the toronto skyline at night one of the free things you can see in Toronto

Free Things and Stuff to Do in Toronto

For decades people have referred to it as Hogtown in reference to North America’s second largest pork processing plant which once dwarfed the City’s waterfront in the 1860s.

But don’t let the nickname fool you.

Toronto is no pig pen–it’s a beautiful, dynamic city with an array of free things and stuff to do that will make your tail curl.

Affordable Hotels in the Heart of Toronto

Bond Place Hotel , close to Dundas Square.

Hotel Victoria Downtown, excellent location.

Super 8 Downtown Toronto, comfortable and value-packed.

Holiday Inn Express Toronto – Downtown, free hot breakfast bar.

More ideas: Cheap Hotels & Places to Stay in Downtown Toronto

Free nature things to do in Toronto

1. Picnic and play at High Park

Location: 1873 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6R 2Z3

At 400 acres, High Park is the largest park within the city of Toronto. This beautiful park is a TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Winner.

High Park is jam-packed with free stuff to do.

Gorgeous gardens. A 35-acre pond for fishing. Biking and hiking trails. A maze. Playgrounds and playing fields. There’s an even a zoo, complete with American bison, emu, llamas, wallaby and yaks to name but a few.

Want to see the fall colours? High Park is an awesome place to see the changing leaves. And in the spring, you must see the park’s breathtaking cherry blossoms.

2. Enjoy the country in the city at Riverdale Farm

Location: 201 Winchester St, Toronto, ON M4X 1B8

Imagine a farm located in the downtown core of a city. Why imagine it? Just visit Riverdale Farm located smack dab in the middle of the downtown Toronto community of Cabbagetown.

This 7.5-acre facility is a working farm, complete with stuff like cows, horses, sheep, pigs and chickens, vegetable gardens and a farmer you can chat with as he does his chores.

If the kids are tagging along, there’s a free wading pool for them to cool off—just tell them to make sure the animals don’t mistake it for a watering hole.

Best of all you don’t even have to exchange a chicken or a dozen eggs to get in because Riverdale Farm is a free thing to do in Toronto.

3. Get active at Evergreen Brick Works

Location: 550 Bayview Ave, Toronto, ON M4W 3X8

For over 100 years the Evergreen Brick Works was a brick factory, whose bricks you can still see throughout the city on the outside of Toronto homes and iconic buildings such as Casa Loma and Massey Hall.

Today Evergreen Brick Works is a repurposed facility where you can experience sustainability in action.

At this free thing to do in Toronto, you can learn how to activate your own commitment to sustainability and enjoy ways to be physically active.

Bike or hike the ravine system trail. Go skateboarding under the exposed beams of the beautiful Koerner Gardens, or, in the winter, go ice skating on the outdoor rink.

4. Take a trip to the tropics at Allen Gardens Conservatory

Location: 160 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M5A 2E5

Inside the over 16,000 square feet of greenhouse space at Allen Gardens Conservatory you’ll see lush tropical plants from all over the world.

Species inlcude bamboo, palm, banana and citrus trees.

There are all kinds of cacti too and stunningly beautiful flowers such as hibiscus, orchids, bromeliads, datura, cuca and more.

5. Explore different themes at the Toronto Botanical Garden

Location: 777 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M3C 1P2

Are you a seasoned gardener? Someone who’s ready to turn the dirt on your first bed? Or do you just enjoy taking in the visual splendor of plants, bushes and flowers? Whoever you are the Toronto Botanical Garden is for you.

This free thing to do in Toronto is home to a variety of themed garden areas, including a Pollinator Garden, a Strawbale Shed, A Green Roof, Floral Hall Courtyard and a Woodland Walk and Bird Habitat to name but a few.

6. See if you can spot a white squirrel in Trinity Bellwoods Park

Location: 790 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1G3

You read right. There are white squirrels traversing the trees and grounds of Trinity Bellwooods Park.

See if you can spot one and capture a pic with your phone.

If it has ruby red eyes, you’re staring at an albino eastern grey squirrel. If it has black eyes, you’ve tracked down a white morph of the eastern grey squirrel.

Free historic things to do in Toronto

1. Step back almost 200 years at The Distillery Historic District

Location: 55 Mill St, Toronto, ON M5A 3C4

Founded in 1832, The Gooderham and Worts Distillery was once the largest distillery in the world, producing more than 2 million gallons of whisky per year. Today this free thing to do in Toronto is a pedestrian-only village known as The Distillery Historic District.

Here, at this TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, you will find 40 buildings that represent the largest collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture.

Restored by tradesmen skilled in working with 19th century timber, planks, stone and brick, these buildings are now home to stuff to do like one-of-a-kind boutiques, galleries, studios and restaurants.

Stroll along the cobblestone streets and spend the afternoon discovering this National Historic Site.

