33 FREE winter events to check out in Toronto

Jan 4 2018, 12:15 am

With so many incredible events happening daily in Toronto, experiencing the city can get seriously expensive.

But thankfully there are also a ton of awesome events and activities happening this season that actually won’t cost you a thing!

From winter festivals and outdoor art exhibits to family-friendly events and skating parties, here are the top free winter events happening in Toronto.

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60th Anniversary of Dr. Seuss

What: In celebration of Dr. Seuss’ 60th Anniversary of “The Cat in the Hat” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, Toronto’s Liss Gallery is hosting a specially curated exhibition called The Art of Dr. Seuss.

When: Now until January 6
Where: Liss Gallery112 Cumberland Street

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 22nd 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
Where: Spencer Smith Park, Burlington, Ontario

Music from People City

What: This winter, Toronto’s most iconic musical assets will be on display as Myseum of Toronto(a nonprofit museum dedicated to all things Toronto) presents Music from People City – a professionally curated event series that invites locals, visitors and travellers to experience the city’s world-class music scenes, sounds and stories firsthand.

When: Now until January 12
Where: Venues throughout the city

The Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls

What: The annual Winter Festival of Lights stretches over 8 kilometers in Niagara and will run through to the end of January. Attracting over 1 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. And yes, it’s completely free to attend!

When: Now until the end of January
Where: Niagara Falls

Light Up the Beach

What: Now in its 10th year, Light Up the Beach features more than 80,000 twinkling Christmas 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
Where: At the foot of Leuty Avenue, The Beach

Winter at Ontario Place

What: Ontario Place will be welcoming a new festival this December: Winter at Ontario Place. The new festival features various winter-themed activities including the Winter Light Exhibition, skating on the new synthetic skating rink and film screenings at the newly re-opened Cinesphere.

When: Now until March 18
Where: Ontario Place

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 its doors open 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 the end of March
Where: Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West 

Bentway Skate Trail

What: This winter, the highly anticipated Bentway Skate Trail located under the Gardiner Expressway will officially open to the public and will host a series of special events all winter long. Events and activities include free Monday night skate rentals, Friday night skate parties, and Ice Breaking Workshops.

When: January 6 to mid-March
Where: The path runs from Strachan Avenue to Bathurst Street

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 7, 3 pm to 11 pm
Where: Participating TTC Stations (starting station coming soon, check event page for details)

Free Bollywood Dance Lessons

What: Each Tuesday in January, you can stay warm as you  learn how to Bollywood dance. This beginner-level class will work through technique and style while building a fun short routine. No experience necessary!

When: January 9, 16, 23, and 30, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm
Where: Sony Centre for Performing Arts, 1 Front East

Ice Breaking and DJ Workshop

What: Come and learn about the foundations of DJing and how to breakdance on ice prior to the Friday night outdoors Beats and Bents Friday night skate dance party.

When: January 12, 6 pm to 7:30 pm
Where: Under the Gardiner Expressway from Strachan to Spadina

Toronto Design Offsite Festival

What: The Toronto Design Offsite Festival TO DO is Canadas largest cultural celebration of design with over 100 free exhibitions, window installations, and events forming Toronto’s design week.

When: January 15 to 21, 10 am to 9 pm
Where: Various venues throughout the city

Toronto Light Fest

What: For the second 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 19 to March 4
Where: Distillery District

Ice Breakers

What: Now in its second 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 25
Where: Queens Quay from Harbourfront Centre to the Toronto Music Garden

2018 Small Ball Mini Cask Fest

What: Left Field Brewery’s inaugural mini cask festival will showcase six unique cask beers, Steambox Dumplings, and an exclusive 5 oz. collector’s glass (while supplies last). Admission is free!

When: January 20, 11 am to 9 pm
Where: Left Field Brewery, 36 Wagstaff Drive

2018 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 item, 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 20, 12 pm to 4 pm
Where: Toronto Reference Library Atrium

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 20, 12 pm
Where: Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West

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 21, 10 am to 5 pm
Where: The Great Hall, 1087 Queen Street West

Winter Exhibitions Opening Party

What: This winter the Ryerson Image Centre will be hosting a series of experimental shows confronting the traditional power dynamic between photographer and subject. Come and enjoy the free opening party and get an early look at the exhibits.

