Indeed, I don’t really like warm destinations, so I’ve really enjoyed my trips to Ontario, Canada. So naturally, I documented this comprehensive list of free things to do in Toronto for those who would like to travel there.
Events & festivals are among the best free things to do in Toronto
Toronto completely transforms itself into a vibrant playground of different activities in the summer. They reflect the true multicultural nature of the city. I have mentioned a few major ones which I have been to.
Toronto is one of the most pro and supportive cities for the LGBT community. The grand parade is for just one day. However, it’s almost a week-long celebration and a variety of events. The level of awareness it spreads is phenomenal, definitely among the best free things to do in Toronto.
Santa Claus Parade
This parade is among the top free things to do in Toronto if you have kids. It’s a carnival, especially for the little ones. Remember, it’s in November to welcome Santa to the city, so it will be cold out there.
An all-night event where contemporary art is accessible and on display for the general populace. This event is huge, with half a million descending down to watch it.
Cavalcade of Lights
An absolute delight to watch the fireworks. It marks the official start of the famous Canadian winter holiday season.
Toronto Zombie walk
A fun event where Toronto transforms into a place like Sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes city. This is around Halloween each year. Thousands turn up in scary costumes and roam around downtown scaring people around.
One of the largest immigrant communities of Toronto is from The Caribbean Islands. The photos of Caribana will make you think as if you are watching the famous Rio Carnival. This is probably the largest festival in Toronto in terms of the number of attendees (more than a million). The entrance to the festival is free, but there is an entrance fee if you want a seat.
The Greek Festival (Taste of Danforth), Roncesvalles Polish Festival and Ukrainian festival (to name a few) – all have the same theme of representing the culture of people from that particular region and ethnicity. While the entrance is always free, there will be lots of street food you have to pay for.
Buskerfest is one of a kind festival of street performers. Remember, although the entrance is free, it’s always nice to give tips for each performance you see. Of course, there are many food carts and trucks to add the perfect ending to your evening.
Free things to do in Toronto: Check out the Markets
To be honest, markets are not exactly free as you end up buying up lots of stuff. Still, having said that, the entrance is always free, and it’s an absolute photographer’s delight. So to save money- Go after a heavy meal.
St. Lawrence Market: If London (UK) has the Borough market, Toronto has its own version in this centrally located place. Great food, fantastic vibe and friendly people – all of it together you will find at this place. This is the place to taste authentic local food.
Kensington Market has something for all types of travellers. Various local groceries, summer patios, pubs and restaurants will be found here.
Chinatown (Spadina): While the enormous Asian has added to small Chinatowns all over the suburbs of Toronto (collectively called as GTA), this one still is the largest, most prominent and historic. It was featured in Bizarre Foods Americas, but the Chinese community swears it for the most authentic experience.
Free things to do in Toronto: Spend hours in the Parks
High Park: This one is close to downtown, has a small free mini zoo, huge garden, a lake where you can legally fish, cherry trees for the perfect start to spring, dog park, picnic areas, tennis courts, ice rinks … phew! What more do you want?
Riverdale Farm: More of an urban farm rather than a park. It has a small barn, ponds and herbal garden.
Biking around the Don Valley Park: An absolute fav with the biking community of Toronto. Numerous trails on this 32 km path (not entirely connected).
Free things to do in Toronto: Enjoy the Beaches
Bluffers Park: If you check the aerial views of Bluffers, you will think it’s an upcoming prime real estate in the Middle east. It’s divided into 3 parts. As you approach, the left is the beach, the centre portion is the marina and restaurant, and the right portion is the waterfront walk/ play area/ BBQ. This is my top beach in Toronto and my favourite attraction in Eastern Toronto.
Sugar Beach: The “newest” beach to the waterfront, Toronto. Artificially landscaped just a few years back.
Woodbine Beach: Probably the most popular beach in Toronto. Hosts the International jazz festival. Always crowded and very popular with people who love beach activities like frisbee and volleyball.
Cherry Beach: Closer to Sugar beach, another popular beach. However, there is no boardwalk or designated picnic area. Windsurfers and standing-up paddlers love the calm waters of this tiny beach.
Free things to do in Toronto: Visit the Art Galleries
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO): Every Wednesday from 6-8:30pm, enjoy free admission to collection galleries
Beaux-Arts, Brampton: This is a venue where artists can exhibit and sell their artwork. It’s not for profit, and hence admission is free from Tue-Fri from 12 noon to 6pm.
Toronto has a registered list of ‘greeters’ who will take you on a tour to explore the city. It’s a free service, and tipping is forbidden. It’s fun to spend time with them!