March break sneaks up on us every year. We start making lists of ideas in January and then, suddenly, it’s mid-March and we’re scrambling for last-minute camp spots or to fill those days with fun activities—preferably ones that won’t break the bank!
Thankfully, in Toronto the list of awesome March break family activities is a mile long. Here are our favourite free and inexpensive things you can do this year. All events are free unless noted otherwise.
Festivals and Parades
Sugar Beach, at Jarvis and Queen’s Quay, transforms into a Quebec-style cabane à sucre during this annual fun family event featuring maple taffy on snow, traditional French Canadian music, and food trucks serving authentic Québécois food. Sugar Beach, March 10–11
March break is the last hurrah for this all-winter festival with a winter light exhibition featuring 12 installations by local artists, a beautiful outdoor skating rink beside Lake Ontario (skate rentals available), bonfire every evening during March break, and food truck and concession stand. While you’re here, see Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the Cinesphere dome IMAX theatre (tickets $15 adults, $11 kids). Ontario Place, 955 Lake Shore Blvd. W., Toronto, December 8–March 18
Don’t miss Canada’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade! This year it takes place on March 11, leaving from near St. George Station, then along Bloor, down Yonge, and west on Queen Street to Nathan Phillips Square. Everyone can be Irish for a day at the parade! March 11, Route from St. George Station to Nathan Phillips Square along Yonge St.
Museums and Galleries
This always-free attraction at the Harbourfront Centre has an exhibit by Michael Landy. DEMONSTRATION invites the public to collaborate in building a wall of protest by submitting images, words, texts and slogans that Landy will weave into an evolving display. Kids can sign up for a free Power Kids workshop based on the exhibit, on March 11. Through May 13; Power Kids March 11, 231 Queen’s Quay W., Toronto
Got a petite politician on your hands? At this annual March break program, kids ages 6–10 can do a scavenger hunt in the historic Legislative building, learn about provincial parliament, do some arts and crafts, and even dress up in Parliament robes. March 12–16, 111 Wellesley St., Toronto
It’s a March break mystery at this working 1800s village during March break: solve the Case of the Missing Jewels with Sherlock Holmes and Watson. And take part in sweet maple syrup activities every day starting at noon. Admission is free for kids; adult admission is $15 and parking is $7 per car. March 12–18, 1000 Murray Ross Parkway, North York
On a cold March day, it can be lovely to wander the tropical and arid greenhouses of this indoor garden, with blooming orchids, hibiscus, banana plants, and succulents. Spring flowers are in bloom now. It’s free year-round. Daily, 10 am–5 pm, 19 Horticultural Ave., Toronto
Outdoors and Sports
At these fun-filled pop-up play events, Earth Day Canada assembles outdoor stations with cardboard boxes, tires, bicycle parts, logs, rope, and other “loose parts” and lets kids get creative with building, getting dirty, and engaging in self-directed play. Staff is on hand to help when needed. Stick around to roast marshmallows over a campfire! Downsview Park, March 11
Free drop-in activities include daily scavenger hunts, play in the Children’s Garden (weekends), hands-on nature activities, and an exhibit of original art from children’s illustrator Barbara Reid. Saturday is the weekly farmer’s market, and Sunday March 18 is Seedy Sunday, with live music and food. Entry is free but some events have a suggested donation of $2–$5. 550 Bayview Ave., Toronto, Ongoing—see website for specific event dates
Parks Canada volunteers lead family-friendly (and some dog-friendly) walks on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays in Canada’s first nationally protected park in an urban area. During March break, hike themes include a look at the parks friendliest bird, the chickadee; a family fitness outing; and exploring the Beare Wetlands flora and fauna. March 10–11, 14, and 17–18, Zoo Rd., Toronto
This 7.5-acre working farm in the city is open year-round, with free admission. See farm animals being fed and milked, and tour the barns and cow paddock. Animals include pigs, chickens, goats, cows, and sheep. Museum volunteers are on site on weekends. Daily 9:15–4 pm, 201 Winchester St., Toronto
Ice Skating Rinks
City of Toronto ice-skating rinks have special hours for public skate and shinny during March break. Other free places to skate during March break are the Harbourfront Centre’s Natrel Rink, the rink at Ontario Place, and Celebration Square rink in Mississauga. All rinks are outdoors; many close immediately after March break, so get out on the ice while you can!
If the weather cooperates, check out Toronto’s best sledding hills for an end of season downhill thrill.
City of Toronto indoor pools have extended hours during March break week for leisure swim, family swim, and preschool swim.
Music, Arts, and Crafts
The Toronto Public Library has more than 100 programs planned during March break for kids and teens. All are completely free, including shows from Mad Science, a musical puppet show with kids’ performers Soli and Rob, and The Tale of Peter Rabbit from Little Red Theatre. Some events require advance registration. March 12–17, Search programs by branch
Participating Indigo & Chapters stores are hosting free events all week beginning at 11 am: Monday is arts and crafts using the ORB High-Def Creation System art supplies, Wednesday is Lego building, Friday is creating your own PAW Patrol Sea Patrol craft. Some events have age restrictions. Call your local store to confirm. March 12–16, Find an Indigo or Chapters location
Share a song or a story at the Solar Stage Theatre, which will host special guests, sing-a-longs, and improvisation during this free-form, interactive musical event. Part class, part show. For all ages. March 18, Artscape Wychwood Barns, 601 Christie St., Toronto
A free movie at the Aga Khan Museum about a 10-year-old girl living in a village in remote northeast India who pursues her dream of starting a rock band. Rated PG. Tickets are first-come, first served at the tickets desk on the day of the film.March 14
Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Dr., Toronto
Ways To Save
You may think of CityPass as something for tourists, but if you plan to do some of Toronto’s biggest attractions during March Break, buying the pass can save you some dough. It’s $76/adult and $51/child and includes admission to the CN Tower, Casa Loma, ROM, Ripley’s Aquarium, and either the Toronto Zoo or the Ontario Science Centre.
For more ideas, search the Toronto/GTA events calendar at Help We’ve Got Kids!