The best things in Toronto are free!
There are hundreds of ways you can have fun with kids of all ages in Toronto without spending a penny. Here are our favourite attractions, programs, events and other freebies around the city for families.
Have more suggestions? Let us know.
Toronto has some of the best museums on the planet, but admission can be expensive. Here are two ways to get in completely free:
Museum Passes from the Toronto Public Library
Go to a local library branch and pick up free museum tickets to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Black Creek Pioneer Village, the Toronto Zoo, the Ontario Science Centre, and more. (Some passes are only available at select locations.)
Only three to five passes are available per week, so find out when your branch gets them and show up early!
Free Museum Afternoons and Evenings
Many museums have one free night per week or free periods for students.
At the AGO, high-school students get free admission after 3 pm Tuesday through Friday and everyone gets in free Wednesday 6–8:30 pm.
The Bata Shoe Museum is pay-what-you-can Thursday 5–8 pm.
At Black Creek Pioneer Village, kids get in free on weekdays in July and August.
CBC Museum is always free. It’s small, but much of it is kid-oriented, with exhibits from Kids’ CBC including Mr. Dressup’s famed Tickle Trunk and from older programs like The Friendly Giant (1950s–1980s). You can also see the trolley from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood as well as vintage radio and television equipment.
Hundreds of free festivals hit the city streets, parks, and indoor venues year-round. There’s often live music, free kids’ zones (face-painting, bouncy castles) and other entertainment to enjoy. The Harbourfront Centre hosts a free festival every weekend in summer and big events like Taste of the Danforth, Word on the Street, and Open Streets TO are all free to attend.
Riverdale Farm Is a working heritage farm with live animals.
Far Enough Farm, on the Toronto Islands, is a petting farm with 40 types of animals and birds.
Lionel’s Farm and petting zoo in Stouffeville may be a good choice for those who live north of downtown.
Allan Gardens Conservatory
Beautiful flowers, butterflies, and turtles at Allan Gardens Conservatory will keep younger kids amused. A great cold-weather destination.
Throughout the year (and almost daily in summer), the Harbourfront Centre has concerts, workshops, performances, paddleboating, and festivals at the low, low price of free.
Movies Under the Stars
Mainly in summer, but some last into the fall. Check with your local BIA for movies in your area.
City of Toronto Free Classes
You may know about the city’s low-cost classes for kids, whether swimming, art, music, cooking, or snowboarding, but did you know that some registered classes are completely free?
You’ll have to be a resident of Toronto to mark sign-up dates in your calendar and call as soon as lines open on the sign-up dates, as these classes go fast. But for those on the ball, you can enroll your child in free ballet, music, art, gymnastics, soccer, and more.
City of Toronto Free Drop-In Programs
The City of Toronto’s community recreation centres have free activities for kids all year round, on a drop-in basis. The best way to find out what’s available is to go to the website and find the rec centres near you to check their programs. Programs include film production, mural design, computers, chess, board games, family badminton, and more.
Indoor Play at Toronto Rec Centres
Indoor Play is an open gym period for kids ages 1 to 5 years, usually held twice or three times a week at select centres from fall through spring.
Gyms are set up with kid-powered cars and vehicles, balls and nets, soft climbing structures, slides, and tunnels—and lots of mats. It’s a fun free-for-all and a great way to get the wiggles out before naptime when it’s too cold for the playground.
Community Centre Programs
College Montrose Children’s Place and some other community centres offer free drop-in play time for kids year-round that may include art and crafts, free play time, circle time, and snacks.
Early Years Centres Programs
Find an Ontario Early Years Centre near you to check programs. Many programs are educational for parents, but there are a few mom and tot programs such as Tiny Tots, with activities for infants and toddlers.
You do have to pay for what you take, but the picking is free at many PYO farms in the GTA.
Not-Quite-Pro Sports Matches
Toronto Maple Leafs semi-pro baseball team plays at Christie Pits Park in summer, and many soccer games take place at Downsview Park. Check other local parks and public arenas for free games by amateur and semi-pro teams.
High Park Zoo
See emu, bison, and Barbary sheep and pet the llamas and bunnies at High Park Zoo.
Humber Bay Park Butterfly Habitat
Keep your eyes peeled for monarchs, red admirals, and viceroys at this butterfly habitat.
Franklin Children’s Garden
On the Toronto Islands, this interactive kid-oriented garden—inspired by the Franklin the Turtle book series by Paulette Bourgeois—is a cool way to commune with nature on a small scale. It has a hands-on garden with watering can fountain, a turtle pond, hide-and-seek garden with treehouse, a storytelling stage, and many bronze sculptures of Franklin and his friends.
Toronto Public Library Programs
The Toronto Public Library offers workshops, storytelling, and other free events for kids and families. Recent offerings have included kids’ creative writing workshops, a free six-week Shakespeare club for kids age 7–12, Plus, several libraries have super-cool KidsStop Interactive Early Literacy Centres with giant letters to crawl through, puppet theatres, and enchanted forest reading nooks.
Toronto has some amazing green spaces in and around the city, like Toronto Island Park, Bluffers Park, Rouge Park (soon to be Canada’s first urban national park!), High Park, and more. Pack a picnic, a soccer ball, Frisbee, or head out on two wheels.
Cool outdoor playgrounds abound in Toronto—you’ll find one every few blocks in most parts of the city. Some of our favourite playgrounds are Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in High Park (aka “the castle playground”), Neshama Playground in Oriole Park, Vermont Square Playground (Annex), and Cherry Beach Sports Fields Playground (aka “the pirate ship playground”).
But there are many more. Get out there and explore!
We are fortunate here in Toronto to have ample waterfront and lovely beaches within the city limits, plus fantastic beaches within a short drive from the city, too.
Our favourite beaches for kids:
Kew-Balmy Beach and Woodbine Beach in the Beaches for swimming and sand sports, biking on the boardwalk, and watching stand-up paddle-boarders and volleyball matches.
Bluffer’s Park Beach adjacent to the Scarborough Bluffs for swimming, sand sports, scenery, and picnicking.
Sunnyside Beach on the west end for beachcombing, sand sports, and biking the waterfront trail.
The quiet, pristine beaches on the Toronto Islands for all of the above.
Splash Pads and Wading Pools
One of the best free activities in summer, splash pad and wading pools generally open just after school’s out in June and close around Labour Day.
Miniature Train Ride
The Roundhouse Park Miniature Railway, a tiny steam-powered train for kids, is not entirely free, but at $2 for kids and $3 for adults, you may be able to visit for the cost of looking under the couch cushions. It’s part of the Toronto Railway Museum.
Toronto Walking Tour
Get to know your city better on a free tour from the Tour Guys. Of the four free tours, our kid-friendly choice is Trains, Teams & the CN Tower, where you’ll see downtown sports arenas (exteriors only), Toronto Railway Museum, and the CN Tower. End with a Steam Whistle Pilsner for mom and dad!
Some of the best pools in the city are absolutely free during dedicated drop-in times for leisure swimming (fees apply for lane swimming).
Many are open in summer only, but indoor pools abound as well. One noteworthy example: the Regent Park Aquatic Centre renovated in 2012, which has a mushroom waterfall for kids and a two-story slide.
As for its pools, City of Toronto has free-skate times at many rinks. Also free are the Harbourfront Centre’s rink and the Ice Trail at the Evergreen Brick Works.