We reviewed Toronto's Santas so you know which one is for you.
It’s Christmastime in the city, and what better way to ring in the holidays than with a Torontoist Santa review?
This year, we evaluate the different local options and the legitimacy of their respective beards in various markets and storefronts in the city.
Toronto Christmas Market (Distillery District)
Santa rating: 9/10
Overall experience: 8/10
Price: Free; $5 entry fee on weekends
Total time spent: Approximately 10 minutes
Good: Friendly and helpful Christmas elves, a very warm and welcoming Santa
Bad: Same thing every year; tourist death trap; everything worthwhile is outdoors, so you are always cold
Eaton Centre’s Log Cabin (Trinity Square)
Earvin and I coincidentally ran into the Torontoist editor-in-chief (hey, David!) on our way to the Eaton Centre, and we walked the short distance to the Log Cabin in Trinity Square. As a small group of people depart the premise, we ask for a quick photo with Santa, who obliges. The result is some very awkward posing before the Man In Red takes off into the night “to the North Pole,” he says, though when I watch, he walks into the Eaton Centre, presumably for some hot New York Fries poutine.
Before he leaves, David asks, “How long have you been doing this?” to which Santa replies, “Being Santa? All of my life, of course!”
My, what a silly question.
Santa rating: 10/10
Overall experience: 7/10
Price: Free; tickets normally $10 with all proceeds going towards Autism Speaks Canada, Covenant House, and Women’s College Hospital Foundation.
Total time spent: Five minutes
Good: Autism Speaks’ Sensitive Santa program, which offers private sessions for children with autism spectrum disorder
Bad: Too old for story time
Holiday Square (Nathan Phillips Square)
Holiday Square’s Santa is situated in a far-off tent on the outskirts of Nathan Phillips Square, wedged between the stage and a dejected blue bouncy castle as part of the first-ever Holiday Square. I walk in and take note of the dim lighting: red, tanning salon-pornographic, or as David calls it, “fried chicken”-esque. The on-duty photographer is nowhere to be seen, so I take advantage of this, asking Santa for a photo. He shrugs and gives a meek, “Sure.”
I sit on his lap and immediately feel as if I am shooting an 80s-style porno: corny, themed, and where all the women have bad hair. At the very least, I am a character in that Final Destination 3 tanning bed scene except instead of bursting into flames, I suffer from a head cold and ennui. Fried Chicken Santa grips me tight, which gives my bony posterior extra support, while Earvin fumbles ever so slowly with the camera. When we leave, I say, “thank you” and pretend to meander so as not to burst into a full-on sprint.
(If you look closely, you can see the reflective red sheen in the grease on my forehead.)
Santa rating: 5/10
Overall experience: 5/10
Total time spent: Five minutes
Good: Santa doesn’t judge me for wanting a picture with him, surprisingly not cold for being outdoors
Bad: Fried chicken lighting, sad tent
Loblaws’ Gingerbread Village (Church/Carlton)
I am here so often that when I arrive by myself earlier than expected, I am extremely embarrassed. When Earvin arrives a half hour later, we head to the Gingerbread Village that is wedged neatly between the bread and deli aisle, and an audible gasp escapes his mouth when he realizes the entire plaza is made entirely out of candy.
A new addition to this year’s Gingerbread Village is a clock tower made from what appears to be dark chocolate (PC brand, of course) glazed with shellac. Outside, a cardboard snow globe “snows” on picture takers, while police officers and staff stage their own separate fundraisers in the front foyer.
Earvin and I sample the free treats—pomegranate salsa, ice cream floats, and chocolate—before heading over to Santa. Just as I am about to get my photo taken, a young, slight girl run-hops into his lap and has her own photo op with him like she’s her own God-damn Beyoncé. However, I must be feeling broody because I find this only slightly irritating. When I finally get a chance with Santa, he seemingly grits his teeth at me. I try very hard not to look uncomfortable.
Lastly, I try out the “Gingerbread Factory,” a “machine” that spits out a gingerbread man decorating kit in exchange for a cookie. I want so badly to design my gingerbread man, but I am easily 20 years older than everyone at the table. So, I opt to save the treat for my girlfriend who, by the way, ends up breaking it in the middle of the night.
When we leave, I picture a small, sad-looking man standing behind the walls of the “factory” dropping decorating kits out the hole for bratty children, and then I think, “Nah, he’s probably taking some lit #selfies.” #sleighqueen
Santa rating: 5/10 (originally 3/10 but an extra two points for Santa continuity)
Overall experience: 10/10
Price: $2 for photo with Santa, $3 for gingerbread kit; all proceeds go towards the PC Children’s Charity
Total time spent: Half an hour awkwardly pacing, five minutes trying free samples, two minutes with Santa, and 30 seconds of pure enjoyment at Loblaws’ gingerbread factory
Good: GINGERBREAD FACTORY. ALL OF THE FOODS. And also, extra points to this Santa who says literally nothing to me.
Bad: Doesn’t give me a candy cane…AGAIN.
Fashion Santa II (Yorkdale Mall)
When you google “Fashion Santa,” 52-year-old part-time model and full-time Daddi, Paul Mason, splays across your page. When that happens, you can see why he was such a hit last year. Alas, the original Fashion Santa and Yorkdale have parted ways, and things aren’t the same.
I think I lose my Metropass on my way here (in actuality, it’s safe in my girlfriend’s wallet), so my mood for this thing has already soured. I find the 31-year-old, Puerto Rican-looking Santa on my way to Nordstrom where a moderate line is forming just outside. After what is an extremely uneventful lineup, Earvin and I approach the front where I hand off my Nikon to a man wearing a bright blue suit. He smiles worriedly, his hands shakily grasping my camera, and all I can think is that he better drop and break it so I can ditch the thing and not have to carry it.
When we stand beside Puerto Rican Santa, he puts his arms around us and I feel…nothing. When we leave, I am emptier than a colon on taco night.
Santa rating: Zero for fashion, zero for charisma. A BIG FAT 0/10.
Overall experience: 1/10 for the short line and easy accessibility, 0/10 for the death trap that is Yorkdale Mall during the holiday season
Price: Your soul…and $5.80 bus fare
Total time spent: Five minutes lining up, one minute for Santa’s “elf” to figure out how to use my DSLR
Beard: Pathetically, pathetically synthetic
Good: Close proximity to food court, so I can stuff my sad face with Manchu Wok
Bad: 2 yung 2 b daddi
BONUS: Sandy Claws (Sonic Boom)
I pass by Sonic Boom one day on a trip to Chinatown for some good ol’ BBQ pork. As I pass the storefront, a big, looming presence and a flash of red catches my eye, and I notice what is perhaps the most handsome and dreamy man I have ever seen in my life. Our eyes lock and through the window, we stare back at one another—a 5’2″, grown-ass adult and an eight-foot-something Tim Burton-esque paper mache doll in velveteen. There’s a creepiness in him that’s almost desperate and I come to realize, “What a sweet, sweet man, that man o’ mine.”
Santa rating: 10/10, total thirst trap
Overall experience: Solid 9.5/10
Total time spent: A minute clearing up space on my phone, a second to take the picture
Beard: Synthetic, though this is arguable
Good: His velveteen suit
Bad: His poor posture