50 Free Spring Family Activities in Toronto and the GTA

Free Spring Activities in Toronto_feature

This spring, have some fun for free! We’ve put together a list of 50 free things to do with kids, from art and music, to parks and gardens, to festival and fundraisers—there is something for everyone.

Museums, Art Galleries, and Libraries

Free afternoons and evenings at the AGO

Every Wednesday evening the Art Gallery of Ontario offers free admission to everyone, and high-school students with a valid ID can visit the AGO for free after 3 pm weekdays. Youth ages 14–25 can take part in planned Free After Three programming activities (gallery access not included).

Museum + Arts Pass from Toronto Public Library

With the Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass Program, you can borrow free passes to local museums and key attractions in the same way you would borrow library materials. Find passes to the AGO, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Aga Khan Museum, the Toronto Zoo, the Ontario Science Centre, and more. All 100 Toronto Public Library locations participate, though not all passes are available at all branches.

Toronto Public Library Events

The Toronto Public Library hosts tons of free kids’ events all year round, including arts and crafts, storytelling, music concerts, puppet shows, plays, and movies. All events are free, but a few do require registration.

Solar Observing at the Ontario Science Centre

Inspect our nearest star with Solar Observing at the Ontario Science Centre one Saturday per month. Safely observe the sun (weather-permitting) with specially filtered telescopes, and look for exotic surface features like sunspots, spicules, and prominences. Parking fees apply.

Redpath Sugar Museum

Get a sweet history lesson at the Redpath Sugar Museum. Learn the history of sugar, how it’s made, modern practices, and the different sugars and refining methods in Toronto. Just make sure you call ahead to let them know you’re coming!

Pay-what-you-can at the Bata Shoe Museum

Every Thursday evening after 5 pm is pay-what-you-can ($5 suggested donation) at this footwear-focused fashion and history museum may not be what first comes to mind when you think “family-friendly”, but the Bata Shoe Museum has a surprising number of kid-centric activities and programs. The collection includes more than 13,000 shoes and related items.

Free afternoons at the Aga Khan Museum

This museum dedicated to presenting artistic, intellectual and scientific contributions of Muslim civilizations has free admission, which includes all exhibitions, every Wednesday from 4 pm to 8 pm.

Markets and Neighbourhoods

St. Lawrence Market

Since 1808, merchants and artisans have peddled their wares at St. Lawrence Market. Today, the Market continues to thrive with some 120 vendors. Enjoy authentic and delicious food samples, find cool antiques, meet shopkeepers who care, and do some people watching.

Open Tue.–Thu. 8 am–6 pm, Fri. 8 am–7 pm, Sat. 5 am–5 pm; Antiques Market open Sun. dawn–5 pm
 

Kensington Market

Every day in Kensington Market—a vibrant neighbourhood/community with more than 240 small businesses—you can enjoy people watching, window shopping, browsing, street performers, and amazing street art—all for free! After Victoria Day, Pedestrian Sundays begin, and the streets are closed to vehicles.

Toronto Botanical Gardens Organic Farmers Market

Each Thursday, visit the Toronto Botanical Garden’s Arrival Courtyard and experience the TBG Organic Farmers Market. There are tons of seasonal fruits and veggies, local meats and eggs, a variety of syrups and jams, pickled goodness, VQA wines, fresh bread, ready-made foods, soaps, candles, and tempting savouries. Admission is free, but delicious treats are extra.

Thursdays 2–7 pm
 

The Stop Farmer’s Market

Traffic is stroller-to-stroller every Saturday morning at the popular The Stop Farmer’s Market at Christie and St. Clair. It has live music and tasty treats straight from the vendor’s kitchens or farms. Around back is a playground and splash pad. Dogs are welcome, too, in the off-leash area.

Saturdays 8 am–12:30 pm

Parks, Zoos, and Farms

Trinity Bellwoods Park

This Queen West/Little Portugal park is a popular meeting place for the surrounding community. There are bike trails, baseball fields, volleyball and tennis courts, a children’s playground, and picnic areas. The frequent events here include a weekly farmer’s market, yard sales, doggy meet-and-greets, festivals, and art in the park. Check the Friends of Trinity Bellwoods events schedule.

