77 things to do in Toronto during the holidays

The best ways to get out in the city and make the most of the season – from light displays and music to comedy and art


The Distillery Winter Village
Nick Lachance

Kids & Families

Walk the cobblestone streets of Distillery Winter Village

Formerly known as the Toronto Christmas Market, the Distillery Winter Village is running with a more modern and intimate rebrand. There are plenty of opportunities for shopping and dining at the District’s stores and food spots, with added outdoor vendors plus live music and other holiday festivities.

To December 31. 55 Mill. $8 Friday-Sunday after 4 pm and December 20-23 after 4 pm; free admission at other times. thedistillerywintervillage.com

Strap on those skates

This free, family-friendly activity is a fun way to get active during the cold season. Book a skating time at Union Station or just head out to city rinks like Nathan Phillips Square and Greenwood Park, or by the lake at Harbourfront Centre, which has a revamped rink.  

On now until late March. Free. torontounion.ca, -harbourfrontcentre.com, toronto.ca/skating

Gear up for the holidays

If you don’t want to leave the safety of your car, Journey Into Enchantment allows you and your friends and family to take a 2-kilometre drive and enjoy stunning light decorations, 3D interactive displays and lots of festive music. The unique event – which sold out last year – supports Toronto Sick Kids and other charities.

November 25 to January 8. Mount Joy GO Station (1801 Bur Oak, Markham) and Meadowvale GO Station (6845 Millcreek, Mississauga). $29.95-$39.95 (per vehicle). journeyintoenchantment.ca

Hit the Nights Of Lights

Get outdoor exercise and shots for the ‘gram at this holiday light display just north of the city in Vaughan. The 40-minute walk features one million LEDs and four light tunnels. And the park is accessible via the Yonge-University subway line.

November 26 to January 1. Assembly Park (80 Interchange Way). $19.99 and up. nightsoflights.ca

Little Canada
Nick Lachance
Little Canada has a big impact

The Little Canada exhibit has made a gigantic splash in the city. Miniature recreations of some of the nation’s most recognizable landmarks and cityscapes have already captured thousands of visitors’ hearts. You can even get yourself 3D scanned and become one of the little people in the exhibit.

Open-ended run. 10 Dundas East. $19-$32, annual passports available. little-canada.ca

See the lights at city hall

For Torontonians, the Cavalcade of Lights is the official start of winter. The big Christmas tree will light up Nathan Phillips Square along with light installations inspired by cultural festivals from around the world. Skaters can enjoy it all from the ice rink. Thhere will be physical distancing protocols in place and there won’t be a fireworks display. Opening day will feature Bollywood dancing, live ice sculpture carving, aerial routines, flamenco dance and DJ Dre Ngozi.November 27 to January 2, opening day 3-11 pm, then daily from 5-11 pm. Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen West). Free. toronto.ca/cavalcade

Tell Santa you’ve been nice

Once again, sitting on Santa’s lap is a no-go this year. But kids can drop a letter in his mailbox and get a personalized missive in return, plus enjoy a socially distanced meet-and-greet with Big Red at Union Station’s Skywalk, which will be transformed into Santa’s Village. The 45-minute stroll includes a storytime session with Santa reading ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas and selfie ops at six feet apart. The ticketed event raises fund for SickKids Foundation and offers an upgrade that includes a gift bag with a festive mask, treats and trinkets and a personalized postcard.

December 3 to 19. 7 Station. $25-$45. santasvillageto.com

Stream the Santa Claus Parade

Santa may be double-vaxxed but he isn’t taking chances with large crowds. The Santa Claus parade, known to plow its way through the downtown core, is once again a broadcast–only event, airing on CTV from Canada’s Wonderland. This year’s parade will have fewer floats (24 instead of 30+) and feature an Indigenous float called “Creation Story” designed by Anishinaabe artist Phil Cote.

