Toronto is a vibrant city, and the choices are endless--but not entirely free.
If you're willing to spend a lot of cash, check out a live game or take a family of four to a new release at the local theatre. Of course, the majority of us can't afford opening night at the theatre or even a trip to Canada's Wonderland for the family.
Don't fret too much about money; it is possible to enjoy time out with the kids in Toronto without spending a fortune.
In fact, there are tons of things to do that cost less than a Starbucks coffee. Here are just twenty things to do around Toronto that are either low-cost or free.
1. See the spring flowers in bloom at Allan Gardens Conservatory.
This is a kid-safe (and dog-friendly) place for children of all ages. They'll love the different habitats for flowers and plants from all over the world, including Australia and the Mediterranean. Best of all, there's a playground and sand play area for when you need a break from walking.
2. Spend the day at High Park.
While the train tour may cost you, it doesn't cost anything to come enjoy the tranquility of nature, hike the many trails around the park or have a picnic next to Grenadier Pond. There are plenty of play areas for the little ones and tennis courts for the over-competitive. There's even a small zoo where you can see all manner of domestic and exotic animals.
3. Go on a family bike ride at one of the area parks.
Most local parks have bicycle trails for or bike-friendly areas for all ages. Don't let the beauty pass by too fast! If you don't have a bike, there are bike shares located across the city for as low as $7.
4. Learn about Toronto's law enforcement history at Toronto Police Museum and Discovery Centre.
You'll have to schedule your visit in advance by submitting an online booking form, but this is a great place for kids with an interest in police and law enforcement to see some of the history of the city's police force. Kids can check out the old paddywagon or study their fingerprints.
5. Have a BBQ on an outdoor grill.
6. Check out a free concert.
There are many areas throughout Toronto you can go for free music. Yonge-Dundas Square downtown is the place to be for big-name performances, but it also offers occasional freebies, and there are always street performers looking for an audience.
7. Head to your favourite street to window shop.
If you don't mind telling your kids "no" when they beg for the newest toy at the mall, take them to a store--any store--and walk around. It's amazing how entertaining this can be for everyone.
8. Visit the beach.
There are a number of complimentary beaches located around Toronto. One of the most popular among kids is Bluffer's Park and Beach, located in the Scarborough district. Your kids will love the lookout, and there's plenty of room for a game of frisbee or a picnic. Plus you've got a great view of the white sandy cliffs in the background.
9. Go alternative. Visit 401 Richmond for a creative immersion.
You can visit one of the many tenant galleries or check out the concrete garden, a splash of green in the backdrop of urban life. For those who have been to traditional galleries and want something a bit different.
10. Catch an opera.
Take advantage of the Canadian Opera Company's free concert series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheater. Most concerts take place mid-week are are first-come, first-serve.
11. Cool down at a free splash pad or wading pool.
Here's a list of some of our favourites. One of the best parts is trying new ones, so that it forces you to explore the many vibrant and funky neighbourhoods you may not have been before.
12. Spend the afternoon at the library.
You'll find free reading material and plenty of quiet places to read. Most local libraries offer story-time for little ones and occasionally they will offer free programs for older kids.
13. Go geocaching.
You can find geocache clubs throughout Toronto, and all you need is a GPS system to take part. The kids will enjoy finding trinkets and toys and will have a blast placing their own. It's like a huge scavenger hunt!
14. Teach the kids about farm life at Riverdale Farm.
They can watch the farmers doing their daily chores or check out the Simpson house, the recreation of the on-site farmhouse that can give your kids a glimpse into life as it used to be. There's a "watering hole" on site to cool off in and plenty of wildlife at the Duck Pond.
15. Spend an evening stargazing.
All you need is a warm (or semi-warm) night and a blanket. A star chart will help you to recognize constellations, and if you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of a falling star.
16. Grab hot dogs at the nearest baseball park.
Can't afford tickets to the Jays game? No problem! Treat your kids to dinner and maybe a goodie bag from the concession at your nearest ball park, then stay to watch the game.
17. Inspire your kids' creativity with a walk down Graffiti Alley.
Located in the Fashion District south of Queen Street West, Graffiti Alley is a kilometer-long walkway where your kids can see how art and architecture come together in beautiful harmony. Each part of the wall was created to complement the others, leaving one big, vibrant piece of art.
18. Play a game of disc golf at E.T. Seton Park.
Sure you can play with a frisbee anywhere for free, but at this particular park a full course is set up for anyone to use! Bring a few frisbees and try it out, you may have to step up your frisbee game.
19. Watch a free outdoor movie.
There's not much better than watching a movie on a big screen right under the stars! Just as there are free music concerts every so often, you've got the chance to see classic and newer movies on an outdoor screen at Yonge-Dundas or Harbourfront Centre. The selection of movie varies, and you can keep up with what's next by visiting their websites.
20. Volunteer at the local Salvation Army or soup kitchen.
Last but certainly not least, it doesn't cost a dime to volunteer and will allow your kids to see that there are people who are less fortunate than they are. Helping others is one of the most rewarding experiences you can give to your children.