And don’t be surprised to hear the word “action”. The Distillery Historic District has played the role of film set on hundreds of occasions, including for the movies Chicago, X-Men and Cinderella Man.

2. See buildings from the War of 1812 at Fort York

Location: 250 Fort York Blvd, Toronto, ON M5V 3K9

In 1812 American soldiers attempted to capture the city of Toronto. Upper Canada militiamen, First Nation warriors and British soldiers fought side-by-side at Fort York, saving the city from being taken over.

On this 43-acre site, you will find the largest collection of War of 1812 buildings in Canada, military artifacts, a cemetery and a multi-media experience.

3. View historic figures’ footwear at the Bata Shoe Museum

Location: 327 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1W7

If you have a foot fetish one of the free things to do in Toronto that you can’t pass up is to visit the Bata Shoe Museum.

Here you will find over 10,000 shoes.

Everything from Chinese bound foot shoes and ancient Egyptian sandals to footwear of the famous, including Elton John, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Terry Fox, Roger Federer and Justin Bieber.

There are even a pair of socks worn by Napoleon.

Every Thursday between 5:00 and 8:00 P.M. admission is pay-what-you-can.

4. Investigate the past at the Toronto Police Museum and Discovery Centre

Location: 40 College St, Toronto, ON M5G 2J3k

Looking for something truly arresting? Drop by the Toronto Police Museum and Discovery Centre.

Check out stuff like old weapons, uniforms and a paddy wagon from 1914. Study your fingerprints. Test your knowledge of law and order. Get behind the wheel of a police car or hop on a Harley-Davidson police bike.

It’s all yours to discover, free of charge (pardon the pun), seven days a week, even on holidays.

5. Walk about a 55-room mansion known as the Spadina Museum

Location: 285 Spadina Rd, Toronto, ON M5R 2V5

The Spadina Museum is a 55-room, 3-storey Edwardian mansion built in 1866. A National historic site, this free thing to do in Toronto is a stunning example of how Canada’s social elite lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Grandiose and stately, the Spadina Museum’s interior is well-preserved and the rooms include original furniture and art—you’ll feel like you have travelled back in time.

Outside, the 5.7-acre property features beautiful gardens and landscaping, along with various out buildings. Come see how the other half lived in days gone by.

Free waterfront things to do in Toronto

1. Hang by the harbour at Harbourfront

Location: 235 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON M5J 2G8

Along the shores of Lake Ontario, you will find the Harbourfront Centre.

This 10-acre, free thing to do in Toronto has a boardwalk along the lake for waterside walks.

Check out the boats in the marina.

Kick back in a Muskoka chair, kick off your sandals and dig your toes into the sand at Sugar Beach.

Pause to enjoy a free classical concert in the music-themed garden designed by internationally acclaimed cellist Yo Yo Ma.

In the winter, take your skates and go for a twirl on the outdoor rink.

2. Swim naked at Hanlan’s Point Beach

Location: Lakeshore Ave, Toronto, ON M5J 2W2

Want to ditch your bathing suit for your birthday suit and go for a swim? Head to Hanlan’s Point Beach.

This free thing to do in Toronto is one of only two nude beaches in all of Canada. (The other is Wreck Beach in Vancouver).

Access to Hanlan’s Point Beach is free, but you will need to pay for a short ferry ride or water taxi to the beach’s parking lot.

Once you arrive you will take a path and boardwalk from the parking lot to the beach. When you reach the beach area you will see signs giving you clear directions to the “clothing mandatory” and “clothing optional” sides of the beach.

If you’re brave enough to go nude, remember, apply sunscreen!

3. Escape the city bustle at Cherry Beach

Location: Google Maps Directions

Exploring the city can feel hectic at times. Give your senses a break by spending a day at Toronto’s Cherry Beach.

Within walking distance of downtown, this free thing to do in Toronto is the place to go when you want to walk or sit in the sand, read a book, or just watch and listen to the waves lapping against the shore.

Pack a picnic and refreshments. If you forget, there’s usually a food truck in the parking lot.

There are also changerooms and washrooms.

Oh, and the sunsets are awesome at Cherry Beach too.

4. See the city skyline light up at night at Polson Pier

Location: Google Maps Directions

If you’re spending the afternoon at Cherry Beach, make it a 2-for-1 beach experience by including a stop at Polson Pier in the evening.

This free thing to do in Toronto is a great spot to see the city’s skyline glow as the sun sets on another day and night descends.

You’ll also find a variety of food and drink options here and plenty of outdoor sitting areas.

5. Go bird watching at Tommy Thompson Park

Location: 1 Leslie St, Toronto, ON M4M 3M2

Built on a man-made peninsula from centuries of discarded Toronto building materials, Tommy Thompson Park is a prime stop over location for migratory birds. In fact, this free thing to do in Toronto is designated as a globally significant birding area.

