A visit to Toronto in December can be whatever you want it to be. You can go the festive route and check out some of the local Christmas markets, or you can forgo the holiday cheer altogether. Toronto gives you options and, while they’re all worth a look, these are some of our favorites.

Ross Petty’s Latest Play

Actor and producer Ross Petty is somewhat of a local celebrity. Since 1996, he’s charmed Toronto audiences with “Fractured Fairy Tales,” unique takes on popular classics that break the fourth wall to engage the audience and all feature at least one man (usually Ross Petty himself) playing a dastardly woman. This year, he’s doing The Wizard of Oz at the Elgin Theatre, and tickets are affordably priced.

The Lights at Casa Loma

Casa Loma is the only true castle in North America, and the groundskeepers go all out for the holidays, recreating the Nutcracker story in a gorgeously lit up display you can walk through. Make your way there via the Forest Hill Village, and stop at Aroma for a hot chocolate beforehand. It’s by far the best in town.

Skating to the Beat

Most guides will tell you to strap on the blades at Nathan Phillips Square. But we’re inclined to recommend DJ Skate Nights at Harbourfront Centre. Every Saturday night, the records spin as people from around the world get funky and fresh at the foot of the city. The view is magnificent and the pre- or post-skating options for food and drink are plentiful.

The Winter Flower Wonderland

Allan Gardens is one of Toronto’s oldest plant conservatories and every winter they deck out the grounds with seasonal flowers you’ve probably never seen before, including over 30 kinds of poinsettias. For a break from the hustle and bustle of a busy city, this is a welcome hour of peace and quiet.

Christmas Past — and Even Further Past

What was Christmas like in 1890 and 1940? At Todmorden Mills Heritage Site you’ll get to experience both. Sample festive treats in the historic homes and walk through the wildflower preserve. When you’re done there, head up Pottery Road towards the Danforth, home of Toronto’s Greek Village. You won’t see as much Christmas stuff there, what with them being predominately Greek Orthodox they do their Christmas in January, but you’ll find some of the city’s very best food, and a community that knows how to party.

And Finally…The Bay’s Windows

Hudson’s Bay Company (or “The Bay” as it’s known here), is Canada’s oldest store. Their flagship location is at Yonge at Queen and every year they outdo themselves with their holiday window displays. Eye-popping, heart-warming and definitely Instagram-worthy, these window displays are 100% worth the walk over.

What to Expect Weather-wise

The average high in December is 1°C. That’s not awesome. But on the flip side, the average low isn’t much worse at -3°C. (For comparison, the average temperature in January is below -5°C — and the extra 2 degrees make a big difference.) Plan for light snow and slush, so that means a winter coat and hat, waterproof boots, warm gloves, a scarf and plenty of layers.

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