Top Toronto Experiences to Give For the Holidays

A gift of an experience is ideal for that person on your list who seems to have everything. And really, we all could use less “stuff”. There are many options for friends, families, date nights, and nights out on the town. Even some that we’d even go to solo! From musicals to magical lights and even cooking classes and immersive experiences…Here are some of our favourites!

Craig Pike, That Choir - Toronto

THAT CHOIR Carols: St. Andrew’s  Church (73 Simcoe Street). December 17 & 18. This a cappella chamber choir led by Craig Pike (yes, founder of Craig’s Cookies) is already gaining much attention in the city. The award-winning singing group brings home a wonderful night of music including your favourite carols and holiday music with works inspired by the winter solstice. Ticketed event (pay what you can — sliding scale).

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat: if a spectacular musical is on your mind, then this will sure to please! Joseph is a daydreamer and amongst his siblings is considered the favourite of his father. Jealousy from the other brothers had Joseph sold as a slave with hopes to never see him again but the dreams and stories he holds is the fabric of this popular production with a happy ending. On stage until January 18 at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

photo credit ©Tristram Kenton

Fisherman’s Friends: The Musical: This humble musical makes its North American Premiere with the original UK cast is full of toe-tapping sea shanties and heartfelt tunes. Based on a true story of a group of singing men from a seaside fishing village in the UK who were discovered by a record producer that launched them into a whole new found world with a surprising chart topper. This story is about community, loyalty and love. On stage at the Royal Alexandra Theatre until January 15.

Ross Petty’s Peter’s Final Flight: A tradition for many families, Ross Petty and his crew of misfits take to the stage for their final curtain call. Peter’s Final Flight is a showstopper pulling out all the bells and whistles to the sheer delight of for all ages. This panto style production is know for taking a classic children’s tale but cleverly with a modern and cheeky twist beyond your expectations. Families love the relaxed environment and will quickly learn the booing is very acceptable. PS We’re really going to miss this annual production and Plumbum (#iykyk).

Second City Improv: the new home at 1 York Street is impressive and the holiday programming is full of fun for everyone. The  Jingle Bell Ruckus delivers a heaping serving of seasonal satire that’s the perfect alternative to those same old holiday shows. Nothing’s off-limits: holiday film classics, family gatherings, beloved Christmas carols, and of course all things wickedly funny about winter get a seasonal skewering in this fast-paced, interactive, original comedy revue filled with style, wit, and plenty of that famous (and festive) Second City improv! The Holiday Improv Brunch is the gift that keeps on giving! For 3 weekends only, bring your band of merrymakers as they scramble together two of everyone’s favourites, comedy and brunch, for a scrumptiously seasonal breakfast with a totally improvised experience from the city’s finest. Whether you side on the Naughty or the Nice List, come enjoy mimosas…they won’t judge.

The Second City Toronto One York Street

National Ballet of Canada: Is it even the holidays without The Nutcracker Ballet? The company returns with the famous story and James Kudelka’s rendition  is one of the most beautiful and creative we’ve ever seen. We also love being surprised by  celebrities and notables who are enlisted to play the Cannon Dolls.

Soulful Messiah by Ballet Creole: December 17 and 18 at the Sandra Faire an dIvan Pecan Theatre. Returnign for the 20th anniversary is this unique holiday classic. Ballet Creole is Canada first professional Black dance company. Soulful Messiah is a combination of tap, jazz, afro-caribbean, ballet, contemporary dance, hip hop and freestyle. Music and movements are from the African Diaspora integrating traditional and contemporary dancee created by Caribbean-born Artistic Director, Patrick Parson.

Hamilton The Musical: The wildly popular musical based on a piece of American history that not many of us are too familiar with is returning to Toronto at the Princess of Wales theatre this February. You might recall it was shut down due to Covid just mere days of when it opened here but nevertheless, we’re excited for this one! Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway, Hamilton has taken the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and created a revolutionary moment in theatre—a musical that has had a profound impact on culture, politics, and education. Tickets are now on sale or even gift cards to any of the shows would be great idea!

Casa Loma Christmas at the Castle and Holiday Lights: If you’re looking for a magical experience at Toronto’s magical castle there are two happening at Casa Loma. Outdoors visitors can follow the twinkly lights of the Holiday Lights through the garden paths outdoors and then head indoors through the tunnels to visit with Mrs. Claus and Santa himself. Daily entertainment also happens including jugglers and magicians. Hot Cocoa and snack stands ($) for a few treats to keep hungry mouths satisfied. Inside the castle you’ll find stunning Christmas trees all uniquely decorated by some of the city’s finest style makers — interior decorates, designers, etc. Both events are ticketed (separately). Do one or both and make it extra special.

