16 Free Things to do in Toronto

I would love to make this blog more interactive so please comment with other suggestions of free things to do in Toronto or write a blog about free things to do in your own city and post a link. Thanks!

1. Street art. Toronto has an abundance of highly talented local street artists that have transformed the city into a beautiful, free and inspirational art gallery accessible to all. You can find examples of street art almost anywhere in the city but Kensington market and Queen West are great places to start. Be sure to keep your eyes open and explore the side alleys. Related Post: Toronto Street Art Part 1 IMG_1549
2. Enjoy Toronto’s Harbourfront. The Harbourfront centre organizes many free events, festivals and music concerts throughout the summer months. A particular favourite of mine is the Taiwan festival held in August.TaiwanCheck out the Harbourfront Centre website for more information on events. When you can’t find anything interesting there is always the option of running, cycling or roller-blading along the lake shore.
3. Soak up the atmosphere at one of Toronto’s many festivals. You’ve probably heard of the big ones like Nuit Blanche and Caribana along with numerous parades throughout the year (Pride, Santa Clause, St. Patricks day) but don’t forget about the free events at the smaller ones such as LUMINATO.
4. One of the best ways to enjoy Toronto on a hot summer’s day is at one of many outdoor swimming pools. My top picks are Sunnyside Gus Ryder and High Park but check out this post from Blog TO for more suggestions.
5. Are you a soccer fanatic or do you just want to get some exercise and make some new friends? There are always plenty of pick-up soccer games going on around Toronto. There are free outdoor turf pitches at Bay and Bloor, Front and Spadina and Yonge and St. Clair but they tend to get busy once the warmer weather comes. Like Toronto Soccer Connection on Facebook to stay informed about free pick-up soccer games around the city and meet a great bunch of people.
6. Well Toronto isn’t exactly the Caribbean but it does have some great beaches to explore. Take a trip to Woodbine or Sunnyside beach or if you don’t mind splashing out on a ferry trip to Ward island you won’t be disappointed!
7. Toronto has a multitude of parks and green spaces to explore. Two of the most popular are High Park and Edwards Gardens. Spring and fall are particularly popular times to visit when you can enjoy the cherry blossoms or leaves changing colour.
Related Post: Cherry Blossoms in High Park
IMG_13308. Toronto has a beautiful mix of old and new architecture and a wealth of culturally diverse neighbourhoods means that there is always something new to discover and photograph. If you are new to the city Jane’s Walks are highly recommended. There are also a series of walks offered by the ROM and on May24th-May25th the 15th annual Doors Open Toronto will offer free access to 155 architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings across the city. Related Post: Toronto in Black and White

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9. The winter is long and cold in Toronto but Ice skating is one of the best ways to stay active and it’s free if you have your own skates. The rink at Nathan Phillips Square is always very popular and busy so I would highly recommend taking a trip down to the harbourfront especially if you have kids. There is also a small rink outside Ryerson University near Dundas Square that you can use if you have your own skates.
10. If you love your food Toronto is the city for you. The cultural diversity means you can always find something new and interesting to eat. Take the time to explore the food markets at Kensington and St. Lawrence which are full of wonderful fresh products.
11. Toronto’s Skyline is dominated by the CN tower and you can get great view from many places around the city. Check out this article from Blog TO for some suggestions or enjoy the view and a cocktail and Panorama Lounge.

Toronto1Check out this post for some unique views of Toronto’s skyline

12. Here is a recommendation from my dad for those times you are feeling in need of some political stimulation and education. It’s free to attend the legislative assembly of Ontario at Queens Park circle. Follow this link for more details.

13. There are a number of free music concerts that you can attend in Toronto. In the summer months Toronto Music Garden at Spadina and Queens Quay holds a wonderful classical music series. More details here. The Canadian Opera Company also holds a series of free lunchtime concerts at the Four Seasons Centre. 

14. The Art Gallery Ontario (AGO) is free to attend from 6pm to 8.30pm on Wednesday nights. However there are a number of interesting exhibits on at smaller galleries throughout the city. For example there is currently an exhibition by street artist Anser at Hashtag Gallery and earlier in the year Japanese artist Tomori Nagamoto held a highly recommended exhibition called Sweet Art at Art Barrage, Spadina Avenue. Toronto Public Library also offers a pass for free access to the AGO and ROM among other tourist attractions. Find out more details here.

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15. It’s your birthday! Time to celebrate but what can you do for free? From free ice cream at Baskin Robbins to celebrating your birthday at Medieval Times there are a number of free things you can do or get on your birthday. Here is a comprehensive list.

16. Finally if you have young children check out this information on Ontario Early Years Centres. There are a number of free baby clubs held throughout the city. We are taking my daughter to a very fun, interactive and popular baby club where she enjoys interacting with other children, playing with new toys and having music time.

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United by Soccer

Yesterday’s post highlighted the work of Ed Wade-Martins with Moving Sounds. I would like to follow up today by sharing another remarkable documentary called Pelada.

Away from the bright lights and manicured fields, there’s another side of soccer. In this documentary two players travel to twenty-five countries to discover that people all over the world people share a passion for the beautiful game of soccer. While Ed’s documentary highlighted the potential of music to unite people this documentary shows that soccer is equally powerful.

