Here are our picks for the top free events happening in Toronto this month.

Free Japanese Movies at Hot Docs

The Japan Foundation, Toronto and the Consulate-General of Japan present five contemporary movies that showcase the creativity and depth of storytelling of Japan’s filmmakers. All of the films will be screened in Japanese with English subtitles and are first come, first served. Read the synopsis for each film here

When: January 11 and 12

Where: Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema (506 Bloor St. W.)

No Pants Subway Ride

Ain’t no subway ride like a pants-less subway ride! Happening simultaneously in more than 50 cities around the world, the No Pants Subway Ride is an annual event where people ditch their bottoms while riding the subway. The Toronto ride will run from the Eaton Centre to Ossington Station, followed by an afterparty at Penny’s (1306 Bloor St. W.) with dance offs and prizes for the raddest no pants. 

When: January 12 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Toronto Eaton Centre (Dundas St. entrance)

Winter Stations Presents: Loop

Loop is a retro-futuristic art installation powered by YOU! Hop on two at a time into one of the six illuminated cylinders and watch as the installation lights up York Street Park.

When: January 15 to February 8 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Where: York Street Park (York St. and Harbour St.)


DesignTO, Toronto’s annual celebration of art and design, returns for its 10th year with over 100 free exhibitions, window installations, and events happening across the city. This year’s exhibitions include Arborescent, which imagines a world in which we eliminate waste and emphasize the reuse and repurposing of materials; Dying.exhibits and Dying.threads, which invite participants to think about their relationship with life and death; and You’re So Lucky, a real-time educational tool that allows you to see how your words impact the mindset of the person in front of you.

When: January 17 to 26

Where: Various locations

Toronto Light Festival

The Toronto Light Festival is the perfect excuse to get outside during the cold, dark days of winter. Now in its fourth year, the festival illuminates the historic Distillery District with installations and sculptures by local and international light artists. Their works will educate, inspire, or simply put a smile on your face. 

When: January 17 to March 1 from sundown to 10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday and sundown to 11 p.m. Thursday-Sunday

Where: The Distillery District

Ryerson Winter Exhibitions Opening Party

Join Ryerson University for a free party in celebration of the school’s winter exhibitions. They include A Handful of Dust: From the Cosmic to the Domestic, a selection of modern and contemporary images that focus on the visual representation of dust in photography; Extending the Frame: 40 Years of Gallery TPW, celebrating 40 years of exhibitions and programs at the artist-run Gallery TPW; Nir Evron: A Free Moment, a 2011 film drawing together political history and formal exploration; and Clea Christakos-Gee: A piece A seed A spread, which interprets the conceptual poetry of Yoko Ono through photography. Light refreshments and a cash bar will be available. 

When: January 22 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Where: Ryerson Image Centre (33 Gould St.)

The Power Plant’s Winter 2020 Opening Party

The Power Plant is throwing a free party to celebrate the launch of its Winter 2020 exhibition season. Attendees will be amongst the first to experience new bodies of work by artists Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Dawit L. Petros, Naeem Mohaiemen, and Rashid Johnson. The gallery will also host a free performative lecture and conversation with some of the featured artists this month.   

When: January 24 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. 

Where: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery (231 Queens Quay W.) 


The Canadian Opera Company is collaborating with guest artists for a series of free pop-up shows at Drake One Fifty. This edition will feature DJ duo Buggin Out (DJ Cam B and Walter Deans) remixing a classic opera performance by artists of the COC Ensemble Studio. 

When: January 25 at 5 p.m.

Where: Drake One Fifty (150 York St.)

Skating + Tobagganing 

Beyond all of the above, there are over 100 ice rinks open to the public in Toronto—check city parks & rec page here for listings. Of course, an evening in January spent tobogganing and crunching snow in Christie Pits, Trinity Bellwoods or is always a good time, especially if you come prepared with a thermos full of hot chocolate.