Let’s be honest here for a moment: the best part of the holidays isn’t actually Christmas Day. Yes, Christmas Day is pretty awesome. We love getting and giving gifts. We love gathering around the Christmas Tree and spending a day with family. But, just stay with me on this, it’s the lead up to Christmas that is the magical part of the holiday.
Once Thanksgiving is over, we watch the world around us transform as stores and homes light up with decorations. Santa is everywhere. People wear hideous sweaters and jingle bells in the name of the festive season. The scents of gingerbread and freshly baked sugar cookies are everywhere. Special holiday treats and drinks are finally here. We purposefully take the time to savour the season. And it is that–the anticipation and the savouring–that makes the whole holiday season so darn magical.
This year especially, with many of us not able to get together with family to celebrate Christmas, participating in holiday activities with the family is so important. Soak up the holiday season this year! Participate in events. Get outside and enjoy the things that you can only do/see this time of year.
We’ve got these split into three categories: the first is holiday markets and bazaars where you get to spend time with the family while also getting some shopping done. The second is family activities that get you out of your home and participating. And the last is online events where you can stay cozy at home but still have some holiday fun.
Holiday Markets and Christmas Bazaars
If you’re looking to support small, local businesses this year, markets and bazaars might be the perfect choice for you! You can find plenty of amazing artisan and handmade gifts for the people on your list in one spot. The best part is that attending holiday markets and Christmas bazaars don’t feel like the busy and stressful Christmas shopping experience that you have in a mall. These markets are festively decorated, have fun family activities, and are a great place to bring the family! Take your time strolling through and finding the perfect gifts for the ones you love.
THE MERRY MARKET
100 Kellogg Lane, which happens to be the home of The Factory, London’s biggest indoor adventure park, is hosting The Merry Market every Thursday to Sunday in the first three weeks of December. You’ll get to shop local vendors, enjoy festive treats, and be filled with merriment and joy as the place is decorated with Christmas cheer!
CHRISTMAS MARKET IN THE VILLAGE
Do you know those charming little outdoor Christmas markets that you see in the cheesy Hallmark Movies? Well, the Fanshawe Pioneer Village is going to be decked out to look like one. This outdoor Christmas market is going to have a plethora of local vendors to find unique Christmas gifts for those on your list. Charles Dickens reads from his classics at 1 pm. Saint Nicholas will be there too! There is going to be a giant Christmas tree. You can make a pomander for $2. Gingerbread baking demonstration will be held at the Caverhill House kitchen. Plus, there will be plenty of Instagram stops for your family to take charming Christmas selfies.
SOLD OUT FOR 2020!
When? December 4th-6th.
London Clay Art Center is hosting this two-day market. You’ll be able to find handmade pottery made from local artists, which makes the perfect unique Christmas gift for those hard-to-buy-for people on your list this year!
STRATFORD CHRISTMAS TRAIL
Enjoy holiday shopping at cute, festive, artisanal stores in the beautiful Stratford, which is just a short drive out of London. How it works is simple: tickets are $30 and give you 6 vouchers. Follow their trail map, walking through beautiful downtown, and check out festively-decorated local stores. Each store will offer a cute and unique gift option. You can use your 6 vouchers to choose 6 different gifts. Make a whole day of it, pop into a cafe and grab some hot chocolates, a seasonal latte, or freshly roasted coffee. Stroll down some streets to see homes decked in Christmas lights. It’s a great way to check items off your to-buy list while also enjoying a day out.
Head to the Stratford Perth Museum to enjoy a winter wonderland. Their indoor and outdoor spaces will be transformed into enchanted wonderlands. Head through the snow-covered woods (you can choose to snowshoe or walk), enjoy toasty warm campfires, be enraptured by live carolling, and listen to live storytelling. They’ll also have an Instagram-worthy beer garden filled with twinkly lights. Inside the museum, there will be plenty of amazing local vendors selling artisan goods and handmade wares for you to buy for Christmas gifts. Warm-up with mulled wine or hot apple cider. There will be pre-packaged holiday crafts to take home and do together at a later time.
TREE LANE FARMS
Is there anything that makes for a more quintessential family Christmas tradition than picking out a Christmas tree, bringing it home and decorating it? Yes, there is. That would be getting your tree at Tree Lane Farms. This family-owned and operated farm makes getting your tree a magical event. Enjoy wagon rides out to the trees. Warm-up by a roaring campfire. Say hi to a reindeer and alpacas! They also have their Activity Acre which has slides, straw bale mountains, swings, a slingshot game and more! Plus, their store inside is packed full of stunning home decor and Christmas gift ideas! This year, due to COVID, you’re going to need to register for when you and your family want to go, so plan ahead.