December 4 at 7 pm on CTV. thesantaclausparade.com

Denise Militzer
Skate 8s under the Gardiner

The figure-8 skate trail under the Gardiner is back this year. The launch date hasn’t been announced but the Bentway’s rink will reopen without capacity limits or pre-registration sometime next month. There will be skate rentals, lessons and hot drinks. Inuvialuk artist Maureen Gruben’s large-scale installation of sculptural sleds, Moving With Joy, will also be on display. The work depicts how sleds are used by Arctic communities.

December TBD to February 21. Free. thebentway.ca

Re-enact Jurassic Park

For a different kind of family fun this year, check out Canada’s largest indoor dinosaur park. This 50,000 square foot theme park in Markham includes 45 life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, rides, games, food and more. Why get a picture with Santa when you can get a selfie with a velociraptor instead?

December 17 to January 2. 10801 McCowan. $12.50 (or $60 for four, includes 15 ride tickets). dinoholiday.ca

Take the kids to WinterFest

Winter festivals with light displays are sweeping theme parks and botanical gardens across the continent. Canada’s Wonderland is getting in on the action with a second-annual WinterFest. This is a family-oriented and Christmas-centric attraction, with skating, nightly tree-lighting and themed villages and holiday shows. Vaccine certificates are required to enter the park.

To December 31. 1 Canada’s Wonderland (Vaughan). $29.99 and up. canadaswonderland.com

Shopping and Dining

Find One of a Kind treasures

Unlike Amazon, local businesses and artisans have been hit hard by the pandemic. So what better way to support talented craft makers than by attending the beloved annual exhibit? Catch up with your favourite local exhibitors and discover some new ones, all while staying carefully masked. Alas, there won’t be any food or beverage sampling this year, so you’ll have to get takeout and try it at home.

November 25 to December 5. Enercare Centre, Exhibition Place (100 Princes’ Blvd). $8.50-$15. oneofakindshow.com

Explore the Window Wonderland in the Junction

For the second year in a row, this art walk in the Junction will feature an outdoor gallery of international artists and artists from the GTA. Those who want to experience the immersiveness of the gallery are encouraged to use the augmented reality ARTvive app. The app lets viewers see added digital layers to the art that’s displayed at local businesses in the neighbourhood.
November 26 to January 2. Dundas West from Quebec to Indian Grove. Free. torontojunction.ca

Watch the Bloor-Yorkville Holiday Magic tree lighting

As you watch the tree light up at Cumberland and Bellair, enjoy musical performances by Canadian singers Kiesza and Carys. The event will be hosted by Chloe Wilde from E! Canada and Etalk. A $2 donation to the Canadian Foundation for Aids Research gets you maple syrup frosted on snow. Yum. The same night, trees will be lit along Bloor, and throughout December there will be traditional carolling throughout the neighbourhood.

November 27 from 5 to 7 pm. Free. bloor-yorkville.com

Dig in at Scarborough’s Street Eats Market

Street Eats Market is busting out the holiday lights. The regular food truck festival at Scarborough Town Centre – with everything from spicy chicken to macaroni pie – is hosting a Holiday Street Market, adding a hot cocoa bar, maple syrup lollipops, cider, mulled wine, kids’ rides, a fire pit lounge and all the usual Christmas decor to their usual lineup. You can’t get Jamaican seafood boil at the Distillery Winter Village.

Weekends December 3 to 24. 520 Progress. $15-$20 (free for kids under 2). holidaystreetmarket.com

Shop the Indigenous Art Market

The city’s first Indigenous art market is underway in Leslieville and the timing couldn’t be better since the pandemic has cancelled pow wows and other events where Indigenous artists sell work. Run by the Association for Native Development in the Performing and Visual Arts, the market features 15 artists representing different Indigenous nations, including muralist Mo Thunder and fashion designer Warren Steven Scott.

