Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Years Eve Toronto 2021

Happy New Year's Eve to Toronto as the city continues to be locked down to fight the spread of Covid-19! The days of going out to party or taking in a comedy show for the festive night ahead of the change in years is not going to happen in Ontario this year - here's to hopefully getting back to normal by mid 2021!
On New Year's Eve the CN Tower will put on a special light show with a countdown to the new year. And the tower has partnered with the City of Toronto and CHUM1045 for the countdown by taking the show online for a safe celebration. “We’re looking forward to lighting the way for 2021 with a special light show set to music. The CN Tower is proud to be part of Toronto’s and Canada’s New Year’s Eve celebration as we look forward to a brighter year ahead.” - Peter George, Chief Operating Officer of the CN Tower
New Year's Eve 2021 light show
The City says, "Based on the recommendations of Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the City, like other municipalities across Canada, is celebrating New Year’s Eve virtually. All in-person New Year’s Eve events, including celebrations in Nathan Phillips Square, have been cancelled. The CN Tower light show will be live-streamed on the City’s YouTube channel at and simulcast on Jamar's House Party live on CHUM1045 on December 31 starting at 11:58 p.m. Mayor John Tory will provide welcoming remarks as Toronto residents come together in collective celebration from the comfort of their homes, while doing their part to stay apart."

"The CN Tower is an awe-inspiring architectural and engineering wonder of the world that is a symbol of pride for Canadians. Microprocessor-controlled, each of the CN Tower’s more than 1,300 LED lights can produce 16.7 million colours and an infinite variety of lighting effects. Synched to music, the show will ring in a brighter year ahead."

At 10:30pm you can tune into TVO, or their YouTube Channel for a 90-minute broadcast of From Ontario with Love: A Celebration of Hope. The show will have performances and fireworks.

"We are all looking forward to bidding the year 2020 goodbye. Let's do so safely at home, with only members of our household, and enjoy these spectacular shows together while staying apart. I want to thank Toronto residents for their resilience, perseverance, creativity and acts of kindness toward each other during this difficult year and wish everyone a safe, happy and healthy New Year."
- Mayor John Tory
You can stay up late and drink away the night when you stay at home, plus you won't have to worry about getting up early to take part in the annual Toronto Polar Bear Dip because it too has been cancelled for 2021. If you would still like to participate you could go still go to a beach, take a video and post it with the #Dip4Boost @torontopolarbear tags. Good luck with that. Here are some photos from the 2020 Dip.

Happy New Year's Eve to Toronto as the city continues to be locked down to fight the spread of Covid-19! The days of going out to party or taking in a comedy show for the festive night ahead of the change in years is not going to happen in Ontario this year - here's to hopefully getting back to normal by mid 2021!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Journey into Enchantment holiday lights in Markham

This Christmas light exhibition is northeast of Toronto and costs from $30 to $40 per vehicle, with up to 8 passengers allowed. Located in the Angus Glen Golf Club on Kennedy Road, north of Major Mackenzie Drive East, the light festival features a lot of lights along the 1.6km route. You must enter the club from the southbound shoulder of Kennedy Road and we had to go up to Elgin Mills Road to join the long, long lineup with a waiting time of over an hour.

Drive through light festivals are excellent in the times of Covid-19 as it is easy to maintain social distance in your vehicle and it gives you something interesting to do outside the house. The Journey into Enchantment is on from November 20, 2020 to January 7, 2021 with costs based on Monday to Thursday, Friday and Sunday, or Saturday (moving from cheaper to more expensive options). There are no time period reservations, if you buy a Monday to Thursday ticket you can show up any of those days for a single visit.
Highlights of the festival include the simulated starburst fireworks and the red roses that open and close. You can also find a light tunnel and many static and animated displays. There is a FM station that you can tune into to listen to Christmas music while many of the animated displays lip sync to the music.
Hours for the festival start all week at 5:30pm and finish at 10:30pm Monday to Thursday plus Sundays, Fridays and Saturdays finish at 11:30pm. We brought Ann's parents and we all loved the show and were glad we made the trip (over an hour for us). The price was reasonable per car especially compared to the Polar multi-level light exhibition at Pearson Airport runs from $55 to $65 per car.

