You do not have to spend a lot of money to have a great time when visiting this terrific Canadian city. In fact, there are hundreds of free things to do in Toronto. Whether you want to spend time outdoors playing at High Park or see the Toronto Sign in Nathan Phillips Square in front of City Hall, walk through a stunning art gallery downtown Toronto, or meander through the Toronto Botanical Gardens, there is plenty to do.
Lake Ontario is one of the major draws to the city and seeing it is certainly one of the best free things to do in Toronto. There are a plethora of small public parks and beaches along the waterfront to enjoy where you will not have to pay a penny.
Visiting the Kensington Market is one of the free things to do in Toronto where you can spend all day. Or if you like to window shop, take a walk along the vintage clothing shops and boutique shops along Queen Street West. On Wednesday evenings, many of the Toronto museums are also completely free.
However, you do not have to go to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see fantastic artwork. The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery is also free and has a plethora of infamous and upcoming artistry. For another option, Graffiti Alley is a free place to enjoy some of the best street art in the city.
If you enjoy the water, another one of the free things to do in Toronto is Toronto Islands and Sugar Beach. Woodbine Beach in the beaches neighborhood is also free and holds free events all summer. But first, you need to leave your suitcases and backpacks at a luggage storage site for safekeeping. No point in letting heavy bags slow you down!
If you want to see more of Toronto but do not know where to go, try one of the free neighborhood walks offered by one of the local tour guides. Riverside is one of the great neighborhoods at the east end of Toronto where they offer free walks in the fall, summer, and spring. Another great option is the Toronto Old Town History Tour.
All summer long, Toronto offers free movies at different parks in the city. One of the best is the one at Sugar Beach where you get to watch a free movie from a screen floating in the water. Sit on the beach or watch it from a boat on Lake Ontario. Other parks that offer this include Riverdale Park, St. James Park, Corktown Common Park, Sorauren Park, and Kew Beach Park in Beach Village.
Black Creek Pioneer Village
On Tuesday afternoons, step back in time at the Black Creek Pioneer Village open-air museum. There are more than 40 buildings from the 1800s including the Apple Storage Cellar, Broom Maker’s Shop, Roblin’s Mill, the Dickson Hill School, and Rose Blacksmith Shop. At each building, you will also get to meet the caretakers dressed in period clothing who will tell you the history of each place.
Check out this underground network of paths under the streets of Toronto. The paths run over 80 miles altogether and you can visit all sorts of places from there. It is especially nice during the winter since you do not have to go out in the cold. The PATH connects dozens of attractions like the Rogers Centre, Union Station, Brookfield Place, and the CN Tower.
Toronto Christmas Market
The Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District is the perfect free thing to do in Toronto during the Christmas season. You can peruse hundreds of vendors just to look at some of the amazing lights, decor, and food. The food alone is a great reason to visit and you can get free samples at most places if you ask.
Nathan Phillips Square
Nathan Phillips Square is also free to visit, and it is the home of the famous Toronto Sign where you can get some unique selfies. Also in the square is Toronto City Hall, a reflecting pool that is an ice-skating rink in the winter, the Saturday Farmers Market, several sculptures, the Peace Garden, and a walkway full of monuments and memorials. You can skate for free here if you have your own skates.
Four Seasons Centre
Catch a free performance at the Four Seasons Centre Performing Arts Building. The Canadian Opera Company hosts dozens of free concerts from September until May for everyone to enjoy. See the seasoned performers as well as new artists across different genres just waiting for their big break.
Aga Khan Museum
Another museum in Toronto that is free on Wednesdays is the Aga Khan Museum in the North York district. The building holds the private collection of the Aga Khan as well as several others. It is the only museum in Toronto dedicated to Islamic artifacts and artwork with more than one thousand rare items. You can even see Avicenna's Canon of Medicine written in 1052.
Trillium Park is one of the newer parks in Toronto and is also one of the nicest ones. It is located along the Toronto waterfront and is the perfect spot to have a picnic with the Toronto skyline in the background. There are dozens of picnic areas in the park as well as hiking trails to explore.
