Summer is THE time to enjoy the city. The weather is great, and each week brings a flurry of great ways to explore Toronto. But now that it’s August, and summer is ending, it can feel like the activities are beginning to wind down. And if you’ve been splurging and find yourself hurting for cash, you may want to spend the rest of summer on more wallet friendly activities.
Here’s a list of 5 free activities you can explore while in Toronto.
1. Visit a Museum
Unlike our European counterparts, Toronto is severely lacking in free museums. But if you time it just right, you can enjoy what our museums have to offer for free – on specific days at specific times.
- Museum of Contemporary Art: Modern museum and art gallery. Pay-what-you-can, July to September. And thanks to a sponsorship with TD, this museum also has free admission from 10am – 2pm on the last Sunday of each month.
- Museum of Broken Relationships: A special edition museum that explores breakups. Running now till September 8 with free admission.
- Aga Khan Museum: Museum of Islamic Art. Free admission on Wednesdays 4pm – 8pm.
- Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO): This is one of the largest art galleries in North America with the largest collection of Canadian art. Free admission for 25 year olds and under. Free general admission on Wednesdays 6pm – 9pm.
- Gardiner Museum: Ceramics museum. Half price general admission on Wednesdays 4pm – 9pm. Free admission for 18 year olds and under. Tuesdays free admission for post-secondary students.
- Royal Ontario Museum (ROM): Museum of art, world culture and natural history. Daily tours are free with the admission price. Free admission third Monday night of the month from 5:30pm – 8:30pm.
2. Spend a day at the Beach
Spending a day at the beach is a great way to combine having fun and not burning a hole in your pocket. If you’re looking to cool off on a hot day the beaches below are the closest to the Toronto area.
- Woodbine Beach: This is the largest of the four beaches in the Toronto area. Its also one of the most popular and is a great spot for outdoor festivals and volleyball in the summer. Best way to get there is to walk from Union Station to Queen West and take tram 501 to Woodbine Ave.
- Hanlan’s Point Beach: This beach on is the westernmost point of the Toronto Islands with the best place to view sunset. To reach it take a ferry from Queens Quay to Toronto Island. Ferry costs are $8 for adults, $5.37 for students and $3.95 for under 14.
- Sunnyside Beach: Sunnyside is along Lakeshore Road by Parkside. Follow the waterfront trail by this park to Ontario Place if you’d like to attend one of the events. Or, go rollerblading, biking or running along the boardwalk.
- Bluffers Beach: This man-made beach sits at the foot of the Scarborough bluffs; an escarpment with excellent views. Best yet it’s within reach of the Toronto transit system (TTC)….if you count the additional 25 minute walk from the bus stop.
- Cherry Beach: This beach is on the east-end of the City at the bottom of Cherry Street. Parking here is free. However there is no boardwalk and in some parts the grass grows up to the shoreline.
3. Film and Music
Going to the movies or checking out a concert doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, you could check out a film or a concert for free at varying locations across the city. Your best bet would be to check out the schedule of offerings at each location, then bring yourself (and in some cases your own seating) and enjoy!
- Free concerts at the Toronto Music Garden: This is the place to be if you’d like to be surrounded by the orchestral swell of classically trained musicians. You won’t find any mainstream stuff here, but the player’s abilities will enrapture you.
- Free films at Christie Pitts: Bring your blanket and enjoy a free film screening at night. This season explores films that feature “dynamic duos”
- Films and concert double offering: Free film screenings on Tuesdays and free concerts on Fridays can be found at Nathan Phillips Square. Check out their schedule of events to find something that suits your interest.
4. Check out one of the free to enter markets
With the exception of Union Station, two new hubs for entertainment, shopping and arts have recently (as of this year) opened up to the public. They provide excellent opportunities to showcase local, Canadian talent (artistic talent or small business) and entertainment such as live performances for free. But if you do have some money left in your budget, be sure to bring it with you, to partake in what local businesses have to offer.
- Union Station: Summertime means the Union Station market. Open from May 31st till August 3rd, this little area situated right outside the main entrance includes a main stage with artistic showcases (music, live screenings, dance etc) and sponsored games and giveaways. There are also numerous food vendors and a beer garden. Free to enter, but bring your money to really indulge.
- Stackt: Located at Bathurst St and Front St, you’ll recognize this market by its numerous stacked black shipping containers. Each container contains a different small business or a unique pop up experience. I could keep going on the cool offerings of this place, but you’re better off just heading over to check it out.
- The Bentway: Underneath the highway may not sound like the coolest place to be, but this space deserves your attention. After this stretch of the highway by the Fort York Garrison (from Strachan street to roughly Bathurst street) was renovated, it has become home to different artist performances, pop up experiences and even a free (weekly) Sunday block party (but only till August 25).
5. Get a taste of another culture
While you might have missed out on some of the major cultural festivals (ie: Taste of the Danforth) you haven’t missed all that the city has to offer! August still has other cultural festivals to enjoy. While the attendance for all of these are free, be sure to bring your wallet to get your fill of delicious foods or local crafts. Here are some other ways to get a taste of Toronto’s multiculturalism.
- Waterfront Night Market: Aug 9 – 11 at Ontario Place will be buzzing with activity during its version of an Asian night market. The event is free to attend, though the entrance to the beer garden is paid. Bring money to sample all the great food.
- Afro-Carribean Vegan Market: Try Afro-Carribean vegan food, check out vegan friendly clothing and learn about that vegan lifestyle. August 24th at 519 Church St.
- Taste of India Food Festival: Enjoy music, dance performances and food from all parts of India at this festival happening August 4th at Nathan Phillips Square.
- Himalayan Festival: Nepalese arts and crafts, music performances and food are the focus of this festival happening on August 31st at Nathan Phillips Square.
- Roncesvalles Polish Festival: With three separate stages of entertaining acts, numerous food, craft and art vendors, and even a classical European car display, there will be a lot to take in at this cultural festival celebrating all things polish. September 14th and 15th in Roncesvalles.