunglasses. These Ray-Ban sunglasses have always been my favourites, and I have been wearing them for years!
  • Moisturizing Lotion – My skin gets really dry in the cold weather and has a tendency to crack pretty easily. This awesome moisturizing lotion is scent free and always does the trick!
  • Lip Balm – Cold and dry air will definitely take a toll on your lips. And mine always tend to suffer in the winter. Our favourite lip balm makes your lips feel super soft and prevents chapping. Don’t forget to reapply multiple times throughout the day.
  • Power Bank – Although not a clothing item, we felt this was worth a mention. Since batteries tend to die out faster in the cold, it’s best to come prepared with a power bank to recharge your stuff on the go. This compact power bank can charge several devices at once (perfect for families) and is small enough to throw in a purse.
kids-in-winter-gear

Amazing Things to Do in Toronto in December

Throughout the year, there are so many cool things to do when visiting Toronto with kids. But when you are visiting Toronto in December, you will definitely want to head out to the unique attractions that you wouldn’t normally find at other times of the year.

1. Visit the Distillery Christmas Market

Visiting Toronto in December would not be complete without a visit to one of the city’s largest and most popular Christmas markets! The Distillery Winter Village (formerly known as the Toronto Christmas Market), has been a staple for Torontonians for the last 12 years.

With more than 75 local merchants, restaurants, and cafés, as well as seasonal vendors and unique food cabins, you’re sure to find the perfect holiday gift for everyone on your list! Not to mention, you will definitely find plenty of opportunities to take that perfect Instagrammable photo!

Stroll through the fully-accessible, pedestrian-only market while enjoying the starlit canopies, a Grand Christmas Tree in Trinity Square, holiday photo opportunities including the iconic heart, as well as festive music throughout.

Toronto-in-December-Distillery-District-Xmas-Market

Don’t forget to grab a selfie with Santa while visiting the Market! This year, Santa and his team of elves will make their way through the cobblestone streets, waving hello to all the kids.

You will also find an awesome line-up of buskers and carolers strolling through the Market. And for the kids, be sure to keep an eye open for the 12 gingerbread people hidden throughout the Market!

Tickets are required for the tree lighting event on November 17th after 4:00 pm, and on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays after 4:00 pm. Tickets are also required between December 27th – December 31st after 4:00 pm.

At all other times, access is free of charge, and tickets are not required.

Toronto-in-December-Distillery-District-Christmas-Market

Where: Distillery Historic District, Toronto
When: November 17 – December 31, 2022. Outdoor shopping cabins and food vendors will be open from 12 pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Regular restaurants and shops will have their usual hours.
Cost: $11 plus HST per person (Kids 9 years and under are free)
More Infowww.thedistillerywintervillage.com

2. Celebrate the Holiday Season at a Castle in Toronto – Casa Loma’s Christmas at the Castle & Holiday Lights Tour

Experience the magic of the season at Casa Loma’s self-guided Holiday Lights Tour. Stroll through the gardens and tunnels of the property, while enjoying the spectacular decorations and outdoor lighting displays at your own pace.

The entrance for the Holiday Lights Tour is on the southwest corner of the property at Davenport Rd. and Walmer Rd. Keep in mind, that this event is primarily outdoors and requires walking approximately 2 kilometres, including various sets of stairs.

Christmas-in-Ontario-Casa-Loma-outside

If you are looking for an indoor holiday experience, Casa Loma also offers its Christmas at the Castle event. Every December, visitors will be surrounded by magic throughout the castle interior, with gorgeous decor, a 40ft tall tree in the Great Hall, and an incredible collection of other signature holiday trees decorated by renowned Canadian designers.

Kids will have the opportunity to visit Santa in his castle workshop, meet with holiday mascots, and explore the light displays and live shows in the upper Gardens.

Please note, the Holiday Lights Tour and the Christmas at the Castle are two separate events. Tickets much be purchased for each attraction separately.

