Staycation: Free Things to Do in Toronto This Summer

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City dwellers on a budget can still keep busy without spending a cent. From beaches to galleries, there are many free things to do this summer that will keep your hard-earned pennies in the bank.

The Beaches!
You don’t have to drive up north to find a clean and pleasant shoreline suitable for swimming and frolicking with friends. Take the Queen St. E. streetcar to The Beach, walk through the eclectic neighbourhood and relax at Woodbine Beach. Pack a volleyball or Frisbee (they have nets) and swim along the sandy shore.

Beautiful Blooms at Allan Gardens Conservatory
Allan Gardens is one of Toronto’s recently revitalized green spaces, with six Victorian-style greenhouses containing flowers and plant species from across the globe. The grounds are free to enter with plenty of beautiful gardens to explore. Gardeners of all levels will appreciate the vast varieties of blossoms.

Stargaze at York University's Observatory
Choose a clear night, gaze into outer space and receive a quick astronomy lesson from top experts. York University offers free public stargazing activities on Wednesday nights -- 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. from May to August. Guests are encouraged to bring their own camera and snap photos of the stars.

Free Concerts at the Harbourfront Centre
and Mel Lastman Square
Music lovers will enjoy relaxing to the sounds of more than 90 Canadian and international performers at the Harbourfront Centre's 20 live shows throughout the summer (June to September, Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons). Sunday Serenades at Mel Lastman Square .

Riverdale Farm
Located in the heart of Cabbagetown, this 7.5 acre farm is hidden away from the frenzied city centre scene, allowing visitors to hike through forested paths and trails, meet sociable farm animals and pick from flourishing vegetable gardens. The free farm also hosts a farmer's market every Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and has a wading pool that’s open daily throughout the summer.

Local Artwork at Toronto Free Gallery
The Toronto Free Galley showcases powerful exhibits about social, cultural and environmental issues. The space allows artists to become creative with their artwork and display eccentric pieces conveying messages about everyday issues. The gallery is free to tour, perfect for a rainy summer afternoon and displays are always changing.

Ride or Hike the Don Valley

Steep, natural trails surrounded by immense beech and maple foliage have transformed the Don Valley forest into one of the city’s best riding and hiking trails. There are many different routes and paths to take, creating a free and challenging outdoor afternoon for Torontonians of all fitness levels. Check out one route as part of Toronto's Discovery Walks program.

Explore the Distillery District 
While this national historic site was a whiskey distillery in the 1800s, it now stands as an artsy, pedestrian-only village in the east end of downtown Toronto. The picturesque, cobblestone streets are lined with galleries, upscale restaurants, boutiques and event spaces ripe for perusal. Keep an eye out for ample free cultural events throughout the summer.

Amble Through the Toronto Sculpture Garden
Toronto's sculpture garden may be small, but it's a great place for a pensive summer walk. Biannual installations in the public garden explore context, material and scale and have featured works by prominent artists, some creating outdoors works for the first time. Bring a book or continue walking down to the Esplanade.     

Take in a Free Concert by the Canadian Opera Company (COC)
The COC's Free Concert Series is a great opportunity to experience the sleek splendour of the Four Season's Centre and see lunchtime performances by an eclectic array of artists. The R. Fraser Elliott Hall, the centre's amphitheatre where performances are held, is a unique venue given its glass facade, which lends a view of busy University Ave.

Take Advantage of Free Hours at the Museums
Toronto has a number of great museums, made all the more wonderful by their generosity in offering free admission once a week. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) offers free admission to post-secondary students on Tuesdays, as well as free general admission every Wednesday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) does the same on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (Both exclude admission to special ticketed exhibitions.) Pay-what-you-can nights are held at the Bata Shoe Museum on Thursdays between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and the Textile Museum of Canada Wednesdays between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) is pay-what-you-can all the time.
Say Namaste to Little India
As a "36 Hours in Toronto" article in the New York Times proclaimed last year, Toronto's Little India is definitely worthy of exploration. Head east on Gerrard St. and find yourself amidst bright saris, fragrant South Indian cuisine, Indian-designed gold jewelry and more. Free events, including celebrations related to India's many festivals, take place all year long.

Festivals and Cool Stuff at Yonge and Dundas Square
Check out what's happening here

Spend a Day with the National Film Board (NFB)
Every Saturday, the NFB opens its doors for family fun with free animation screenings at noon. A new selection of shorts is selected each week and each program is a family-friendly 30 minutes. While you're there, or on a separate visit, check out the NFB's digital viewing stations. Take a seat, choose from over 5,000 documentaries old and new, in English or French, and brush up on your film buffery.

Centreville and Centre Island
Hop on the boat and head on over  to see Toronto's best view... you can't beat it. You will feel like a proud Torontian as you set sail and wonder why you ever thought you had to leave the City for a vacation! While your on the island take a walk in a cool maze, visit Centreville ( Feel free to sing their groovy song too) or walk, bike or ride your way around the beautiful island.

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