The Best Christmas Light Tours in South-Central Ontario – 2023

The holiday season is one of the most anticipated times of the year, and what better way to celebrate it than by experiencing the magic of Christmas light tours? Southern Ontario is famous for its stunning holiday displays, offering many options to explore. From festivals to markets, residential shows and historic downtowns, the area has some of the best Christmas light exhibits guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit. Whether you’re looking for a romantic date night or a fun activity for the whole family, the Greater Toronto/Hamilton area has something for everyone. We’ll explore the top Christmas light tours and walks in Southern Ontario for the upcoming 2023 season, including the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights, the Burlington Lakeside Festival of Lights, the Rusty Griswold Light Display, the Toronto Christmas Market, and the Historic Downtown Bowmanville. Get ready to be dazzled by the holiday magic of Southern Ontario!

Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights

Image credit Holiday Inn By The Falls

Once you can experience the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights, you will be taken back to your childhood at Christmas time. Seriously, folks, it’s like stumbling upon a hidden portal to a winter wonderland. Picture this: a world where millions of twinkling lights dance in the cold, crisp air, breathing life into the frozen landscape, an enchanting ballet of colours as the festival paints Niagara Falls with a symphony of hues.

But it’s not just about the lights, oh no! There’s a certain magic that hangs in the air. The buzz of excited chatter, the warm and inviting smells of holiday treats wafting from food stalls, the joyful echoes of laughter; it’s a sensory feast that’s as much about community and shared joy as the spectacle.

The illuminated displays are mind-blowing, each more elaborate and whimsical than the last. In 2022 there were enormous dinosaurs, gigantic gift boxes, and even a radiant Noah’s Ark! And the centrepiece, the Falls themselves, was adorned in brilliant lights. This sight honestly makes a viewer’s heart skip a beat every time.

What makes this festival truly special is the sense of togetherness it inspires. As I wandered through the illuminated paths, the sound of awe-filled gasps and shared laughter ringing in my ears, I felt connected to the strangers around me. We were all united in our collective marvel at the festival’s beauty, if just for a moment.

To sum it up, the Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights is a wonderfully captivating experience. It’s a grand spectacle, yet it feels incredibly personal. It’s an experience that I wholeheartedly recommend – a radiant celebration of winter, light, and communal joy.

Burlington Lakeside Festival of Lights

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There’s a place where the mundane winters transform into something straight out of a fairy tale. It’s the Burlington Lakeside Festival of Lights, and let me tell you, it’s a sight to behold. Winter is already a special time of year, but this display? It elevates the season to a whole new level of magic.

Imagine wandering through Burlington’s lakeside, the air nippy and fresh, your breath hanging in the air like tiny clouds. And then you see a cascade of lights twinkling against the night sky, reflecting off the lake like a million little stars. The trees, the fences, the park benches – they all come alive, draped in a kaleidoscope of radiant colours.

The festival isn’t just about the lights, though. It’s the heart-warming sense of community, the shared smiles and laughter, and the scent of hot cocoa that seems to wrap around you like a warm hug. There’s music, too – soft melodies that float through the air, adding a rhythm to the brilliant spectacle.

Each display tells a story, from giant radiant reindeer to shimmering snowflakes and even a beaming lighthouse that genuinely gives the festival its lakeside charm. And as you walk through the park, you can’t help but feel a sense of peace, a sense of joy. The world slows down, and all that matters is this moment of pure, undiluted happiness.

If you ask me, the Burlington Lakeside Festival of Lights embodies the holiday spirit. It’s a dazzling display of lights, but more than that; it’s a celebration of community, joy, and the magic that makes this season so special.

Rusty Griswold Light Display

Rusty Griswold Light Display 2022
Rusty Griswold Light Display located in Burlington, Ontario in 2022.

I may be slightly biased, but if there’s a crown jewel in the grand spectacle of Southern Ontario’s Christmas light displays, it’s undoubtedly the Rusty Griswold Light Display in Burlington. This is no ordinary holiday exhibit. No, no. It’s a living, breathing embodiment of the magic that is Christmas. And it’s a testament that the most enchanting wonders often lie in the most unexpected places.

Why, you ask? Imagine a gingerbread house, but not the kind you’d find on a Christmas dinner table. I’m talking about a life-sized, radiant spectacle adorned with over 14,000 twinkling lights synchronized in a dizzying dance to the rhythm of Yuletide songs from new to classics! Picture colourful gumdrops, candy canes, and other sugary delights twinkling merrily in the winter chill. It’s a sight that leaves you spellbound, bathed in the soft, warm glow of holiday cheer.

But what sets this spectacle apart from its counterparts isn’t just the intricate design nor the sheer volume of lights. It’s the heart behind it. Mike Madole and his family, the masterminds behind the Rusty Griswold display, use this luminous spectacle as a beacon of hope, raising funds for the SickKids Foundation. There is no cost or tickets required to view this great show. The very soul of Christmas – giving, sharing, caring – is encapsulated within this brilliant display.

Rusty Griswold Light Display countdown prior to the show beginning!

Each flicker of light, a note of music, and a dollar donated adds up to create an atmosphere that’s as intoxicating as it is inspiring. It’s a holiday experience that’s made it’s way from local news to national television, pulling in visitors from every corner of Southern Ontario. Simply check out these amazing videos to see what is in store for visitors!

