As we catch sight of the first snowfall and hear the familiar hum of holiday melodies, we’re ready to indulge in the magic of the season. It’s that same festive feeling we get when we set foot inside a Christmas market, head off on a winter getaway, or find the perfect gift for a loved one.
Savour the most wonderful time of the year with some of our favourite holiday experiences and local gift ideas across Ontario. From outdoor adventurers to families with kids to forever foodies, we mean it when we say there is something for everyone
For the food enthusiasts
Sip and shop in St. Jacobs
Located in Woolrich, about 1.5 hours from Toronto, St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market is a foodie destination in its own right. Open year-round with more than 200 local vendors on-site, it’s sure to satisfy your hunger (the famous apple fritters are reason enough to visit). Come late November, though, the grounds transform into a twinkling Sip n’ Shop night market selling artisanal gifts, treats and festive beverages—perfect timing to get that holiday shopping done.
St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market, 878 Weber St. N., Woolwich, Ont.
In the nearby village of St. Jacobs, Sparkles is another exciting event on the holiday calendar, starting Nov. 16. With Christmas carollers, live musicians and plenty of holiday treats and gifts, you can make it a weekend getaway. We recommend checking into Hotel 52, a trendy boutique hotel conveniently located steps away from St. Jacobs’ must-visit eateries and shops.
Hotel 52, 1430 King St. N., St. Jacobs, Ont.
Dine in wine country
There’s nothing quite like cozying up indoors on a romantic holiday getaway with a glass of wine in hand. Niagara-on-the-Lake offers a Winemakers’ Selection Tasting Pass that allows you to sample vino from 20 wineries across the region, good all year round.
For the perfect pairing to visiting wineries, check out Niagara Culinary Tours’ Ugly Sweater Holiday Food Tour. The 2.5-hour tour involves donning your favourite ugly holiday sweater as you sample some of the best bites throughout town. Tip: stop by the Just Christmas shop for a seemingly endless array of Christmas-themed gift options.
Tours meet at The Irish Harp Pub, 245 King St., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.
Create a custom charcuterie board
For a culinary experience that’s a little more off the beaten track, head 2.5 hours southwest of Toronto to the small town of Tillsonburg and visit Ottercreek Woodworks. The acclaimed woodworking company offers an award-winning From Tree to Table workshop that involves crafting your own live-edge charcuterie board from local lumber. You’ll also have the opportunity to sample a selection of local artisanal cheeses, meats and preserves, so this experience is clearly a win-win.
Ottercreek Woodworks, Bell Mill Side Road, Tillsonburg, Ont.
While in town, visit Betty’s Marketplace, a quaint shop selling products from more than 80 nearby artisans. From engraved wood coasters to tea gift sets, you’re bound to find a unique present for that special someone.
Betty’s Marketplace, 87 Broadway St., Tillsonburg, Ont.
For the outdoor adventurers
Hit the slopes and spa in Blue Mountain
Blue Mountain Resort comes to life in the winter, with bustling crowds and gorgeous snow-capped mountains just a couple of hours from Toronto. After a day on the slopes, visit the village at night as it transforms into a winter wonderland for Holiday Magic (picture a vibrant light trail, live music and street performers).
Blue Mountain Resort, 190 Gord Canning Dr., Blue Mountains, Ont.
In late November, the village also organizes a Christmas at Blue Gift Show with more than 100 local vendors, from pottery makers to custom jewellers. And a trip to Blue Mountain isn’t complete without a visit to the restorative Scandinave Spa. Unwind outdoors in the thermal baths, sauna and eucalyptus steam room. To reach optimal relaxation, we recommend booking a massage in advance.
Scandinave Spa, 152 Grey County Rd. 21, Blue Mountains, Ont.
Explore a provincial park
Disconnect from city life and head to Arrowhead Provincial Park in Huntsville. Just shy of three hours north of Toronto, this destination features a skating trail that winds through the woods, together with 28 kilometres of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. The park is also home to 13 rustic wood cabins for overnight guests, perfect for a cozy weekend escape. Make sure to plan ahead, though. Arrowhead gets very busy, particularly on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, so make reservations in advance (you can purchase advance day permits up to five days ahead of your visit). But if you’re thinking of going spur of the moment, check the park’s X (formerly Twitter) page for regular capacity updates.
Arrowhead Provincial Park, 451 Arrowhead Park Rd., Huntsville, Ont.
Downtown Huntsville will be alive with holiday magic, as well. Visit Eclipse “Walk With Light” for an interactive light-and-sound inspired forest night walk. The town will also host a Holiday Market in late November to inspire visitors to shop local this season.
