Free hot spots in Toronto

Vodka Pool at the 2009 Nuit Blanche. The artist really wasted incorporated alcohol for this installation. (Julia Pelish/

Story by Kiva Bottero Contributor

TORONTO — Entertainment doesn’t usually come cheap in Toronto. As the country’s most expensive city, high admission prices are the norm. But there’s good news – with some planning, you can find some incredible free entertainment opportunities in Toronto.

For example, are you travelling at the end of May? If so, you can attend Doors Open Toronto, a city-wide weekend event in which nearly 150 buildings open their doors to the public. The amazing thing about this is these places usually either charge admission or aren’t open to the public at all, so it’s a great chance to see Toronto from a new perspective.

And for ten days in the middle of June a variety of arts, food, fashion and other attractions light up the city during Luminato.

For one night at the end of September, Toronto gets transformed into a contemporary art gallery by hundreds of artists during Nuit Blanche.

If you aren’t planning to visit Toronto during these dates, no worries – there are several free cultural entertainment activities taking place throughout the year:

Art Gallery of Ontario

With more than 80,000 works spanning 100 A.D. to the present, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of North America’s largest art museums.

It houses an extensive collection of Canadian masterpieces—including one of the world’s finest Inuit art collections. European works from legendary artists such as Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh line the walls.

Avoid the $19.50 admission price by attending on Wednesday night from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Free entry grants access to the permanent collections, but not the exhibitions.

Location: 317 Dundas Street West
Phone: 1-877-225-4246

National Film Board Mediatheque

If movies are more your thing, the National Film Board Mediatheque is well worth a visit. Show up on Wednesday for the National Film Board’s “Free Favourites at 4” screening.

If you can’t make it at that time, no problem—pick from more than 6,000 free on-demand films using Mediatheque’s digital viewing stations.

Location: 150 John Street
Phone: 416-973-3012

Bata Shoe Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum doesn’t have a free night anymore, but Bata Shoe Museum still does. This museum, located at the edge of the University of Toronto campus, offers a quirky way to take in history.

Learning all about ancient Egyptian culture can be a little overwhelming, so why not start by learning about their footwear? Or if pop culture is more to your liking, check out a pair of Marilyn Monroe’s red heels or Justin Bieber’s high-top Supra SkyTops.

Thursday nights are pay what you can from 5 to 8 p.m.

Location: 327 Bloor Street West
Phone: 416-979-7799

Kensington Market

If you feel like taking in some of Toronto’s vibrant outdoor culture, go for a stroll through Kensington Market.

Originally known as a Jewish market in the early 20th century, this multicultural haven has been populated by waves of immigrants from Italy, the Caribbean and more recently the Chinese. If you happen to show up during a Pedestrian Sunday event (last Sunday of every month from May to October) you’ll get to dance on the street to local musicians or sample foods from vendors while taking in street performances.

With a thriving arts scene and strong local foods contingent, Kensington offers a unique snapshot of Canada’s cultural diversity all wrapped into one vibrant area.

Location: Kensington is just to the west of downtown Toronto, bordered by Spadina Avenue, Dundas Street, Bathurst Street and College Street.

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Vicky is the worldly publisher of Having graduated from McGill University in Montreal, she has set about building a talented team of travel experts to deliver to you words and images of the very best places to see and experience in Canada. Based in Yorkville in Toronto, Vicky regularly jet sets around Canada — be sure to catch up with her when she's in your part of the country.

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