Walk or bike the multi-use trails in the park and have your binoculars and your Merlin Bird ID phone app ready to go.

Some of the birds you are likely to see include double-crested cormorants, black-crowned night-herons, great egrets, ring-billed gulls, herring gulls and caspian terns.

6. Play volleyball at Woodbine Beach

Location: 1675 Lake Shore Blvd E, Toronto, ON M4L 3W6

Another Toronto beach worth spending the day at is Woodbine Beach. This free thing to do in Toronto is the most popular beach in the city which makes it a great spot for people watching.

Woodbine Beach boasts a massive beach area so there’s lots of space for relaxing and playing frisbee and catch.

There are even volleyball nets set up for playing a game with friends or new friends.

Afterwards go for a refreshing dip in the water.

Great boardwalk for strolling too.

7. Experience the oasis that is Bluffers Park Beach

Location: Google Maps Directions

If building sandcastles and burying your travel companion in the sand is on your agenda, a trip out to Bluffers Park Beach should be on your list.

Located in the east end of the city at the base of Brimley Road, Bluffers Park Beach has an expansive beach with lots of room for stuff to do like playing frisbee, volleyball or catch.

The water is clean and inviting.

The view of the Lake is uninhibited and the backdrop to the beach features the spectacular, white sandy cliffs of the Scarborough Bluffs.

Be sure and make time to go for a hike on the 4.7-kilometre Scarborough Bluffs Trail too, the view of Lake Ontario is breathtaking.

Next door to Bluffers Park Beach is a fast-food stand and a restaurant for refueling, and a marina where it’s fun to check out the various boats and the fleet of floating homes.

Free artsy things to do in Toronto

1. Visit the world of ceramics at the Gardiner Museum

Location: 111 Queens Park, Toronto, ON M5S 2C7

The Gardiner Museum is home to over 2,900 striking ceramic pieces of art collected from all over the world.

Entrance is free every Friday from 4:00 to 9:00 P.M.

2. Challenge your perspective at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art

Location: 158 Sterling Rd #100, Toronto, ON M6R 2B7

Contemporary art lovers will enjoy spending time at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.

Here you’ll find stimulating, provocative works by both Canadian and international artists that poke and prod at challenging issues and themes of today.

Admission is free.

3. Gain another point of view at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

Location: 231 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON M5J 2G8

Continue to push your personal boundaries by stopping by the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery.

Billed as Canada’s foremost contemporary gallery it is home to ambitious thematic and solo exhibitions.

Admission to this Toronto thing to do is free all year round.

4. See work by world famous painters at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Location: 317 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T 1G4

A trip to Toronto wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).

On Wednesdays between 6:00 to 8:30 P.M. admission is free.

The gallery is home to over 40,000 works, including the largest collection of Canadian art.

There is lots of cool stuff here.

Enjoy your time reflecting on works by The Group of Seven, Picasso, Monet, Cezanne, Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollock, van Gogh and Matisse, plus be sure to visit the gallery’s thrilling Henry Moore Sculpture Collection.

5. Hold a selfie shoot in Graffiti Alley

Location: 513 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2B4

Aficionados consider Toronto to be home to some of the best graffiti art in the world.

Graffiti Alley is a great example of why. Almost one kilometre long, this free thing to do in Toronto has walls that serve as the canvas to a variety of graffiti works and styles.

It’s also where Canadian comedian Rick Mercer filmed his ‘rants’ for his popular Canadian TV show “The Mercer Report”.

6. Marvel at the public art installations at The Bentway

Location: 250 Fort York Blvd, Toronto, ON M5V 3K9

Imagine perusing public art installations underneath a city underpass while traffic roars past overhead. Welcome to The Bentway.

This free thing to do in Toronto is a 1.75 km stretch located underneath Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway.

The area also features murals throughout the year and plays host to concerts, events, dance classes and more. In the winter there’s a 700-foot skating rink.

7. Discover a new artist at Artscape Youngplace

Location: 180 Shaw St, Toronto, ON M6J 2W5

Artscape Youngplace is a public school that was converted into a cultural hub. Among its residence are artists who occupy studio space.

You can play art critic and feel the creative energy that permeates this place as you explore the art that’s on display in the free public galleries located on three floors of the building.

8. Find that one-of-a-kind item at the Ontario Artisan Market

Location: 550 Bayview Ave, Toronto, ON M4W 3X8

Every Sunday, from May to October, the Evergreen Brick Works hosts the Ontario Artisan Market. At this free thing to do in Toronto you can explore original works of art crafted by local artisans.

Find a one-of-a-kind piece for your home, a gift or a souvenir of your visit to Toronto.

Items include jewellery, body care, art, clothing, wood, leather goods, candles and more.

