Growing up both my husband and I had some serious Christmas traditions. My family is all about the Christmas tree hunt; every year we would trek out in the snow,or mud, with my dad marching ahead of the pack sporting his purple track pants, fanny pack and pompom hat urging us to keep looking for that perfect tree. My husband’s family is all about the Christmas baking and December 2nd rule (something we have now made a part of our own traditions). The December 2nd rule is very simple; no Christmas decorations until after December 2nd (that’s my husband’s birthday). While the decorations couldn’t go up, they would still spend days making incredible large batches of seasonal sweets; something I was more than happy to become a part of when we met. As our own family grows, we are hoping to carry on some of these traditions that are dear to our hearts, but also make new ones, like a yearly trip to the Toronto Christmas Market.
This past weekend was our second time to the Christmas Market as a family, the only thing that changed this time around is that our little one was out exploring with us this year. Being pregnant at the market last year made me very aware of the large crowds and strollers. I remember thinking to myself; how are they doing this with babies? Last year the market was also free on weekends, which meant incredibly large crowds. To help ease with the congestion this year they’ve implemented a small weekend entry fee of $5.00 (most of which goes to various charities). The market runs from November 20th to December 20th so if you haven’t had a chance to go yet, you’ve still got lots of time.
After our little adventure on opening weekend last Sunday, I decided to share a few tips based on our own mistakes (and small victories; I consider eating fresh bread and poutine in a restaurant with a happy baby a huge victory).
How to survive the Toronto Christmas Market with a Baby
Ditch the Stroller
Within about ten minutes of being at the market we knew the stroller had to go! While you may be able to make it through the streets and visit some of the outdoor booths with a stroller, getting into any of the Distillery District’s small shops is next to impossible. So you have two options: daddy waits outside with the stroller while mommy and baby shop, or you use the carrier. I don’t use my carrier as often as I would like, as my little one is a bit heavy for me to carry around for long periods of time, but I can’t even begin to explain how liberating it was to be able to move through the shops freely once I put him in the carrier. We took turns carrying our little man around and this made things a lot easier.
There are a couple of ATM machines on site, but we made the mistake of bringing very little cash with us and had to wait in line for almost half-an-hour to use one of the machines. This might be ok if you are going to the market without a baby, who am I kidding this is never ok, but when you are on “baby-time” this is not how you want to spend those precious 30 minutes. So baby or no baby, bring cash to avoid the lengthy lines.
Most of the market is outdoors, with some small indoor shops and restaurants that are a part of the Distillery District on a regular basis. So you want to make sure that you and your little one(s) are warm. Using the carrier with a snowsuit or weather cover would be the best option.
Snack at the Vendors, but stop to eat in one of the Restaurants
You want to try as many of the market vendors as possible, as they will only be there for the season, but plan to eat in one of the restaurants so you can warm up and feed your little one. We had dinner at Cluny Bistro and it was delicious, you can never go wrong when there is a bread bar and Beef Bourguignon Poutine. Even though it appears to be super fancy in there; one of those should we bring our baby in there type of places, there were many families with little ones and they were very accommodating. They also have a change table, which is a rare find in a Toronto restaurant.
Enjoy the Experience
I set out on this little adventure with a huge list, no surprise here. The funny part was I found absolutely none of the things on my list, but left singing songs and smiling. I did find some great items, I love to shop so it’s almost impossible for me to go to a shopping event and not find something. But the food, music and atmosphere are what make this market so great. So instead of trying to tick off all of the gifts on your Christmas list at the market enjoy it as an experience and hopefully you’ll come across some great finds along the way.
If you were thinking about going to the Toronto Christmas Market this year with your little one I hope this helps make your trip a little easier.
Eat, wear your baby, enjoy and be merry!