Farmer’s market May–Oct., Tuesdays 3–7 pm
 

Evergreen Brick Works

A sort of urban nature centre, Evergreen Brick Works has family-friendly programs and events, nature trails, and a farmer’s market. On any given weekend you may find planting programs for kids in the Children’s Garden, guided hikes or bike rides, scavenger hunts.

Open daily. Farmer’s market Sat. 9 am–1 pm (winter), Sat. 8 am–1 pm and Sun. 10 am–5 pm (summer)
 

High Park “Castle Playground”

The Jamie Bell Adventure Playground on the south end High Park is better known as the “castle playground”. The wooden structure with spires and turrets has an enclosed toddler area and, for older kids, multiple slides, “secret” passageways, and a climbing wall. The ground is wood chips and there are picnic tables. It’s adjacent to the High Park Zoo, so you can easily do both in a morning or afternoon.

High Park Zoo

On the south side of High Park, this walkway with a dozen animal enclosures is is the perfect size for young families who just want to visit a few animals and play in the park. There are bison, deer, llamas, peacocks, highland cattle, goats and more. Beginning in April, the Llama Pen is on weekends and holidays 11:30–2 and kids can feed and pet the llamas and hold chickens and rabbits. When you’re done at the zoo, have a picnic, explore the castle playground, or visit the spring cherry blossoms.

Toronto Island Park

Take the Centre Island ferry from the downtown waterfront to the Toronto Island Park for a day of exploration. You’ll find bicycle trails, beaches, the lighthouse, Franklin Children’s Garden—all for free! Toronto Island Park is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle. Take a picnic and a Frisbee for a relaxing day outside.

Rouge Park Guided Walks

Canada’s first national urban park, Rouge Park has got nature, biodiversity, beaches, farms, camping, and hiking, all in one park! The park also hosts many guided outings and events, including nature hikes, exploration walks, birdwatching, fitness, art, environmental awareness, and wildlife adventures.

Riverdale Farm

In the heart of Cabbagetown, Riverdale Farm is a rural escape right in the middle of Toronto. Visit the farm to chat with the farmer during daily chores, such as egg collecting and cow milking; meet the animals; and experience the gardens, ponds, and majestic trees.

Open daily 9 am–5 pm
 

Corktown Common

One of the city’s newest parks, the 7.3-hectare Corktown Common is most popular for its very cool splash pad in summer, but it’s a nice spot to visit in spring, too. It’s perched on a hill with a great view of the city and has picnic tables and a futuristic playground with extra-long slide built into the side of a hill. It connects directly with the Don Valley recreational trail.

Downsview Park

Come spend the morning or afternoon at Downsview Park. The park has tons of great facilities and uses, from education and sports, to nature and recreation, to concerts and cultural events. While you’re there, you can enjoy the forests, trails, ponds, gardens, play areas, sport fields, and free scheduled events.

Gardens, Pools, and Beaches

Allan Gardens Conservatory

Open year-round, the glass-domed Palm House at Allan Gardens Conservatory is a perfect destination for chilly spring days. It’s filled with exotic plants and flowers, cacti, and fruit trees. Spring is arguably the best time to visit, for the Spring Flower Show (through mid-May) and Easter Show (mid-April–mid-May).

Open daily 10 am–5 pm
 

The Beaches

The Beaches neighbourhood is so called for its several kilometres of Lake Ontario beachfront, lined by a boardwalk. On the beaches themselves—Woodbine Beach and Kew-Balmy Beach—you’ll find volleyball nets, fun events, community fundraisers, kid-friendly activities, beachcombing, and swimming when the weather is warm enough.

Toronto Botanical Garden

In North Toronto, the TBG has 17 award-winning themed gardens spanning nearly 4 acres, designed to educate and inspire. The gardens are free to visit and stroll around. Don’t miss out on the adjacent Edward Gardens, which has free tours, waterfalls, an arboretum, and stunning flower gardens. Visit on Thursday to shop at the TBG Farmer’s Market.