Where: Casa Loma, 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, Ontario
When: TBA
Cost: $40
More Info: www.casaloma.ca

3. Go Ice Skating at Nathan Phillips Square

During the winter, the reflecting pool at Nathan Phillips Square becomes one of the most popular and largest outdoor skating rinks in the city. This rink has been a quintessential Toronto experience for generations. In fact, I can remember skating here on Christmas Eve with my Dad as a child.

Located right outside Toronto’s City Hall, the rink has a unique urban backdrop of sparkling lights and a large holiday tree. It truly is a wonderful holiday experience!

Christmas-in-Ontario-Nathan-Phillips-Square

And of course, this is where you will find our ‘Toronto’ sign, and the perfect place to take a family photo or selfie that is worthy of the ‘gram! Be sure to visit after dark, when the rink truly begins to look magical.

The rink is extremely family-friendly, with a change room facility, public washrooms, and skate rentals available. And the best part is, that admission to the rink is free.

Where: 100 Queen St W, Toronto
When: November 2022 – March 2023. Hours: Daily from 10 am to 10 pm.
Cost: Free
Websitewww.toronto.ca

4. Take Photos with Santa Claus at the Biggest Mall in Toronto

The Toronto Eaton Centre is one of the city’s most popular attractions. With over 250 retailers, and spanning two full city blocks, you are sure to find something to satisfy your shopping addiction.

Christmas-in-Ontario-Santa-Train-girl-with-Santa

During the Christmas season, the mall comes alive with Christmas lights, twinkling reindeer sculptures and a fully decked-out 108-foot-high Christmas tree. Not only is it is the Eaton Centre a great spot to hang out, take pictures, and get warm, but it is the best place to visit Santa!

Fun Fact: The Eaton Centre was modelled after the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy, boasting vaulted glass ceilings and multi-level walkways.

Where: 220 Yonge St, Toronto, ON
Websitewww.cadillacfairview.com

5. Enjoy a Family Nature Walk in High Park

High Park is the largest, and arguably the most popular, park in Toronto. It is home to many incredible hiking trails, sports facilities, a jaw-dropping playground, a beautiful waterfront area, diverse vegetation (including the immensely popular Sakura trees), a dog park, a zoo, greenhouses, picnic areas, and a couple of eateries.

The park also hosts many events throughout the year, including family-friendly nature walks. What better way to see High Park, and explore some of its many characteristic features.

snowy-park-bench

Free Sunday Walking Tours are approximately 1 1/2 hours in length, and participants are welcome to come and go as needed. Each walk has a different theme and is led by volunteer scientists, historians, and local naturalists.

Where: 1873 Bloor St W, Toronto
When: First and Third Sunday of the month. From 10:30 am to 12 noon.
Cost: Free
Websitewww.highpark.org

6. Enjoy the Midway at the Holiday Fair in the Square

Another incredible reason to head to Nathan Phillips Square is for the Holiday Fair in the Square. This family-friendly fair is a wonderful combination of Christmas Market and winter carnival.

Whether you are looking for that unique gift, taking the family out for an afternoon of skating, rides and games, or stopping by to grab some seasonal treats or to enjoy an evening drink at the Polar Point Bar, the Holiday Fair in the Square has something fun for everyone!

Christmas-in-Ontario-girl-with-bokeh-background

Where: 100 Queen St W, Toronto
When: December 2, 2022 – December 23, 2022. See the website for hours.
Cost: Free
Websitewww.fairinthesquare.ca

7. Stay Warm at Glow Toronto – An Indoor Christmas Light Festival & Market

Located just outside of the downtown area and near Toronto Pearson Airport, is Glow Toronto. This completely indoor holiday festival is the perfect place to warm up while still enjoying the festive season.

Glow is an awesome attraction to visit for the whole family. What can be more festive than to sample delicious food, sip on holiday-inspired drinks, get your holiday shopping done, decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus and enjoy story time with Santa, all while the glow of a million lights twinkle in the background.

