You rarely see skyscrapers on Christmas cards. No, siree. Cards belong to the idyllic festive village.
When the holidays roll around, I find myself longing for those communities, the ones that are populated by Victorian carollers and myrrh, whatever that is. Unfortunately, The Eaton Centre just doesn’t cut it.
Therefore, I was overjoyed to discover Toronto’s Distillery District Christmas Market, a heart-warming homage to the seasonal markets you’ll see in Europe. Wonderful wooden huts line the streets of what is already Toronto’s best historical shopping area. Lights twinkle overhead. A ferris wheel and old-fashioned carousel spin kids right round, baby. RIGHT ROUND!
Even the angels heard that the shopping here beats Victoria’s Secret.
There are plenty of old world treats to be found at the market: stollen, mulled wine, pretzels, gingerbread, roasted nuts and veal schnitzel. But there’s a Canadian twist as well, as evidenced by the maple taffy and poutine vendors.
The quality of the booths seriously impressed me. If you’re eager to shop at independent retailers, the Christmas Market is calling your name. There are no corporate giants to be found amongst the huts. One of my faves, shown above, is Retro Festive. They sell Christmas movie memorabilia, from flicks such as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story and, my personal pick, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
I was also digging these ornaments, made from vintage moulds.
Oh my! What have we here? Victorian carollers! What a coincidence.
And this merry minstrel? Why, Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies, freezing his butt off at the opening concert. Bet he’s wishing for that fur coat again (but not a real fur coat, that’s cruel).
Steven definitely has an iconic Canadian voice and his performance for the small crowd was surprisingly passionate. I was transported right back to grade nine, when I received the Gordon tape for Christmas. Played the crap out of that thing and I still love the slower, soulful songs the best. What a Good Boy > Be My Yoko Ono
The other great thing about the Christmas market is that all the regular Distillery Shops, restaurants and cafés are staying open late. Things like Balzac‘s, one heckuva beautiful coffee shop.
Vanilla Porter – delicious seasonal beer offering at Mill Street Brewery (though I wouldn’t advise a full night on this stuff). The head was so creamy and vanilla infused, it was reminiscent of a milkshake!
Soma Chocolatemaker is a high-quality chocolate boutique where you can sip Spicy Mayan Hot Chocolate (dark chocolate, chili peppers, Madagascar vanilla, ginger, orange peel and a special blend of spices) right in front of the “chocolate laboratory.” (The transparency keeps ‘em honest, otherwise you know they’d be chowing down on a KFC bucket whilst they work)
This is Soma’s “short, intense shot” of drinkable chocolate. It’s like drinking a chocolate bar. A pissed-off chocolate bar, because boy does it have a few words for your throat as it goes down.
More unique presents can be found at Distill Gallery, which is full of Canadian-made crafts like these repurposed bags…
…and this so-ugly-it’s-cute pillow doll.
Also, it doesn’t get more Ontarian than this purse fashioned from a license plate (found at Bergo Designs). This is the face the salesgirl recommends for dealing with tailgaters.
The Distillery District Christmas Market runs until December 18. For event schedules, a list of vendors and hours, visit the official Christmas Market website.
This was #2 of 5 posts on what’s going down in Toronto this holiday season.
To see #1, “Christmas Cupcake Workshop,” click here.
To see #3, “On Top of Toronto,” click here.
To see #4, “An Evening at the Toronto Temple of Cinema,” click here.
To see #5, “A Victorian Christmas,” click here.
SPECIAL DEAL: Until December 20, if you book a Toronto hotel package priced at $99 to $179 plus taxes, you will receive a Torontoland wristband worth 15% savings at more than 50 participating attractions, restaurants and retail locations, as well as a $50 gift certificate for The Bay. If you stay two nights, that gift card will swell to 100$. For more information, click here.
Travel arrangements courtesy of Tourism Toronto.