To December 24. 1107 Queen East. instagram.com/indigenous_art_market

Enjoy a festive pop-up

The Sweaters N’ Snowflakes Food & Wine Bar is a partially heated space that offers mulled wine, spiked hot chocolate, apple cider and other holiday inspired cocktails. The pop-up also features food cooked over wood-fired pits and ovens, such as pizza, turkey legs, vegan soup and more. The outdoor wine and resto bar aims to channel a forest atmosphere with Scotch pines, garland and lights. Live music and carolling will also take place.
December 3 to 31. 621 Richmond West. Free admission. sweatersnsnowflakes.com

Visit the holiday antique market at Parkdale Hall

This weekend-long event is your chance to shop everything antique for the holiday season. The show will feature vendors from more than 35 of the GTA’s most notable antique businesses.

December 4 and 5 from 9 am to 5 pm. 1605 Queen West. Free. instagram.com/theparkdalehall

Music

Jag Gundu
Join Gordon Lightfoot for the return of Massey Hall

After being closed for a few years for a massive renovation that just happened to overlap with a pandemic, Toronto’s most storied music venue is finally reopening. Gordon Lightfoot is one of the artists most associated with the venue-, so it’s only fitting he gets to do the honours (he also played the closing show in 2018).

November 25 to 27 at 8 pm. Massey Hall (178 Victoria). Sold out. masseyhall.com

Unleash your inner Dolly Parton

A month or two ago, the city’s music and theatre tastemakers were raving about Uncovered: The Music Of Dolly Parton, Musical Stage Company’s in-person concert featuring local talents doing the songs of the Queen of Country Music (and big donor of vaccine research). Now those who couldn’t attend the handful of sold-out shows can watch Jully Black, Sara Farb, Kelly Holiff, Beau Dixon, Andrew Penner and others via online stream of the concert and harmonize to Islands In The Stream without disturbing others.

November 25 to December 11 and December 30. $35 per household. musicalstagecompany.com

Rethink Mozart with West End Micro Music Festival

Musicians Brad Cherwin and Sebastian Ostertag are launching the West End Micro Music Festival with a series of concerts called Mozart Is Dead. The three concerts aim to reintroduce community, experimentation and risk to classical music and spark conversation.

November 26, December 3 and December 10 at 7:30 pm. Redeemer Lutheran Church (1691 Bloor West). Festival pass $50, individual tickets $20; free for students. westendmusic.ca

Get artsy at Block pARTy

To celebrate the return of live music, local indie label ArtHaus is opening up what would be a label showcase to the general public. There’s a great lineup of rising artists including Adria Kain, Lu Kala and Clerel, plus earlier DJ sets from Bambii and Junia-T who will be spinning while you go holiday shopping at stalls from local artisans.

November 27 from noon to 10 pm. 72 Perth. $22.52. eventbrite.ca

Remember the year with Mozart’s Requiem

It’s been a difficult year, with so many lost to COVID-19 and suffering. So this collaboration between the Canadian Opera Company and Against the Grain Theatre ought to be cathartic. Along with a performance of Mozart’s haunting choral masterpiece, it incorporates interviews with the work’s four soloists, who have all had to deal with grief and healing during the pandemic.

November 27 at 7:30 pm (accessible for six months afterwards). Free. coc.ca/Requiem

Mustafa
Samuel Engelking

Mustafa performs at Massey Hall on December 1.

Witness magic with Mustafa

NOW cover star Mustafa is playing his first hometown headlining show as a musical act and he gets a very grand stage (not far from his Regent Park home) to do it: Massey Hall. His debut album When Smoke Rises is a stunner, as is Mustafa’s voice. We can only imagine what it will sound like in the grand hall.ϒ December 1 at 8:30 pm. Massey Hall (178 Victoria). $26.40-$63.55. masseyhall.com

Enjoy the First Noel… and the second and third, too

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir sings traditional carols and works by Respighi plus more in this celebration of holiday music.

December 1 at 7:30 pm. Yorkminster Park Baptist Church (1585 Yonge). $30-$90 ($20-$40 to watch online). rcmusic.com

Barenaked Ladies go all out for the holidays

Barenaked Ladies usually have something up their (non-existent?) sleeves for the holidays, but this year they’re going all out. Much more than One Week of shows, the long-running Toronto band are playing at least 15: 12 Hits for the Holidays shows and three Snacktime! shows, which are all-ages daytime concerts.