Experience adventure in Haliburton
For a winter adventure you won’t soon forget, escape to Ontario’s wilderness for a day of snowshoeing at Yours Outdoors. Make it a weekend trip and check into Heather’s Lodge, a nearby nature-inspired resort that is the epitome of a cozy winter getaway. Haliburton also hosts a Holiday Night Market the first Saturday of December with festive music, food and gifts by local artisans (we recommend checking out vendors Burnt Timber Art and The Wolf Moon).
Holiday Night Market, along Main Street E, Huntsville, ON
For families with kids (or for kids at heart)
Visit Canada’s Wonderland for Winterfest
From mid-November to early January, Ontario’s beloved amusement park will become a wintry wonderland for Winterfest. You’ll find a large skating rink bordered by glittering trees; more than a dozen holiday-themed show performances; rides; light displays; and two 50-foot Christmas trees. You can also expect fun events like cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus and festive-themed vendors selling gifts and goodies. You’ll feel like you’ve entered a real-life snow globe, less than an hour outside Toronto.
Canada’s Wonderland, 1 Canada’s Wonderland Dr., Vaughan, Ont.
Meet Old St. Nick at Santa’s Village
While Santa’s Village in Muskoka is open year-round, if you visit just once with little ones, let it be for SantaFest. The grounds are lit up with seasonal wonder, from festive rides and horse-drawn carriages to Santa letter-writing workshops, plusthe opportunity to meet St. Nick himself.
Santa’s Village, 1624 Golden Beach Rd., Bracebridge, Ont.
The town of Bracebridge also hosts a Festival of Lights during the holiday season, complete with live entertainment, a Santa Claus parade and late night shopping. Be sure to visit Kala House of Colour and The Corner Cabinet for locally crafted, one-of-a-kind goods.
Bracebridge Festival of Lights, Memorial Park, Bracebridge, Ont.
Travel back in time in northern Ontario
Closer than a trip to the North Pole and just as magical is the Village Noël Temiskaming—think magical European town from an ancient fairy tale. It’s when the small northern city of Temiskaming Shores comes to life for three days each November, transforming into a charming New France–style holiday village. You and your kids will be filled with cheer among the costumed street performers, local vendors in festive wooden stalls, holiday crafts and delicious Canadian eats (from BeaverTails to tourtière).
Village Noël Temiskaming, New Liskeard Fairgrounds, May Street South, Temiskaming Shores, Ont.
For the inner artisans
Light up your weekend in Stratford
With its renowned theatre scene, Stratford stands as one of the main arts and culture hubs across the province—and the city’s vibrancy continues straight through the holidays. For starters, its award-winning Lights On festival will illuminate the downtown core and nearby park with art and interactive light installations.
Lights On, various locations in downtown Stratford, Ont.
The city also organizes a Christmas Trail holiday shopping experience. Make it a weekend trip and check into Edison’s Inn, a charming boutique hotel catering to the art inclined. Don’t forget to visit Wills & Prior for stylish gift options for the decor lover on your list.
Edison’s Inn, 48 Ontario St., Stratford, Ont.
Get cozy and crafty in Toronto
When the holiday season hits, Toronto dresses up for the occasion. The Distillery Winter Village, nestled in the city’s historic Distillery District, is a must-visit attraction featuring a candy-cane forest, live entertainment, local vendors, food stalls and more. Other not-to-miss events include the One of a Kind Winter Show, a bustling craft show selling products from 650+ local makers and designers across the country, and Holiday Fair in the Square, a cozy artisan marketplace with a fireside lounge, food trucks, rides, games and more. Cap off the holiday magic and score tickets to the Nutcracker ballet.
The Distillery Winter Village, 51 Gristmill Ln., Toronto, Ont.
One of a Kind Winter Show, Enercare Centre, Exhibition Place, 100 Princes’ Blvd., Toronto, Ont.
Holiday Fair in the Square, Mel Lastman Square, 5100 Yonge St., Toronto, Ont.
The National Ballet of Canada, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W., Toronto, Ont.
Browse festive markets in Ottawa
Canada’s capital captures the essence of the festive season at every turn. There’s no shortage of holiday markets to discover gifts for every loved one’s interests, including the Signatures Originals Christmas craft sale, the Canadian Museum of History’s Christmas Market, and the Ottawa Christmas Market in Aberdeen Square. The magic continues into the new year with Winterlude, one of the biggest winter festivals in Canada, which hosts ice-carving contests, ice dragon-boat racing and skating opportunities along the Rideau Canal Skateway (known as the largest naturally frozen ice rink in the world).
Signatures Originals, EY Centre, 4899 Uplands Dr., Ottawa, Ont.
The Canadian Museum of History’s Christmas Market, 100 Laurier St., Gatineau, QC
Ottawa Christmas Market, Lansdowne TD Place, 1015 Bank St., Ottawa, Ont.
Winterlude, located across several sites in downtown Ottawa and Gatineau