Celebrate Diwali In and Around Toronto
Published: October 11, 2022
The Greater Toronto Area comes alive for Diwali, the five-day festival celebrated by Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities around the world, including right here in Toronto. Touted as “the festival of lights”, the cultural holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and of light, knowledge and hope over darkness, ignorance and despair. This year, there are plenty of places to celebrate and gather with friends and family during the festival between October 22 and 27, 2022.
Welcoming people from near and far, the GTA offers plenty of ways to celebrate Diwali this October. With Peel Region serving as the major core of Diwali celebrations, UP Express connects downtown Toronto to Brampton and Mississauga with ease. Offering frequent access and convenient stops at Weston and Bloor Stations, the UP Express offers connections to-and-from Pearson Airport in just 25 minutes, making it easy to visit the vibrant South Asian communities, shops, events, and eateries in Toronto, Mississauga, and Brampton. Whether your visit to the GTA coincides with Diwali, or you are looking for a fun way to spend time with family and friends, here are some of the many ways you can celebrate this month.
Visit Toronto’s Little India
An essential first-stop in any Toronto Diwali celebration is a visit to Little India. A community staple since the 1950s, the location and affordable rents attracted business-savvy South Asian entrepreneurs to set up shop along Gerrard Street East, anchored by the now-defunct Eastwood Theatre – North America’s first cinema to exclusively screen Bollywood movies. A hot spot for Indo-Canadians, the growing Gerrard India Bazaar drew new immigrants to the city’s burgeoning cultural center, where it remains an important part of Toronto’s South Asian community. Get a taste of history as you spend a day exploring the main street village, public art and culture walks as well as the traditional mom-and-pop shops featuring South Asian goods and food.
Every October, this neighbourhood lights up during Diwali with decorations, cultural live performances, music, feasts, dance, fashion and more and is the perfect place to pick up Diwali gifts! You can head to Little India by connecting directly to the TTC from UP Express Union Station.
Dress Up For A Good Cause
Looking to dress up and celebrate? Be entertained at the 10th annual Diwali: A Night To Shine gala on October 15. Toronto’s biggest annual Diwali party has raised over $10 million for the UHN Foundation, with this year’s proceeds going to the Krembil Brain Institute at Toronto Western Hospital and the Toronto Rehabilitation Institution. The gala theme for 2022 is “An Indian Wedding” where guests will get to experience the pomp of celebration of Indian music, performance, and of course, food. This yearly event is the perfect excuse to indulge in a Toronto staycation after a night of Diwali partying.
The dinner and dance is held at the Beanfield Centre at Exhibition Place, only one short ride from UP Express Union Station via GO Transit.
Have A Diwali Feast
Some of the best Indian food in the GTA is only a short trip away from downtown Toronto via UP Express and GO Transit to nearby Bramalea GO Station. Hungry? Visit Tandoori Flame, North America’s largest Indian buffet and restaurant which features more than 140 delicious South Asian delicacies. Join the eager line-up for mouth-watering dosas at Guru Lukushmi in Mississauga for a taste of vegetarian home-cooked South Indian flavours, devour tandoor-cooked kebabs, curries, vegetables and naan at Bombay Blue Indian & Hakka Cuisine in Brampton, or enjoy some street snacks and chats at one of several Brar’s locations that also caters to Jain, vegan, and gluten free diets.
Downtown Toronto has no shortage of Indian restaurants throughout the city making it easy for foodies to feast during the Diwali festival. One of Toronto’s most-loved Indian restaurants is Banjara on Bloor Street West, just a few TTC subway stops from UP Express Bloor Station. Here, you’ll find the restaurant’s famous butter chicken, often dubbed the best in the city! Elsewhere, sample some South Indian curry and street food-inspired eats at Pukka on St. Clair Avenue West or dig into the signature Lasooni cauliflower at Leela Indian Food Bar in the Junction. If you want to avoid the Little India crowds during Diwali, head to Roncesvalles Village steps from UP Express Bloor Station to Dil Se Indian Restaurant for freshly prepared Northern Indian-style cooking inspired by Punjabi dhabas or roadside restaurants.
If grab-and-go is more your style, one block from UP Express Weston Station you’ll find mom and pop-run Indian Sweets & Samosa on Lawrence Avenue West. Serving up authentic homemade sweets, samosas and delectable Indian dishes made from top quality ingredients for nearly 30 years, this is the spot to go for catering and large at-home Diwali celebrations.
Take A Diwali Harbourfront Cruise
Set sail and celebrate Diwali on the water with a Harbourfront Diwali boat party cruise, departing a short journey from nearby UP Express Union Station. This Diwali boat cruise features an evening of dance, music, and a cash bar so you can party the night away on October 15. Take in Toronto’s iconic skyline at night as the cruise takes you on a four-hour tour around the Toronto Islands and Lake Ontario. With UP Express train service running every 25-minutes, you can party responsibly by leaving the car at home and taking UP Express from Union Station to Bloor, Weston and Pearson Stations for easy and convenient connections elsewhere in the GTA.
Try Some Sweet Treats
You can’t have Diwali without the sweets! South Asian sweets and desserts (called mithai) are a staple of Diwali celebrations. From the classic halwa (chewy puddings) and North Indian laddoo (sweet fried balls of flour drenched in syrup) to peda (melt-in-your-mouth candy) and crunchy jalebi (golden fried swirls of flour), Toronto’s Indian bakeries in Little India will tempt your tastebuds with mouthwatering treats and the best Diwali sweets. In Brampton, head to a Brar’s location for their dedicated mithai shop or look for their pre-packaged sweets and delicacies available at most supermarkets.
Be the star of your Diwali dinner table with a specially-made Gulab Jamun or Ras Malai cake from Little Sister Baking. This female-run bakery offers special-occasions cakes for pre-order as well as delicious grab-and-go picnic boxes full of Indian treats, chicken (or veggie) tikka masala sandwiches, cilantro-mint scones, and more on weekends.
See Niagara Falls Light Up For Diwali
Niagara Falls lights up for Diwali! See the world famous Canadian Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls illuminated in golden light in honour of Diwali. Begin your 90-minute journey from downtown Toronto’s UP Express Union Station to Niagara Falls where you can connect via GO Train and bus and VIA Rail. Niagara Falls makes an optimal day trip or overnight visit from Toronto where you can take in the natural wonders of the Niagara escarpment and excitement the casinos, museums, and attractions have to offer.