Traveling is expensive and traveling to a city with a lot to offer can be even more $$. It’s hard not to want to do it all while you are there. Actually to be honest, sometimes living in a big city like Toronto with so much to do all the time, can be expensive — so many places to go, see and try it’s hard to not want to do it all! In my opinion it’s good to be smart where you plan your fun and sometimes you just need to pull back a little and plan a few free (or really in-expensive) but also really great things in there, to mix things up (slash, lessen the load on the old wallet). Here are some of our favorite, go-to things to do in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) that luckily happen to be free (or at least really really cheap):
HAVE KIDS? THIS LIST IS FOR YOU:
CENTER ISLAND – Center Island is apart of the man-made Toronto Islands, just a short ferry ride from downtown. The ferry ride itself is a bit of a treat (and not free, but very inexpensive), but once you get to the island you and the kids can go to the little kid centric amusement park Centerville (not free), visit Far Enough Farm (free), spend time at the beach, visit a splash pad, get lost in the maze, or bring along some outdoor toys and just enjoy all the open space. Pack a picnic and make a day of it.
[not free, but very inexpensive]
HIGH PARK – It’s a giant park smack dab in the city, walk around and enjoy the park (it’s a bit of a walk), even hang out around the lake front, walk down to the mini (and free) zoo, and of course go play at the Jaime Bell Adventure Park (we call it castle park, it’s pretty great).
RIVERDALE FARM – Is a city run farm, that is a pretty great hangout for city kids who probably don’t often get to see a full farm. If you are coming from a rural area, this would probably be something you might want to skip. It also has beautiful trails to walk along, if you get bored with looking at the animals.
EVERGREEN BRICKWORKS – An environmental community “center”, that has a ton of cool things to scope out. If you go on a weekend morning, you can grab a snack at the farmers market (not free) or eat at the restaurant. Play at the children’s garden (play by donation), walk around the outdoor center, go behind and spend time on the trails around the quarry, or check out what’s happening at the event space there is usually something fun going on (not always free). It’s a really cool place, old buildings, mixed with new, back dropped with nature.
TORONTO WATERFRONT – Make a day of walking along Toronto’s waterfront, start at the bottom of Bay Street and just walk West along the boardwalk and see where it takes you. There are tons of things to look at along the walk, even more than the boats and the fantastic people watching. Along the walk you can check out what’s happening at harbourfront (there is always something in the summer), rent a pedal boat (not free), visit the power plant a free contemporary art gallery (a great place to cool down), play on the curvey boardwalks, see the police boat station, stop at HTO beach and play in the sand, and stroll through the musical and wetland garden.
DISTILLERY DISTRICT – A beautiful Victorian era hood, filled with retail shops and restaurants built inside the restored whiskey distillery. It’s a really cool place to visit, not a ton of kid centric activities but it’s a really cool walk (window shop and restaurant stop) and there is always something really neat (usually old) to see. Plus you can stop into mini mioche while you are there and see our latest capsule collection (wink wink).
CORKTOWN COMMON – After the distillery, take a short trip over to Corktown Common and let the kids run free a bit. It’s a really cool concept playground, splash pad all built around a large marsh, surrounded by tons of trees creating a beautiful little wildlife habitat.
GO TO A PARK – Not a tourist attraction, but a there are tons of really great parks you can spend an entire day at. So take a day off from checking out the city and just let the kids have a day of fun at Oriole Park, Dufferin Grove Park or Vermont Square Park (to name three of our top faves).
THE BEACHES – Head east to The Beaches. It’s a great little neighborhood, feels sorta like a small town within the city. The walk along the waterfront once you get there is great, but also make sure you walk along Queen East for some great window shopping and don’t miss Kew Gardens a great little park for the kids.
LESLIE SPIT – A public wilderness park, located just off downtown. A 5km man-made peninsula that was never actually needed, now acts as a really cool park to visit — definitely something different to add to your “to see” list.
HUMBER BAY BUTTERFLY HABITAT – Spend a day walking the trails and checking out the self sustaining plant community that supports many different butterfly’s. It’s a really pretty and relaxing way to spend the day (so I’ve been told, we have yet to go!).
GARDINER MUSEUM – Not free, but half price admission for adults on Fridays after 6pm and kids are free. Check out Canada’s national ceramics museum, for almost free.
[not free, but very inexpensive]
NO KIDS? THIS LIST IS FOR YOU (plus all the locations in the with kids list):
HANLAN or WARD’S ISLAND – Both are apart, of Toronto Islands and much less kid focused than Center Island. You can either take the ferry out to either island, or spend about 3 dollars more per adult and take an island taxi (not free). Hanlan’s sports a “clothing optional beach” if you have bigger “balls” than me, but they also have two great regular old clothing beaches. Ward’s has a small but great beach, a really cute community of homes and a really good restaurant. You could also make your starting point Center Island, rent a bike to ride around the island (not free), get lost in the maze or rent a canoe or kayak (not free) before heading around the rest of the islands. Or just walk around all day checking the whole place out.
[not free, but very inexpensive]
KENNSINGTON MARKET – A small culturally rich neighborhood, bursting with homes transformed into vintage stores, delicious little restaurants, fruit markets and cute little shops. Also great for kids, but not quite as fun for them.
ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO – It’s not free all the time, but on Wednesday’s between 6:30 – 8pm pretty much right before closing time, it’s free. So quickly soak up some art before you head out for the night. Also really great for kids, but the free time isn’t that conducive for little bedtime hours.
WALK – Our favorite thing to do in Toronto that also happens to be free, is to just walk around different neighborhoods. We often stumble upon things we never would have known about otherwise, there is always a ton to look at and it’s so interesting to see how each hood shifts and changes into a different diverse neighborhood. These walks are also really great with kids, but maybe in a more shortened form.
– from Yonge to Christie on Bloor (walk through Yorkville, then the Annex and Korea town)
– from Rosedale to Front on Yonge (walk through the edge of Midtown, a small part of the Village, Dundas Square and part of the Financial district)
– from University along Queen West (walking through Queen West, into West Queen West and even into Parkdale)
– from Bay to Jarvis along Front (walking through the end of the Financial District through St. Lawrence Market)
– around Little India (and maybe walk into Leslieville)
– around China Town (which is a good walk to do before you go to Kennsintgon)
– around Little Italy (maybe in the evening, so you can pick a place to eat)
– or take the 501 street car from Queen West all the way to Queen East (I haven’t personally done it but heard it’s a slow but great trip, so much to see)
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS – Every Summer, Toronto is just full of festivals and events – many of them are free to attend, and the money spending comes in the food and activities after you are already in. So depending on the time of the summer, you might be able to run into a few. I could list them all, but since there just really is that many I’d suggest you look at BlogTO, Toronto.ca or Toronto.com on a weekly basis (if you live here) or a week or so before you come (if you are planning to visit).
What do you think? Wanna come visit? I am working on some more Toronto guides, but I thought this free (or mostly free) one was a great place to start since these are some of are go-to’s/fall-backs when we have no plans and can’t think of what to do. Great for locals and those here visiting.
Do you have any to add/did I miss any of your favorites? Are you planning on visiting Toronto this summer?