15 Free Things To Do In Toronto This Year
Travel can be expensive.
No matter how much you budget or tighten the purse strings while you’re on vacation, there comes the point during the trip where the spending gets a little out of control. You can’t help it if you’re having a great time.
Fortunately, there are plenty of activities in Toronto you can enjoy without spending a single Canadian dollar. From beautiful beaches to markets full of bountiful treats to lunchtime opera performances. There is a free activity for anyone and everyone.
Don’t lock yourself away in a hotel room to try and save some cash. Head out to these locations instead and enjoy these free things that Toronto has to offer.
1. Visit the Harbourfront Centre
It’s very easy to lose a whole day at the Harbourfront Centre. It’s a 10-acre space located along the Lake Ontario shoreline and features multiple cultural festivities throughout the year. You’ll also find galleries, art and craft studios, as well as stores providing products created by Toronto locals.
You can even spend time browsing in the shopping district, relaxing by the gardens, and finding somewhere to eat from the multiple restaurants around. Keep an eye out for the ice skating rink that comes out during certain times of the year as well. You can find out more at the Harbourfront Centre’s website for all the details.
2. Take a Walking Tour
While guidebooks and information centers will give you a taste of what Toronto has to offer, the best people to provide you with the city's history are the locals themselves. Tour Guys is a free walking group that gives you a glimpse of some of the fantastic sites Toronto has on offer.
During your 90-minute stroll, you’ll cruise past the waterfront, pass through the entertainment and financial districts, and even gain an insight into some of the city’s darker secrets which other tour guides won’t share with you. The best part is that it won’t cost you anything to participate in the walking tour.
3. Hang Out at High Park
There are plenty of free activities to participate in at High Park. Throughout its 400 acres, you’ll come across beautiful hiking trails, historical buildings, playgrounds for the kids, and even a zoo. However, the park is so picturesque that there’s also plenty of spots to sit, relax, and have a picnic while you enjoy the gorgeous, landscaped gardens and peaceful ponds.
High Park is even home to some rich history. The couple who founded the park has been immortalized with Colborne Lodge. The house was built in 1837 and features some original paintings from the early days of Toronto.
4. Relax at the Beach
Toronto is probably not the first place you think of when you want to sunbake on a beach. However, the Woodbine and Kew beaches make some great spots to soak up some rays and relax by the water. Provided that you visit during July and August.
While you’re working on your tan, you can also enjoy the Beaches International Jazz Festival at Woodbine Park. In July, this free event features some fantastic tunes and an amazing atmosphere courtesy of the locals who love to get into the festival's spirit.
5. Head to the Distillery District
One step on the cobblestone pathway, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to the Victorian era. All of the buildings and the surrounding area have been preserved to provide visitors with a historically accurate representation of what the district looked like 100 years ago.
There’s no need to watch out for cars as this area is for pedestrians only. It’s also not just a place to reminisce about the good old days. You’ll also find some exquisite boutiques, stylish art galleries, and stunning restaurants when you’re feeling peckish.
6. Stroll Around Scarborough Bluffs
Locals know this area simply as The Bluffs. The Scarborough Bluffs can be found east of Toronto’s downtown area, and you’ll immediately know when you’ve found it. One look at it, and it will take your breath away.
It features some stunning sand cliffs that are a gorgeous shade of white and grey. There are also some picturesque parks, plenty of impressive views of different geological formations, and amazing sights of the big blue lake.
7. Wander Through the Art Gallery of Toronto
Featuring exhibits from both Canadian and International artists, the Art Gallery of Toronto is home to some stunning pieces that art lovers of any kind can enjoy. Not only are the paintings on the walls a sight to see, but so is the architecture of the gallery itself, courtesy of its high ceilings and spiral staircases.
Block out some time in your itinerary to visit the Art Gallery of Toronto on a Wednesday night between 6 pm and 9 pm, as this is the only time to gain free admission. But if you’re under 25, you can walk right in as tickets are always free for youngsters.
8. Grab a Bite at St. Lawrence Market
If you love strolling through markets, then you’ll adore this location. St. Lawrence Market spans three buildings in downtown Toronto. Inside you’ll find a food market, antique stands, and a public area for vendors to set up and sell their wares.
You can indulge in some free samples from the vendors or grab a cheap eat if you’re feeling hungry. After lunch, head upstairs to the galleries, where you can learn more about the St. Lawrence Market as well as Toronto’s culture and history.
9. Be Entertained at Yonge-Dundas Square
You might think you’ve been transported to Times Square after one look at Yonge-Dundas Square at night. The area in downtown Toronto is lit up from billboard lights and video screens, and there are plenty of people wandering around looking for some cheap entertainment.
Yonge-Dundas Square is home to several free events. You can catch a movie or watch a concert. There are even promotional events held throughout the year that won’t cost you anything to participate in.
10. Get Charmed at Riverdale Farm
It’s hard to believe there is a fully functional farm located in downtown Toronto. But there is. Riverdale Farm features all the animals you’d expect, such as chickens, cows, sheep, pigs, and goats. You can wander around the farm, mingle with the animals, and watch the farmhands complete the chores all for free.
Riverdale Farm even sells some of their goods produced on the farm too. This is handy as there are no vending machines or snack kiosks around as the owners attempt to keep the location reminiscent of simpler times.
11. Treat Yourself to an Opera Performance
From late September to May, the Canadian Opera Company provides locals and tourists with a tremendous lunchtime treat. Held at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts amphitheater, tickets are free for anyone wanting to attend.
You’ll need to supply your lunch, and they will provide all of the entertainment. There’s also no intermission either. The opera performance runs for an hour, so the office workers aren’t late back to their day jobs.
12. Take in the Wonders at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art
Keep your eyes open at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. You just might see work from the next most prominent artist in the world. This location showcases exhibits from some of Canada’s up-and-coming creatives and highlights artifacts from more well-known creators.
The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art is free to visit every day of the week. So you can attend on your own schedule and not have to set aside specific hours in the day to go.
13. Catch a Movie
Usually heading to the cinemas is an expensive affair. You’re not just purchasing a ticket for the movie. You’re also buying some snacks and drinks to enjoy during the show. However, you can enjoy some incredible films for free in Toronto.
The Tiff Cinematheque screens experimental films for free, and in the summer, you can attend film festivals in the park to view new releases and classic films from the golden age of cinema.
14. Skate Around Nathan Phillips Square
It wouldn’t be a trip to Toronto without spending some time on the ice. Fortunately, Nathan Phillips Square provides the perfect spot for a skate as it’s right outside City Hall and close to some great restaurants if you’ve worked up an appetite.
If you bring your own skates, then you can carve up the ice for free. If you forgot to pack them, then you can always rent some for a reasonable price.
15. Explore Evergreen Brickworks
For an eco-friendly change of pace, then you should stop by Evergreen Brickworks. Listed by National Geographic as one of the world’s top 10 geo-tourism spots, you’ll be treated to 40 acres of lush wilderness with sustainable urban development sprinkled throughout the parklands.
Witness some stunning architecture and designs that will hopefully shape our future, and while you’re there, stop by the farmer’s market for some homegrown produce that is the freshest food you’ll ever taste.
While Toronto is known for being one of the most expensive cities to live in, it’s possible to enjoy what the city has to offer on a budget. Most of them are suitable for all ages and all different tastes. So next time you’re in the home of the Maple Leafs and the Raptors, keep an eye out for these free activities to enjoy on your vacation.
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