Christmas-in-Ontario-light-strings

And don’t forget to stroll through the ‘Around the World’ light display. This amazing light show takes you on a magical journey through six countries.

Where: Toronto Congress Centre | North Building | 1020 Martin Grove Rd, Etobicoke
When: November 30, 2022 – December 31, 2022.
Cost: $86 for a family pass. $30 per adult. $18 per child.
Websitewww.glowgardens.com/toronto

8. Enjoy a Holiday Meal and Incredible Views of Toronto at the CN Tower

You can’t come to Toronto without visiting its iconic landmark, the CN Tower. At 553.33 metres high (1,815 ft 5 in), the CN Tower used to be the tallest freestanding structure in the world. It was surpassed by Burj Khalifa, another skyscraper located in Dubai, in 2007.

Most people choose to head up to the main observation deck. At 346 m high, it’s the perfect place to take in the aerial views of the city. On a clear day, you can even see Niagara Falls from here.

CN-Tower

For an additional fee, visitors can take the elevator up to the SkyPod at 447 m high. The views from that height are pretty spectacular!

But if you are visiting Toronto in December, you should consider dining in the iconic revolving 360 Restaurant. Not only are the views fantastic, but during the holiday season, you can find a festive menu offering delicious seasonal dishes.

9. Go Ice Skating at The Bentway

The Bentway is definitely a unique ice skating trail located in the heart of Toronto’s urban jungle. This 220 meters, figure-eight skate trail, can be found winding its way UNDER the Gardiner Expressway!

Have fun skating around the track, while enjoying the sights and sounds of the city. The Bentway even has an on-site winter village where you can get cozy at one of the warming stations.

And of course, what is ice skating without hot chocolate! Head to the Bentway on Thursday evenings from 5 pm until 8 pm where you can enjoy free hot chocolate and skate rentals. You can also purchase hot beverages all weekend long in the winter village.

Ice-Skating-in-Ontario-generic-mens-skates-on-ice

And if you don’t know how to skate, you can learn at The Bentway. They offer free skate lessons for kids on Saturdays from 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm and adults on Tuesdays from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

Where: 250 Fort York Blvd, Toronto
When: December 17, 2022, to February 20, 2023 – Weekdays from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Weekends/Holidays from 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm.
Cost: Free
Skate rentals: Yes – $10 for adults & $5 for kids (free Thursdays from 5:00 – 9:00 pm), helmets for $5

10. Grab a Bite at Evergreen Brick Works’ Winter Village

When you visit Toronto in December, you will definitely be surprised at how many winter or holiday villages you will find scattered throughout the city. One of the most popular, especially for foodies, is the Evergreen Brick Works’ Winter Village.

Visitors can skate on the picturesque outdoor skating rink, shop for unique and handmade local gifts at the Holiday Market, listen to live music and enjoy tasty treats and drinks.

Christmas-in-Ontario-tree-with-lights

Evergreen Brick Works’ Winter Village is home to food trucks and food stalls, serving up a variety of tasty eats. Toast the season with mulled wine, craft beer and eggnog from the Sipping Container, roast s’mores or simply enjoy the ambiance of the season while relaxing by a roaring fire.

11. Watch the National Ballet of Canada’s Performance of The Nutcracker

Ballet companies all over the world perform The Nutcracker during the holiday season. Each performance has a special take on Marius Petipa’s beloved classic.

The National Ballet of Canada has one of the finest performances of The Nutcracker. This is a definite must when experiencing visiting Toronto in December.

Christmas-in-Ontario-Nutcracker

With its non-stop dancing and magnificent sets and costumes, The Nutcracker is an unforgettable and magical experience for the whole family.

Where: Four Seasons Centre – 145 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON
When: December 10th until December 31st, 2022.
Cost: $55 – $375
More Info: www.national.ballet.ca

12. Eat Your Way Through the Kensington Market 

As one of the most well-known markets in Canada, Kensington Market is an open-air market neighbourhood with a community of over 240 local businesses! There you will find a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, cultural eats, baked goods and vintage clothing, as well as live music and specialty products from around the world.