When: January 24, 6 pm to 8 pm
Where: Ryerson Image Centre, 33 Gould Street

Winter 2018 Season: Opening Party

What: This free party will kick off the new year and celebrate the launch of The Power Plant’s Winter 2018 Exhibition Season. Be among the first to experience exhibitions by Kader Attia and Emeka Ogboh, and view the progression of Michael Landy’s continually evolving Fleck Clerestory Commission Project.

When: January 26, 8 pm to 11 pm
Where: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, 231 Queens Quay West


Winterlude Ottawa

What: The nation’s capital is about to throw a massive winter festival to celebrate its enchanting snow-covered season. And it’s very much worth a little road trip. Winterlude is an annual free festival that spans over three weekends in February, and it all begins with a kick off party. The party takes place on February 2, d will include ice sculptures, live music, and an epic outdoor dance party.

When: February 2 to 19
Where: Various locations, Ottawa

DJ Skate Nights: Soca On Ice

What: Calling all soca lovers – the doctor is in! Dr. Jay de Soca Prince will be taking over the Natrel Rink this month as he spins soca rink-side for the hottest winter party in town.

When: February 3, 8 pm to 11 pm
Where: Natrel Rink, 235 Queens Quay West

DJ Skate Nights: MANIFESTO

What: MANIFESTO is one of Canada’s biggest celebrations of hip hop culture and is a multi-disciplinary, world-class organization with a positive social and economic impact. On February 10, MANIFESTO will be taking over DJ Skate Night.

When: February 10, 8 pm to 11 pm
Where: Natrel Rink, 235 Queens Quay West

TIFF Next Wave Film Festival

What: The TIFF Next Wave Film Festival features FREE movies, amazing guests and Q&A sessions, industry workshops and panels, and the 24-Hour Film Challenge.

When: February 16 to 18
Where: TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King Street West

The Leslieville Flea Winter Edition

What: This February, come and enjoy this curated market selling vintage, salvaged, up-cycled goods, furniture, antiques, collectibles and handcrafted goods.

When: February 18, 10 am to 5 pm
Where: Inside the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District

Family Day at Fort York

What: This Family Day, bring your family to explore the history of Toronto and Fort York. Visit the Fort’s historic kitchen and sample some baking from the hearth, enjoy hot chocolate, the roaring fire, and plenty of activities for the little ones.

When: February 19, 11 am to 6 pm
Where: Fort York National Historic Site, 250 Fort York Blvd

Family Day 2018

What: Family Day is the perfect opportunity to get out and experience something new together. The City of Toronto will be hosting a number of free family-friendly events and activities on February 19 at several community centres around the city.

When: February 19
Where: Venues throughout the city

WinterStations 2018

What: Now in its 4th year, WinterStations is an outdoor exhibition intended to celebrate Toronto’s winter waterfront landscape by bringing temporary public art installations to The Beaches.

When: February 19 to April 1
Where: The Beaches

Icefest 2018

What: Toronto’s historic Yorkville neighbourhood will be transformed into a showcase of delicate, stunning ice sculptures using over 20,000 lbs of crystal clear ice this February. The main event is, of course, the  Sassafraz Ice Carving Competition, which will be taking over the east side of the Village of Yorkville Park.

When: February 24 & 25 2018
Where: Cumberland Street and Bellair Street


Brendan George Ko: Moemoeā

What: Escape the cold and warm up as you take in Moemoeā, a solo exhibition by Canadian artist Brendan George Ko. Moemoeā explores the re-emergence of the Polynesian voyaging canoe in contemporary Hawai’i through photographs and videos.

When: Now until March 10
Where: CONTACT Gallery, 80 Spadina Ave #205

Toronto Storytelling Festival

What: Founded in 1979, the Toronto Storytelling Festival has grown to be one of the largest celebrations of the arts of voice and story. Visitors can enjoy concerts, story talks, and workshops.

When: March 2 to 4; 19 to 25
Where: Various venues throughout the city

Toronto’s Birthday

What: Come and celebrate the past, present and future of your favourite city, as Toronto turns 184 years old this March!

When: March 3 to 6
Where: Events throughout the city

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

What: The St. Patrick’s Day parade is back for the 30th year and will celebrate Irish culture, history and heritage. The parade is recognized as the largest Irish themed event in Toronto and is fun for all ages.

When: March 11, 12 pm to 3 pm
Where: The parade will start at Bloor and St George, continue down Yonge and finish at Nathan Phillips Square

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