Toronto, Canada

35 Free Things To Do In Toronto

Toronto is a multicultural city with a rich history and vibrant arts scene. You won’t be able to eat for free in Canada’s biggest city, but you can save your food money with free activities. From art to music to history and more, there are a lot of free things to do in Toronto.

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TIP: The best time to visit Toronto is May through September. The weather is the main reason to visit Toronto then. You will actually be able to enjoy being outside without the frigid temperatures, ice, and cold rain that mark the rest of the year. Also, the schedule in Toronto is filled with festivals and free outdoor events that coincide with the good weather. Toronto offers many free activities year-round, but a lot more only happens in the warm weather months.

ART

As Canada’s biggest city, Toronto is home to many artists, museums and galleries. Therefore, there is a lot of art to enjoy, and many of it is free!

1. MOCA

Canada’s Museum of Contemporary Art has a stunning new home in a massive converted factory in The West End and is always free to visit. Enjoy the permanent and interactive exhibits and whatever is rotating through when you go. You will get a glimpse of works by some of the world’s hottest modern artists in an edgy feat of current architecture.

MOCA, 158 Sterling Road, Toronto

TIP: For a nice stroll and to see some local murals, walk to the trail behind the museum. The Toronto rail path is a 2.1km multi-modal trail. Entrance behind the Henderson Brewery in the parking lot adjacent to the museum.

2. Graffiti Alley

Toronto’s largest outdoor street art gallery is conveniently located downtown and is easy to find. If you’re a fan of street art like me, you will love Graffiti Alley!

Bring your camera and pose for some shots in one of the city’s top spots not only for Instagram shots, but for Canadian TV and film shoots. You may witness a new piece going up, as Toronto is a hotbed for street artists and this site is a living canvas.

Graffiti Alley, between Queen and Richmond, Spadina and Bathurst

Tip: If this is “up your alley” (Sorry!), check out the new Dundas West Open Air Museum for more local street art in Toronto.

3. The Power Plant

The Power Plant is a free public art gallery with rotating contemporary exhibits. Conveniently located at The Harbourfront Centre right on Lake Ontario, you should drop in when in the area, as it is free and open daily. Walk around the surrounding parks as there is likely to be a festival taking place on summer weekends.

The Power Plant, 231 Queens Quay West

MOVIES

Toronto is known as Hollywood North, and is disguided as NYC or Chicago in many films and TV shows, like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “Suits”. With the abundance of film industry folks and fans in Toronto, there are also many ways to watch movies for free. You just need to know where.

1. The Royal Free Flick Mondays

Brought to you by several sponsors, The Royal Cinema in the heart of Little Italy offers classic movies for free on Mondays.

The Royal Cinema, 608 College St West

2. Movies in Parks

Another reason to visit Toronto in the summer when multiple parks and communities around the city raise big screens for free movie nights. Locals and visitors lay down blankets, bring picnics and watch classic movies al fresco at these parks and sites:

  1. Downsview Park Friday Night Lights
  2. Trinity Bellwoods Park monthly Dog Bowl Movie Night
  3. Christie Pitts Park Film Festival
  4. Liberty Village Movie Night, one Friday per month
  5. City Cinema Yonge and Dundas Square
  6. Free Flicks at Harbourfront Centre

TOURS

A great way to get to know a city for the first time is through a walking tour. Learn from people who know Toronto best. You can join a general tour or delve deep into a theme of your passion. It’s up to you!

1. Toronto Free Walking Tours

First time in Toronto? This is the perfect way to get an overview of the city and its history and highlights. Knowledgable guides offer a free tour every Saturday morning, and these fill so sign up in advance . It is generally recommended to tip the guide.

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Photo by Dan Newman on Unsplash

2. Self-Guided Walking Tours

For a more in-depth look at a specific neighborhood or theme, take a self-guided walking tour courtesy of the city of Toronto. Browse their database of tours, with over 30 walks to choose from, you can find one in your area or interest. Plan and print ahead and walk at your leisure.

3. Toronto Tree Tours

Nature lovers will enjoy Toronto Tree Tours‘ free downloadable tours of several urban parks. Combine your love of the outdoors with one of these fun and inspiring nature walks. You can use your phone or print out the walks in advance. A great way to experience the natural world in the city!

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Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel from Pexels

4. Heritage Toronto Tours and Talks

Learn more about the city’s history with a Heritage Toronto tour. The non-profit celebrates Toronto by engaging experts across multiple fields to lead various walks and talks. They change all the time, with talks and tours on different topics and in different neighborhoods throughout the year.

5. ROMWalks

The Royal Ontario Museum organizes free neighborhood walks when weather allows. Tour topics and locations vary, so check the website for the walks that fit your schedule.

Toronto is a multicultural city with a rich history and vibrant arts scene. You won’t be able to eat for free in Canada’s biggest city, but you can save your food money with free activities. From art to music to history and more, there are a lot of free things to do in Toronto.

