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10 Free Things to Do in Toronto

The temptations of shopping, good dining, nightlife, and other activities in Toronto — like any other big city — may quickly deplete your travel budget. Luckily there are many amazing fun free things to do in Toronto.

Water feature in front of a Toronto light sign and modern city buildings

With all its gorgeous scenery and city streets to explore, you'll never run out of free things to do in Toronto. Even if the weather is bad, you can always find free and inexpensive activities to do indoors.

If you're having trouble finding a list of free activities in Toronto, your search is over. This guide includes tourist attractions, recreational activities, and sightseeing excursions. The travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations specialize in trips to Canada. We create personalized itineraries full of activities you'll love.

Here is our list of the top 10 free things to do on your trip to Toronto.

1. Free Admission Nights at the Best Museums in the City

The Art Gallery of Ontario features 95,000 pieces created by renowned modern and contemporary Indigenous, African, and Canadian artists. On Wednesdays evenings, from 6 to 9 pm, you can visit the permanent collection without paying the admission fee. Another great collection, The Market Gallery in St. Lawrence Market, a museum and art space that celebrates Toronto's history, is always free to visit. The Museum of Contemporary Art in the West End of Toronto, offers free entry on Friday nights after 5 pm

The Art Gallery of Ontario Operating Hours:

10:30 am- 5:00 pm (Tuesday & Thursday)
10:30 am- 5:30 pm (Saturday & Sunday)
10:30 am- 9:00 pm(Wednesday & Friday)
Ticket price- $25 for Adults / Free on Wednesday nights
Route tip: The Art Gallery of Ontario is located at 317 Dundas St. W., Ontario, ON M5T 1G4 and is close to St. Patrick subway station.

People sitting indoors in a modern building with large windows

2. Go for a stroll on Cherry Beach

Toronto's Cherry Beach provides a lovely escape from the hectic pace of city life. It's a great spot for a beach walk or sunbathing, but you can also try stand-up paddling boarding or windsurfing for a cost. There's also a food truck for snacks. Although Cherry Beach is theoretically accessible by foot from the downtown area (it's located on the harbour's outer border),  it is on transit routes and there is plenty of visitor parking at the beach.

Beach season:  June to September

Route advice: Cherry Beach is reachable via bus, streetcar, or subway. These are streetcar routes with nearby stops, along Queen Street East. The 121 bus from Union Station is the most direct route.

White lifeguard house on a pebble beach

3. Take a trip to the Distillery District

Toronto's pedestrian-only Distillery District is a terrific spot to spend a few hours. It features some of the oldest and best-preserved examples of Victorian industrial architecture.

How to reach: Take the 504 King East Streetcar on the King Street line.

View of red brick buildings in a public square

4.    Take the PATH to explore the city

Toronto's PATH network allows you to walk many parts of downtown without going outside thanks to its 30 km of underground walkways and malls. It also includes an elevated portion, dubbed the SkyWalk, between the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre, with a great view of Toronto's skyline. As you explore downtown on the PATH, be sure to take a look at the artwork and artist biographies along SkyWalk's walls.

Operating Times

The PATH is open constantly, although the businesses along it operate according to regular business hours and are typically closed on weekends.

Tip to reach the PATH:

Take the TTC or GO Transit to Union Station. Follow the signs from Union Station to get to either the underground PATH or the Skywalk. You can also access via the Eaton Centre, one of Toronto's top shopping malls.

Woman standing on an escalator inside a mall in Toronto

5. View the old and new City Halls

If you're interested in architecture and history, you can enjoy both in downtown Toronto, where the Old City Hall and the New City Hall are located next to each other. Old City Hall, which was constructed in the Romanesque architectural style, includes an incredible clock tower worth viewing at night. The neighbouring new Toronto City Hall opened in 1965. Its Modernist-styled rounded towers and central dome make it one of the city's most distinctive landmarks.

Operational timing

New City Hall- Monday to Friday- 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (Saturday & Sunday- closed)
Old City Hall- The criminal courtroom in Old City Hall is open every day, including weekends and holidays.  Choose a weekday between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm to visit. The bail courts are open on weekends and holidays, however, the majority of the facility is closed or empty.

Route tip:

Whether you're coming from Queen Station or Osgoode Station, you can walk along Queen Street West. The Toronto City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square are situated on the north side of Queen Street West, almost halfway between these two stops.

View of Old City Hall and office buildings in Toronto

6. Wander through St. Lawrence Market

Even the Pope has shopped at this popular market. The three heritage structures that make up St. Lawrence Market include an antique market, a food market, and a marketplace with more than 120 traders — perfect for wandering around. It's an ideal spot for a cheap lunch and you can eat outside on the terrace.

