The Distillery Winter Village is one of the most anticipated events of the holiday season in Ontario! This annual festival runs from late November to early January each year. It transforms Toronto’s historic Distillery District into a winter wonderland. On top of the area’s artisan shops and popular restaurants, the grounds are packed with seasonal cabins selling unique products and delectable treats. This is an indulgence and a holiday shopping trip rolled into one!
The Distillery Winter Village is a popular event, so it’s helpful to plan ahead for a magical visit. Below you’ll find our top 5 tips for a visit to Toronto’s Distillery Winter Village. Note the information below is current as of the 2023 holiday season. For more information, visit thedistillerywintervillage.com.
This is a really important detail. The Distillery Winter Village is open daily, except for Christmas Day, from November 16, 2023, to January 7, 2024. On most weeks, Mondays through Thursdays offer free admission all day. On Friday through Sunday each weekend and from Dec. 18 – 31, you’ll need a ticket if you arrive after 4 pm and will need to buy it online before you arrive. The Distillery Winter Village is closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. To find the complete details for tickets to visit the Distillery Winter Village, click here.
What is the best time to go to the Distillery Winter Village? If going on a free weekday is not an option, we recommend arriving between 3:00 and 4:00 PM. Once you’re admitted into the village, you can stay for as long as you like. Since it gets dark in Toronto between 5:00 and 5:30 PM at this time of year, you won’t wait long for the nighttime magic to start. Arriving earlier also makes parking nearby and entering the village much easier if you’re taking a road trip into town.
When you get to the Distillery Winter Village, come hungry
Amazing sights and smells will greet you as soon as you walk into the Distillery Winter Village. You’ll find all sorts of cuisine in the Distillery District, from French to Japanese, seafood to tacos, and everything in between. Don’t miss some of the culinary favourites among the seasonal cabins. There’s cotton candy art, an entire alley dedicated to melted cheese in all its forms, and more!
If you have a dietary restriction, you’ll also find plenty of gluten-free and vegan options at the Distillery Winter Village. The Gluten-free Roadtripper has the goods:
Look for the hidden gems
How long should you spend at the Distillery Winter Village? Plan for at least three to four hours. This will give you time to grab a meal, explore the seasonal cabins, and take your time with the details.
One of the best reasons to do this is the Distillery District itself. This historic neighbourhood has been a key part of Toronto since the 1830s, when the Gooderham and Worts Distillery produced over 7.5 million litres of whisky here to be sold around the world. If you take your time, you’ll find history even while the Distillery District is decked out for the holidays. For bonus points, let us know where you can find the millstone that was imported from England in 1832 and used to grind grain in the historic Gooderham and Worts windmill!
If making your mark in modern times is more your jam, come dressed in your best. There are dozens of Instagram-ready photo spots throughout the grounds. While some are obvious, there are a few hidden gems to be discovered.
If you’ll be looking for a sit-down dinner at the Distillery Winter Village, think ahead
This might be our most valuable tip of all. If you want to eat at a particular Distillery District restaurant but can’t get a reservation in advance, try this. We arrived at the Distillery Winter Village at 3:30 PM and walked around for a while before deciding we’d like to eat at El Catrin Destileria. When we asked at 4:15, it was an hour wait for a table.
We left a contact number and kept exploring, and we received a text message at roughly 5:15 PM letting us know our table was ready. Many eateries throughout the Distillery District operate on this system throughout the winter village season. This means you can likely have your choice of restaurants with an hour or two of advance planning. It’s a civilized way to have your choice of cuisines while making the most of the Distillery Winter Village in the meantime.
Plan for adult tipples
Trust us when we tell you: if you enjoy an adult beverage at all, you’ll want to partake while you’re at the Distillery Winter Village! The cozy seasonal environment here lends itself to the many opportunities to enjoy a tipple, from mulled wine to beer and festive cocktails and more.
While there are bars and cabins throughout the village, our number one pick is Spirit of York Distillery. This place feels so authentic to the origins of the Distillery District, and the tasting bar has a suite of seasonal cocktails on offer worth stopping in for. We love the bartender’s suggestion of Dashing Through the Queues, which blends Spirit of York’s gin with Chambord, wild blueberry purée, lemon and mint with a dash of powdered sugar.
Depending on your situation, the best reason to visit Spirit of York might be the gigantic yet unexpected sprig of mistletoe. If you want to sneak a kiss from a crush, this is the place to go!
If beer is more your style, stop at Mill Street Brewpub. They have a Holiday Brew Box available this season that includes a Cookies ‘n Cream Stout and a Cozy Cranberry Sour, both of which are brewpub exclusives.
If you plan to drink, please don’t drive. Taxis, Uber, and public transit are all readily accessible from the Distillery Winter Village. If your group does choose to bring a car, please make sure you have a designated driver.
What are your favourite tips for a visit to the Distillery Winter Village? Leave yours in the comments below!
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Distillery Winter Village?
What are the 2023 dates for the Distillery Winter Village?
The Distillery Winter Village is open from November 17, 2023, to January, 7, 2024. The village will be closed for Christmas Day on December 25, 2023, and the seasonal cabins will be closed for New Year’s Day on January 1, 2024.
Is the Distillery Winter Village for families?
The Distillery Winter Village is very family-friendly! Alcoholic beverages are limited to licensed areas, and smoking is very limited. Kids will love watching the carolers and having their photos taken with Santa Claus!
What’s the best way to get to the Distillery Winter Village?
If you choose to drive to the Distillery Winter Village, we strongly recommend arriving early to improve your chances of finding public parking nearby. If you prefer to arrive after dark, a taxi or rideshare service such as Uber or public transit will be your best options. The 504 King streetcar is the TTC route that runs the closest to the Distillery District.