See more lights after the jump.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Brampton Winter Lights Festival

City Hall and adjacent Gage Park and Garden Square are lit up for the Christmas holidays as Brampton celebrates Santa's approach. In Gage Park the illuminated decorations are sprinkled throughout the park with the skating pathway located in the middle. The festival is free but you need reservations if you want to skate on the outdoor recreational trail.

You can skate through the park and gaze at the lights and the gazebo
Together tree in Garden Square

Bingemans Holiday Drone Show

Kitchener's multi-use park long known for the Gift of Lights, its winter 2.5km drive-thru, holiday light display has added an aerial attraction with the Bingemans Holiday Drone Show.

Santa and his reindeer fly thru the sky

The world's first drone display occurred in 2012 and were later featured in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Currently the world record stands at over 3,000 drones, Bingemans show will have up to 100 drones. This is the first time that I have seen a drone display so I was looking forward to the experience which is compromised of a 30 minute show spread over two sets. Note the 2020 season has already sold out.

Driving in Bingemans main entrance, across from Waterloo Brewing, you wind through the internal streets and parking lots until you come to the parking area for the drone show. Cars are lined up, pointing towards the hill with radios tuned to 89.3 FM and you wait for the show to begin.
Suddenly from the top of the hill, dozens of lights in formation, rise into the sky. As the drones maneuver they start to take on shapes, then rotate and merge into new shapes, all with a holiday theme. Overall the show was interesting and I am glad that I had the opportunity to take it in.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Welland Canal to close for season in Jan 2021

One of our favourite social distancing trips is to the Welland Canal watching the big ships transit the H2O Highway between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Not too far from Toronto and also close to the Niagara area's wineries and other attractions. We will miss when cold weather shuts down the canal and the ships hunker down and wait out the grip of Canada's ice. You can see where the canal is closed and parts of the highway have been drained on my post here.
Hinged bridges open as the ship closes in on the QEW's Garden City Skyway
During winter they often empty parts of the canal for maintenance purposes

Normally the Welland Canal closes by the end of the year (Dec 31st) but in 2019 they started a pilot program to keep the canal open a little longer. The season was pushed into 2021 by an extra week and all vessels must be clear of the canal by January 8, 2021.

The Great Lakes - St Lawrence Seaway System, SEAWAY NOTICE NO. 1 - 2021 issued Feb 15:
The opening of the 2021 navigation season is scheduled to take place on the following dates and times: • Welland Canal: March 19, 2021 - 0800 hours (D.S.T.) • Montreal / Lake Ontario Section: March 22, 2021 - 0800 hours (D.S.T.)

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Niagara Icewine Festival 2021 cancelled

You can still travel to the Niagara region and visit the many wineries in the area, however Covid-19 precautions have taken their toll on the many wine festivals, including the winter's Niagara Icewine Festival which takes place in January. The festival takes place over three weekends in January.

From the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival website, "We’ve made the difficult decision to put the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival on hiatus. This was a tough decision to make – this festival is an important event for Niagara and our beloved wine industry - however, the safety and security of our guests, staff, volunteers, vendors, and community is of the utmost importance and one that takes precedence above all else. We hope to reopen in time for the 70th annual Grape & Wine Fall Festival in September. Finally, please continue to support our local restaurants and wineries during this period. We wish nothing more than to come out the other side of COVID with a healthy food & wine scene to share with you, and that can only happen with the support of those of us who live and love local. We look forward to raising a glass with you next Fall."

In 2020 these were the many wineries taking part in the festival; 13th Street Winery, Alvento Winery, Creekside Estate Winery, Ferox, Fielding Estate Winery, Flat Rock Cellars, Harbour Estates Winery, Henry of Pelham Estate Winery, Hernder Estate Wines, Inniskillin Wines, Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery, Kacaba Vineyards Winery, Konzelmann Estate Winery, Lailey Winery, Lakeview Wine Co., Legends Estates Winery, Lundy Manor Wine Cellars, Magnotta Winery, Malivoire Wine, Marynissen Estates Winery, Megalomaniac, Niagara College Teaching Winery, Nomad at Hinterbrook Estate Winery, Palatine Hills Estate Winery, Peller Estates Winery, Pillitteri Estates Winery, PondView Estate Winery, Redstone Winery, Reif Estate Winery, Riverview Cellars Estate Winery, Rockway Vineyards, Strewn Winery, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, Tawse Winery, Trius Winery, Vignoble Rancourt Winery, Vineland Estates Winery and Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery.
I have been to a few of these fine establishments and always enjoy the trip into the Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catherines area to explore the area and pick up some wine. We just visited Wayne Gretzky Estates who are now a winery, distillery and beer company and this place, with or without a festival, is a busy place. You have to make reservations for tastings and the social distanced lineup makes shopping a little time consuming, but worth it. Weekend rain kept the skating rink and outdoor bars from opening up but it was nice to look around.

