Cheap and Free Things to Do in Toronto as a Centennial College Student

By Centennial College Modified on March 22, 2024
Tags : Arts & Culture | Campus Life | Community | Food & Drink | Fun & Games

Discover all the activities and places you can explore in and around Toronto!

 Cheap and Free Things to Do in Toronto as a Centennial College Student

When picking your college, location is always important. And when it comes to Centennial College’s five campuses, we’re located in and around the Greater Toronto Area. Outside of being a hub of business and industry, Toronto is a cultural centre for Canada, and it’s a wonderful social experience to get out and explore what it has to offer. But if you’re a college student, you probably don’t want to break the bank visiting Toronto tourist attractions. Luckily, there’s a lot of things to do and places to visit in Toronto that are cheap, or even free.

Getting around Toronto is easy — $3.35 can get you a ride on the Toronto Transit Commission’s buses or subway (be sure to get a transfer, so you only need to pay once). Hop on and the city is yours. Bring your friends and classmates, and have some fun. There’s too much going on to easily list it all, even when it comes to the low-budget stuff, but here’s a few ideas about what to do in Toronto, with some links to check out more details.

Embrace your artistic side

Let’s say you want to experience some local art culture. There’s plenty of art galleries that you can visit for free, or for cheap. First, there’s the Art Gallery of Ontario, which features over 90,000 works by Indigenous, African, and Canadian modern and contemporary artists and photographers, making it one of the largest museums in North America. If you’re under 25, there’s no charge for admission (bring some ID, though), and if you’re over 25, admission is free on Wednesday night, from 6-9 p.m., though you’ve got to be sure to pre-book online.

Meanwhile, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) has free admission on Friday night after 5 p.m. This massive, converted factory in Toronto’s west end has a combination of permanent and rotating exhibits, including some that are interactive.

Have time this October? If you’re free on October 5, there’s a special Toronto art event called Nuit Blanchean art “crawl” that takes place in downtown Toronto all night long, it features almost 1,600 installations. Centennial College usually takes part, too! Read about 2023’s installations here.

Want something even more specific? There’s the Bata Shoe Museum, home of over 13,000 shoes which tell the story of footwear through the ages. And if you’re going on Sundays, general admission is free. And you can always visit the Market Gallery at the St. Lawrence Market for free (well, when it reopens March 7), which has a rotating exhibit on the culture and history of Toronto.

Culinary culture

Looking for some tasty food? Everyone in Toronto should go to the St. Lawrence Market at least once. The famous farmer’s market has been around since the 19th century. The market’s three downtown Toronto buildings consists of an antique market, a food marker, and a more general vendor space. It’s the food that most people remember, though, and that includes fresh produce, meat, cheese, and fish, that you can eat there, or take home. It’s well worth checking out, just give the variable hours a look.

There’s also Toronto’s Distillery District, if you want to go back in time to a scenic area made up of Victorian industrial architecture (if you’re in one of our Architectural programs, it could inspire you), and peruse a unique collection of stores, restaurants and galleries amongst the cobblestone streets and unique atmosphere. Even if you’re not looking to shop, the area has a unique charm, and you can take guided tours to learn the history of the place.

Another good place to take a stroll is the Kensington Market, located just next to Chinatown. Instead of being a foody destination like St. Lawrence, it’s a little more offbeat with retro furniture, vintage clothing, quaint coffee shops, but plenty of food, too. It’s bohemian, it’s trendy, and it’s a big stylistic departure from the tall skyscrapers surrounding it. And from May to October, they have “Pedestrian Sunday,” where special street activities take place.

Sun yourself on the beach, or go for a walk in the park

It’s cold now, but it’ll be warm in the summer, so why not check out a Toronto beach once the temperature rises? Toronto’s home to a lot of them. First, there’s an east-end Toronto neighborhood literally called The Beaches, which you can get to by streetcar (take the 501). Once you’re there, you can hang out at the boardwalk or trail, or by the water at Woodbine Beach (off Woodbine Avenue). Woodbine’s one of Toronto’s more popular Toronto beaches, with a scenic view of Lake Ontario. There’s also Sugar Beach, named for its unusually white sand, located east of the Entertainment District near Lower Jarvis Street and Queens Quay. Finally, if you want something closer to campus, there’s Bluffer’s Park and Beach in Scarborough, which also offers beautiful views of the lake, along with barbecue pits, and picnic tables.

If you’re looking for a natural setting that’s a bit less sandy, High Park is just 15 minutes from the center of the city, and offers 398 acres of gardens and forests to relax in, plus a maze, restaurant, and even a small free zoo. It’s one of the largest urban parks in all of North America. You can hike, bike to see the cherry blossoms in the summer. or the leaves change to brilliant reds and oranges once fall rolls around. Meanwhile, closer to home, there’s the Scarborough Bluffs, a 4.7-kilometer-long hiking trail, for you to get your nature walk in.

Catch some free music

Set your Toronto experience to a soundtrack! When it comes to free music, there’s the Toronto Music Garden, an outdoor park along the waterfront, which has weekly classical music and jazz concerts in the summer.

Here’s an unusual bit of free musical culture: The Canadian Opera Company offers a series of free concerts, from September to May, happening at the Richard Bradshaw Theatre, at noon during the week (check the schedule above). Have you ever actually been to an opera? Sounds like a good way to check that one off your bucket list.

For a different kind of music, if you want to see the Royal Ontario Museum in a new way, wait until September. Every Friday night, starting on the 29th, the museum becomes home to ROM After Dark, which features a dance floor, DJ, and live artists. Plus, you can still wander the museum, with food and drink, meaning you get to see things like Canada’s largest dinosaur on display (the Barosaurus).

Finally, it’s not musical, but it is in verse: You can check out free Shakespeare in The Park in the summer, at the Amphitheatre in High Park, as performed by the Canadian Stage Company.

Get on a boat, and go to the island

Want to leave the city behind? A day trip to Centre Island might hit the spot. It’s a ten-minute ferry ride away, and that ferry ride will only run you $5.86, if you’ve got a student ID! On Centre Island, you can find an amusement park, restaurants, and other attractions. Centre Island’s just one of the three interconnected Toronto Islands. Centre Island’s where the bustle is, but the other two are more peaceful and tranquil, if you want to really get away.

This really just scratches the surface of what you can do in Toronto. While coming to Centennial College means you’re going to be spending a lot of time studying and learning for your new career, it’s worth getting out there and exploring the city, especially if you’re not from Toronto. It can be good for the mind, body, and soul, and even light on the wallet.

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