The first time we visited Toronto it was a bit of a blur. We arrived in this thriving Canadian city in peak wintertime and were greeted by lows of -23 degrees Celsius (between -9/10 Fahrenheit)—London winters seemed incredibly mild in comparison! The few days we were there were spent dashing from one warm spot to another, getting only brief glimpses of what this amazing city has to offer. So we were ecstatic to get another chance to go back (this time to visit some of Gaurav’s family) and have another shot at exploring Toronto.
What we found was an exciting city of incredible skylines, amazing art museums, and terrific food and drink. And, even better, we didn’t need to spend a lot of cash to enjoy the city to the fullest! Don’t believe us? Check out these 5 fun (and free activities) you should add to your list when planning a trip to Toronto:
Located in Toronto’s hip Fashion District, Graffiti Alley could easily be considered an outdoor art museum. Some truly amazing artists have left their mark here and the graffiti art ranges from political to whimsical to nonsensical and more! You don’t need a guide or an itinerary to enjoy these works of art, just find Graffiti Alley (the alleyway is literally called this) and wander at your leisure. Afterward pop into one of the many cool bars and coffee shops in the area for a drink.
Travel Tip: While you can pay a guide to walk you through the alleys, we don’t recommend it. It’s said that these agencies charge for tours but don’t pay the artists a fair cut, so you’re lending more support to the artists themselves if you avoid booking a tour in the first place!
You won’t have to go far to enjoy this next free activity; Kensington Market is less than a 10-minute walk from Graffiti Alley! This bohemian neighbourhood is famous for its hipster vibes, vintage shops, and quirky Victorian houses. You don’t need to spend $$ to enjoy an hour in Kensington Market. Browsing the vintage clothes (some of which have funny labels), talking to the local artists, and admiring the beautiful houses all make for a fun, free time. There’s also great places to eat (for vegetarians and vegans too!) and lots of fun cafes and bars around.
The Art Gallery of Ontario is fantastic, and we can’t recommend visiting enough! However, if you’re not keen on paying a $25 admission fee, why not drop by on Wednesday evenings for free admittance? The free admission lasts from 6pm-9pm and you’ll get to see art from both international and Canadian artists. The Early Rubens exhibit (up until January 5th, 2020) is sure to take your breath away!
Travel Tip: Dress properly for the weather as you’ll have to queue up outside the museum to claim your free ticket!
If you haven’t gotten your fill of art museums or can’t make it to AGO on a Wednesday evening, check out The Power Plant’s free contemporary exhibits! While The Power Plant is nowhere near as large as AGO, it frequently features a variety of fascinating modern art exhibits. It’s also located in a great area for walking around and seeing downtown Toronto: right on the waterfront and at the foot of the iconic CN Tower!
Travel Tip: Approach this activity with an open mind and you might be pleasantly surprised! We went in expecting simple exhibits and ended up spending 2 hours inside. Remember though, The Power Plant is closed on Mondays.
5. Toronto Parks
Toronto is such an amazing mix of urban and nature, and you must experience at least one park walk during your time here. This is a fun activity in summer and autumn—especially when the leaves are changing colours. You can choose from a multitude of parks: from the Ireland Park with its lakeside views and fascinating sculptures, to High Park with its multitude of hiking trails and outdoor summer theatre, and many more. You’ll definitely be spoiled for choice in Toronto!
Which free activity do you think sounds like fun? Tell us in the comments section!