Christmas Shopping, the Show Way, in Toronto

One of the perks of living in Toronto is the shows. I don’t mean Broadway musicals, I mean shows where you can scan, learn, and shop, shows like the Home Show, the Outdoors Show, and in November and December Christmas Shows. They’re ideal for Christmas shopping, for finding affordable to hugely expensive gifts all under one roof or, in the case of the Distillery Toronto Christmas Market, under one sky in the frigid December air.

I was discouraged from going to the One of a Kind Christmas Show and Sale because it’s huge, and that’s a bit of an understatement, and it’s all same old, same old, and there’s nothing in the affordable department. Wrong. Well, it is huge, and I do have to plan for rest day afterwards, but if you’re methodical and keep your eyes open, you’ll see among the same old, same old, lots of new stuff. And sometimes the same old is just what Santa ordered for a certain person on your list for this year. As for price: tons of affordable stuff! Of course, I did covet that portrait of Ian Millar riding behind a hedge...

The keys to enjoying these shows are three: 1) be methodical. In the case of the One of a Kind Christmas Show and Sale, start at one end and wend your way to the other, stopping for free coffee or capp at the Dolce Gusto counter in the centre aisle or free food samples in the food area (which is always crowded, full of gluttonous people like me). Or check out the website before and plan your route. I prefer my eyes to see the possibilities in real life so that my brain can know, yes, that’s the right gift for Suzy (or whoever). 2) Go in the early afternoon, not the evening or the weekend, else you’ll be fighting crowds and lineups at each booth. And instead of enjoying finding that unique and perfect gift, you’ll be frazzled and ticked and will grab the first one you can get to just so’s you can get out of there already like a cork out of an exploding wine bottle. 3) Be prepared to spend hours, and dress lightly if it’s indoors, although the One of a Kind Show has a coat check-in for a toonie and a place to put your parcels. But: I don’t know why, but their parcel place this year is way at one end instead of being sort of central. Totally unhelpful. You need a place to put your gifts when midway through your shopping and gawking, not when practically finished or just started. For the Distillery Toronto Christmas Market, wear your warmest boots and a hat and warm gloves. I was a frozen block last year because the wind so close to the lake can be brutal. On the other hand, Balzac’s and Soma are wonderful to warm up in with coffee and hot chocolate.

Bonus tip: take cash. Not all artisans or artists take VISA, plus you’ll spend less if your budget is in physical dollars in your wallet.

If you’ve never been Christmas shopping at one of these shows or the market, skip the mall this year and go for it. Unfortunately, the One of a Kind is over this year, but make a plan to go next year (or check out the smaller Spring one first) and meanwhile visit the one at the Distillery: it’s on until the 18th. Happy shopping!