This has sure been one heck of a year. We could all do with a little holiday cheer, and many people are determined to take in as much Christmas fun as they can stand this year to help leave 2020 behind with some wonderful memories. But with fluctuating stages, and colours, what does the holiday season even look like in London, Ontario this year?
Well, the good news is that Christmas is not cancelled. There is still plenty of holiday cheer to be had by all, although it may look a little different than you’re used to. Check out what the Forest City is going to look like this festive season.
Victoria Park’s Lighting Of The Lights
The Lighting of the Lights in Victoria Park is a tradition that is well-loved by Londoners. It’s a festive fun time as we all gather to celebrate the holiday season with a concert, a countdown, and the dramatic flip of the switch which always leads to “oooo”s and “awwwwwwe”s as the park becomes engulfed in the magic of Christmas and is lit up with thousands and thousands of lights.
Of course, with outdoor gatherings being limited to help prevent the spread of COVID, such an event would be unsafe. The good news, however, is that although the event isn’t happening, Victoria Park will still be lit up with beautiful lights. It will still be a beautiful place to walk around, there just won’t be the pomp and circumstance of the Lighting ceremony.
Visit With Santa Clause
When the holiday season starts, kids cannot wait to have their visit with Santa. Visiting Santa, taking a photo with him, and telling him what you want for Christmas is such a quintessential Christmas tradition. Of course, having a lineup of kids who each take turns sitting on someone’s lap and whispering in his ear what they want for Christmas isn’t a safe activity this year.
Luckily, kiddos will still get to experience their visit with Santa, just in a slightly modified way!
White Oaks Mall
Santa will be taking time away from the North Pole to visit with kids in person and take photos still at White Oaks Mall. In order to prevent crowds and to allow for adequate cleaning between guests, reservations are required to see Santa. You can book your visit with Santa here. Santa will be behind a magical glass barrier (which you won’t notice in your photos) to keep everyone safe. Masks are required during visits and all surfaces will be disinfected between visits.
If in-person isn’t an option for you, there is also the option to have an online video chat with Santa! Stay safe and stay home and let your kids experience the magic of a video call with Santa.
CF Masonville Place
Santa won’t be coming to CF Masonville Place this year, but he WILL be visiting children virtually. While Santa stays safe in the North Pole, he’ll be doing one-on-one video calls with kids. These video calls are 5 minutes in length and are by reservation only. The best part? They’re free! Reserve your special one-on-one visit here.
CF Masonville Place is also hosting special virtual events with Santa! Santa will be reading his favourite Christmas stories. Tune in as a family from the comfort of your own home. The events are taking place at 6:30 pm December 5th, December 12th, and December 20th. You can learn more about what stories are being read and how to tune in here.
Santa’s House in Victoria Park
Santa will still be taking pictures and visiting with kids at Santa’s House in Victoria Park. It’s by reservation only so make sure to book your appointment with Santa beforehand. Proceeds will go to delivering gifts to underprivileged, sick, and terminally ill children. Sanitize hands before and after visiting Santa with the provided sanitizer. There will only be one family allowed in Santa’s house at a time and any lineups outside must be socially distanced. Santa and his helpers will be behind a glass barrier which you won’t see in the photos. Anyone visiting Santa’s House needs to wear a mask to keep everyone safe.
One of the very best family traditions is heading to a tree farm, picking out the best tree, and chopping it down to bring it home and decorate it. This year, Tree Farms are still a fun outdoor activity to engage in, but with slight differences.
Since there is a maximum capacity for how many people are in the farms at once, most of the tree farms are requiring you to register for the time that you want to get your tree, so make sure to check before you plan to head out.
Tree Farms that have stores, like Tree Lane Farms, are still keeping their shops open, so don’t forget to add that to your list of stores to visit for holiday shopping!
Do you know how those Hallmark movies make Christmas shopping seem idyllic and fun and leisurely? Well, we all know that in real life Christmas shopping is normally done in packed malls, with long lines, and usually takes strategic planning to survive. This year, however, it’s going to look a little different.
For many of us, this year’s holiday shopping is going to look a lot cozier. Picking off your Christmas list while sitting in sweatpants and watching cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix is much more of what this year is going to look like for others.
While you might be tempted to jump onto Amazon, remember that supporting local businesses is crucial to the health of our economy. We’ve all been heavily impacted by COVID this year and many small businesses might not make it through.
If you’re looking for an online marketplace to shop your favourite local businesses head to Shop Locorum. You only pay one flat shipping rate, no matter how many businesses you’re buying from, and once your orders have been fulfilled you’ll have your items delivered to your door within 48 hours!
Because so many people will be shopping online this year, don’t forget to get your shopping done early as possible since Canada Post and other delivery companies will be overrun with orders and shipping might get backlogged.
Small Is The New Mall
If the idea of shopping in a mall makes you want to pull out your hair, why not head to the heart of the city and check out London’s downtown scene? There are plenty of unique shopping experiences there, including the Covent Garden Market, which hosts its outdoor Farmer’s Market every Saturday. Breathe in the fresh December air in between your shop stops and support a bunch of different great local businesses.
