“Do you want a photo?” one of the costumed carolers at the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District said when I stuck a snap of them. They even posed with my dog Victor because (of course) I traveled here with him – the same day we checkout Winter Woofstock, so we’re making the rounds.
The Toronto Christmas Market (yes, they’re using the ‘c’ word) runs Tuesday to Sunday until Dec. 20, 2015. In case you didn’t know already, this festival benefits from the Midas touch the historic Distillery District has experienced since transforming into a retail, arts and restaurant pedestrian-only popular attraction.
Formally, a whisky and spirits 40-building production facility that opened in 1831 as The Gooderham & Worts Distillery and finally closed in 1990, it’s been dubbed the best-preserved example of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America. So clearly, it couldn’t come down.
Instead, it was reborn in 2013 as one of the most chichi shopping and gallery spots in Toronto. If that wasn’t enough, the über successful Toronto Christmas Market has been named one the world’s best by both USA Today and Fodor’s Travel.
Now they charge admission on the weekends – $5 that apparently helps develop the festival and three local charities including Plan Canada.
However, if you’re like me and happened to be shopping here a week earlier at Canada’s coolest shoe designer John Fluevog, you could pick up a free ticket. Also, if you hang on to the stub and come back in January or February, a number of merchants are offering $5 off a minimum $20 purchase.
But today it’s about the Toronto Christmas Market and dragging Victor on leash through the crowds. For the record, organizers recommend visiting with double strollers and pets during the week, instead.
It’s outside, so I’ve got Victor in tow, as we push our way along the cobblestone walkways lined with temporary wooden huts filled with vendors selling specialty foods, crafts, clothing and gift items. A stage of singers, in addition to the ones walking around, entertain families. A small Ferris wheel and carousel are also lit up for the occasion.
Of course, there’s a big tree and it wouldn’t be a Christmas village without the jolly man himself. There’s a Santa Booth offering photos and meet & greet. I didn’t get Victor there this time – but I will get snaps with Santa soon.
A festival atmosphere punctuates the chill air, but ultimately this is about attracting people to the high-end shops and restaurants behind the log huts … none of which are dog friendly. Thanks to a provincial law, we can’t even join people on the outdoor patio.
Yes true to Canadian style, several bistros winterized their patios with outdoor overhead heaters and roaring fire pits of flames.
Don your toques, mitts and Canada Goose Coats (sans fur, of course) and cozy up with a cold beer and a toasty sharing plate of tapas at this winter wonderland – fortunately free of snow (but not dogs) in November.
We’ll see what December brings.
TRAVEL GUIDE: The Distillery District in Toronto, Ontario is one of the most popular visitor spots in the city, yet there are few hotels or public transportation nearby. If this is your destination of choice during your visit, I recommend staying along Harbour Front, the city’s waterfront.
One of the largest hotels there is the Westin Harbour Castle. This is also near PawsWay, a pet-friendly museum and activity centre (watch for the post in January) and near the ferry to Toronto Island, also dog friendly.
If you want to stay closer to downtown, check out the pet-friendly Chelsea Hotel. From either hotel, it’s best to cab it to the Distillery District because parking is expensive and sparse.