Free things to do in Toronto, Canada

Free things to do in Toronto is from Toronto-based travel writer Carol Perehudoff of Wandering Carol.

With the Canadian/US dollar exchange rate so favourable for US visitors to Canada, it’s a great time to travel to the Great North’s largest city, Toronto. You can make it an even better trip by taking advantage of all things the city has to offer that won’t put a dent in your pocketbook. Here are some of my favorite free things to do in Toronto.

Visit a museum

free things to do Toronto - Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) , photo Danielle Petti courtesy of Toronto Tourism

Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) , photo Danielle Petti courtesy of Toronto Tourism

Ever since the Art Gallery of Ontario was revamped by star architect Frank Gehry it’s been a top local attraction with art fans and design lovers alike. If you want to get to know Canada through its art and culture, don’t miss their Canadian Collection with stunning works by the Group of Seven and Emily Carr. Admission to AGO is free on Wednesdays from 6 to 8:30pm. Like shoes? Toronto has a shoe museum! It’s pay-what-you-can at the Bata Shoe Museum on Thursdays from 5 to 8pm. Why go? With a collection that goes back some 4,500 years you can learn a lot about global history. And if it’s celebrities you’re interested in, you can check out the footwear of the likes of Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Michael Jordan and Eminem. If you’re on a museum roll, there are plenty of others you can check out. The Textile Museum of Canada has a pay-what-you-can admission on Wednesdays from 5 to 8pm. Further afield, the Aga Khan Museum in North York, offers free admission on Wednesdays from 4 to 8pm.

Check out Toronto’s vibrant neighborhoods

free things to do in Toronto - Kensington Market is one of the most colourful areas of Toronto Photo courtesy Tourism Toronto

Kensington Market is one of the most colourful areas of Toronto, photo/courtesy Tourism Toronto

 It costs nothing to explore Toronto’s most fun and interesting ‘hoods. For pricy Euro-chic designers, outdoor cafes, Victorian buildings and blue chip galleries, head to Yorkville, Toronto’s most upscale area. Do like the locals do and hang out on The Rock, a billion-year-old 650-ton slab of granite shipped in by pieces from the northern Canadian Shield. It’s the focal point of the hip and urban Yorkville Village Park.

Kensington is Toronto’s funkiest neighbourhood and a great place to browse through vintage shops, food markets and check out the city’s vibrant alternative side. Keep an eye out for the fun and eclectic street art, hang out with the laid back locals in Bellevue Square Park.

The pedestrian-only Distillery District, east of downtown has a different vibe. It was once home to the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, once the globe’s largest distillery. Today the Distillery is a pedestrian-only destination with atmospheric cobblestones and restored historic brick buildings that now house art galleries, cafes and boutiques.

Head for the Harbourfront

free things to do in Toronto - Harbourfront offers free activities and great views over Lake Ontario Photo courtesy Tourism Toronto

Harbourfront offers free activities and great views over Lake Ontario photo/www.Torontowide.com courtesy of  Tourism Toronto

If there’s a free festival in town, it’s likely to be at Harbourfront, Toronto’s lively downtown waterfront area. Looking out over beautiful Lake Ontario, Harbourfront is a multi-cultural destination where there is always a lot going on. One of the main draws is the popular Powerplant Gallery of Contemporary Art. Admission is always free, as are Harbourfront Centre’s outdoor film screenings on Wednesday nights during the summer. Visiting Toronto during the winter? Enjoy free DJ Skate Nights instead.

Politics and History

free things to do in Toronto - Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto's City Hall is always makes a good stop for visitors, photo Danielle Petti, courtesy of Toronto Tourism

Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto’s City Hall is always makes a good stop for visitors, photo/Danielle Petti, courtesy of Toronto Tourism

You can opt for various free guided tours of the Ontario Legislative Building, located at the north side of the intersection of College Street and Queen’s Park Crescent. Alternatively, you can wander into Toronto City’s Hall or head out to Black Creek Pioneer Village; admission is free on Tuesdays after 2pm.

Get outdoors

Toronto Parks photo courtesy www.TorontoWide.com courtesy of Tourism Toronto

Toronto Parks photo courtesy www.TorontoWide.com courtesy of Tourism Toronto

Toronto has a number of great parks to explore, the largest being High Park – a great place to enjoy the city’s fleeting cherry blossom season in late April or early May. With lovely gardens, scenic Grenadier Pond, hiking trails and picnic spots, this is a prime way to spend a day outdoors. Admission is free at the kid-friendly Riverdale Farm, a 7.5-acre historic working farm and park in the heart of Toronto’s Cabbagetown. Don’t miss Francey Barn, an original barn from 1858; the Victorian-style Simpson House or the farm’s goats, ducks, pigs, horses and donkeys. Done with the outdoors? Head for historic Allan Gardens Conservatory where they bring the outdoors indoors.  The landmark building built in downtown Toronto in 1910, is known for its iconic cast-iron and glass-domed “Palm Hous.” Their six greenhouses are filled with plants ranging from banana trees and orchids to jasmine and ginger. Admission is free.

Whether you love the outdoors, cultural institutions or exploring new neighbourhoods, there are plenty of free things to do in Toronto that will make your trip richer and won’t make your poorer. Put Canada’s largest city in your travel plans and add these budget-friendly attractions to make it a perfect stay.

What are your favorite free things to do in Toronto?

Toronto-based writer Carol Perehudoff is an award-winning luxury travel blogger. You can follow her travels on her blog is WanderingCarol or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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2 Responses to “Free things to do in Toronto, Canada”

  1. Christine - The Dime Travelers
    May 7, 2017 at 1:23 pm #

    Great list! I absolutely love going to the waterfront to take in all the sights and sounds of this city! I’ve never been to Black Creek Pioneer Village but will make sure to check it out next time around!

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