December 2 to 23. CAA Theatre (651 Yonge). $29-$125. mirvish.com

Shine on with Stars

Stars have made holiday shows part of their emotional indie pop brand for decades, and now they can do that again. The Together Tour brings them back to the stage so you can belt out Your Ex-Lover Is Dead and shed a tear or two over a melancholy melodica.

December 3, doors 8 pm. Phoenix Concert Theatre (410 Sherbourne). $44.50-$64.50. showclix.com

Toast a big year for the Weather Station

Local folk-rocker Tamara Lindeman and her band the Weather Station had a bit of a mid-career breakout this year with Ignorance, a climate-emergency-riffing album that resonated all over the world. She only got to do a virtual release show, so this overdue hometown gig is a big one. They should pull out all the stops.

December 4, doors 7 pm. Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth). $33-$109. ticketmaster.ca

Get romantic with the New Pornographers

The pandemic has led to a few odd anniversary shows like this one: the New Pornographers celebrating the 21st birthday of Mass Romantic. That power-pop sugar rush is one of the Vancouver band’s undisputed classics, and they’ll play it live in a show that includes their all-star part-timers Dan Bejar and Neko Case.

December 6 at 7 pm. Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth). $34.50-$59.50. ticketmaster.ca

Pop the cork on Holiday Pops

Conductor Steven Reineke leads the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Canadian Broadway star Ryan Silverman in a selection of carols and holiday pop tunes, followed by a sing-along portion.

December 7 to 9 at 8 pm, matinee December 8 at 2 pm. Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe). $62-$138. tso.ca

Celebrate with Andy Kim and friends

This season brings back the return of two in-person immortal musical institutions: Andy Kim’s annual Christmas show and its new home, Massey Hall. Gather in the reopened music hall for a night that includes Billy Talent, the Sheepdogs, Ron Sexsmith, Jully Black, William Prince, Rush’s Alex Lifeson, Men Without Hats and many, many more new and legacy Canadian acts.

December 8 at 8 pm. Massey Hall (178 Victoria). $37.50-$97.50. masseyhall.com

Enjoy an alternative holiday concert

For those looking for a non-traditional take on the holidays, Art of Time Ensemble’s To All A Good Night 6 should do the trick. Jackie Richardson, Jessica Mitchell, Liam Russell, David Wall and Tom Wilson perform songs by Stevie Wonder, John Prine, Duke Ellington and others.

December 9 at 8 pm. Koerner Hall (273 Bloor West). $25-$79 ($22 for livestream tickets). artoftimeensemble.com 

Get Low at the Horseshoe and Lee’s Palace

Toronto’s own Lowest of the Low are celebrating the return of live music with a double live album. True to its name, Taverns And Palaces (out December 10) was recorded at the Horseshoe Tavern and Lee’s Palace, two storied music venues, and they’ll celebrate the release with a string of shows on those very stages. Fittingly enough, both spots are celebrating birthdays too – 74 for the Horseshoe and 35 for Lee’s.

December 15 and 16 at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West); December 17 and 18 at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West). $29.50-$49.50. showclix.com

Get a Handel on a seasonal fave

Because of health and safety precautions, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is committed to performing shorter programs until early next year. So its version of Handel’s The Messiah will clock in at an efficient 85 minutes. That’ll give you enough time to savour Simon Rivard’s conducting, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and soloists Anna-Sophie Neher, Rihab Chaieb, Spencer Britten and Stephen Hegedus.

December 17 and 18 at 8 pm, December 18 and 19 at 3 pm. Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe). $41-$161. tso.ca

Get cozy with Jason Collett’s Basement Revue

For 13 years, singer/songwriter Jason Collett (also of Broken Social Scene) has been delivering half-literary, half-musical variety shows featuring a series of surprise guests. It’s become a cozy Toronto winter tradition. And now that we can be in basements again, it’s back – this time at Paradise Theatre (not quite a basement, but close enough).

