23 FREE Toronto events worth checking out in January

Dec 24 2018, 6:45 am

Toronto, let’s do ourselves a big favour and start the new year the right way: with some extra dough in our pockets.

To help you prepare, we’ve put together a roundup of the best FREE events and activities happening in the city this month, so you can get out and have some fun without having to spend a dime.

The Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls

festival of lights

Winter Festival of Lights/Twitter

What: The annual Winter Festival of Lights stretches over eight kilometres in Niagara and will run through to the end of January. Attracting over one million visitors annually, this incredible spectacle is Canada’s largest lights festival. Just imagine a breathtaking, colourful scene with millions of sparkling lights and animated displays that extends to Dufferin Islands.

When: Now until the end of January
Time: After sundown
Where: Niagara Falls
Admission: Free

Simcoe Christmas Panorama

What: Although this is a bit of a trek from Toronto, it’s perfect for those wanting to go on a festive road trip. Each year, Simcoe puts on an incredible light display called Christmas Panorama that features over 60 dazzling light displays. The spectacle shimmers with thousands of lights transforming the downtown parks into a winter wonderland, attracting visitors from across the province and the US.

When: Now until January 6
Time:  5:30 pm to 11 pm
Where: Wellington Park, 50 Bonnie Drive, Simcoe
Admission: Free

Burlington Festival of Lights

What: The Burlington Festival of Lights is the city’s longest-running festival, which lights up the waterfront from dusk to dawn over the holiday season. Now in its 23rd year, the festival will feature 60 festive displays that can be viewed up close or from the warmth of your car.

When: Now until January 8
Time: After sundown
Where: Spencer Smith Park, Burlington, Ontario
Admission: Free

Winter Flower Show

Winter Flower Show/Facebook

What: Add some much-needed colour to your life this winter at this annual flower show. Breathtaking floral scenes with thousands of colourful blooms, vines and lush plants from around the world will transform Alan Gardens into a memorable, must-see winter destination.

When: Now until January 9
Time: 10 am to 5 pm; with extended hours on select dates to 7 pm
Where: Allan Gardens Park and Conservatory, 19 Horticultural Avenue
Price: Free

DJ Skate Nights

What: Sharpen your skates and skills at Toronto’s number one outdoor winter party. This year you can expect another stellar lineup of DJs that will bring the heat to your Saturday nights.

When: Now until February 16 (Saturday evenings)
Time: 8 pm to 11 pm
Where: Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West
Price: Skating is free

Light Up the Beach

What: Now in its 11th year, Light Up the Beach features more than 80,000 twinkling lights along the Toronto Beaches boardwalk to support The Michael Garron Hospital Foundation. The light display is truly a sight to see and a holiday tradition that every Torontonian should enjoy.

When: Now until mid-February
Time: 7 pm
Where: At the foot of Leuty Avenue, The Beach
Price: Free to visit

Winter at Ontario Place

December 24

Ontario Place/Facebook

What: Following last year’s successful inaugural winter program, Ontario Place will once again come alive this winter season. Running from now to March 17, the West Island of Ontario Place will be home to the Winter Light Exhibition, free public skating on a synthetic rink and community bonfires. This year, visitors can also look forward to a series of DJ nights at the iconic waterfront venue and bring a range of beloved films to Cinesphere.

When: Now until March 17
Time: 6 pm to 12 am
Where: 955 Lake Shore Blvd. West
Price: Free to attend

Skating at Harbourfront Centre

What: When the weather starts to drop, it means it’s officially time to go skating. And it just so happens that the city’s most scenic rink has opened its doors for the winter season. The Natrel Rink is complete with heated indoor change rooms and its own rink-side bar and grill for those interested in getting a snack post-skate. The best part? Skating at the Harbourfront rink is totally free. 

When: Now until spring
Time: Monday to Thursday, 9 am to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 9 am to 11 pm; Sunday, 9 am to 10 pm
Where: Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West
Price: Skating is free

NYE Hikes

What: This January 1, you can either take a self-guided hike with your friends and family or visit a park hosting a guided hike. Either way, you’ll feel great after a day spent outside with your loved ones.

When: January 1
Time: Various start times
Where: Various provincial parks 

January Really Really Free Market

Trinity Bellwoods Flea

Alex Polo/Shutterstock

What: You read the event name correctly, everything is free. No money. No swapping.
If you do bring items to share, bring them before 3 pm and make sure they are clean and in working condition. During the Market, there is a limit to the number of items you can take, which is one large shopping bag per person (two bags for families of three or more people).

When: January 5
Time: 10 am to 4 pm
Where: Campbell Park, 225 Campbell Avenue
Price: Everything is FREE

Lunchtime Yoga at Sony Centre

What: Come and work up a sweat while you spend your lunch hour stretching, twisting, breathing at a free yoga class at the Sony Centre this month. Classes run Tuesday and Thursday.