VICTORIA PARK LIGHTS AND SANTA'S HOUSE
While the Lighting of the Lights event has been cancelled because of COVID, Victoria Park is still going to be a beautiful winter wonderland this season. With around 75,000 lights being set up, the trees will be glowing, Santa’s House will be there to explore, and decorations will fill the park. Bundle up the family, grab some hot cocoa or hot tea in the Covent Garden Market, and walk through London’s beautiful downtown. Victoria Park’s beauty will beckon you forward. Walk the paths and explore the beauty of Christmas throughout the park.
Step back in time and experience a Victorian Christmas. Eldon House hosts guided tours through this historic house while it’s beautifully decorated for the holiday season. Learn about Christmas facts and traditions of the past.
The Eldon House also is hosting a Kissing Ball Workshop. At this workshop, you’ll learn about the history and tradition of kissing balls as you craft your own. Because mistletoe was so expensive back in Victorian times, people would create Kissing Balls, which was made up of holly berries and cedar.
ICE SKATING DOWNTOWN
When the temperatures drop to below freezing, Londoners can take to the park to enjoy beautiful views and a fun outdoor, active family activity. Get those skates sharpened because skating on the pad outside of the Covent Garden Market will be open! You can also hit up Victoria Park‘s skating rink is a fantastic family holiday activity. Take a break to warm up with a hot chocolate and end off with a walk through the park to look at the lights. It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy the fresh air!
HERE COMES SANTA! IN HYDE PARK
When? December 5th.
Northwest Lowes on December 5th will be hosting “Here Comes Santa”, a drive-by Santa Claus Parade. There will be live music, Christmas decorations, reindeer and of course, Mr. and Mrs. Claus! It will all take place in the parking lot. You can stay safe and warm in the comfort of your cozy car while you enjoy the festivities. People are encouraged to bring food and toy donations to help those in need this year as there will be a donation station where a team of Elves will be collecting donations from vehicles.
If you’re looking for outdoor active fun with the family then head to Boler Mountain! They have a Tube Park which has runs that are 10 stories high and can get speeds up to 70 km/h! Pro-tip: they have Wednesday night discounted prices for tubing!
Or, if you’re more athletically included your family can enjoy the slopes on skis or snowboards! They’re even open on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, AND New Year’s Day!
If you’re under the impression that Appleland Station is only a fall destination for your family, then let me share a little secret: it’s the location of Santa’s Cabin! That’s right! The jolly man himself comes to Appleland Station every year and this year is no exception. Every year families gather to see Santa, ride the Christmas Train, warm up by Bonfires, explore Dickens’ Village, and buy a fresh-cut Christmas tree! This year things will be socially distanced to keep Santa (and you) safe, so it’s important to register for your visit!
Sloan’s Village is a Christmas wonderland. It’s more than just a place to pick out and cut down a fresh Christmas tree. It’s a place to have a memory-making, full-on Christmas experience. They offer a petting zoo, zip lines, wagon rides, candle making, broomball, swings and slides, straw mazes, slingshot challenges, and of course, the Village Express Train. Families can warm up from all the outdoor fun at cozy fire pits.
COVID CHRISTMAS 2020: SANTA PHOTOSHOOT & TEA EXPERIENCE
The Tea Lounge is making the most out of this whole COVID Christmas situation. Rather than skipping out on events, The Tea Lounge is getting people to embrace it. Enjoy a private mini-photo shoot with Santa Clause! The photoshoot will take place in a heated outdoor tent, decorated for the holidays. Masks will be worn the whole time (we don’t want Santa getting COVID before he can deliver everyone’s gifts on Christmas Eve), but that will be part of the charm of the photos! You’ll get 5 or 6 funny keepsake photos as well as some tea and a freshly baked mini scone! You’ll also get shopping store credit to use after your photoshoot on tea, food, or teaware in the store and before you head home!
ST. MARY'S COOKIE CRAWL
When? December 4th-5th
This family-friendly version of a pub crawl will support the St. Mary’s Food Bank! Grab your tickets and then go for a walk through the beautiful downtown St. Mary’s. You’ll be hitting up the participating businesses where you’ll receive locally made cookies! At the end of the cookie crawl, you’ll have 2 dozen delicious cookies to take home with you. Who wouldn’t want that???
HOLIDAY KIDS CRAFTING PARRTY
When? December 6th.
For the Love of Art London, Ontario is putting together an event for kids that was inspired by the movie Elf. Kids can come and craft their own snow globes to take home in this winter wonderland-decorated gallery. There will also be a reading of the “Elf” book and kids are encouraged to come dressed up for the holidays.
CIRCLE R RANCH
Want a healthy and active family holiday activity? Enjoy the great outdoors at Circle R Ranch by taking to their 13kms of beautiful trails and doing some good old-fashioned cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. There are multiple trails that you can take, ranging from easy, medium, and most difficult. Of course, this activity is very much weather-dependent, as you’ll need snow to be able to snowshoe and cross-country ski!