Every Thursday in December. Paradise Theatre (1006 Bloor West). facebook.com/basementrevue

Stage

Touch
Dahlia Katz
Reach out and Touch

Choreographer Guillaume Côté’s powerful duet – one of the first live and in-person dance shows during the pandemic – debuted at the end of September, and it’s been going strong ever since. Audiences are clearly mesmerized by the mix of movement and immersive projections and multimedia designs by co-creator Thomas Payette.

To January 2. 1 Yonge. $49.99-$99.99. artbylighthouse.com

David-Cooper
Watch A Christmas Carol in a Victorian theatre

The Shaw Festival brings back artistic director Tim Carroll’s adaptation of the Dickens classic about a miser (Graeme Somerville) who finds redemption one Christmas Eve. It’s particularly enchanting in the gorgeous Royal George Theatre.

To December 23. Royal George Theatre (85 Queen, Niagara-on-the-Lake). $28.25-$96.05. shawfest.com

Immerse yourself in the world of The Nutcracker

If you and your little ones want to take your experience of Tchaikovsky’s classic to the next level, there’s Storywall Entertainment’s The Immersive Nutcracker, A Winter Miracle. Produced by the folks behind Immersive Van Gogh and the recent Klimt show, the 360-degree experience brings the fairy tale and music to life with vivid animation, projections and special effects that place you right in the action.

To December 26. 1 Yonge. $35. immersive-nutcracker.com

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jesus Christ Superstar

This acclaimed, Olivier Award-winning remount of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revolutionary rock musical touches down at the Princess of Wales for a month-long run.

November 30 to January 2. 300 King West. $39-$149. mirvish.com

Ramy Youssef brings the laughs

Good news for those who are eagerly awaiting the third season of the Hulu/Crave show Ramy: the show’s creator, Ramy Youssef, is coming to Toronto for a Just For Laughs-presented show at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Like the show he created and stars in, Youssef’s comedy focuses around his experiences as 20-something Egyptian-American Muslim and the spiritual contradictions he has to navigate.

December 2 at 7 pm. Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front East). $29.50. ticketmaster.ca

Laugh your ass off at Comedy Bar

This year more than ever we need to laugh. Good thing Comedy Bar has programmed a bunch of holiday-themed shows. Queer audiences will enjoy the live podcast taping of Trevor Campbell’s You Made Me Queer! featuring Sort Of’s Amanda Cordner (December 2), the variety show Comic Sans: A Chosen Family Christmas (December 2), Tom Hearn and Erica Gellert’s Tom & Erica: A Holiday Ho-Ho-Ho-Down! (December 3 and 10), Gila Münster’s 8 Gays Of Channukah Queer Jewish Variety Show (December 5) and Robert Watson’s Gay AF Christmas Spectacular, featuring stand-up, drag and musical comedy (December 8). 

Other big buzz holiday-themed shows include A Very Mark Forward Christmas & Other Holidays (December 11) and The Gaetano Nunziato Christmas Especialo, with a stacked lineup of guests that includes Tom Henry, Gwynne Phillips, Brandon Ash Mohammed and more (December 14).

945 Bloor West. Various prices. comedybar.ca

David Cooper
Check in to Holiday Inn

For the past few years, the Shaw Festival has been presenting this adaptation of the beloved movie musical during the holiday season. And no wonder, since the show-within-a-show includes classic Irving Berlin numbers like Cheek To Cheek, Easter Parade and – you guessed it – White Christmas.

To December 23. Festival Theatre (10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake). $33.90-$152.55. shawfest.com

Second City returns

After a way-too-long absence and in their new temporary home on the Danforth, the city’s premiere sketch comedy and improv institution debuts two new shows to try to make sense of these surreal times. Mainstage show Welcome Back To The Future promises to get us laughing at the new normal, while the Tourco show The Fast And The Furiously Festive! sends up the holiday season.

