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Find Holiday Magic at These 5 Mega-Decorated Destinations

From window displays to snowflake sculptures, here are five city spots dressed in serious holiday style

By Eric Mutrie

With nurseries overflowing with poinsettias and a handful of homes now glowing brighter than coastal lighthouses, the holiday decorating season is in full swing.

Of course, while we salute anyone with the patience to string together cranberry and popcorn garlands, it’s the pros in the retail and tourism industries who really make this season a sight to behold. In the past few weeks, visual merchandisers decked the malls and cranes installed giant trees at City Hall (18 metres tall), the Distillery District (14 metres) and the Manulife Centre (9 metres). Indeed, the teams at a few Toronto destinations take festive decor very seriously. Below, we round up five city spots that elevate seasonal ornamentation to an art form.

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Photo by Ernesto Di Stefano, Brookfield Place Toronto.

1 Workplace Wonderland
Even business types who spend their lunch breaks in the PATH can’t avoid winter weather forever. With Snowfall, Toronto duo Studio F Minus brings oversized, LED-lit snowflakes to Brookfield Place. The geometric designs take inspiration from the Y-shaped buttresses holding up the Allen Lambert Galleria’s vaulted archway ceiling, an architectural icon envisioned by Santiago Calatrava. Sixty flakes of various sizes hang in the building’s lobbies, while a mesmerizing, six-metre-high sculpture holds court in the middle of the Galleria. Sure to be a hit with Frozen-addicted toddlers, the touch-sensitive piece changes colour to mimic the way a frosted window reacts to a warm hand. To January 2. Brookfield Place, 181 Bay St brookfieldplacenewsandevents.com

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2 Northern Lights
Each November, Holt Renfrew transforms the windows of its Bloor Street flagship into elegant fairy tale tableaus that showcase the ultimate in haute couture. This year, enchanting scenes take place against a turquoise-and-blue backdrop that resembles the Aurora Borealis. Lavish baubles and opulent chandeliers hang from trees, while golden sleighs and stags populate the snowy forest floor. As expected, mannequins are dressed to the nines in crimson ball gowns, luxe fur boas and sharply-tailored suits, offering a preview of fine holiday party fashions. If the ceramic cast members seem a bit melancholy, maybe it’s because they realize they’ll never look this good again. Holt Renfrew, 50 Bloor St W holtrenfrew.com

Meanwhile, on Queen Street West, the windows of Hudson’s Bay‘s 118-year-old headquarters play host to the retailer’s much-loved animatronic depictions of life at the North Pole. To January 2. Hudson’s Bay, 176 Yonge St thebay.com

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3 Oh Christmas Trees
Our city of neighbourhoods gets reimagined as a forest of trees. Placed throughout the Gardiner Museum’s galleries, imitation evergreens are decorated with custom ornaments that pay tribute to Leslieville, Greektown, the St. Lawrence Market and eight other districts. Among the talent behind this year’s displays: celeb designers Stephen and Chris and the owners of stately Yorkville shop Teatro Verde. A Chinatown-themed tree is covered in paper lanterns and dragons, while an arboreal take on the Distillery District is decked out with Steampunk-esque accents like gears and old-timey lanterns. To recognize the Gardiner’s 30th anniversary, a twelfth tree celebrates Toronto arts and culture with 75 one-of-a-kind ornaments made by three local ceramicists. Shown above: a Forest Hill Village-themed tree by Robert Tanz Design is topped by one of the neighbourhood’s furry friends. To December 14. Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Pk gardinermuseum.on.ca

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4 Once Again, As in Olden Days
As you’d expect, the Distillery District – a popular spot for film crews looking to shoot period pieces – skews historic with its decorations, honouring the 16th century European custom of hanging Christmas trees upside down from a building’s rafters. In Poland, upside-down trees were decorated with apples and treats, then lowered on Christmas Day to let kids scarf down. To December 21. The Distillery District, 55 Tank House Ln torontochristmasmarket.com

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5 Mistletoe Hung Where You Can See 
Time to find out if love actually is all around. Doing its part to encourage holiday romance, the Bloor Annex BIA installs mistletoe under nine neighbourhood streetlights each November. Couples are encouraged to capture a photo of their kiss and share it with the masses on Twitter or Instagram using the tag #BloorAnnex. Bonus points for moms caught kissing Santa Claus. To January 2. Bloor St W, between Bathurst St and Spadina Ave bloorannex.ca


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