TIP: The best time to visit Toronto is May through September. The weather is the main reason to visit Toronto then. You will actually be able to enjoy being outside without the frigid temperatures, ice and cold rain that mark the rest of the year. Also, the schedule in Toronto is filled with festivals and free outdoor events that coincide with the good weather. Toronto offers many free activities year-round, but a lot more only happen in the warm weather months.

HISTORIC SITES

The story of Toronto extends back through the Five Nations, French forts, to the the foundation of the city in 1793 and the War of 1812. Learn about this history at these free sites.

1. Fort York

Fort York is a Toronto heritage site with a large collection of War of 1812 buildings. The sprawling site cover 43 acres, much of it outdoors, west of downtown. Entrance is free and tours are PWYC.

Fort York Historic Site, 250 Fort York Blvd

2. Ireland Park

A memorial to the thousands who suffered and died in Toronto after fleeing the potato famine in New York. Ireland Park is a moving tribute to those who perished and the city who tried to provide a sanctuary. Haunting sculptures and artwork comprise the park located on the shores of Lake Ontario.

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Ireland Park, Queens Quay West

3. The Distillery District

Though filled with shops and restaurants, visiting Toronto’s Distillery District still feels like stepping back in time. The Victorian heritage, cobblestone streets and old factory buildings make this neighborhood special. A former site for factories and distillers during Prohibition, it also served as a location for X-Men, Chicago and many other films.

Tip: The LOVE locks sign in The Distillery District is a popular spot for instagram photos. Get your camera ready and pose!

MUSEUMS

Toronto has a few museums which offer free admission. The first are always free, and others have special days/hours when you can visit at no charge.

1. Spadina Museum

This 1920’s era mansion and grounds is known as Toronto’s Downton Abbey. If you loved the show, or that time period, you will want to visit this museum, which includes staff houses and orchards and is always free to the public.

Spadina Museum285 Spadina Road

2. Market Gallery

This historic spot is on the 2nd floor of the St. Lawrence Market, and features rotating exhibitions related to the history and culture of the city of Toronto. Always free!

The Market Gallery, St. Lawrence Market, 95 Front Street East

TIP: Foodies will love exploring the historic St. Lawrence Market. While the food isn’t free, sometimes samples are! The market is a great place to visit on Saturday mornings when there is a farmer’s market outside.

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Photo by Anya Tamir on Unsplash

3. Art Gallery of Ontario

A sprawling complex with a big modern art collection and rotating exhibits, the AGO is only free one night a week: Wednesdays from 6-9PM. Get there early because there will be a line to get in.

Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West

4. Bata Shoe Museum

Yes, Toronto has a museum of shoes, and it is super interesting for fashionistas and regular folk. They have a Pay What You Can Night (suggested $5 but not enforced) every Thursday from 5-8pm.

Bata Show Museum, 327 Bloor Street West

OUTDOORS

Many free things to do in the city of Toronto involve being outside. For a Canadian city that averages 0C in December, there’s still a lot of outdoor exploring to do. Make sure to dress for the weather, no matter when you visit.

1. Allan Gardens

Spend a relaxing few hours enjoying this 100 year old park with a conservatory and botanical gardens. The greenhouse features plants and flowers from all over the world, and pools with frogs and fish. All brought to you for free by the city of Toronto and open all year.

Allan Gardens, 160 Gerrard Street East

2. High Park Zoo

Kids will love seeing the animals at the free zoo in the middle of a gorgeous park in Toronto’s west end. From peacocks and reindeer to sheep and llamas, experience wildlife in the city at no cost.

High Park Zoo, High Park

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Photo by Zhifei Zhou on Unsplash

3. The Toronto Sign

Every city, town or island needs to have a sign for tourist photo-ops, and Toronto’s is easily accessible in Nathan Phillips Square by City Hall. You’ll have to go at a weird hour to be the only one in the photo at the Toronto Sign as this is one of the city’s top photo spots!

Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West

TIP: As the defacto “main square” of Toronto, Nathan Phillips Square offers free events throughout the year, including concerts for Toronto Jazz Fest, and the city’s New Year’s Eve celebration. BRRRR…

MUSIC

Hometown of Broken Social Scene, The Weeknd and Drake, who popularized the city’s nickname “The Six”, Toronto is a music city, with government efforts to accelerate the industry. With such a rich music scene, music fans enjoy free music events regularly, including the following.

1. Canadian Opera Lunchtime Concert Series

Line up early to ensure a seat at the classy Richard Bradshaw Theatre most Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon and some Wednesdays at either noon or 5:30PM. The website will have up-to-date details.

Canadian Opera Company, 145 Queen Street West

2. Summer Music in the Garden

The Toronto Music Garden is a beautiful waterfront park designed by cellist Yo Yo Ma. It is also a stunning spot to experience a free classical music or jazz concert, which are scheduled weekly in the summer.