Welcome Back begins December 3, and The Fast begins December 4. Comedy Bar Danforth (2800 Danforth). $35-$60. secondcity.com

Learn how to talk to people again

After 20 months of various degrees of isolation and anxiety, your social skills are probably rusty. So Trampoline Hall’s Misha Glouberman is hosting and facilitating This Is Not The Show: The Live Experiment, a night of conversation and meeting new people.

December 6 at 8 pm. The Garrison (1197 Dundas West). $15. trampolinehall.net/tintsDec2021

Enjoy ballet again at The Nutcracker

James Kudelka’s lavish staging of Tchaikovsky’s classic holiday ballet has charmed all-ages audiences at the National Ballet of Canada for more than 25 years. This year it’s been adapted with special health precautions. There will be no external performers and all children’s roles will be performed by National Ballet students. All performers and crew have been fully vaccinated, and no children under 12 will be on stage. In addition, there will be no celebrity guests as the Cannon Dolls. But the story, sets, music and dance will still enchant.

December 10 to 31. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen West). $25-$195. national.ballet.ca

Come From Away comes back

The Canadian production of Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s homegrown hit Broadway musical about how Newfoundlanders helped stranded airline passengers in Gander after 9/11 returns after the pandemic.

From December 15, limited run. Royal Alexandra Theatre (260 King West). $29-$159. mirvish.com

Explore your inner Messiah/Complex

Against the Grain’s innovative film adaptation of Handel’s Messiah – capturing performers in every province and territory in the country, in six languages – was one of the breakthrough events of the year. Now it’s back, and in addition to being available to stream on-demand, it’s getting in-person screenings, including two at TIFF.

December 18 (one socially distanced, one at capacity). $24.85. 350 King W. tiff.net. Virtual screenings December 12 to January 9. Pwyc-$100. atgtheatre.com.

Stream a new Ross Petty panto

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a Ross Petty Productions panto. For the second year in a row, this season’s family-friendly offering is virtual. In Alice In Winterland, Kimberly-Ann Truong, Dan Chameroy, Eddie Glen, Sara-Jeanne Hosie and Thom Allison star in this choose-your-own-adventure take on Lewis Carroll’s classic, presented in association with Crow’s Theatre.

December 18 and 19. $35 per household for unlimited 48 hours viewing. rosspetty.com

Movies

Wander the Marvel Cinematic Universe

After a year and a half watching Marvel movies at home, the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. installation at Yorkdale Shopping Centre offers fans of all ages the chance to explore Bruce Banner’s lab, try to lift Thor’s hammer and wander Tony Stark’s workshop, all as part of the immersive training for a position at Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. What does S.T.A.T.I.O.N. stand for? Seriously, we’re genuinely asking.

On now, Wednesdays through Sundays to January 30. 3401 Dufferin. From $29, children 15 and under from $20. avengersstationcanada.com 

Compare musical notes with Lin-Manuel Miranda

The creator of Hamilton, In The Heights and the recent Netflix movie tick, tick… BOOM! discusses his love of musicals with TIFF’s Cameron Bailey.

November 30 at 7 pm. Free on TIFF’s Twitter account @TIFF_NET. tiff.net

Sing along with TIFF (but respectfully)

Celebrate the theatrical experience at the Lightbox with cinema’s most reliably uplifting genre: the movie musical. Musicals! The Movies That Moved Us puts classics from Hollywood to Bollywood back on the big screen, with stops in Jamaica, France and even Canada, for John Greyson’s radical Zero Patience (December 10, 6:15 pm). You can’t really appreciate Ken Russell’s Tommy (December 12, 11 am) until you’ve been trapped in a massive auditorium with it. And Jimmy Cliff’s performance in The Harder They Come (December 9, 6:15 pm) plays so much better with a crowd.

There’s also a Christmas Day screening of Fiddler On The Roof (December 25, 1:30 pm), which is actually kind of thoughtful, and a New Year’s Eve show of Bob Fosse’s electrifying, autobiographical All That Jazz (December 31, 6:15 pm). And you need to see Purple Rain (January 6, 6:15 pm) at least once in all its 35mm glory.
December 2 to January 6. TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West). tiff.net/musicals

Leave home to watch Home Alone In Concert

Watch the beloved holiday movie on a big screen as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra plays John Williams’s delightful score.

