Toronto is an expensive city. If currently live in the city or are just visiting, you’ll notice that costs quickly add up. However, not everything is doom and gloom. You can still have a lot of fun in the city for free. Here are 25 free things to do in Toronto:
1. Attend a concert at Toronto’s Music Garden
This is my number #1 among all the free things to do in Toronto. Designed by the world-renowned Cellist Yo Yo Ma, this unique garden plays host to many music events during the summer. The garden is very pretty and has a great display of flowers in the summer. You can enjoy a free music concert on the waterfront on Thursdays and Sundays in this scenic setting.
2. Enjoy Free Movies At The Park/Beach
Every summer, free movies are screened in Toronto throughout different public parks such as the Kew Beach Park in the Beach Village, Corktown Common Park, St. James Park and other parks throughout Toronto. The most unusual experience, however, is watching a movie on a giant movie screen that floats on Lake Ontario near Sugar Beach . You can watch the movie from the beach or better yet if you have a boat, sail-in and anchor your boat to view the movie. For the schedule and the different parks that are showing movies this summer, check this website: free movies in the park.
3. Take A Picture With The Street Art Of Toronto
Toronto has some of the most fascinating murals/street art I have ever seen. Particularly the neighborhoods of Lesliville and riverdale are one of the best neighborhoods in Toronto to view some street art. However, the artwork that you see in Graffiti Alley near Spadina Avenue is on a whole different level. This alleyway though a bit gritty, has the most beautiful murals that are truly instaworthy. Take your camera/phone along click away. Check out more photos of Graffiti Alley Toronto here.
4. Visit The Art Gallery Of Ontario
Art Gallery Of Ontario (AGO) is a must-see when you visit Toronto. AGO is known for its collection of paintings from Tom Thomson and the Group Of Seven. You can enjoy these paintings and other exhibits for free on Wednesday nights from 6 pm – 9 pm. The gallery advises you to arrive after 6 pm to avoid long queues and to avoid bringing backpacks during your visit.
5. Skate For Free at Nathan Philips Sqaure
When winter comes, all you want to do is huddle up inside your house with a warm cup of cocoa. I hear you… I do the same! However, after a few days, being a couch potato gets boring quickly. So, why not take advantage of some of the free things that you can do in Toronto during the winter. Head to Nathan Philips Square, with your pair of ice skates. There’s a gorgeous ice rink right in front of city hall. Just make sure to go there early as this is a popular activity with the locals.
6. Attend An Event at Yonge-Dundas Square
The Yonge-Dundas Square, right in front of the popular shopping mall CF Eaton Centre, is a hub of activity on weekends. There are many music events and food festivals conducted in this square during the summer. The food in the food festivals may not be free but the music sure is! So, grab a snack (not free but not too expensive as well) and enjoy the free music and entertainment at Yonge-Dundas Square.
7. Turn Back Time In The Pioneer Village
Experience how people lived and worked in the 18th century in the Black Creek Pioneer Village. A visit to this village is free on Tuesdays after 2 pm except during the march break. This is another great educational outing that you can enjoy with your kids.
8. Explore The Hiking Paths Of Discovery Walks
When you think of Toronto, do you imagine that this city is full of nature hikes and beautiful green spaces? No! Like me before I moved here, you would probably think it’s a busy metropolitan city with concrete structures looming way above you. However, when I moved here, I quickly discovered that the city has another side to it. There are a lot of hiking trails and natural green spaces that are hidden in the different neighborhoods around the city. These hiking paths are well-marked and well maintained by the city. These hiking paths are collectively known as Discovery Walks. So, put on some comfortable shoes and hiking clothes and set out to discover these beautiful hikes around the city.
9. Barbeque With Your Family At The Scarborough Bluffs Beach
As I said before, the Woodbine Beach is the most popular beach in Toronto. However, if I had to pick the most beautiful beach, I would pick Scarborough Bluffs Beach. This underrated beach is further East of Toronto in the Scarborough neighborhood. This beach boasts of beautiful white cliffs, akin to the those seen in the UK, bordering the beach. This beach is one of my favorite locations to have a picnic. In fact every summer, many families in Toronto are seen with their Barbeques enjoying a staycation in this scenic place. Check out my detailed post on Scarborough Bluffs Beach to see all the activities you can do and how to get there.
10. Visit The Aga Khan Museum
There is no end to the number of cultural events that you can take part in when you are in Toronto. However, many of these events and museum visits can cost your pocket a lot of money, right? Hmmmm.. not necessarily. Many museums have a free day when you can see the exhibits for free. The Aga Khan Museum displays exhibits and related to the middle-eastern culture. The building of the museum itself is a work of art! You can visit this museum for free on Wednesdays every week between 4 pm to 8 pm.
11. Celebrate Your Birthday With Free Food
A lot of eateries around Toronto make your birthday special by offering free food. Most of these establishments need you to sign-up on their website to receive this offer. If you don’t mind receiving frequent promotional emails, it’s a good idea to sign up. The stores offering freebies on your birthday include Baskin Robbins, Boston Pizza, Booster Juice, David’s Tea, Starbucks and many more . Some of the restaurants/shops, like Denny’s , need you to present a Government ID card as proof to avail this offer.