Don't miss the gallery upstairs, which features free exhibits reflecting the history and culture of the city.

Operating hours:

Tuesday through Friday, 9 am. to 7 pm., Saturday, 7 am to 5 pm, and Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm are the new hours for the South Market.

Route advice:

Refer to the St Lawrence Market Map, to learn how to reach the market using a variety of transportation methods. The easiest way is by TTC.  Take the 504 King Streetcar east to Jarvis Street. As an alternative, you may also travel to Union Station and make the short 10 minute walk. 

Brick building with St. Lawrence Market sign

7. Spend the day outside at High Park

Toronto is home to dozens of fantastic parks and High Park is one of the best. This large public park, located west of the core, can occupy a full day. By focusing on hiking the paths, admiring the gardens, and bringing a picnic lunch, you can visit High Park without having to pay for anything. If you want to purchase a meal, early risers have great breakfast options at the picturesque Grenadier Cafe.

Operating hours

Open for 24 hours ( Monday to Saturday)

Route tip:

Take the 506 Carlton streetcar to the High Park loop near Parkside Drive, or board the 508 Lakeshore streetcar and get off at the Parkside or Colborne Lodge stops. Or
take the 80 Queensway bus, which travels between Sherway Gardens and the Keele subway station.

View of park with hedges, trees and a maple leaf flower bed

8. Go window shoppping in Yorkville

In this affluent area of the city, there are several eateries, boutiques, and art galleries housed in charming Victorian architecture. Yorkville offers premium eating and shopping, and the area's galleries include some of the best local and foreign artists. The upscale "Mink Mile" shopping area, which is located in Yorkville, is home to upscale stores including Holt Renfrew, Burberry, Prada, and Gucci. 

Timing:

9 AM to 8 PM (Monday to Sunday)

Route Tip:

Bay Street Subway station is in the Yorkville neighbourhood or you can disembark at Bloor/Yonge and stroll across Bloor.

People walking past laneway shops and eateries on a sunny day

9. Visit the Lighthouse on the Toronto Harbour

The Toronto Harbour Lighthouse is your destination during an afternoon exploring Tommy Thompson Park's vast waterfront pathways.  This beacon, located at the park's southernmost point, offers a stunning view of the city. There are several walking paths within Tommy Thompson Park, one of which crosses the park's floating bridge. Enjoy breathtaking views of the city over the lake, while immersing yourself in nature.

Operating hours

Monday-Friday: 4 am-9 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 5:30 am to 9 pm
Except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Day, the park is open on weekends and holidays.

How to get there:

Take the 83 Jones Southbound bus. The park is a five-minute walk from the Commissioner’s Street bus stop at Commissioner's and Leslie.

View across water of the sun setting behind the Toronto marina and CN Tower

10. Spend the day on Centre Island

Anyone looking to get away from the city's bustle should consider a day trip to Centre Island. Wander this parkland oasis, which offers fantastic views of the city, picnic spots and walking trails. Whilte there is no entrance cost, the ferry to the island does cost a nominal fee. The 10-minute boat voyage costs between $4 and $8.50 Canadian (approximately $3 and USD 7) depending on your age; children under 2 ride free. The ferry runs every 15 minutes. The amusement park, dining options, and other attractions might also tempt you to take out your wallet.

Park Hours

10:30 am to 5 pm

Route Tip:

To travel to the island, you must board a ferry. The majority of passengers will use the ferry service run by the City of Toronto; however, it is feasible to take a private water taxi or a tender. On Queens Quay, the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal (the ferry docks) is situated between Bay and Yonge Streets.

View of the Toronto skyline from a park on an island

Frequently Asked Questions

What's Free this weekend in Toronto?

What's free depends on the seaosn. In the summer, hiking in the parks and sunbathing at the local beaches is always free. In the winter, skating at Nathan Phillips and community rinks. Visiting High Park and the Toronto Islands are recommended year-round.

Are there free museums in Toronto?

General admission to all 10 Toronto History Museums is always free. This includes Fort York, Spadina Museum, Todmorden Mills and the Scarborough Museum.

Are buses in Toronto free?

No, it is not free. There is a fare to ride the transit in Toronto. The transit system is known as the TTC. It uses the Presto pay-as-you-go system. You can get one-ride or two-ride tickets, as well as day and monthly passes.

Is the tram in Toronto free?

No, it is not free. There is a fare to ride the transit in Toronto. The transit system is known as the TTC. You can get one-ride or two-ride tickets, as well as day and monthly passes.

How much does a Toronto shuttle bus cost?

The airport shuttle fare depends on your destination and the ride tye. Tickets range from $10 for a coach (to set drop-off locations) to $101+ for door-to-door service.

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