Casa Loma Holiday 2022
photo credit: Sonya Davidson

Distillery Winter Village: Wander through the city’s most picturesque holiday winter market with shops and eateries. The outdoor Winter Village returns in person with local artisans, vendors as well as the most scrumptious seasonal eats — psstttt…Cops donuts. You won’t want to miss the stunning 50-ft White Spruce Tree in Trinity Square. Designed by Parfum Christian Dior, tree is adorned with  with 400 custom midnight blue ornaments, 1,700 shiny and matte gold balls, 70,000 twinkling lights and features 1,000 custom Dior star charms. Tickets are required on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays after 4:00 pm, and December 27-31 after 4:00 pm. Tickets are $11 plus HST each. Kids nine and under are free of charge.

Distillery Winter 2022 - Toronto
Photo credit: Sonya Davidson

Northern Lights TO: is the city’s newest immersive outdoor holiday experience taking place at the Grand Bizarre, Exhibition Place. The 80,000 sq ft of outdoor holiday space is filled with activities. It’s also dog-friendly on Thursdays and Sundays. Open until January 8. Ticketed event.

Canadian Tire Christmas Trail: to December 23, 1000 Murray Ross Parkway. In celebration of Canadian Tire’s 100th birthday, The Canadian Tire Christmas Trail is back to make this the Christmas of the century. The drive-along experience takes guests on an enchanted 1.5-kilometre journey through thousands of twinkling lights, interactive displays, and live entertainment featuring new and familiar faces. Guests will be immersed in the magic of Christmas and can capture their beloved annual photo with Santa in a memorable way, all from the comfort of their own vehicle. $25 per car (all proceeds donated to Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities to benefit child and youth sport throughout Canada).

Photo credit: Sonya Davidson

Illumi — A Dazzling World of Lights: from the creative imagination of Normand Latourelle comes this unique experience where guests can embark on an outdoor journey through 13 magical universes across a 600,000 sq ft site (equivalent to 10 football fields!), brought to life by high definition projections, state-of-the-art animatronic creatures, and thousands of lights and structures. There’s also “The Cabin” a unique installation that allows visitors to recharge and get ready for their adventures. Families can also participate in games like Hide and Seek in The Land of Frost. Families will also have the opportunity to donate gently used winter items in the donation bins at the entrance. Ticketed event.  Running until January 29.

Disney Animation: Immersive Experience: We know there are tons of Disney fans and we’re excited about this one for the families! Opens December 21 at One Yonge Street inside the Toronto Star building. Step inside the stories and see the Disney movies, songs, and characters come to life. Created by Lighthouse Immersive and Oscar winning producer J. Miles Dale (Shape of Water) in collaboration with Walt Disney Animation Studios. This experiential projection exhibition presented with some of the most popular Disney songs from their popular films including Encanto, Zootopia, The Lion King, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, and yes, Frozen. Great for all ages. Ticketed event.

Magical Disney Animation

Eataly Cooking Classes: There’s a variety of delicious hands-on cooking classes and experiences for everyone and even a few for kids! Learn how to make pasta from the north or south and from scratch or gnocchi! Join in a lasagna making class that is Nonna approved all happening in their in-store kitchen event space.

GIFT A MEMBERSHIP!…

Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO): You cannot beat the $35 individual annual pass as a gift idea.  Visit whenever the AGO is open and explore at your leisure. The latest Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows exhibition explores the dynamic artistry of Leonard Cohen — Canadian novelist, poet and singer-songwriter. The exhibition will feature more than 200 artworks, objects, many from his personal archive, including performance clips, musical instruments, notebooks, lyrics, letters, photos, drawings and digital art all created by Cohen throughout his lifetime. This is the firs museum exhibition to present the holds of the Leonard Cohen Family Trust. Ticketed exhibition.

Gardiner Museum: This museum holds a remarkable collection of some of the world’s finest ceramic arts. From priceless artifacts to contemporary arts there’s always something amazing to discover here. The current exhibition of Karine Giboulo titled “Housewarming” is not to be missed. The Montreal-based artist invites us into her home of over 500 miniature clay figures to explore the stories all too familiar. Housewarming is Giboulo’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020, and the waves of confinement and isolation that followed. It is a sculpted documentary of individual and collective experiences grounded in current events.

Royal Ontario Museum: There’s always something special to see at the ROM. Recently opened is Canadian Modern featuring over 100 culturally significant, limited-edition and mass-produced objects designed and crafted in Canada. Other amazing exhibitions to catch before they’re gone are Kent Monkman: Being Legendary and Fantastic Beasts:The Wonder of Nature. 

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About Sonya Davidson 857 Articles
Covering events, openings and all the deliciousness in Toronto. Staff reporter for the Toronto International Film Festival. Follow @theculturepearl on Instagram and Twitter. Reach her at sonya@torontoguardian.com