Christmas is a time of wonder. The lights, the presents, and the music all add up to a season that fills our minds with memories and our hearts with delight. None of this is more evident than through the eyes of a child. Many of us have memories of leaving out cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve and then waking up to gifts under the tree in the morning. Visiting Santa is a highlight of the season for many children as they sit on his lap and verbalize their gift list. Even though we as adults know that it’s just a kind soul donning a big belly and red suit, we still love seeing the awe in the eyes of the kids as they visit Santa himself.
If seeing Santa is on your list of things to do this holiday season, then we have suggestions for you on the best places to see Santa in Toronto. From attractions to stores, prepare that holiday list and get the kiddos ready to visit good ole’ Saint Nick.
If you are looking for a Christmas market, light show, and live entertainment, then Christmas Glow is the place to go! Not only do they have visits with Santa, but their holiday theme this year is all about the jolly guy. Children can help elves find “Santa’s Lost Presents” and can earn a surprise if they find all of the gifts. Not only can kids tell their Christmas wishes to Santa, but they can also play on playgrounds, stroll through a light tunnel, and ride on Glen the Glow-comotive. Adults can peruse the market filled with local artisans and enjoy seasonal beverages. Christmas Glow truly has something for everyone, no matter his or her age. The best part? The entire thing is under roof, so you can enjoy all of the activities regardless of the weather.
Royal Botanical Gardens
Not only do the Royal Botanical Gardens have beautiful plantings, 27km of nature trails, and vantage points for bird watchers; but at Christmas, the gardens are decked out as the holidays go into full swing. Visit their Winter Lights display where over thousands of lights decorate trees and pathways, and children can tell their Christmas wishes to Santa himself. There are several options for having a memorable visit with the big guy. Santa’s Signature Experience includes riding the RBG Express, storytelling, crafts, hot cider, and a cookie. Tickets are available for designated time slots and are best purchased ahead of time. Another option is the complimentary Visits with Santa, although if you choose to ride the train to Santa’s Cabin, there is a small fee. Either way, the gardens welcome Santa with style!
York-Durham Heritage Railway
There’s nothing like taking one of the York-Durham Heritage Railway’s holiday excursions to duplicate the feeling of riding the Polar Express. One option is to take a Santa Trip where guests are entertained as they ride and anticipate Santa’s arrival. The railway encourages kids to have their wish lists ready as St. Nick comes around and visits children of all ages in their train seats. Christmas decorations adorn the railcars, which gives this option an especially festive feel. You can also take the Polar Express ride if that is your preference over visiting with Santa.
Santa Brunch Cruise
The jolly old guy himself forsakes the North Pole for one day to cruise through the Toronto Harbor. He even brings his elves along for the ride! Patrons can enjoy a 2-hour cruise with views of the Toronto skyline as they enjoy a scrumptious brunch buffet. Children are given chocolate milk and can participate in kid-friendly activities, such as making crafts. Big kids (aka adults!) can enjoy cocktails from the cash bar. Taking the Santa Brunch Cruise can be such a memorable experience for both young and old.
Toronto Christmas Market
This market takes place in the Distillery District, but at least try to pretend you are headed there for the kids. Everything comes alive in the area during the holidays, and there is something for everyone! Shop the collections of artisan vendors, take tours of the historic district, enjoy live entertainment, and view the various collections of light displays. Of course, while you are at the Toronto Christmas Market, be sure to stop by Santa’s house to talk to Mr. Claus. Better still, they have a professional photographer on hand to capture the wonder in a child’s eyes as they recite their wish list to Santa.
Mall Santas shouldn’t be left out. Seeing one is a great way to sneak in a Santa visit while adults are already at the shopping centre picking out Christmas gifts. Children can see Santa and have their photo taken at Square One, but the best part is that their photos are neatly sorted into a variety of packages so you can decide exactly what you need. While in line, children can talk to Santa’s helpers, which take the form of stately Nutcrackers. St. Nick sits against a tastefully decorated, festive backdrop, and patrons receive a complimentary Lindt chocolate while they are waiting for Santa. As a bonus, a part of the proceeds from photo packages goes towards a local autism foundation. What a great way to keep the holiday spirit alive in the hearts of each little one.
Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory
Although it isn’t in Toronto proper as Cambridge is a little over an hour away, a visit to the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory is special at any time of year. When the Christmas season starts, they go all out to make the holidays festive for kids. Children can do self-guided activities as they explore the Conservatory and learn all about butterflies. A big highlight is Santa’s visit on the first Saturday in December. Decorate cookies and take a photo while you meet both Mr. and Mrs. Claus. What a trip to remember, which is worth the drive!