simcoe panorama

This unreal riverside lights festival is two hours from Toronto

Holiday lights season is just a few weeks away. Soon Toronto will explode with festive displays across the city, from public squares to residential streets. Some of the biggest events, however, are found outside the city in towns across the province. 

These days there are dozens of incredible holiday lights festivals within a couple hours of Toronto, but the one that started the trend is the Simcoe Christmas Panorama, which was founded all the way back in 1958.

Dubbed the River of Lights, the festival now involves thousands of lights and over 60 displays spread across the town's downtown parks beside the Lynn River. It doesn't get much more scenic than this. 

A good way to to think of the Simcoe Christmas Panorama as a Santa Claus parade in suspended animation — because to a great degree that's what it is.

The festival was born when parade floats were abandoned in Wellington Park after a rained out event. The following year, organizers decided to take the rest of the floats and install them in the park for the town to enjoy over the entire festive season.  

A full tour of the displays lasts about 45 minutes. For those who really want to dial up the festive charm, there are also horse-drawn trolley tours on weekends throughout December. 

The opening night event for the Panorama this year takes place on November 25 at 6 p.m. After that, the lights are on each day between 5:30 and 11:30 p.m. The festival concludes on December 31.

Lead photo by

Simcoe Panorama

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