Free places to “window shop” in Toronto

1. Check out 120 vendors at St. Lawrence Market

Location: 125 The Esplanade, Toronto, ON M5E 1C3

Voted one of the top 10 markets in the world, the St. Lawrence Market, is the city’s largest market.

Walk the aisles and take in the sights, sounds and irresistible smells.

With over 120 vendors you’ll find everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, to meats, fish, cheese and scrumptious pies and breads at this TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Winner.

2. Immerse yourself in another culture in Toronto’s Chinatown

Location: 505 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T 1H1

Another free thing to do is to explore Toronto’s Chinatown area, one of the largest in North America.

Wander up and down Spadina Avenue and take it all in…

…restaurants displaying authentic cuisine like barbecued duck…

…shops showcasing medicinal herbs, clothing, books, videos and bargain sunglasses…

…sidewalk stalls hawking fresh vegetables…

…and people buzzing about everywhere.

3. Discover the diversity of Kensington Market

Location: 88 Nassau St #66, Toronto, ON M5T 1M5

Don’t let the name fool you. Kensington Market is more than a place to shop.

Dating back to the 1790s, it was originally a British settlement. Today it is an incredibly diverse Toronto neighbourhood made up of over 30 different cultures and a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Winner.

A great place to wander and people watch, it is a cornucopia of unique shops, thrift stores, fruit stands, food spots and pubs.

4. Get inspired by the boutique shops of Queen Street West

Location: Google Maps Directions

If trendy and cool is your thing, make plans to stroll the sidewalks of Queen Street West.

Dubbed one of the coolest neighbourhoods by Vogue magazine, this area of Toronto is known for its hip vibe and eclectic mix of independent boutique shops.

Shop for everything from coffee and vintage clothing to art and collectibles.

5. Try and resist buying something at the Toronto Eaton Centre

Location: 220 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M5B 2H1

Spanning several city blocks in downtown Toronto you’ll find the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall.

This free thing to do in Toronto is huge. It has over 200 shops ranging from the biggest brands in the retail industry to stores like rap music superstar Drake’s OVO store.

In fact, the Toronto Eaton Centre is the busiest shopping mall in all of North America. But it’s not just the breadth of shopping that’s impressive.

The Toronto Eaton Centre will also blow you away with its architecture. For example, look up and you will see an arching atrium stretching 900-feet.

6. Pretend your posh and visit Yorkville

Location: Google Maps Directions

Yorkville is the place where celebrities, movie stars, and millionaires shop when they visit Toronto.

But even if you don’t have the scratch, it can still be a free thing to do.

Don’t be intimidated.

Embark on a window-shopping spree in this high-end district that is home to retailers and brand names such as Holt Renfrew, Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Versace, Hermes, Christian Louboutin and more.

7. See the deals to be had at the pawn shops on Church Street

Location: 115B Church St, Toronto, ON M5C 2G5

For decades Church Street in Toronto has been the pawn shop destination in the city.

Spend a morning or afternoon going store to store to check out the latest items being hocked.

It’s okay if you’re just looking, browsing a pawn shop is an accepted free thing to do in Toronto. Scan the walls and display cases for deals on musical instruments, jewellery, cameras, collectibles and more.

Some of the go-to pawn shops include Unideluxe Gold Exchange & Pawnbroker, Simon’s PawnBrokers and H. Williams & Co.

Free tours: another thing to do in Toronto

1. Get your bearings with Tour Guys Company

Understand the lay of the land by taking a Free Toronto Tour hosted by the Tour Guys Company.

A TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, this tour is a great intro to Toronto as you will discover the downtown core and the stories behind its famous landmarks.

2. Get to know different sides of Toronto with GuruWalk

GuruWalk offers Free Walking Tours of Toronto.

They include walking tours of downtown Toronto, Toronto Parks and even a Pub Crawl.

3. Take a self-guided ghost tour of the city

Feel like a good scare?

Embark on a self-guided Ghost Tour of the City using the free guide provided by the Toronto Ghosts & Hauntings Research Society.

Check Groupon for Deals on Toronto Things to Do

ad for Groupon, another way to save on cheap things to do in torontoA great way to enjoy almost-free things to do in Toronto is to check Groupon, the money-saving website that features local discounts in 150 cities.

Visit the Toronto Groupon page and you’ll find savings of anywhere from 40-90% on tours, boat cruises, theatre tickets, comedy clubs, activities, events, dinner spots and accommodations.

The Groupon Toronto page is a smart place to check out when you’re first planning your trip and even when you’re in the middle of your Toronto visit because new deals get added weekly and even daily many times.

Get last minute tickets to a concert or game

You never know who might be in Toronto playing a concert or show, or what sporting event could be going on.

A great, reliable source for last minute tickets is Stubhub.

Be thrifty and practical! This information was accurate when published, but can change without notice. We recommend you confirm all details with the provider in question before planning your excursion.