Cities can be expensive places to live in and to visit and Toronto is no exception, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when it comes to exploring and finding interesting things to see and do. That’s because Toronto is home to many free and cheap events and activities to check out no matter the season. If you’re looking to save a bit of cash this fall, here are 11 free (or nearly free) things to do in Toronto in the cooler months.
Take a fall hike
What better time to hike in the city than when the leaves start changing colour and the temperature dips just enough for you to feel comfortable, but not too cold? Toronto is filled with many great places to hike and getting some exercise and fresh air is a free way to spend a few hours. Rouge National Urban Park is a great option if you want to feel like you’ve escaped the city without having to leave and has several hiking trails of varying lengths. The park also offers a free fall guided walk series from October 4 to 10.
Check out Canzine
Canzine, Canada’s largest festival of zines and underground culture will be happening on Saturday October 29 at the Art Gallery of Ontario from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The free event is organized by Broken Pencil: The Magazine of Zine Culture and the Independent Arts with the first one having taken place in 1995. Expect hundreds of vendors selling zines, books and comics. In addition, there will be workshops, a live book pitch wherein participants get two minutes to pitch their book to a panel of judges, readings, interviews and more.
Take part in (or just watch) a Zombie walk
Toronto was home to a hugely popular city-wide zombie walk until it ended in 2015, but the organization has encouraged neighbourhoods to have their own walks. Either get dressed up in your best zombie attire and do your best impression of the undead, or stop by one of the walks to take in the scary spectacle. There will be one zombie walk happening in Brockton Village on October 29 at noon and one in the St. Clair West neighbourhood from 2 to 4 p.m.
Peruse photos at World Press Photo 16
Head to Toronto’s Brookfield Place to catch the World Press Photo 16 exhibit happening in the Allen Lambert Galleria October 4 to 25. The free exhibition features prize-winning images assembled by World Press Photo from their annual photo contest – which happens to be the world's largest and most prestigious annual press photography contest. So you can bet you’ll be seeing some awe-inspiring images on display. The photo exhibition is a travelling one and is shown worldwide in 100 cities and 45 countries.
See the fall colours at High Park
If you’re not planning on seeing the fall colours while on a city hike, you can also catch sight of leaves changing in several spots in the city, one of the best being High Park. Head over to Grenadier Pond as well as the trails on the west side of the park for the best vantage points.
Visit Vintage Crawl Toronto
Search for that perfect vintage find, or just browse what’s on offer with friends at Vintage Crawl Toronto, a twice-yearly event that’s free to attend. Fall dates have yet to be announced, but expect a robust roster of stores in various Toronto neighbourhoods to keep their doors open late, from 7p.m. until midnight and offer sales, special events and in some cases, free wine and snacks to enjoy as you shop or browse.
Pick up a Craft Beer Passport
Save money on beer this fall and give yourself an excuse to try some new brews as well as some new bars by picking up a craft beer passport. Buy the passport for $20 either online or at select locations, take your passport to a participating venue (there’s both an east and west end version) and choose one 12oz. craft beer from a list of three beers offered at each bar for just $2. The passport is a great way to taste some of the many craft beers available across the city. Sip and save until November 20.
Get festive at the Christmas Market
Starting November 18 you can start getting into the festive season for free with the help of the Toronto Christmas Market, ranked one of the top 10 holiday markets in the world. This is one of the city’s most popular holiday events and as soon as you walk into the beautifully decorated Distillery District it’s not hard to see why. There are vendors selling crafts, ornaments and other handmade goods; beer gardens, carolers, live music and much more.
Forget it's fall and hang out on a heated patio
Fall doesn’t have to mean the end of patio season. In fact, Toronto is home to many great patios that are open year-round. Some of your best options for extending patio season include Gusto 101, Drake Sky Yard, Pilot, El Catrin and Cadillac Lounge.
Browse a year-round farmers’ market
Take advantage of the last of summer’s bounty at one of Toronto’s year-round farmers’ markets. Markets that aren’t year-round typically finish the first week of October, but there are many that you shop throughout the fall and beyond. The produce selections may start to wane, but you’ll have your pick of cheese, baked goods, prepared foods and more to stock up on.
Shop the Gladstone Flea
Get your holiday shopping started early with a trip to the Gladstone Flea, happening October 23 at the Gladstone Hotel from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s free to browse, or you can crack open your wallet if you see something worthwhile among the items displayed by local artisans, collectors and designers. The Gladstone Flea also takes place November 20 and December 11 so there’s plenty of opportunity to shop.