Christmas-in-Ontario-Christmas-Crafts

Aside from fresh food and wonderful treasures, Kensington Market is also home to a number of festivals throughout the year. Don’t miss the Kensington Market Winter Solstice Parade on December 21st. This free event is designed to celebrate the return of warmth and light.

Another great way to experience Kensington Market is to join a guided food tour through the market.

13. Go Tobogganing at Riverdale Park

If you are visiting Toronto with kids, and if you are lucky enough to have enough snow on the ground, then heading out for a fun-filled afternoon of tobogganing is definitely a must.

And one of the best places to go tobogganing in Toronto is Riverdale Park. Located near the Danforth and Broadview Ave neighbourhood, the park is not only conveniently located, but has steep slopes and epic views of the Toronto skyline.

kids-tobogganing

The park is pretty popular with people of all ages, so don’t be surprised to find quite the crowds. And as a definite bonus, you will also find a skating trail and a little farm to visit nearby!

If you prefer to have a quieter time, then head to Trinity Bellwoods Park. The park and slopes are smaller, and there won’t be a view of the skyline, but the natural setting is just as pretty.

Where: 375 Sumach St, Toronto

14. Take in a Leafs Game at Scotiabank Arena

Nothing is more Canadian than hockey! And the best way to experience this wonderful sport while visiting Toronto in December is to head over to the Scotiabank Arena for a Leafs game.

You don’t even have to be a Leafs fan to get caught up in the energy and excitement of watching our home team play. It’s definitely an experience you won’t soon forget!

Leafs-hockey

If you can’t get tickets to the game, you can still enjoy it at Maple Leaf Square where the game is broadcast live.

Where: 40 Bay St., Toronto, ON

15. Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillips Square

Although we have already mentioned Nathan Phillips Square in this post, there is one last reason why you may want to visit during your stay in Toronto. If you happen to be spending New Year’s Eve in the city, then you will definitely want to come down to the Square!

Although the party may not be as big as the one in NYC’s Times Square, Toronto knows how to throw a New Year’s Eve bash! This free event features tons of shows including a DJ, dancing and entertainment, as well as an incredible fireworks display over the city of Toronto as the finale. 

Where: 100 Queen St W, Toronto

New-Years-Eve-in-the-Square

How to Get Around Toronto in December

If you are flying to Toronto from abroad (or even from other parts of Canada), chances are, you will be flying into Toronto’s Pearson Airport. And the easiest way to get from Mississauga to downtown Toronto is by the UP Express.

Of course, you could always rent a car and drive into the city. The advantage would be having the vehicle available for your family for the entire trip. But driving around the city can be a real hassle, and that’s not even taking into consideration finding parking (and the cost of parking).

Another great way to get around the city, while taking in some of the famous sights, is by taking a guided bus tour. These types of tours will help you see the most popular attractions quickly, and are perfect if you have a tight timeline.

One of the most cost-effective ways to get around the city is by taking public transit. The public transit system in Toronto is referred to as “the TTC” (which stands for Toronto Transit Commission).

TTC in snow

Toronto is connected by 4 subway lines, as well as numerous other bus and streetcar routes. And although it isn’t the most luxurious way to travel, the TTC is clean and pretty safe to use.

The fare is $3.25 for an adult and you can pay in cash, purchase tokens, or get a Presto card so you can tap each time.

Lastly, you can get around the city by taking Uber, a taxi or limo service, or by bicycle. Toronto, like many other major cities, has a Bikeshare system where you can rent a bike for 30-45 minutes.

There are tons of “bike stations” across the city where you can easily rent one, get to where you need to go and return it to another station later. And yes, you will see many locals using the bikeshare system even in December!

bike-rentals-in-snow

🚲 Toronto even offers bicycle tours in the winter! Click to book your tour today.