Humber Arboretum

The Humber Arboretum is 250 acres of botanical gardens and natural beauty. This unique site is home to the Carolinian bioregion, the most diverse ecosystem in Canada, and boasts over 1,700 species of plants and animals. Enjoy 6km of walking trails, and enjoy the fresh air.

Regent Park Aquatic Centre

Drop-in swimming is free at the Regent Park Aquatic Centre—arguably the city’s best public pool for kids, with a giant tube slide, Tarzan rope, and spraying water features.

Drop-in leisure swim times Tue.–Sat.; check the drop-in schedule online
 

Franklin Children’s Garden

Hop on the ferry to the Toronto Islands and visit this cute, well-kept and interactive green space for families on Centre Island, inspired by Franklin the turtle of the popular book series. Kids love the larger-than-life bronze statues of Franklin, Bear, and other characters. Kids can water flowers in the garden, attend storytime, and visit the turtle pond and pollination station.

Workshops

TD Shakespeare for Kids Library Club

A free readers’ theatre program for kids ages 7–12, hosted by Toronto Public Library branches. This is a registered six-week session that meets weekly for two hours; you must register your child at the participating library branch.

Spring session begins April 7; registration open Feb. 24
 

Home Depot Kids Workshops

Kids ages 5–12 can get hands on with fun and useful DIY projects like building toolboxes, fire trucks and mail organizers, birdhouses, Mother’s Day gifts, and more with easy step-by-step instructions. Offered at multiple Hope Depot locations.

Check the website and enter a location for upcoming workshops
 

Power Kids

The Power Plant art gallery hosts free arts and crafts workshops for kid ages 7–12. Kids tour the gallery and then participate in an art activity,inspired by the  current exhibition.

Select Sundays at 3 pm; see upcoming workshops
 

DX Kids’ Days

Monthly DIY workshops for kids ages 7–13 take place at the Design Exchange, a non-profit design museum at Bay and King streets. Themes this spring include Cool Coding with Canada Learning Code and Green Thumbs in the City.

Select Sundays, 1 pm–4 pm
 

Toronto Public Library Pop-Up Learning Labs

Every month the Toronto Public Library offers workshops in tech at different library branches through its Pop-Up Learning Labs. There are workshops on 3D design and 3D printing, Arduino, virtual reality, electrical circuitry, Scratch programming, HTML and CSS, digital movie editing, and more.

See the schedule for upcoming workshops.

Festivals, Arts, Music, and Special Events

Glenn Gould School Student Recitals and Concerts

This is your chance to enjoy the amazingly talented students of The Glenn Gould School. These free performances allow these young musicians to display their skills in front of a live audience. Inspire your kids (and yourself) at one of these great Royal Conservatory events.

Performances mid-March through May; see performance dates
 

Musical Hangouts

Solar Stage Children’s Theatre hosts these monthly “hangouts” for kids and families at Artscape Wychwood Barns. Specials guests join to sing songs and share stories in a relaxed environment.

April 29, May 27, June 17; from 10:30 am
 

International Pillowfight Day

Pack your (soft, feather-free) pillow and participate in this giant pillow fight at Nathan Phillips Square. It’s good fun for all ages, but probably best for older kids. PJs optional!

April 7; time TBD
 

Children’s Day Multicultural Dance and Art Festival

Everyone is invited to celebrate International Children’s Day at Nathan Philips Square to enjoy shows, dancing, and music. Also on the schedule: fun-fair activities, live entertainment, multicultural art shows, and yummy snacks. Interact with the community, make new friends, and experience the cultural diversity found in Canada.

April 23, 1:30–5 pm
 

Pampered Pooches T.O.

Head to Liberty Village for this a one-day event filled with tons of great activities for you and your beloved dog (or dogs). There will be 50 vendors of dog food (and people food) and fashion, as well as tips for grooming, and pet health. An entire event of shopping, entertainment, and information just for your pup!

May 12, 11 am–6 pm
 

Field Trip Music and Arts Festival

Kids under 12 get in free at this community music and arts festival. Day Camp is a free program for kids with tons of great activities, including bouncy castles, ping pong tables, and hula hoops, and live musical performances for kids and their parents. Children must be accompanied by an adult ticketholder.