Toronto Music Garden, Queens Quay

3. Music in Trillium Park

Bring a picnic and listen to local musicians perform indie or world music for free. Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons in the summer.

Trillium Park, 955 Lakeshore Blvd West

4. Free Music Nights at Toronto bars

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Many bars in Toronto offer free music or Pay What You Can (PWYC) on weeknights. At some bars the music is always PWYC. Up to you if you pay nothing or throw in a coin or two for the hard-working performers. Music styles range from jazz to indie to rock to country at most of these establishments. For up-to-date listings, look for Toronto’s free alternative weekly, Now Toronto. Here are just some of the bars which frequently offer free and PWYC music:

  1. The Cameron House
  2. The Painted Lady Ossington
  3. The Gladstone Hotel
  4. The Drake Hotel
  5. The Horseshoe Tavern
  6. The Rex Jazz and Blues Bar
  7. The Reservoir Lounge
  8. C’est What

COMEDY

The original home of funny people like John Candy and Samantha Bee, Toronto is a hotbed for comedy. You can even get into some comedy shows here free of charge. So have a laugh at no expense at these comedy shows in Toronto.

1. Second City Toronto Mainstage Improv Show

First, you can see the mainstage professionals do a free improv show, after the last show of the night. Get there by 9:30PM Sunday to Thursday and 11:30PM Friday or Saturday.

Second City, 51 Mercer Street

2. Second City Student Shows

Or you can see the students for free most weekends at the mainstage theatre when they do their graduation shows for friends, family and anyone else who wants to go. For free! Visit their website for current schedules.

SOCIAL

Alone in Toronto and want to meet fellow travelers or even some locals? Find a meetup in the city and make some connections. There are all sorts of groups who will welcome you at their weekly events.

1. Couchsurfing Meetups

Local hosts and those visiting Toronto meet regularly at a Toronto bar. Join them for a beer or two and make some friends from all over the world, or Toronto.

2. Toronto Babel

Practice speaking in another language with friendlies at this weekly meetup at a casual bar/restaurant called The Rivoli.

The Rivoli, 334 Queen Street West

SPORTS

While NHL games are never free, you can still get your adrenaline pumping watching sports in Toronto at no cost.

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Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

1. Toronto Maple Leafs Baseball

Spend a summer afternoon or evening with hard core fans of minor league baseball at Christie Pits park. Bring a picnic and join the cheering for the Toronto affiliate of the Intercounty Baseball League. No charge!

Toronto Maple Leafs play at Christie Pits Park, 750 Bloor Street West

2. Bike Polo

Watching players on bicycles whacking a ball around is very exciting! The Toronto Bike Polo team plays regularly in Dufferin Grove Park, so bring your sense of adventure and enjoy this competitive sport being played at a safe distance. Keep an eye on their facebook group for days and times.

Dufferin Grove Park, 875 Dufferin Street

ANNUAL OR SEASONAL EVENTS

The best time to visit Toronto is in the spring and summer when the weather is good. Another reason to come at that time is the plethora of free concerts, festivals and events around the city. My favorites are listed below.

1. Shakespeare in The Park

The professionals from Canadian Stage company put on Shakespeare plays for free in Toronto’s High Park. You can reserve in advance for a fee, or show up in person to snag a free city. Summer nights at 7:30PM

Shakespeare in High Park, 1873 Bloor Street W

2. Doors Open Toronto

Toronto’s Doors Open occurs the last weekend of May when Ontario private buildings are open to the public for tours. Happening each year, it’s never the same event because each year different buildings are open. Some are historical and others are culturally or architecturally significant.

3. Jane’s Walk Toronto

Volunteers lead walks in honor of Jane Jacobs for one weekend in May. Walks range in length and topic, but all are free to anyone who wants to join. This is a worldwide event, but since Jane Jacobs made Toronto her home, the Toronto fest is one of the biggest and best.

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Photo by Elyse Turton on Unsplash

4. Fringe Festival Fringe Club

Entrance to the shows at The Toronto Fringe Festival is not free, but the fringe club offers free programming for the duration of the festival. Every July for 2 weeks the patio offers drinks, food and free entertainment like talks, comedy and music.

Fringe Club, Scadding Court, 707 Dundas Street West

5. Open Tuning Festival

This unique music festival is a wonderful reflection of its neighborhood. For one day every June, Seaton Village in Toronto’s downtown turns into an open air music festival, with pop up venues in the unlikeliest places! Wander around and you could see a punk band playing in a driveway, a bluegrass duo twanging on a front porch, and a rock band playing in a coffee shop. People open their yards and businesses for one day of true community. A special treat if you find yourself in Toronto on that Saturday in June, Open Tuning is free Toronto at its best.

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To make the most of your visit, and the free things to do in Toronto, plan ahead. Check the websites and/or contact the venues before you go. And have fun!


Meet the Author: Melinda

Melinda is the travel blogger behind Mel on the Go. Follow along with her adventures on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.


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