Several charities are now using the power of soccer to help people all over the world. Kick4Life are using soccer to promote HIV education and testing in Lesotho, southern Africa.

Love.futbol is using soccer to promote a sense of community building soccer pitches in Gutemala.

There are many other fabulous charities that use soccer to help people all over the world, I have just highlighted a couple that stand out for me. The book “Eleven: Making Lives Better: 11 Stories of Development Through Football” is a good place to start if you want to find out more.

The soccer ball has even been redesigned to bring electricity to the developing world.

Finally here is another beautiful video demonstrating people’s passion for soccer.

How has the beautiful game of soccer touched your life?

Related Post: Toronto Soccer Connection – A Brief History

Toronto Soccer Connection – A Brief History

I moved to Toronto in January 2008. Over the past five years I have been involved in helping Toronto Soccer Connection develop into a thriving multicultural group with almost 600 members. The group organizes free friendly soccer games for men and women in Toronto who want to enjoy the beautiful game. The key values of the group are as follows: 1) RESPECT others. Be passionate but know the limits. 2) BE HONEST & PLAY FAIR 3) EVERYONE PLAYS no matter the skill level 4) SMILE & HAVE FUN. This post highlights the achievements of a fantastic group of friends with a passion for soccer.

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Oasis in training

The first team that brought several key members together was Oasis FC. This team was formed by Oasis Dufferin Community Center who do fantastic work to help the local community. The power of soccer to unite different nations was already evident with players from Europe, North America, South America and a strong African contingent including our legendary goal keeper. Oasis began to develop into a competitive team competing in the Toronto Services Soccer league, cash prize tournaments and in friendly games against Zimbabwe All Stars, among others. We quickly realized that soccer could be used as a powerful tool to raise money for charities and the friendly soccer games at Oasis’s annual Run, Walk and Play event helped to draw the crowds and raise funds for the community center.

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Oasis compete in their first cash prize tournament at the Hangar, Downsview, Toronto

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Oasis compete at the annual Run, Walk and Play fundraising event

An important stage in the development of Toronto Soccer Connection was the formation of a Co-ed 6-a-side team. The original team which brought many players together was called CCBR. Yes, I know it sounds like a bank but it is named after the research institute at the University of Toronto which many of us work at.

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CCBR win their first championship

Several Co-ed 6-a-side teams became associated with Toronto Soccer Connection including Chimera FC and eventually the highly successful Grasshoppers FC. Along the way many championships and tournaments were won. We even won a frozen turkey in a Christmas tournament!

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Chimera FC win their first indoor tournament

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The original Grasshoppers United

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Grasshoppers United win a frozen turkey!

Through our Japanese connections in the group we were fortunate to be able to play with the Japanese Football Club of Toronto (JFT). This highly talented and well organized group of players was an inspiration for Toronto Soccer Connection. Importantly they create a tremendous sense of respect, friendliness and fair play, values which Toronto Soccer connection strives to uphold.

Following the devastating tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 JFT organized an annual Kick it for Japan fundraising tournament at Soccerworld, Toronto. Grasshoppers United were fortunate to compete in the tournament and win it two years in a row!

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Grasshoppers United win Kick it for Japan 2011

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Grasshoppers United win Kick it for Japan 2012

As Toronto Soccer Connection increased in size and new friendships were formed we decided that we should host our own fundraising events. In July 2010 I celebrated my 29th birthday by hosting a 12-hour soccerthon. The event was highly successful with great attendance and we raised over $400 for Kick4Life. This fantastic charity uses soccer to transform the lives of disadvantaged children in Lesotho. This includes health education and HIV prevention, voluntary HIV testing, life-skills development, mentoring, support towards education & employment, and the chance to enjoy sport.

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Kick4Life fundraisers, 2011

To raise additional funds for Kick4Life we took advantage of the Toronto District School Board priority school’s initiative which promotes the after school use of schools by community groups. Toronto Soccer Connection has participated in this program for the past three years and hosts friendly pick-up games at Ryerson community school throughout the long winter months.

As 2012 draws to a close it has been another exciting year for Toronto Soccer Connection. Members of our group have been involved in coaching four to six year old children with Royal York and Eglinton soccer clubs. This was a very rewarding experience and hopefully we will be nurturing Canada’s stars of the future.

Meanwhile in addition to defending our Kick it for Japan championship  Grasshoppers United won another championship at Jesse Ketchum with a hard fought final on a cold and wet October afternoon.

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Grasshoppers United 2012 Champions

Finally we continued our fundraising efforts but organizing our first tournament on at hot day in May at Winston Churchill park. On the day of the champions league final, which saw Chelsea beat Bayern Munich we held our own equally competitive and highly entertaining competition with six teams competing for the trophy. The tournament was a great success raising over $400 for a healthy eating snack program at St. Catherine School, Toronto.

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Papaya United look the part

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The eventual champions – Chiquita Banana

Thank you to everyone involved for making this all possible and creating so many wonderful memories. Enjoy the beautiful game and I hope you have a great new year.

Related Post: United by Soccer