free & cheap things to do in toronto

posted by missmsian

New to T.O.? Just visiting? A longtime-local who’s never stepped outside your neighbourhood?

Here are eight fun thangs and happenangs around the city. Not entirely ‘mainstream’ but not so far off the beaten track that you need an ice pick and bottled water to do them.

1. The Bluffs

One of the most beautiful areas in Toronto, and I’m not bluffing! Okay, that joke failed … but the view is for real. The bluffs run for 14 km along the Lake Ontario shoreline in Scarborough. Bluffer’s Park, accessible from Brimley Rd., is probably the most foot-friendly area.

2. National Film Board (150 John St.)

I can’t count how many hours I’ve spent at the digital viewing stations since I discovered the NFB two years ago. Settle down in a comfy chair and access more than 5,500 NFB films on a personal, flat-panel, touchscreen monitor. Here’s the clincher: for free.

The films are organized into categories for easy searches. My favourite search? “Cultural Diversity and Multiculturalism.”

3. Subway station tour

Have you ever ridden the entire subway system in one trip? It’s pretty fun.

Take pictures with tacky, fake artifacts at Museum station. Visit Bathurst station’s Bakery On The Go–the best subway bakery in the system. Buy half-priced books at Eglinton station. Enjoy busker performances at most stations.

Need more ideas? How about a subway dance party, some spoken word or …

4. CBC building (250 Front St. W.)

Visit the CBC Museum (free admission!) to learn about the history of Canadian broadcasting. You’ll probably run into a lot of school groups there. If you’re looking for something more grown-up, try to score tickets to a taping of The Hour or The Rick Mercer Report.

Stop by the Glenn Gould Theatre to see what’s on. There are usually cool artistic performances, but I prefer the media-related panel discussions they run every once in a while.

5. Riverdale Farm (201 Winchester St.)

Farm! In! The! City! Worth a visit if you’re a city snob with no knowledge of, or inkling to visit, farming communities. The farm was my first school field trip as a newly-arrived immigrant to Canada, so I have fond memories of it.

6. Heritage Toronto self-guided tours

From May to October, HT offers free neighbourhood walking tours. If you’re like me and embarrassed to be the only 20-something single person on one of these (okay, to be fair, I’ve only had one awkward experience), try downloading self-guided tours off the HT website.

I recommend the Spadina Ave. tour because it’s the only one I’ve done … it takes you through Spadina’s development as an industrial centre and waves of Jewish and Chinese immigration.

7. York University observatory

Bring a date and a camera to the University’s observatory on public viewing nights. This summer, it’s Wednesdays from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. On clear nights, you can try the telescope with the help of observatory staff. On cloudy nights, there are info sessions and a planetarium show.

8. The Docks (Polson St.)

Now known as Polson Pier, it’s home to concert hall/nightclub Sound Academy, go karts, mini golf and the newly-opened Oh Boy! Burger Market. But the real treat is Toronto’s only downtown drive-in movie theatre.

What have I missed?

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “free & cheap things to do in toronto

  1. These are all awesome ideas! The subway tour is always a good time–especially when you have no idea where you’re going…actually.
    Also, what about hitting up the St. Lawrence Market?
    Exploring Greektown along the Danforth is pretty ballin’ too!

  2. Walking around Kensington market on a Sunny day or a hot evening is fun. Lots of hippies!

  3. PS – thankyou for introducing me to that TTC video. That made my freaking LIFE! so hilar!

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