By Lori Bosworth
[This post is in partnership with Expedia.]
The holiday lights in the trees twinkle as we walk along the cobblestone lanes towards the Toronto Christmas Market in the historic Distillery District. There are in fact over 40,000 light bulbs providing wattage throughout the market, including a spectacular canopy of lights. Bows of cedar and spruce adorn street lamps in this quaint Toronto district, which was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. This European-style Christmas market has grown since its inception in 2010 into an annual event attracting over 600,000 visitors, not only from Toronto, but from across Canada.
Towering over the center of the market is a 50-foot white spruce that was donated by Forests Ontario and Ontario Wood. Beside the Christmas tree is a stage where quartets, choirs and solo artists perform seasonal music. This year, Janet Parrish and Dylan S. Wallach, who are currently playing Sandy and Danny in Grease at Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre, performed during the opening night of the market. Other artists will perform on the main stage until the market closes on December 23.
I love the old Gooderham & Worts sign that bridges one side of the street to the other. It reminds visitors that the district was once the largest distillery in the world. In 2003, the new owners redeveloped the area and opened it to the public. The district is now home to art galleries, restaurants, cafes, boutiques, a microbrewery and its own theatre, the Young Centre for the Performing Arts. You won’t find any chains or franchises here since the owners have restricted them in the lease.
I came prepared with canned goods to donate to the market’s ‘Giving Pantry’ hosted by Campbell’s Canada. The market is asking all visitors to bring a canned good to be donated to the Daily Bread Food Bank.
New this year is an amazing 100-foot light tunnel. We stop to enjoy some fondue being offered at the tunnel.
We duck out of the cold into the gorgeous Arta Gallery to view some original artwork. The spacious gallery always features dynamic, contemporary art and I never fail to find something that I love. Across the street, we browse among the original jewelry pieces at Corktown Designs.
I spot a line and see that Santa is busy visiting with children and taking their last-minute gift requests. On Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., you can bring your pet for a photo with Santa.
Time to stop for a late lunch at Pure Spirits Oyster House. Since our visit to the Toronto Christmas Market is during the week, the restaurant is not quite as busy as it is on weekends so we are seated within five minutes. This pub has a real Dickensian look and feel and features a menu with seafood dishes and other pub favourites. As the name implies, there is a good selection of oysters including Fanny Bay (my favourite), Malpeque, Beausoleil, Kumamoto and Luck Lime. We order the mussels with Thai curry and an organic chicken roulade stuffed with walnuts and raisins. The mussels are probably frozen, but they still taste okay in the mildly spicy curry sauce. The chicken roulade is filling if lacking in a bit of spice.
We venture outside again to encounter carolling quartets dressed in Victorian garb strolling up and down the lanes of the district. Vendor booths with handcrafted gifts beckon us to shop for holiday gifts. I love vintage holiday décor so I stop to admire the vintage Christmas ornaments at Angels Welcome. Unable to resist the roasted cinnamon glazed pecans at The Nutty Bavarian, I buy a bag to enjoy at home.
Visiting the Toronto Christmas Market at The Distillery District has become an annual tradition. It doesn’t feel like Christmas until I’ve visited this charming market. The Toronto Christmas Market is on until Friday, December 23, 2017.