It’s beginning to look like Christmas

December 22, 2019

Be it London, New York or Toronto, although remarkable throughout the year, all three offer a special experience during Christmas

A world festooned with colour.

When we think of vacation, we think summer. Clear blue skies, bright sun, beach and sand. Or the relatively cooler cobbled streets of Europe. Winter is often deemed as cold, grey and dark and considering it starts getting dark at 4 pm in most countries, people can’t be blamed. Christmas, however, is a time of the year when everything is beautiful, festive and bright! It’s that time of the year when the metropolitan cities of the world wrap themselves like a present and don Christmas décor to give an experience like no other.

Be it London, New York or Toronto, although remarkable throughout the year, all three offer a special experience during Christmas. With holiday markets, Christmas trees and lights, hot chocolate, churros and ice rinks and so much more, there’s never a limit to the activities and fun during the Christmas season.

London winning at Christmas decorations.

Here are some of the top things to do during the festive season in the popular metropolitan cities of the world.

All out in LONDON

There’s no place on earth quite like London during Christmas. Year after year, the British capital wins at Christmas decorations. Oxford and Regents Streets light up the world’s best Christmas lights display while Carnaby decorations up the decoration game every year drawing thousands of tourists from all over the world.

Although essentially similar, every year there’s something unique in the decorations at Oxford and Regent Street. Last year, the display had as many as 750,000 LED light bulbs and falling snowflakes with purple baubles. This year, the arrival of the new Christmas lights is timed with the 60th edition of the official Christmas lights switch-on, and the new decorations will be environmentally-focused too, thanks to 27 LED light curtains displaying curated content. The 220,000 lights are designed to provide energy savings of up to 90 per cent against traditional lighting.

Another highlight of the festive season in London is Covent Garden that puts up stunning displays and the most perfect baubles in its piazza and market that become even more irresistible during Christmas. Covent Garden is a place in West End renowned for its luxury fashion and beauty stores as well as award-winning restaurants and theatres. The much-loved mistletoe chandeliers are hung over the area’s streets and you can also expect hand-picked Christmas trees glowing with festive lights and rather magnificent silver reindeer standing on the east side of the piazza. There are special photobooths and corners displayed for great photo opportunities and let’s be real, in the world of Instagram, what more does one need?

Winter Wonderland is another Christmas highlight not to be missed while in London. An annual festival at the famous Hyde Park that opens every year in late November till the first weekend of January except Christmas Day, Winter Wonderland is free for all and open all day for visitors to enjoy desserts, hot chocolate, Christmas decorations, fun and adventurous rides, ice skating and more. With Christmas carols and songs, the festival is anticipated throughout the year and lives up to its expectation.

At a half an hour train ride from Central London, the Kew Gardens is a botanical garden in southwest London that houses the largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world. And while these gardens are stunning and a treat for the eyes at all times of the year, they are even more special during the Christmas season. The Gardens light up for an unforgettable after-dark festive trail of lights from end of November to early January. Now in its sixth year, the 2019 winter trail will be bigger than ever before, with over a million-twinkling pea-lights and thousands of laser beams. Walk under welcoming arches into a world festooned with seasonal cheer and wander beneath unique tree canopies drenched in Christmas colour at the Kew Gardens.

Toronto lights up

Down town Toronto. 

Come November and Toronto starts lighting up for Christmas and by the last week of November, the city gets alive with activities of all sorts, from high-wattage sparkle to markets bursting with charm. During the festive season, one can’t walk a few streets without spotting a Christmas tree or two but beyond the appearance of trees around the city, the streets are adorned with stunning Christmas lights that make up for it turning dark at 4 pm.

St Lawrence market 

Christmas in Toronto is incomplete without a trip to the famous Toronto Christmas in Market at the Distillery District. Inspired by the European Christkindlmarkt that originated in Germany in the 1400s, these five-week-long events celebrate the sounds, sights and scents of Christmas. Set in the Victorian-era, cobblestone-lined Distillery Historic District, the Market brings together local craftspeople, artisanal food-makers and spectacular light displays for a truly festive experience. While the market is free to enter for visitors during the week, on the weekends it has a $6 ticket.

St. Lawrence Market offers a different experience during the festive season too with special decorations and a stunning Christmas tree at the entrance that welcomes you to a market offering the best of both the worlds!

For a truly unique and memorable Christmas experience, a visit to Toronto’s famous Casa Loma is a must. Although a remarkable tourist attraction on its own, the Loma becomes even more special during the festive season. Built by Sir Henry Pellatt over a three-year period from 1911 to 1914, Casa Loma is a homage to the Gothic castles of days gone by, complete with soaring battlements and secret passageways. Decked out in lights and seasonal decor, North America’s only castle is a stunning sight during the festive season.

Be it London, New York or Toronto, although remarkable throughout the year, all three offer a special experience during Christmas.

Starting end of November till the first week of January, the Aurora Winter Festival promises to be like visiting a hidden village near the North Pole filled with captivating light displays, magical characters, amusement rides and plenty of other joyful activities. Located on the Ontario Place site, which itself is having a spectacular Winter Light Exhibition the whole area will be a vast winter wonderland.

There’s no limit to fun and activities in these three cities throughout the year but Christmas is a special time that makes everything double the fun and a million times more memorable. Plan a holiday to remember during the festive season to have a remarkable time and return with an enviable Instagram feed.

No place like NYC

The holidays in New York look pretty much like a glowing wonderland and for good reason. The city dons decorations on Christmas like no other time and looks absolutely magical. From the stores at 5th Avenue that look like perfectly packaged gift boxes to the Rockefeller Christmas tree and the Dyker Heights Christmas lights in Brooklyn, there’s no limit to activities during Christmas.

New York City’s pride and joy is the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. It’s also a beaming and brilliant symbol of the holiday season in the city. Tourists and even native New Yorkers sure do love this Norway spruce. The trees change, but the annual sense of wonder remains the same. A chance to see the tree light up for the first time this year is well worth fighting the crowds.

Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree

New York holiday markets are nothing less than iconic. Two of the most popular holiday markets in the city are in Bryant and Union Parks. With hot chocolate, churros, waffles, chimney cakes with ice cream, coffee and other delicacies, one can’t help but pack on the pounds during the festive season in the city.

Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue put up fantastic Christmas displays in late November and December for tourists and New Yorkers to see. The Saks Fifth Avenue’s ten-story facade makes this department store a can’t-miss stop on your Christmas lights tour. In the past, festive LED light projections included “Snowflake Spectacular,” and a yeti, who according to a tie-in tale by Daily Monster creator Stefan J Bucher, came down from Siberia to live on the roof of the department store. Every year the display features something new and is a view worth watching.

While most cafes and restaurants put up Christmas decorations in New York City, the German restaurant Rolf’s is a Christmas Wonderland during the festive season. It’s a sight for sore eyes and the holidays in New York are incomplete without a visit to Rolf’s, Gramercy’s Christmas paradise. Long queues are a norm around East 22nd Street with people waiting to get into the restaurant for a meal that’s an experience to remember.

If you are adventurous and want to head out of Manhattan, the Dyker Heights residents in Brooklyn take the holidays very seriously. The houses in Dyker Heights are decked out with thousands of lights, life-size toy soldiers, inflatable Santas and more making the street no less than a tourist attraction during the season.

The writer is a communications professional, journalist, and photographer exploring the art and culture D.C has to offer

It’s beginning to look like Christmas around the world