Free and Cheap Things to Do For the Holidays in Toronto

Holiday events and activities in Toronto that are cheap or free

Christmas-lights
Christmas lights at the Distillery District. Image courtesy www.TorontoWide.com

Not every holiday event means digging deep into your wallet. With all that shopping and entertaining we spend enough over the holidays so it’s nice to have some festive options that are either free, or cheap. Looking for some budget-friendly ways to enjoy the holidays? Here are eight to check out.

Spectacle of lights

The Spectacle of Lights on Toronto's Waterfront runs until January 1 and will light up the neighbourhood in a series of sparking holiday displays. The Toronto Music Garden will come to life with a fully animated lighting display and in addition, there will be installations at The Westin Hotel, the Fire Hall and the Tall Ship on the Amsterdam Bridge at Harbourfront Centre – all free to experience.

Ice skating

Ice skating is such a quintessential winter activity and one that also happens to be extra fun around holiday time. And unless you’re renting skates, gliding around the ice on one of the city’s many outdoor rinks, is completely free. Save on hot chocolate costs, too, but bringing your own in a thermos.

Toronto Christmas Market

There are still a few days to experience the magic of the Toronto Christmas Market, which wraps up on December 20. While it is free to get in during the week, there’s a cost of $5 to enter on weekends. Since this weekend will be the market’s last, expect a whole lot of hustle and bustle. If you can get there during the week, that’s your best bet. Head down to the Distillery to soak up the Christmas atmosphere, shop for some holiday crafts and ornaments and sip mulled wine.

Union Station Holiday Market

Another market worth a visit this holiday, and one that won’t cost you anything unless you decide to do some shopping (and you might), is the Union Station Holiday Market, also wrapping up December 20. If you do want to pull out your wallet, you have your pick of a variety of specialty retail vendors, artisans, designers and food merchants so it’s a good place to get some last minute shopping done.

Holiday movies

One of the best ways to get in the mood for the holidays is with a Christmas movie and several Toronto theatres are currently showing various holiday flicks for free or discounted prices. Bloor Hot Docs Cinema for example, is currently offering a Bloor Holiday Classics program through to December 23. Tickets are free (two per person, per film) other the Home Alone and Die Hard quote-alongs. There’s also a free community screening of Elf on Dec 20 at 3:30 at Revue Cinema. Tickets for A Christmas Carol, playing at The Royal on December 17, are a reasonable $8.

Winterfest

Winterfest is happening on the waterfront from Friday December 18 to Sunday December 20 and while several events come with a price tag, the BeaverTails pastry eating contest is free and could be a good way to fill up for no cost, assuming you have a sweet tooth. You can also just head down the waterfront to enjoy the festive atmosphere and listen to the holiday carols by a cappella group The Current throughout Winterfest.

Holiday light displays

What’s more festive than staring at sparkling holiday lights? And the best part is, enjoying holiday lighting displays doesn’t cost anything – and there are several in Toronto worth checking out. Some spots to put on your viewing list include Nathan Philips Square, which is home to Toronto’s official Christmas tree. You can also visit Yonge-Dundas Square for your holiday lighting fix where you can also catch the lights in the Eaton Centre windows. Other good spots include the Casa Loma grounds and along the waterfront.

Bloor-Yorkville Holiday Magic

For even more festive magic head to Bloor-Yorkville until the end of the month to see the neighbourhood transformed into a holiday wonderland complete with lights displays, holiday decorations and store window displays. Wandering around is a free and festive way to spend a winter evening.