When: January 8, 10, 15, 17, 22, 24 and 31
Time: 12 pm to 1 pm
Where: The Sony Centre for  the Performing Arts, 1 Front Street East
Price: Free to join. Register here

Trinity Bellwoods Flea – New Year Market

What: Start the new year by checking out the Trinity Bellwoods New Year Market, which will feature lots of new vendors, brands and designers. 

When: January 13
Time: 10 am to 5 pm
Where: The Great Hall, 1087 Queen Street West
Price: No admission

No Pants Subway Ride

No Pants Subway Ride


What: The No Pants Subway Ride is back for another cheeky year. Hosted by the No Pants Society, the risqué subway ride will be happening simultaneously in 50+ cities around the world with the hopes of bringing a smile to commuters’ faces.

When: January 13
Time: Start time to come
Where: Participating TTC Stations (starting station coming soon, check event page for details)
Price: Free

Free meditation classes

What: Whether you’re a seasoned meditation pro or you’re new to it, you can enjoy free meditation classes from Cassidy Thedorf from Just Be // Meditation this month. There’s no previous experience required. Just bring your own yoga mat and water bottle.

When: January 16 and 23
Time: 6 pm to 7 pm
Where: The Sony Centre for  the Performing Arts, 1 Front Street East
Price: Free to join. Register here

Toronto Light Fest

What: For the third year in a row, the historic Distillery District will be home to the Toronto Light Fest this winter. Designed to entertain and inspire, the free to attend light festival will feature curated light installations and illuminated sculptures created by a number of local and international artists.

When: January 18 to March 3
Time: After sunset
Where: Distillery District
Admission: Free

Ice Breakers


‘Tripix’ by Ryerson University (Toronto, Canada)

What: Now in its third year, temporary winter art exhibit Ice Breakers is returning to Toronto’s waterfront. Organized by Winter Stations and The Waterfront Business Improvement Area (WBIA), Ice Breakers will provide the city with five temporary wintertime art installations that are 100% free to the public.

When: January 19 to February 24
Time: All day
Where: Queens Quay from Harbourfront Centre to the Toronto Music Garden
Price: Free to the public

Toronto Women’s March

What: This January, join Toronto as it unites its communities to march in the name of women everywhere. There will be a number of motivational speakers in attendance, who will be announced closer to the march.

When: January 19
Time: 12 pm to 3 pm
Where: Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West
Price: Free to participate

2019 Repair Cafe

What: Don’t throw it away, fix it! Bring in a broken household item to the Repair Cafe where you can get help fixing it for free. Volunteers fix household items, ranging from small household appliances such as toasters and lamps to computers and clothes. There will even be a bike repair booth available outside the library’s front doors.

When: January 19
Time: 12 pm to 4 pm
Where: Toronto Reference Library Atrium
Price: No admission

Wedding Open House 2019

What: Getting married this year? If so, you need to attend One King West Hotel’s annual wedding open house where you can learn about the beautiful venue, stellar dining options and elegant accommodations.

When: January 20
11 am to 4 pm
Where: One King West Hotel & Residence, 1 King Street West
Price: Free to attend

DesignTO Talks: Tiffany Pratt

Tiffany Pratt/tiffanypratt.com

What: Stylist, designer, and HGTV host Tiffany Pratt speaks about her experience making a lasting creative business, personal brand, and media presence. Past projects include interior design for Café CanCan and Piano Piano, a collaboration with CXBO Chocolates, and many more.

When: January 21
Time: 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Where: Relative Space, 330 King Street East
Price: Free to attend

Winter Exhibitions Opening Party

What: This winter, the Ryerson Image Centre will be hosting Winter Exhibitions, which will feature the private collection of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum.  Titled True to the Eyes, the exhibit presents more than 200 photographs from the extraordinary and eclectic collection of the long-time Toronto couple. On January 23, you can kick off the new exhibit at this free opening party and get an early look at the exhibit.

When: January 23
Time: 6 pm to 8 pm
Where: Ryerson Image Centre, 33 Gould Street
Price: Free to attend

Healthy Cooking Class

What: Learn how to make comfort food that is both nourishing and delicious, and then indulge in the finished product! You can have your healthy foods and eat them, too.

When: January 24
Time: 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Where: 99 Yorkville Avenue, Suite 200
Price: No cost to attend

Winter 2018 Season: Opening Party


The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery/Facebook

What: This free party will kick off the new year and celebrate the launch of The Power Plant’s Winter 2019 Exhibition Season. Be among the first to experience exhibitions by Shuvinai Ashoona, Omar Ba and Alicia Henry.

When: January 25
Time: 8 pm to 11 pm
Where: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, 231 Queens Quay West
Price: Free to attend

See also
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