DIY COOKIE DECORATING KITS
Head over to Laurie’s Cookies and pick up a cookie decorating kit! It comes with delicious vanilla sugar cookies cut into Christmas shapes, holiday-coloured icing bags that are ready to use, and decorative holiday sprinkles! At home, your family can blast the Christmas tunes and decorate your cookies together! (Note: you can also get personalized elf cookies from Laurie’s Cookies that are SO cute and make great gifts!)
THE GRINCH GIVES BACK TOY DRIVE CHRISTMAS EVENT
There are so many in need this year. This event is to collect toys that will be donated to shelters and those in need this year. The event is free if you bring a toy to donate, or it’s a $5 entry fee. You’ll enjoy live music and performances as well as see the works of incredibly talented London artists. So grab the family and enjoy a socially distanced performance while also making some kids’ Christmases this year.
DISNEY ON ICE PRESENTS CELEBRATE MEMORIES
When? December 31st.
Watch your kids’ faces light up as they experience the magic of Disney on Ice. Their (and your) favourite stories will be brought to life at Budweiser Gardens. From Moana, Toy Story, Frozen, and more, be enchanted by the characters off the screen and on the ice!
With everything that is going on in Canada right now, the different stages and restrictions, and for those who live with or are immunocompromised, attending any events in person might be out of the realm of possibilities. Luckily, there are plenty of events that are moving online this year! So stay cozy and comfy at home, stay safe, and enjoy these holiday activities with your family.
THE SMILING SENIORS PROJECTS PRESENTS A CHRISTMAS WISH
Due by December 18th.
Looking for a way to spread a little holiday cheer this year while being socially distanced? Get your family dressed up in holiday sweaters and find yourself a festive backdrop. Then record a short video wishing a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays or whatever festive message you want. Then send your video to The Smiling Seniors Project on Facebook Messenger. They’re going to put together all of the videos and create a compilation that Seniors Homes can then play on loops over the holidays to spread a little holiday cheer.
BRING HOME THE MAGIC
When? December 11th.
This two-hour live-stream event can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home. Grab the family, pour some hot apple cider, grab some Christmas cookies, and get in the spirit! This event raises money for the Child Life Program at the Children’s hospital. Bring Home The Magic will have dance parties, activities, live auctions, and more!
FREE LICE TUTORIALS BY KEEP IT COLOURFUL PAINT NIGHTS
When? December 5th, 6th & 12th.
If your family loves getting creative, then they’ll likely enjoy this holiday-themed paint night! Follow along as you learn, step-by-step how to create beautifully painted pictures of Merry ChrisMoose, Christmas Gnomies or Winter Waddle. Grab blank canvases, painting supplies, and all kinds of fun holiday snacks while you log on and enjoy!
THE AEOLIAN - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
The Aeolian is bringing theatre to you, while you stay cozy and comfy at home with their Phoenix Sessions. Enjoy the critically-acclaimed one-man performance of the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. John D. Huston’s performance is accompanied by El Sistema Quartette with a surprise from the Pride Men’s Chorus London.
HOHOHOLIDAY 5K VIRTUAL RUN
When? November 25th-December 31st.
Every year the HoHoHoliday 5K run fills the streets with silly Santas doing a FUN run to raise money for a good cause. This event supports the Make-A-Wish Canada foundation. It’s a great way to get the family doing something active together while also supporting a worthy charity. Sign up for the event and you’ll be mailed a registration pack, which will include a Santa suit, a finisher’s medal, access to the app, and a special holiday treat! You can either raise the donations or pay the entrance fee yourself as a way to give to charity. Get your family together, put on your Santa suits, and complete a 5K walk or run with all of the holiday spirit you can muster! Then submit your run on the app! There will be prizes for the best photo, top fundraisers, fastest Santa, most festive group, and even best-dressed pet!
SANTA SHUFFLE FUN RUN AND ELF WALK
When? December 5th-12th
Another active event to raise money for charity! The Santa Shuffle has been put on annually for 30 years and raises money for The Salvation Army. Register, raise money, get dressed up, and head out there with your family to do a fun run or elf walk! There are plenty of prizes for the fastest runners as well as best dressed groups, individuals, and couples, so make sure to get in the holiday spirit!
A VIRTUAL LITTLE CHRISTMAS
When? December 25th
On Christmas, gather your family together and log on for this free virtual event. The Allegri Ladies Choir and Orchestra Northwest are collaborating to put on this musical event. Hear the popular tune, ‘Sleigh Ride’ as well as songs from Home Alone and Polar Express!
Christmas Lights Tour
One of the best ways to get in the holiday spirit is to see Christmas cheer all around you. Get everyone to put on their coziest pyjamas. Load the family into the car and crank up the holiday tunes. Stop at one of the best places to grab a hot chocolate in London and grab a hot beverage (and maybe a holiday treat) for everyone. Then drive around the city, finding the best Christmas lights in London.