Where to Stay in Toronto in December

Toronto is a big city. As a result, you will not have trouble finding accommodations to suit your needs and budget.

Our recommendation is to make sure to plan ahead and book early. Many hotels book up fast around Christmas and New Year’s Eve because of holiday parties.

Luxury Hotels

If you would like to stay in the heart of the city, and budget is not really a concern, then a couple of hotels really stand out.

Fairmont Royal York

The Fairmont Royal York has all the exceptional qualities and luxuries you would expect from a Fairmont hotel. From gorgeous rooms and suites to incredible amenities like a restaurant, free bikes for customers to use, an indoor pool and fitness centre, parking, as well as an included breakfast, you couldn’t ask for more.

Four Seasons Hotel Toronto at Yorkville

Not only is the Four Seasons Hotel situated in a posh neighbourhood, but you can relax comfortably in your thick terry bathrobes while admiring the incredible city views from your floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel also offers an expansive spa and full-service fitness centre, indoor lap pool and hot tub, as well as an incredible restaurant.

Royal-York-Hotel

Mid-Range Hotels

DoubleTree by Hilton Toronto Downtown

DoubleTree by Hilton Toronto Downtown is conveniently located right by the Toronto Eaton Centre and St. Patrick Subway Station. The hotel boasts an indoor heated pool, an on-site restaurant, and a fitness centre.

The suites offer a kitchen with a fridge/freezer, a microwave, a stovetop and utensils, which is perfect if you are staying for several days with a family in tow. And speaking of kids, they will be happy to know that guests of DoubleTree by Hilton Downtown Toronto are always greeted with warm chocolate chip cookies in the lobby.

Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Centre

Located just a short distance from many of Toronto’s main attractions, the Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Centre is a perfect home base for your city adventure. The hotel offers several onsite dining options, as well as an indoor pool and gym.

Farimont-Hotel-lobby

Budget Hotels

Unless you are willing to stay in a hostel or travel outside of the city, the options for decent budget-friendly hotels are pretty slim. And realistically, the money you would save on a hotel is probably going to be spent getting you back into the city.

🏨 Find the best rates on all Downtown Toronto hotels here.

Toronto in December FAQs

Is December a good time to visit Toronto?

If you are not afraid of the cooler temperatures and want less crowded attractions, then heading to Toronto in December is a great option. Not only will you find unique seasonal things to do like ice skating and Christmas Markets, but the snow and holiday lights really make the city sparkle just that much more!

Is there snow in Toronto in December?

In general, January through April, November and December are months where snowfall is possible in Toronto. And although December does not usually have the highest amount of snowfall, you can definitely expect there to be at least some snow on the ground.

How cold is Toronto at Christmas?

In December, Toronto has an average temperature of a chilly -1°C. Daytime highs usually reach about 1°C, with the temperature dipping to lows of -3°C at night.

Is it worth visiting Toronto in the winter?

Yes! There are so many fun things to do in Toronto in December. From going sledding, visiting Toronto Christmas markets, hiking through snowy parks, or skating at one of its many rinks, the city has plenty to offer no matter what you like to do.

How many days should you spend in Toronto?

If you are visiting Toronto for the first time, we would definitely recommend staying at least a week. In fact, you can easily fill a whole week in Toronto enjoying the trendy city vibes and attractions, dining out and exploring the city like a local.
But if you are short on time, then 3 days in Toronto will allow you to see the best of the city, while getting a real taste of what Toronto activities are on offer.

Toronto-in-December-snowy-street

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Final Thoughts on Visiting Toronto in December with Kids

Hopefully, we have convinced you that visiting Toronto in December is definitely worthwhile, even if it may be a tad chilly. With all the wonderful seasonal attractions, the magic of Christmas in Toronto, ice skating and tobogganing in the snow, and all the incredible foodie opportunities, there really is something for everyone to enjoy at this time of the year.

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