12. Experience Farm Life At Riverdale Farm
This one is going to be a hit with the kids. The Riverdale farm is a working farm run by the city. Kids will enjoy seeing all the farm animals like pigs, sheep, chickens. However, this is not a petting zoo. So, enjoy the sights of farm life without interference.
13. Learn About The History Of East Toronto At Todmorden Mills
Todmorden Mills is a historically important site in Toronto. This is the place where the Town Of York, which is now East Toronto, originated. Learn about the history and visit the paper mill, which is now an art gallery, for free. The property also has two houses, one of which belonged to the Heliwell family and a beer brewery. Unfortunately, entrance inside these three buildings is not free. You would have to buy a tour to see inside the house. However, there is a very nice wildflower preserve with a pond and a nice walking loop which is free for everyone to see.
14. Rock To Free Music At Harbourfront Centre
HarbourFront Centre is one of my favorite places to visit on a Friday night. The concert stage hosts a lot of free music events on the weekends by up and coming local artists as well as some established ones. Discover new music artists while enjoying the open air theatre with a view of the waterfront. Check what’s on this weekend on their website : Harbourfront Centre
15. Explore The PATH
Explore the PATH, an underground walkway in downtown Toronto, that connects many office and commercial buildings. The PATH is interesting, you will find many shops and restaurants. I find it particularly useful in the winter when it is too cold to walk outside. The PATH also has many tourist attractions along the way such the CN Tower, The Brookfield Place, Rogers Centre, and many others. Read how to navigate the PATH and the attractions in my post here: The PATH Toronto
16. Doors Open Toronto
Doors Open Toronto is a two day weekend event that happens at the beginning of summer every year. During this weekend, access to so many public buildings, some that are rarely open to public, is free for everyone. Grab this opportunity and explore the various venues that are open during this event.
17. Soak your Feet In Don River
Toronto summers can get very hot and humid. On a hot day like this, all you want to do go to the nearest water body and cool down. Fortunately, the Don River provides an excellent opportunity to do just that. If you are up for a walk, then you can also take a leisurely stroll on the upper and lower don river trails that run alongside the river. Or better yet, just relax beside the river and dip your feet in the cool water of Don River. There are fish in the river, you can even get a free fish pedicure while you are at it!
18. Free City Walks
A number of touring companies have free informative walks around the city. When I say free, it’s technically not completely free. You are expected to tip the tour guide which may be somewhere between $5 to $10. These walks are conducted by local volunteers who have in-depth knowledge of the area they are talking about. So it’s not a very good deal for someone new to Toronto and wants to know the city. One such company that offers free walks is tourguys.ca.
19. Enjoy Year Round Bloom In The Allans Garden Conservatory
Enjoy flower displays and warmth of tropical weather all year round in the Allans gardens conservatory. There are 6 greenhouses in total showcasing plants and flower displays from different climates around the world – two tropical greenhouses, a cool temperate one, a palm house, tropical landscape, and an arid house. Dog owners can also enjoy the off-leash dog park outside the conservatory.
20. Study The Night Sky With The Free Astro Tour
The University of Toronto’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics conducts a free Astrotour on the first Thursday of every month at 9 PM. The event is conducted by the graduate students of UofT and usually includes a lecture where the researcher talks about his/her research area. Tickets to the lecture are available on a first come first serve basis. After the lecture, you can study the night sky with the University’s telescopes. You can find more information about the a astrotour here.
21. The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery
Appreciate Contemporary art at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery which is free to everyone all year round. That’s right! you don’t have to wait for special days to enjoy this gallery. The Power Plant Contemporary Gallery is located near the Harbour who is also a location of many free things to do in Toronto. So, add this one to the list when you visit.
22. Join The Beach Studio Tour
Check out your local artists in action and get a chance to interact with them about their art. The beach studio tour, which takes places in early spring, give you a chance to tour the artist studios for free. You may be inspired to buy their art. This side-effect of the studio tour may end up costing you. LOL.
23. Experience An Artificial Beach At Urban Beach
Experience a swimless, artificial tiny patch of sand beach on Urban Beach at HTO park. This innovative idea shows how you can still enjoy a sand beach in an unlikely environment. The addition of the colorful yellow umbrellas injects some fun and makes the place instantly instragammable.
24. Take A Tour Of The Outdoor Gardens of Toronto
Take a walk around and learn about different plants in the themed gardens of Toronto Botanical Gardens. This is also an excellent place to teach your children about different plant species. Specifically, there’s a teaching garden in the
Edwards Garden area where the children can interact with the environment. You can also take part in the free tours around the garden. These tours are conducted by volunteers and have limited spaces. So, they have to be booked in advance. Book your spot at the Toronto Botanical Gardens website.
25. Enjoy A Day At The Beaches In East Toronto
Many people don’t expect Toronto to have beaches since it’s not on the coast. However, due to the gorgeous Lake Ontario, we do have many sandy beaches here. The most popular beach in Toronto is the Woodbine Beach in the Beaches neighborhood. There are two other beaches in the same area called Kew Beach and the Balmy Beach.These beaches are very popular with families and young people alike. The beach also has a 2km long boardwalk, a biking path, tennis courts, and a beach volleyball area. So, there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained.
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