It’s a Toronto rite of passage; watching the REAL Santa travel through the city among a magical series of floats, entertainers, dancers, and waving volunteers.
It is a highlight of the holiday season and the official kick off to the Christmas countdown, but the Toronto Santa Claus Parade can also be an unpredictable test of patience for little ones not used to the cold, the waiting, and the crowds. In order to prepare for the parade, here are Hilton’s top picks for the best places to watch the Toronto Santa Claus Parade to ensure you and your family are as warm, serviced, and comfortable in advance of the Big Man making his annual appearance.
Best for Nearby Washrooms
Ah, the facilities. Always a top priority for young and old alike, especially if you have already filled up on hot chocolate. There are dozens of fast food places lining the south side of Bloor from Parliament to University (yes, the parade route has changed this year! Make sure you review the map below or visit https://thesantaclausparade.com/ for the 2019 Toronto Santa Claus Parade Route Map) and since you are refilling those hot beverages often they will be friendly and hospitable. At the far end of the Parade Route near St. Lawrence Market there are public washrooms easily available. Avoid Queen’s Park Circle if bathrooms are a priority as they are fewer and further between.
Best for Nearby Coffee and Hot Chocolate
Fortunately, warm drinks are easily available along the route, with Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s throughout. For Starbucks aficionados, camp anywhere between 661 and 439 University Avenue (that’s the east side of University) and you can pick between the four locations in this short stretch. If you are lucky (and early), you will be able to grab a spot inside the Hilton Toronto’s Starbucks at 145 Richmond Street West with large glass windows overlooking the route.
Best for Accessibility
There are designated accessibility viewing areas available on University Avenue at College Street. Take the TTC to the Queen’s Park Subway Station, which is fully accessible for anyone needing the assistance and access.
Best for Warmth
The holiday spirit won’t keep you warm for long, so alongside the top tip to dress for colder than you expect, we recommend picking a spot along the route that is shielded from the wind and, ugh, snow. Try and find spots along the route with streets that curve, like Front Street between Yonge and Church for your best chance to avoid a wind corridor. Added benefit of this area is a small parkette (Berczy Park) for kids to run around in. Avoid the blustery corner of Yonge and Bloor, and you’ll be ahead of the game.
Best for Late Arrival
If you have made the rookie mistake of trying to drive to the Toronto Santa Claus Parade (insider tip: don’t do it. Take the GO Train if you are making the trek from the outside the city or the TTC if you are coming from Vaughan or the east or west ends), you might be stuck in traffic and about to miss the Big Man himself. Head to the end of the parade route at Wellington and Jarvis, parking in the nearby Esplanade or St. Lawrence Market parking lots. Make sure you read up on road closures here before you make the attempt, but for best results PLEASE take public transit to the parade!
Best for Indoors
Unlike the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, there are relatively few places to watch the parade inside along the Toronto Santa Claus Parade Route. Beat the crowds (and the cold) by booking a room at the Hilton Toronto. Of course, rooms are subject to availability, but request a north facing room, high floor and you will be treated to sweeping views of the University Parade route and St. Nick himself. Even better, the Hilton Toronto offers a special Santa Claus Parade Package that includes passes to the VIP viewing island on University Avenue across from the hotel, so you can arrive at your leisure. Click here to book your package today!