21 free (or almost free) things to do with families in Toronto this summer

Summer in the city – can’t think of a better time to explore Toronto with kids in TOw and show off its awesomeness to visiting family and friends. No question, you can drop some serious cash on a summer of adventuring but we’re convinced you don’t have to blow your budget to get the most out of summer and the city. Here are our favourite free (or almost free) destinations that will keep kids busy and turn pretty much anyone into a T.O. fan.
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1) Go to Toronto Islands – Outside of ferry tickets ($7.50 for adults/ $3.65 for kids) you can spend a day on the island without spending a dime. That means packing a picnic, skipping Centreville and heading to these fun and free stops: William Meany Tree Maze, Franklin’s Garden, Centre Island Beach, Disc Golf and the playground and splash pad.

TRIP TIP: Parking can be steep so consider TTC (kids under 12 ride free) or travel on bike.

2) Watch a movie outside – More and more outdoor screenings are popping up across the city in parks, along the Waterfront and even in urban settings like Yonge & Dundas Square and a new presentation coming soon at Union Station. (More on this from BlogTO.) But for more kid-friendly flicks, check out the line-up at the Kew Gardens in The Beach. E.T. kicks off the season in July.

3) Head to Kids’ CBC Days: Two full days – Wednesday and Thursday July 20 and 21 – of free activities and performances by Kids’ CBC stars at the Toronto CBC Broadcasting Station. Stay tuned for more details here.

4) Take in a festival – Go big or go small, you’re guaranteed a summer festival every weekend. Three of our favourites: Festival of South Asia July 16-17 on Gerrard St. E, Big on Bloor Arts & Cultre Festival July 23-24 on Bloor St. W and Buskerfest moves to Woodbine Park on September 2-5.

5) Play at a farmers’ market: These markets aren’t just for buying food (though you should support your local farmers). We go for the great community atmosphere and wide-open space for kids to play. Feel like a tourist at Nathan Philips Square on Wednesdays (the playground is open during noon hour); Saturday at Wychwood Barns has a great playground and splash pad and Wednesday afternoons at Fairmount Farm Market has a wading pool, three playgrounds and lots of open space.

6) Go to Black Creek Pioneer Village – On weekdays kids under 14 are free with a paying adult admission. (Free admission for everyone on Tuesdays after 2 p.m.)

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7) Have a picnic at Aga Khan Museum – The gardens around the Aga Khan Museum are picture perfect. Go for a walk and picnic. Museum admission is free on Wednesdays from 4 – 8 p.m.

8) Enjoy Shakespeare in the Park: Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare in the Ruff at Withrow Park takes place in August. (Tickets are pay what you can.)

TRIP TIP: Looking for more family fun in the city? Check out 50 Reasons to Love Toronto with Kids in TOw.

9) Swim and splash: City of Toronto outdoor, indoor and wading pools and splash pads are free, including the only city-operated water park Kidstown Water Park.

10) Go to Rogers Cup: Bring the whole family to the Rogers Cup on July 27th for free activities during the Pizzaville Free Community Weekend. Inspired to have your own rally? City of Toronto has tons of free courts

11) Build a campfire: It’s free to book a fire pit through the City of Toronto.

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12) Go for a bike ride: The waterfront just got a whole lot more accessible for families on two wheels with Queen’s Quay bike path. Into more off-roading? Check out the pump track in the Don Valley Trail. Evergreen Brick Works also has a mini bike obstacle course for kids during their Wednesday evening Pizza Nights.

13) Get your groove on at Harbourfront: If your kids are night owls and like to bust a move, there is free Dancing on the Pier every Thursday evening; concerts at 4 pm on Sundays in the Music Garden and more family-friendly offerings with HarbourKIDS.

TRIP TIP: If you do plan to head to an attraction, save money by buying in advance online or using one of these coupons from Attractions Ontario.

14) Dancing in the Park: Dusk Dances offer free performances in Withrow Park on August 1 to 7th. While they aren’t targeted for kids, it is family-friendly.

15) Go to the libary: You can encourage and keep track of the books your children read this summer with the annual TD Summer Reading Program. There is also lots of in-branch programming across the city. Don’t forget that you can check out a Museum + Arts Pass with your library card, giving you free access to Toronto museums, galleries and historic sites.

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16) Head to the Beach: You don’t have to head north for a day at the beach. The city of Toronto has 11 supervised beaches that are even swimmable. One of our favourites is Bluffer’s Beach.

17) Visit a City of Toronto Museum: The city operates 10 museums – like Fort York National Historic Site and Todmorden Mills (great hiking for the little kids) – that delve into Toronto’s history  Admission is between $7-$10 for adults, kids around $3-$5 and kids under 5 are free. These sites are also part of the Toronto Public Library’s Museum + Arts Pass.

TRIP TIP: Get some extra Toronto inspiration from Tourism Toronto’s new kid-friendly site Yo-Toronto.

18) Go geocaching: There are hundreds of hidden treasures (caches) around Toronto. Perfect for outdoor exploring in Toronto. A how-to guide.

19) Hit Kenzington Market for Pedestrian Sundays: Streets close to vehicular traffic on Sundays, July 26, 31 and August 28.

20) Visit the AGO: Kids 5 and under are always free at the Art Gallery of Ontario. High schoolers receive free admission on weekdays after 3 p.m. and the AGO is always free to visitors on Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m.

21) Go play in the streets: Open Streets Toronto shuts down traffic along parts of Bloor St. and Yonge St. for two days: August 21 and September 18.

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