White Oaks Mall
If you are going to go for the mall-shopping route this year, remember that things are going to look a little different. In White Oaks Mall you’re required to wear masks while indoors and need to stay 6 feet apart from other shoppers. There will be markers on the floor to direct traffic one way to help people maintain distancing. The mall doors have also been changed to be designated entrance and exit doors.
To help spread out the shopping, several stores have extended their hours:
SportCheck, H&M, Walmart, The Children’s Place, Roots, La Vie en Rose, Dollarama, Rogers, and Fido.
Plus, some stores are offering curbside pickup options so that you can skip the mall altogether.
If you normally grab lunch at the mall while Christmas shopping, note that there is limited seating, so you might want to come prepared with snacks in your bag in case things get dire.
CF Masonville Place
CF Masonville Place has also placed floor markings to help create a one-way traffic flow to help shoppers stay 6 feet apart. Masks are mandatory and the stairs have been divided into an upside and a downside. They also have designated entrance and exit doors as well. Stores will have limited capacity so there might be line ups to get in.
Just like White Oaks Mall, there is limited seating in the food court, so come prepared.
CF Masonville Place is also offering curbside pickup for some retailers. There are 24 designated spots at entrance 5. You simply pull up, call the store you’re picking up from and let them know what parking spot number you’re in, and then pop your trunk when they approach with your items.
CF Masonville Place is also offering pre-booked store visits for some of its stores. Rather than risking hitting a long line, you can book a day and time slot for your shopping experience. When you arrive, you’ll join the virtual queue. You’ll get a text when it’s your turn to shop. It’s that easy!
Christmas Eve Services
Whether you’re a regular church attender or not, many families enjoy gathering together at a candlelight Christmas Eve service year after year. It’s a time for peace, beautiful carols, and time to reflect on what is important in your own life.
For many churches, Christmas Eve is the busiest service of the year, which means lots of people together in one room. Since churches are operating under restrictions, with limited capacity and the need to socially distance their pews and chairs, Christmas Eve services are going to look very different this year.
Many churches are opting to have virtual events. You can tune in at your leisure in the comfort of your own home. Some are having live-streaming events so that you can still feel the connectivity of coming together as a group.
Other churches are going to be having multiple services so that they can restrict the number of people in the building at one time. These events are on a registration basis, so it’s a good idea to check in with whatever church you want to attend a couple of weeks before to see what their offerings are.
Singing has been said to be one of the quicker and more effective ways of spreading the COVID virus as droplets spread farther more rapidly when we sing. So even though attending carolling concerts might be one of your favourite events of the holiday season, it’s going to have to look a little different this year to keep everyone safe.
Most carolling events are going virtual this year. You can cuddle up with the family and watch as all of the Christmas classics are performed online. You can even sing along in the comfort of your own home!
For Virtual concerts check out Christmas At The Museum on December 9th at 7 pm, the annual CP Holiday Train on December 12th at 6 pm, A Not So Silent Night on December 20th, and A Festival of Carols on December 19th at 8 pm by the Elora Singers.
There is, at 100 Kellogg Lane in Old East Village, the annual Crooner Christmas event still happening this year. To keep in line with COVID guidelines, this event has been pared back and is a more intimate affair. It will be taking place in Paradigm Spirits Co. The two-hour show will be partnered with a delicious 4-course meal. Check it out here. It’s happening on December 5th and December 12th at 5:30 pm.
Door to Door
Carolling door to door is likely not going to be a popular thing this year as singing with a mask on would be quite difficult.
One of the best family activities over the holidays is ice skating. It’s a great outdoor activity that is fun for all ages. This year, outdoor ice skating is still something you can do with your family. It’s going to look slightly modified, but for those who enjoy the activity, you’ll love that not much has changed!
Maintain 6 feet of physical distance between yourself and other skaters (not including your family, of course). Remember to sanitize before and after you head on the rink. Indoor rental and changing facilities will not be offered this year (although changing rooms will still be available). If you head over to skate and notice that the rink looks too crowded, the city is asking you to just head away and come back another time.
Weather permitting, the rink will open on December 5th. Enjoy free skating here from 10:00 am-10:00 pm every day (with one hour of ice resurfacing starting at 5:30 pm). Enjoy the beautiful lights of Victoria Park while you’re skating!
Storybook Gardens is a beautiful 150 meter, 10,000 square foot trail that winds through a winter wonderland. The skating trail (rather than a skating rink) is a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors. Registration for skate trails is required as there will be a limit to the number of people allowed. There is an admission cost of $3 per person. It will be open Tuesday to Friday from 3:30 pm -8:00 pm, Saturday from 10:00am-8:00 pm, and Sunday 10:00 am-5:30 pm. The Storybook Gardens skating trail will also be open on December 5th, weather permitting.
Rotary Rink at Covent Garden Market
Located right outside the market, the Rotary Rink is also free to use. It’s open Monday to Thursday from 8:00 am -6:00 pm, Friday 8:00 am-7:00 pm, Saturday 8:00 am-6:00 pm, and Sunday 11:00 am- 4:00 pm. Weather permitting, the rink will officially open on December 12th.