Having fun during the holiday season doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank! Here are our picks for the top FREE activities and events happening around the city during December.
Evergreen’s Winter Village
Glide around an outdoor skating rink, browse locally crafted and sustainably produced goods, enjoy tasty eats and drinks at Evergreen’s Winter Village (550 Bayview Ave.). This year’s edition will also feature live music on Sundays and a special performance by Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra on December 7 at 1 p.m.
The Winter Village is open every weekend to December 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Toronto Christmas Market
Hit up the Toronto Christmas Market during the week to avoid the crowds and enjoy free admission. There’s magical lighting and décor displays throughout the Distillery District, including a massive Christmas tree, along with vendors, a daily caroling sing-along, and lots more.
Free admission is available Tuesday-Thursday from 12-9 p.m. and Fridays before 6 p.m.
Really Really Free Market
No money is required at this market held monthly at Campbell Park (225 Campbell Ave.) in the Junction Triangle! The mandate of Really Really Free Market is to give without expecting something in return and to take without having to give something in return. Each person is allowed to fill one large shopping bag with items, and anything you bring much be clean and in working condition.
The next market happens December 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cineplex Community Day
On December 7, Cineplex theatres across Canada will host a morning of free family-friendly movies as part of Community Day. This year’s lineup features several holiday classics, including A Christmas Story, Elf, Gremlins, The Polar Express, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Hot Docs for the Holidays
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema (506 Bloor St. W.) is helping you get into the holiday spirit with a series of free screenings throughout December featuring classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, White Christmas, and A Christmas Story. The cinema will also be accepting non-perishable food items for The Stop.
Tickets (maximum of two free per person) can be picked up at the cinema box office, with a limited number of same-day tickets available.
The Festival of Cool
The second edition of The Festival of Cool at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay W.) explores the diversity and Indigenous languages of the Arctic Circle through contemporary music, film, visual art, and panels. Free events include the solo exhibition Flora, Fauna by Sámi artist Marja Helander, The Race for the Arctic lecture with Michael Byers from the University of British Columbia, and a panel discussion debunking the myths about day-to-day living in the Arctic.
The festival runs December 10-15.
Kensington Market Winter Solstice Parade
The 30th annual Kensington Market Winter Solstice Parade lights up the longest, darkest night of the year with handmade lanterns, a fire show, giant puppets, stilted dancers, musical performances, and lots more. The parade departs from Oxford St. and Augusta Ave. and then makes its way to Alexandra Park for the grand finale.
The festivities take place December 21 beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Free Wednesdays at the AGO
The Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas St. W.) offers free admission to all visitors who are 25 and under any time, but those older can browse the collection galleries for free every Wednesday night from 6-9 p.m. The AGO collection includes close to 95,000 works ranging from contemporary art to European masterpieces to works by established and emerging Indigenous Canadian artists.
Free tickets are issued in person beginning at 6 p.m.
Canadian Opera Company’s Free Concert Series
Enjoy live performances by established and emerging artists from around the world as part of the Canadian Opera Company’s Free Concert Series at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (145 Queen St. W.). Artists of the COC Ensemble Studio present a mysterious program of fairytales and lullabies on December 10 at noon, while the JUNO-nominated a capella vocal quartet Cadence will perform original music and new twists on classic Christmas songs at A Cool Yule with Cadence on December 12 at noon.
Hudson Bay Holiday Windows
Take a break from your shopping to admire the new holiday windows at Hudson’s Bay Queen Street (176 Yonge St.). This year’s theme is “behind the scenes in Santa’s workshop” and captures the magic of the holiday season.
Tunnel of Glam
Back for a second year, the Tunnel of Glam (1501 Yonge St.) is an immersive (and highly photographable) installation located inside an 80-foot pedestrian tunnel. The space is lined with 14 million reversible sequins – the largest ever single use of the fabric – that allow visitors to influence how it looks and feels with the swipe of a hand.
The tunnel is open December 1 to January 6 from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Allan Gardens Conservatory
Allan Gardens (1600 Gerrard St. E.) is worth visiting all year round, but it’s especially enjoyable during the winter months when you’re looking to escape the cold. The park’s indoor botanical garden features six greenhouses filled with a wide variety of plants like orchids, palms, tropical vines, cacti, and succulents. There will also be seasonal topiary masterpieces on display this month as part of the Allan Gardens Winter Flower Show, running December 1-January 12.
The conservatory is open Monday-Wednesday from noon to 7 p.m. and Thursday-Sunday and holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
CBC Toronto Sounds of the Season in Support of the Daily Bread Food Bank
Celebrate the giving season December 6 at the Sounds of the Season Open House with CBC personalities, special musical guests, and live broadcasts of some of your favourite CBC shows. Bring some perishable food items, enjoy join the joyful chorus!
Outdoor Skating Rinks
Lace up a pair of skates and enjoy some time with friends and family at one of Toronto’s many outdoor ice rinks. Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen St. W.), the Natrel Rink at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay W.), and The Bentway Skate Trail (250 Fort York Blvd.) are all popular destinations during the colder months, and we’re excited to check out the brand new rink on Front St. outside Union Station.
Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, sliding down a snowy hill is always a good time. Riverdale Park East (550 Broadview Ave.) and West (375 Sumach St.), Trinity Bellwoods (790 Queen St. W.), and Christie Pits (750 Bloor St. W.) feature some of best tobogganing hills in Toronto.
Winter Hiking Trails
Get outside and enjoy picturesque views on one of Toronto’s hiking trails. High Park (1873 Bloor St. W.), Tommy Thompson Park (1 Leslie St.), Kay Gardner Beltline Park and Trail (Mount Pleasant Rd. & Merton St.), the Don Valley River Park (Pottery Rd. to Corktown Common), and Rouge Valley Conservation Area (1749 Meadowvale Rd.) are all must-visits for nature lovers.
New Year’s Eve at Nathan Phillips Square
Ring in the New Year and a new decade for free in the heart of downtown Toronto. The annual New Year’s Eve celebration at Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen St. W.) is an all-ages, alcohol-free event featuring DJ skating parties, live musical performances, and a spectacular firework display.