December 3 and 4 at 7:30 pm, matinee December 4 at 2 pm. Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe). $61-$141. tso.ca

Celebrate the cat movie in your own special way

Anthony Oliveira’s showcase for “shiny garbage” last celebrated Tom Hooper’s misbegotten movie musical Cats with a full-on Jellicle Ball at the Revue in January 2020, meaning it was one of Toronto’s last blasts of wildness before the pandemic hit. And now it’s roaring back with two very special holiday performances, with Oliveira on hand to encourage as much enthusiasm as the crowd can muster. We’re thinking: a lot.

December 18 at 9:30 pm, December 19 at 6:45 pm. Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles). $13-$16. revuecinema.ca

See Santa set splattered at the Revue

A year before Home Alone, René Manzor’s cult yuletide thriller imagined a face-off between a bogus Santa and an extremely resourceful French kid who’s been looking for an excuse to let his Rambo fixation run wild. A favourite of the Royal’s Laser Blast series, you’ll find Dial Code Santa Claus (aka Deadly Games) at the Revue this year, playing in the American Genre Film Archive’s loving digital restoration with an image so clear you’ll see every drop of Fake Saint Nick’s blood as it sprays across the fireplace. (Hey, everyone celebrates the holidays in their own way.)

December 20 and 22 at 9:30 pm. Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles). $10-$14. revuecinema.ca

Cry your eyes out with George Bailey Merry Christmas, movie house!

The Revue celebrates the 75th anniversary of Frank Capra’s enduring holiday favourite It’s A Wonderful Life – you know, the one where Jimmy Stewart’s self-sacrificing George Bailey is presented with a disturbing vision of what the world would have been like without him – by throwing it back up on the big screen, the better to appreciate the way Capra balances Stewart’s despairing performance with Donna Reed’s warm-hearted radiance.
December 24 at 4 pm. Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles). $10-$14. revuecinema.ca

Art

Fire-breathing dragon at Snow Magic
Nick Lachance
Get trippy at Snow Magic

The producers of this seasonal drive-thru are playing fast and loose with the winter theme. Snow Magic is basically a tour of Burning Man-style sculptures – think pyrotechnics, optical effects and Tim Burtonesque trance music. The laser tower is giving strong Jennifer Lopez Waiting For Tonight video vibes.

To January 16. Ontario Place (955 Lake Shore West). $45-$65 per vehicle. DriveThruFunCo.com

Log on to BMO 1st Art!

What are Canada’s future art stars concerned with? Find out at the annual undergraduate art competition, which is back online this year. The show includes work by 13 recent grads from Canadian art school, including NSCAD’s Anna Kuelken who claimed the national prize for a short film about her return to her family farm in rural Alberta during the pandemic. The Ontario winner is York University’s Allysha Jacque, who won the judges over with a series of vending machine paintings.
To December 8. Free. artmuseum.utoronto.ca

See some contemporary Swiss art

The acclaimed Swiss artist Miriam Cahn is getting her first major solo exhibition in North America. Me As Happening features over 200 works exploring themes like women’s rights, gender roles, the human body and the relationship between sex, violence and power. The exhibit takes over the entire Power Plant, which is a testament to Cahn’s importance and range.
To January 2. The Power Plant (231 Queens Quay West). Free. thepowerplant.org

Have a Blue (Period) Christmas at the AGO

Rather than focus on the works that made Pablo Picasso a staple in the modernism and cubism art world, Picasso: Painting The Blue Period features some of the artist’s early works dating back to 1901-1904. Expect to see pieces from the artist when he was travelling between Paris and Barcelona in his late teens and early twenties. The exhibit showcases more than 100 works, which range from paintings and sketches to sculptures.