June 2–3

Earth Day Events

Earth Day Family Celebration

Join the Toronto Botanical Gardens for their annual family celebration, with guided walks, scavenger hunts, nature crafts, and a ride on the blender bike. Drinks and snacks for purchase.

April 21, noon–4 pm
 

Clean Toronto Together

Bring your friends, family, neighbours, and co-workers, pick a public location, and have a day of clean-up. Come and do your part to help keep our city clean and green. Garbage bags will be provided at select locations. Register online and get cleaning!

April 21–22
 

Earth Day Festival

Participate in Downsview Park’s Earth Day annual tree planting and—new this year—a festival with eco activities and education for the whole family, including sing-alongs by the campfire, family nature walks, and a birds of prey demonstration.

April 22, 11 am–4 pm
 

Earth Day at Todmorden Mills

Visitors to this City of Toronto heritage site can learn how old-fashioned habits help the earth. You can also help create environmentally-friendly artwork, tour the Wildflower Preserve, and enjoy the beauty of the Don Valley. And take a tour of the site to learn how industrialization impacted the local landscape.

April 22, noon–4 pm
 

Charity Events and Fundraisers

Kids can join in the fun for free at these events, though you might have to pay for yourself to participate or at least raise money from others.

Walk for Water

A 6-km walk might be too far for little legs, but bring the big kids to Aveda’s Walk for Water, symbolic of the average distance women and children walk everyday in rural, developing cities worldwide to collect water. This fundraising event will help bring clean water to the communities that need it the most.

April 30
 

Meagan’s Walk

On Meagan’s Walk, everyone follows a 5 km route that leads to SickKids, where everyone gathers, join hands, and form a huge “hug” around the hospital. There will also be live music and entertainment, face-painting, and inspiring talks from youth ambassadors, doctors, and the walk’s founder.

May 12
 

The Cardiac Walk of Life

Walk, run, have fun, and honour a family member, friend, co-worker, or a child by raising money for a good cause at The Cardiac Walk for Life. Kids under 14 are free to join in for snacks and beverages, live entertainment, fun activities, and a BBQ lunch.

May 26
 

Relay for Life Toronto

Whether you are cheering on survivors, walking the track, passing the baton to your teammate, or joining in exciting trackside activities, the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay For Life is more than just a cancer walk – it’s a journey.

June 16

Day Trips

Niagara Falls

The crowds don’t descend on Niagara Falls until after Victoria Day, so April is quiet and lovely month to visit. Some of the most popular tourist attractions like Hornblower Tours, formerly Maid of the Mist (opens April 1), are not free, but here’s what you can do free of charge: get amazing falls views, hike the escarpment along the rapids, visit the Botanical Gardens and Butterfly Conservatory, and take in the daily fireworks and falls illumination (beginning May 19). Plus, all Niagara Parks attractions are free for kids under 5.

Here’s a list of some of the best things to do in Niagara Falls with kids.

Hike Rattlesnake Point

For some outdoor adventure close to home, head to Rattlesnake Point in the Halton Region. With four trails of varying difficulty, geocaches hidden throughout the park for little scavenger hunters, and panoramic views of the Niagara Escarpment from lookouts along the way, it’s a refreshing, family-friendly place to spend a few hours or a day. Feeling adventurous? Take a round-trip hike to Crawford Lake (4–5 hours) or go rock climbing.

Tour Hamilton’s Waterfalls

Not up for a trip to Niagara Falls? Stay closer to home and do a self-guided walk or bike ride to one or several of the beautiful waterfalls around Hamilton. Some of the easier trails are the 1.7 km Crook’s Hollow Heritage Walk to Darnley Cascade, the 3.7-km Scenic Iroquoia Walk with views of two waterfalls, and the 6.6-km Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail (cycling) with access to two waterfalls. Some parking areas charge a small fee.

See Hamilton Conservation Authority’s maps of Hamilton waterfalls
 
 
This article was originally published on Help! We’ve Got Kids.
 

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