The Skating Oval - Photo courtesy of the Shops at Don Mills.

The Skating Oval – Photo courtesy of the Shops at Don Mills.

What better way to get in the holiday mood than… shopping. Love it or hate it, tackling that gift-giving list is a huge part the season. I love looking for that perfect gift, but when stores get busy, a mall is the last place I want to be with kids in TOw.

So we ditch the typical mall experience and head outside to the Shops at Don Mills. Opened five years ago at Lawrence Ave and Don Mills Rd, it’s Canada’s first open air mall. It’s not just the 100-plus stores and restaurants that keep us coming back. Whenever we need a break from browsing, we take the little mall legs to Town Square – a big open grassy (turf) area to burn some energy or simply relax. (There is free skating there come mid-December.)

Oh, did I mention free parking?

It’s a year-round option. Here are some ways to enjoy by season:


Mark your calendars for the Toronto Fire Fighters’ Toy Drive and Tree Lighting Ceremony on Thursday, December 4, 2014 from 5 to 8 pm. Global TV will be broadcasting live. Bring a new unwrapped toy and receive coupons for free food and beverages from select restaurants and boutiques (like free chocolate from Lindt!)

Santa will be on site for breakfast at Jack Astor’s on Saturdays, December 6 and 13 from 9 am to 11 am and he’ll be strolling around the shops on weekends in December from 11 am to 4 pm.

By mid-December there is also free outdoor skating on the ice oval (in Town Square) during mall hours (weather dependent.) On Christmas Eve, you can skate with the jolly guy from 1 pm to 3 pm.


It’s a super spring and summer spot. In Town Square, you can stop for a snack, enjoy a meal at a table or run the kids before hitting one last store. There is a fountain next to it (not a splash pad) and last year a small train was doing rounds ($4 per person.)

Town Square in Summer.

Town Square in Summer.

The Toronto Jazz Festival takes place here in June.


Getting there: Located at Don Mills Ave and Lawrence Ave East. On TTC, take the 25 Don Mills bus to Lawrence or the 54 Lawrence East. Driving, free parking in the 4 level parking garage – enter off Lawrence Ave and The Donway West.

What’s there: Check out the floor plan if you’re there on a mission.

Potty time: There are baby change tables, a family washroom, plus a nursing room for mothers.

Food: There are a number of restaurants and patio options. For the kid-friendliest experience, try Jack Astor’s and P.F. Changs. There are a series of more fast-food type options as well. For a grocery shop, channel your inner Canadian Top Chef and to McEwan’s or simply head to Metro’s.

Kid-sized shopping: Gymboree, Mexx Kids and Roots for apparel. Browns has kids shoes.

Adults-only: If you can leave the kids at home, go for an adults-only movie experience at the Cineplex VIP Cinemas Don Mills. Opened this summer, it’s the first Canadian movie theatre built exclusively for adults with a menu of specialty appetizers and entrees, reserved seating, licensed auditoriums, a licensed lounge and premium in-seat service.

1060 Don Mills Road
Mon-Fri 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Sat 9:30 AM – 7:00 PM
Sun 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM (check their website for extended holiday hours.)