Exploring the Toronto Islands is free, and you can spend all day exploring. You will have to spend a little bit to get over there on the ferry but there are actually 15 islands to see so plan on being there for a full day. Besides miles of waterfront, you can also see the Centreville Amusement Park, take a walk through one of the gardens, or visit a nude beach.
Check out Graffiti Alley, also known as Rush Lane, just south of Queen Street West between Spadina Avenue and Portland Street for almost a whole mile of street art. The vibrant colors and stunning artwork will amaze you and you can find a vast array of gorgeous backdrops for unique selfies to post to Instagram.
Art Gallery of Ontario
Other free things to do in downtown Toronto include visiting some of the art galleries. Also known as the AGO, the Art Gallery of Ontario is one of the largest museums in North America and you can find it in Chinatown. First, anyone under the age of 25 gets free admission anytime. Everyone else can visit this fantastic art gallery for free on Wednesday nights year-round. However, you will need to reserve an appointment in advance.
The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery
Another one of the art galleries with free entry to see some awesome art is the Power Plant Gallery. This museum is free every day all day no matter who you are. There are four main galleries to explore, and you also get a bonus of an excellent view of Lake Ontario. You can find the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery just off Queens Quay West next to the Harbourfront Centre.
Toronto Botanical Garden
The Toronto Botanical Garden is always free and boasts almost four acres of flora to enjoy. There are 17 themed gardens including the Woodland Walk featuring native flowers, perennials, and trees as well as the Arrival Courtyard, West View Terrace, and the Entry Garden Walk. Each one has its own personality and distinction and can be seen for free daily from dawn until dusk.
This is Toronto's version of New York's Central Park. High Park in Toronto has even more free things to enjoy and is one of the locals' favorite green spaces. From a walk on the boardwalk to the tennis courts, just about everything here is free. That includes the High Park Zoo where you can see over 5,000 animals. Be sure to see the cherry blossoms if you are there between April and May.
The Distillery District
The Distillery District is in a trendy historical neighborhood packed with Victorian-era buildings, bars, eateries, and a local brewery. It is not only hip, but it is also filled with small shops and boutiques where you can find some awesome souvenirs to bring home. You can find this national historic site just east of downtown with 26 eateries, 13 art studios, and over 50 retail stores.
St. Lawrence Market
Look around the historic St. Lawrence Market near the CN Tower where you can do some window shopping. St. Lawrence Market has been up and running for more than 200 years and is one of the oldest markets in Ontario. The market typically has over 120 popups, kiosks, and vendor booths to peruse. From artwork to zebra print boots, they literally have it all from A to Z.
Kensington Market is always free as well and boasts more than 240 vendors offering their handmade items, foods, vintage items, and clothing. Located between Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West, it is also the site of live music and festivals during certain times of the year. From Abu Hummus Café to Youth Arcade Studio, you can find just about anything for sale here.
In the entertainment district near the Eaton Centre, the square is hopping with people all year long. This is a bustling hub on weekends where you can find music events, food festivals, and shopping of all kinds. The music and ambiance are always free, but you may have to pay a little bit for the food. The fountains are a focal point featuring two rows of 10 waterspouts each.
Evergreen Brick Works
You can spend an entire day at the Toronto Evergreen Brick Works just walking and breathing in the clean crisp air. Located in the Don Valley district industrial site, this is considered to be the "green lung" of Toronto. Besides the green spaces and Saturday Farmers Market, you can also go ice skating, hike up to the lookout, take a guided tour, or shop at the year-round Evergreen Garden Market.
Seeing Downtown Toronto for Free
Keeping the free theme going, there is no charge to visit most of the Toronto public parks, beaches, and outdoor attractions like the ice rinks, High Park, and Sugar Beach. Places along the Don River like the Don River Valley Park, trails, and wading creeks are free all year long.
In addition, you will be surprised at how inexpensive everything is compared to other major metropolises like Toronto. This is not an expensive city no matter what you want to do. In fact, many places offer a "pay what you want" admission like the Bata Shoe Museum on Thursdays from five to eight in the evening. Flying into Toronto Airport? Take this list and plan your itinerary!