Gretzky wasn't there when we dropped by, I think he was celebrating the fact that his 1979 rookie hockey card from his time at the Edmonton Oilers sold for almost 1.3 million dollars.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Santas back in Toronto's Kringlewood

Community and Christmas spirit abounds on Inglewood Drive as the annual festive tradition continues - despite the despicable Grinch who attacked the inflatable Santa figures in 2020. After repairs, the Santas return to bring joy to all who visit the street during the holiday season in Toronto.

The Kringlewood section of Inglewood Drive is south of St. Clair Avenue East and east of Mount Pleasant Road in the Moore Park area of East York. There are also several boxes for people to drop off Santawood food donations.
Frosty the Snowman on Rose Park Drive

Another nearby street is trying to make Frosty the Snowman blowups as a contribution to the spirit of Christmas, however there aren't too many of the smaller inflatable figures on Rose Park Drive east of Mount Pleasant Road. Still it is a good start to a new tradition.

Lights on Coxwell Avenue

You can also find houses with awesome Christmas decorations around Toronto if you look. We found one on Coxwell Avenue in the Beach across from the East York Civic Centre and there is a set of homes at 222-228 Brenyon Way in Scarborough.

Outside of the GTA we found one of the best, most over the top Christmas decorations at a private house on the Niagara Parkway between Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Spectacular and well worth the trip into the area. They have these amazing illuminated Christmas balls hanging high in the trees that really complete the installation.

Photos by Ann and James Hamilton.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Bloor-Yorkville Holiday Magic 2020

2020's Christmas season in Toronto is full of uncertainty and restrictions that it is nice to see that the annual Bloor-Yorkville Holiday Magic light display has returned. The opening concert was cancelled but they found the switch to the lighting displays.

Tucked in behind the Mink Mile Bloor Street shopping extravaganza is the Village of Yorkville Park which were lit up in November and will continue until December 31.

From Bloor-Yorkville, "Launching November 21st, the Village of Yorkville Park will be lit with a variety of unique displays, from our twinkling light tunnel, to our oversize snowflakes, gorgeous Christmas tree, and more. With takeout available and numerous coffee shops to choose some, our Holiday Magic lights display make for a perfect, safe night out."

See more lights after the jump.

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Free winter light festivals around Toronto

As typical winter attractions have to shut down due to Covid-19 precautions we are lucky that many outdoor light festivals have continued and many of them are free. I have just checked out two of the free festivals - the Wonders of Winter Light Festival in Waterloo and Festival of Light in Burlington's Spencer Park.

Waterloo's light festival is held in Waterloo Park and features over 100 installations using over 100,000 lights. There is plenty of free parking around the area as well. Wonders of Winter event runs November 28, 2020 and continues until January 1, 2021 from 5:30pm to 10:30pm every day.

For Burlington's lakeside light festival this is the 25th year and the event runs Nov 27, 2020 to January 8, 2021 daily from 4pm to midnight.

Brampton has a free Winter Light Festival at City Hall, Gage Park and Garden Square.

Closer to home is the Toronto Distillery District's Winter Village and hopefully their Toronto Light Festival will proceed early in the new year. Hoping as well for the return of the Aurora Winter Festival at Ontario Place. And don't forget all the giant inflatable Santas in Kringlewood!

Toronto's jolly Kringlewood

You can also check out the Bloor-Yorkville Holiday Magic and even though Cavalcade of Lights at Toronto City Hall has been cancelled, they have put up the lights and the Christmas tree in the square.

Then there are a lot of paid entrance exhibitions around, I have plans, and tickets, to go see the Bingemans Holiday Drone Show.

Brampton Winter Light Festival
Bingemans Drone Holiday Light Show

Doors Open

Scarborough Bluffs





Lake Ontario

Nathan Phillips Square