To January 16. Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West). $25 or annual pass, under 25 free. ago.ca

Artist Ghazaleh Avarzamani filled the Aga Khan Museum’s park with 24 tons of blue rubber mulch.
Courtesy of Aga Khan Museum

Artist Ghazaleh Avarzamani filled the Aga Khan Museum’s park with 24 tons of blue rubber mulch.

See what *Terms And Conditions Apply at Aga Khan Museum

Ghazaleh Avarzamani is having a good Toronto run. The Iranian-Canadian artist is prominently featured in MOCA’s GTA21 show and will exhibit in the Toronto Biennial of Art next year. She’s also the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Aga Khan Museum. Known for work that mixes architectural elements and pop culture references, she has filled the museum’s five outdoor infinity pools with 24 tons of blue rubber mulch. Indoors she is showing 30 stained-glass mosaics. Both works comment on the line between safety and freedom.
To February 27. 77 Wynford. $10-$20. agakhanmuseum.org

Discover 21 Toronto artists

If you haven’t been to a gallery since March 2020, catch up on what 21 local artists/art collectives are up to at MOCA. Greater Toronto Art 2021 (aka GTA21) is a large-scale exhibit of works that show the range and variety of the city’s artists, who were each asked: “What feels most urgent to you today?”

To January 9. Museum of Contemporary Art (158 Sterling). $5-$10. moca.ca

Immersive Klimt
Courtesy of Lighthouse Immersive

Immersive Klimt mixes the sacred and profane.

Catch up on immersive art

If you haven’t delved into the immersive art craze, the holidays are a good time to catch up. But don’t worry, the digital projection re-imaginings of master painters seem to be here to stay: a Frida Kahlo immersive show is opening in the new year. In the meantime, the OG show Immersive Van Gogh is a pastoral peek into the swirling brushstrokes of the post-Impresionist Dutch painter, while Immersive Klimt: Revolution is a bit more adult-oriented, mixing the symbolist master’s erotic and religious imagery and soundtracking it with Bowie and techno music. And Beyond Monet is coming back and now offers pre-show yoga and post-show art class add-ons.

Klimt and Van Gogh shows at 1 Yonge, $35-$50. Klimt runs to January 3. immersiveklimt.com; Van Gogh runs to February 6. vangoghexhibit.ca; Beyond Monet runs December 1 to January 30 at Metro Toronto Convention Centre (255 Front West). $30-$60. monettoronto.com.

Get schooled on Robert Houle at AGO

The Art Gallery of Ontario is staging a huge retrospective on internationally acclaimed Saulteaux artist Robert Houle. Red Is Beautiful will feature more than 90 large installations, paintings and drawings, encompassing works that run the gamut from abstract to pointedly political. The opening coincides with the third aabaakwad, an international gathering of Indigenous artists at which Houle will give a keynote talk.

December 3 to April 3. 317 Dundas West. $25 or annual pass (free for age 25 and under). ago.ca.

Return to nature at the ROM

The international Wildlife Photographer Of The Year competition is a seasonal favourite. French underwater photographer and biologist Laurent Ballesta claimed the top prize this year for an image of camouflage groupers swimming in a dramatic cloud of sperm and eggs. Canadian shooters are well represented, and the youngest photog featured in the show is a 10-year-old from India.

To April 18. Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park). $14-$23. rom.on.ca.

Festivals

Try your hand at crokicurl

Stackt Market was on to something when it hosted the city’s first crokicurl rink in 2019. Combining crokinole and curling, it’s a made-in-Canada game ideal for outdoor-space-starved high-rise residents. After a pandemic hiatus, the rink is coming back and will likely be a hot ticket during the shipping container market’s Holiday Hills festival, which also includes live music, comedy, drag brunch and a rooftop patio.
December 1 to 31. Stackt Market (28 Bathurst). $75-$82 (admission to Holiday Hills is free). stackmarket.com

Get your Reykjavik on

The four-day Taste Of Iceland festival includes everything from a concert, a film screening, a DJ skate night and a literary round table. Best thing? It’s all free, with a first-come, first-serve policy.
December 2 to 5. Various venues. inspiredbyiceland.com

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