Toronto holiday shoppers are continuing to vote with their feet and take in the open air to do their Christmas shopping.
The market for, well, Christmas markets is growing as more people avoiding malls like the plague. The city now plays host to three, with the grandaddy of them all in the Distillery District. Modelled on traditional European markets, the Distillery market continues to go from strength to strength, dubbed one of the world's top 10 by publications such as Fodor's Travel, Mashable, and USA Today: The crowds are so thick they have to line up and pay for entry on weekends.
When it comes to getting into a festive mood, the Distillery's historical setting evokes an Old World charm that's hard to beat.
The Union Station Holiday Market, now in its third year, isn't in the outdoor tradition, but it's hard to beat the location. Situated in the city's main transit hub, about 20 vendors drum up business from the hordes of commuters waiting to make connections.
The new kid on the block is the Holiday Fair in the Square. The idea of putting a market in Nathan Phillips Square was championed by Councillor Josh Colle, said Drew Woodley of Epilepsy Toronto. The charity, which organizes the annual Buskerfest event, was selected from among several tenders to run the event.
The Holiday Fair is taking a slightly different tack than the traditional Christmas markets, blending attractions such as kiddie rides and midway games that typically feature at winter carnivals. A licensed bar (set conveniently next to the children's area) and a wide range of food trucks sell the standard eats seen at street events. A few offer some more offbeat fare of the kind you'd never think of. Ever.
Cheesecake on a stick, anyone? Go ahead, spoil yourself with one of more than half a dozen flavours of coatings. Or how about a chimney, better known as kurtoskalacs (if you're Hungarian) or trdelník (in Czech)? The bread-like pastries baked on a rotisserie grill are made by Eva's Original Chimneys, the "Original Home of Canada's Famous Chimney Cones (TM) as seen all over Instagram." So they're the real deal.
Vendors are mostly small producers, selling everything from handmade leather bags, clothes, soap, Brazilian chocolate, First Nations art and one-of-a-kind products such as fashion accessories from Bali crafted from inner tubes.
Sharing a booth are designers Michelle Shemilt and Natalie Catani. The pair met through The Joe Fresh Centre for Fashion incubator program at Ryerson University. Ms. Catania is touting an ingenious necklace, which doubles as a chain to pull up (or down) a dress's back zipper. She heard about the fair on Facebook and, convinced her one-of-a-kind product would do well there, recruited her friend to share a booth. Ms. Shemilt, who designed a unique bamboo-fibre undergarment, also thought the fair would be a good fit.
"I liked the idea of being part of the first show because I knew there would be a fresh buzz around it," Ms. Shemilt said, adding that she expects a lot of foot traffic as Nathan Phillips Square is a popular destination during the holiday season.
And for those not interested in checking out the stalls, there's always that skating rink.
Where to go
Holiday Fair in the Square
Nathan Phillips Square
Until Dec. 23, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends