distillery christmas market

You'll soon have to pay to visit the Distillery District

Visiting the Distillery District this holiday season won't come without a cost - and I'm not talking about buying something at one of the many local stores and restaurants. That's because for the first time ever organizers of the annual Toronto Christmas Market have decided to charge an admission fee. Get ready to pony up $5 (taxes in) on Saturdays and Sundays during the market's run.

According to the market's executive producer Matthew Rosenblatt, the fee was a mandatory call.

"It just got too busy on Saturdays and Sundays last year," says Rosenblatt. "It went from magical and romantic to insanely crowded. This year, we thought that if we didn't do something, we would ruin the experience by how busy it would be."

Last year's market was, indeed, mayhem: during the weekends, an average of 40,000 people flocked to the Distillery District daily. Trinity Street was a constant sea of selfie sticks and bustling shoppers, while the other avenues were almost always gridlocked.

There were lineups to get into most boutiques and one-hour waitlists at every restaurant. According to Rosenblatt, the hope for this year is that the admission fee will prompt more people to plan their visits during the week, when it's free.

Even if you end up paying the fee, rest assured your hard-earned cash is going to a better place: after the Market uses the funds to cover its basic costs and support its infrastructure for next year, the rest will be donated to its three charity partners, Daily Bread Food Bank, the Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund and Plan Canada.

As for Distillery residents and workers, they'll be able to bypass all entry fees and lineups with an "all-access" card. Paula DiRenzo, owner of Blackbird Vintage Finds, says that like most of the shop and restaurant owners, she's happy with the changes coming to this year's Market.

"Last year was a bit scary, actually," says DiRenzo. "So a $5 fee charged on weekends is nominal. As well, those who wish to recoup their admission costs can do so in January - just bring in your ticket and the majority of stores in the Distillery District will deduct it from purchases over $20 before tax."

For those who are adamant about visiting on a Saturday or Sunday, Rosenblatt recommends buying tickets online to avoid the line.

And if you're hoping for a sit-down lunch or dinner, it's a good idea to stop by your restaurant of choice an hour ahead of time to place your name, since it'll take about that long to be seated - and none of the restaurants will be taking reservations.

The non-profit market runs from November 20 to December 20 2015.

Will the fee stop you from visiting the Toronto Christmas Market? Let us know in the comments.

Photo via Jugolic in the blogTO Flickr pool.

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