To truly appreciate the magic of the holiday season, the Rusty Griswold Light Display is an absolute must-visit in Burlington, Ontario. It’s not just a light show; it’s a heartwarming fusion of festive cheer, community spirit, and a charitable cause. In a season of grand spectacles, this display outshines them all.

Toronto Distillery Village

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Have you ever wanted to step into a living, breathing Christmas card? That’s exactly how it feels when you enter the Toronto Distillery Village. It’s not just an event; it’s an experience that tickles every sense, immersing you in the festive spirit.

At first, it’s the lights that grab you. They’re strung with care across every nook and cranny, bathing the Distillery District in a golden, sparkling glow. It’s as if you’ve walked straight into the night sky, except the stars are just a touch away.

Then there’s the aroma. Oh, the smell! The delicious scent of roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, and freshly baked goods swirls around you, luring you toward the stalls with an almost hypnotic pull. The taste? Even better. Every bite, every sip, it’s the holidays.

The market is alive with laughter, cheerful conversations, the occasional carolers serenading the crowd, and the soft jingle of holiday bells. It’s like a melody you didn’t know you needed until you heard it.

But what truly captures the market’s essence is the people’s warmth. Despite the biting cold, there’s a warmth in their smiles, their greetings, and their shared excitement. It transcends age, background, and everything else. It’s the spirit of Christmas wrapped up in one great market.

The Toronto Distillery Village, in essence, is a love letter to the holiday season. It’s a sensory feast, a community gathering, and a celebration of all things Christmas. This market should be on your destination list if you want to experience the season’s magic in its purest form.

Historic Downtown Bowmanville

Stepping into Historic Downtown Bowmanville feels like slipping into a beloved old novel. It’s a place where past and present collide, creating a comfortably familiar and refreshingly novel melange.

Stroll down the main street, and you’ll see what I mean. Majestic Victorian buildings stand shoulder to shoulder with vibrant boutiques, their facades narrating tales of times long past. Yet, they seamlessly blend with the energy of modern-day life. The result? A living, breathing postcard of charm and charisma.

But Bowmanville isn’t just about the eye candy. The air here is laced with the intoxicating aroma of freshly roasted coffee wafting from local cafes and the hearty scent of homemade comfort food drifting from family-owned restaurants. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and you’ll feel a sensory story unfolding.

Listen carefully, and you’ll hear the soft hum of conversation, the clinking of coffee mugs, and the laughter echoing from the local pub. It’s a symphony that’s as soothing as it is invigorating.

And the people? They are the heartbeat of Bowmanville. Each smile you receive, each friendly nod you encounter, adds a layer of warmth to this charming town.

I think of Bowmanville as a charming painting, a rich tapestry woven with threads of history, community, and an unwavering spirit. It’s a place that invites you to slow down, savour the moment, and enjoy the art of being. So, wander the streets of Historic Downtown Bowmanville, and let it tell you its story.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is unique about the Rusty Griswold Light Display in Burlington?

Aside from its stunning visual display animated to Christmas music, the Rusty Griswold Light Display is unique because it’s a charitable event. The show is run by a family that collects donations for the SickKids Foundation.

Are these Christmas light tours and markets suitable for children?

Absolutely! Each location is family-friendly and suitable for children of all ages.

What are the dates and times for each display?

Each festival, market, and display have a unique schedule. For the latest information, check out their websites or social media pages.

Is parking available at the Rusty Griswold Light Display?

The Rusty Griswold Light Display is a residential home in a Burlington neighbourhood. No designated parking is available for the light display; however, you can park on the street across from the house to enjoy the show.

How accessible are these attractions for those with mobility issues?

Most of these attractions are accessible to people with mobility issues, but they can vary. It’s recommended to check the official websites or contact the event organizers for specific accessibility information.

How much are tickets for the Rusty Griswold Light Display?

The light show is free, so tickets are not required.

Can we make donations online for the Rusty Griswold Light Display charity?

Yes! Donations to the SickKids Foundation via the Rusty Griswold Light Display can be made via a QR-Code on-site or by clicking the SickKids link on the Rusty Griswold website. All donations of $20 CDN or more will receive a tax receipt.


As our journey through Southern Ontario’s festive offerings concludes, it’s clear that there’s no shortage of holiday spirit here. From the awe-inspiring light displays of Niagara Falls and Burlington to the enchanting Toronto Christmas Market and the altruistic Rusty Griswold Light Display, each destination offers a unique and memorable celebration of the season. And let’s not forget Historic Downtown Bowmanville, with its irresistible blend of history and charm, providing a picturesque backdrop to this Yuletide journey.

These attractions represent the magic of the holidays, embodying the spirit of togetherness, joy, and generosity that makes this time of year so special. They are true testaments to the holiday spirit, bringing light, love, and community together in a dazzling display of festive cheer.

So, whether you’re a resident of Southern Ontario or a visitor keen to experience the region’s holiday magic, I hope this guide has inspired you to explore these destinations. After all, the beauty of the holiday season lies in shared experiences, the creation of memories, and the simple act of enjoying the magic that unfolds around us. Happy holidays, and may your festive season be filled with light, love, and plenty of merry moments!

Do you have a special festival or display that should be on the list? Be sure to share it in the comment section below!

Rusty Burlington


  • Rusty Griswold

    Since 2015, I have been building my light display to celebrate the holiday season and experimenting with various recipes to bring people together around the table. I have learned many do's and don'ts in both areas along the way, and share them with everyone via the website. M Mike
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