Christmas in Toronto

(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

My second trip to Toronto this fall was entirely different from the first.  This one was focused on Christmas shopping and the entertainment district:  I didn’t get anywhere close to Bloor Street or The Annex this time!

Pulled Pork and Goat Cheese Pierogi at “Loaded Pierogi”

We stayed in a hotel very close to the St. Lawrence Market; lunch was at a popular new restaurant called “Loaded Pierogi”.  The menu here is essentially confined to pierogi, but the toppings are the real attraction.  I went for the pulled pork and goat cheese pierogi, while my wife went for the bacon and caramelized onion pierogi.  These sustained us for an entire afternoon of Christmas shopping.

Christmas Market in Toronto’s Distillery District

Toronto’s Distillery District (see also the photo at the very top of this post) is transformed into a European-style outdoor Christmas Market for the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Perhaps to control the crowds, there is a cover charge of $6.00 on Friday evenings and weekends.  As with most such charges, it does not add any real value but we didn’t have any choice with the timing of our visit.

The Dutch Shop, at the Christmas Market in Toronto’s Distillery District

Fortunately, to set off any ill feelings about the cover charge, there were some vendors from the “old countries”.  I enjoyed the Dutch kiosk and there were also some Swiss treats at one of the German kiosks.  We focused only on the “must-have” items, as we still had some unusual shopping lined up for the following day.

A Dutch restaurant in downtown Toronto

As I had enjoyed my visit to the Second City comedy facility in Chicago in 2014, we caught an evening show at the Toronto location.  We enjoyed the show itself but the leg and shoulder room was abysmal. We didn’t really have any choice for our seating, but you will definitely want to avoid the front row if you are of even average height and width.  Unfortunately, the advertised free improv session is after the *second* show of the evening, so you will have a long wait if you attend the first show.

19th century baking at William Lyon Mackenzie’s house in downtown Toronto

On Sunday morning, we had a fun shopping experience at the Swedish (!) Christmas Market.  I have never seen so many Swedes in one place outside of Sweden before.  The line-up for the food stalls was massive, as this market takes place only on one weekend and the “regulars” knew exactly what they wanted.  However, there was no cover charge and we ended up getting some really interesting items for Christmas.

Yonge-Dundas Square in downtown Toronto – starting to look like Times Square!

Thanks to some corporate sponsorship, a number of historic sites in Toronto had free admission that weekend.  We visited the William Lyon Mackenzie House on Bond Street:  besides being a forefather of one of Canada’s longest-serving Prime Ministers (William Lyon Mackenzie King), Mackenzie was also the first mayor of the city of Toronto and was a leader of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion.  We enjoyed some authentic baked goods, prepared the 19th century way in a very unpredictable gas-fired oven.

Evening view of the CN Tower and Union Station, taken from just outside the Royal York Hotel in Toronto

For lunch, we went to “Real Mo-Mo’s” and had some Tosti Hawaii.  Despite the name, it is in fact a largely Dutch restaurant with dishes ranging from Dutch pancakes to Bitterballen and Uitsmijter open-faced sandwiches.   It was hidden away on a small street just north of the St. Lawrence Market – yet another place to check out on a return visit.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with some details on my 2018 travel itinerary:  I’ve got trips planned for both the winter and summer months!

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