We decided to venture out into the city on a balmy late fall night last week to check out the much hyped about Toronto Christmas Market. We’d seen the pictures, heard the stories and we were pumped to see what all the hoopla was about. Needless to say, it being an unseasonal warm night, a few hundred others had the exact same thought and we found ourselves amongst a massive crowd of Christmas revellers. As first-timers, there was so much to do and see that we literally didn’t know where to start. Having walked amongst the large (laaaarge) crowd to witness it all, here are some of the things that you can’t miss when visiting this now well established Toronto tradition.

Stay and catch a show: Over the course of the next few weeks, the Toronto Christmas Market will present over 450 free performances on the main stage including award-winning singers, brass bands, cultural dancers, and carolers. This year’s schedule includes themed entertainment each day, including Traditional Tuesdays (bluegrass, folk, roots, traditional), World Wednesdays (world music, dance, and cultural performances), Classical Thursdays (Seasonal opera, oratorio, and cross-over Classical performances), Friday Night Jazz (holiday jazz and swing), Pop/Variety Saturdays (Emerging and Featured artists performing pop, rock, Adult Contemporary, blues, and more) and last but not least Ensemble Sundays (Instrumental Ensembles and Vocal ensembles and Choirs). Bear in mind that weekends are extremely busy (and there is a $6/pp admission fee to get in starting Friday at 5:00 pm).

Stay for Dinner: On the night we attended the wait to get a table was a good 2 to 2.5 hrs. So if you’re planning to attend, give yourself plenty of time to plan taking into consideration the wait will be long. Or you can do what we did and find the nearest Subway Restaurant (my accompanying teenager’s choice) which is literally a block away from the Distillery District. Lucky for me, just a few doors down, we stumbled upon the very unassuming (but Good Lord, what a great find!) Cluck Clucks Fried Chicken and Waffles, and I don’t know if it was because I was starving, but let me tell you, that was one hell of a great meal I had that night (see pictures below). The original plan was to visit one of the most popular spots in the Distillery, “El Catrín Destileria Mexican Restaurant”, but the restaurant was booked for a private event that night and the wait to get a table at the patio was basically a couple of days long. We’ll be sure to check it out on our next visit. Other choices for a great meal right on site include Archeo, Boku Sushi, Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill and Mill Street Brewery, amongst others.

The Vendors!!! Once you’ve had dinner and caught a couple of performances, take some time to discover what the many vendors have to offer. It is, after all, a Christmas Market. You will not be disappointed. All the vendor spaces were sold out this year and there are some great finds all around, including Beekeper’s Natural, Das Kartoffelhaus/Tornado Potato, El Tambache (with their South American inspired mitts, hats, scarves and sweaters), French-Canadian Poutine, Schnitzel Haus (the line-up for this one…sheesh! Must be good!) and our personal favourite (that we didn’t get to try because literally EVERYONE was having one) Chimney Stax. These delicious looking things are hand rolled, rotisserie baked Eastern European sweets served in a variety of delicious holiday flavours. Yum! And these are just a few of the choices. There is so much more to see. And as you’re getting to all the vendors, you are literally walking around in a winter wonderland, taking in the smells and sounds in a magical Christmas lighting and decor. I can only imagine what this wonderful attraction looks like when there’s a lot of snow.

The Toronto Christmas Market will close its doors for the year on December 23. Be sure to take time to visit before it does. And bring the little ones to take a picture with good ol’ St. Nick as he also makes regular appearances to say hello to the kids. Santa stays there for a few hours on weeknights and he remains for the day on weekends. The Distillery District is accessible by public transit and if you’re like us, travelling from Durham Region, we found parking was a breeze (not to mention affordable at $7 for the evening) and found a spot quickly right across the street on a Green P lot. All in all, the experience lived up to the hype and more. But now we have to come back on a snowy day because we can only imagine how that would make the experience that much more magical and full of Christmas spirit and joy. Till next time!