Fun And Free Things To Do Over The Holidays

December 15, 2012 | Alyson

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Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, there are lots of activities going on over the next few weeks when children are out of school and shops and businesses close for a couple of days, and many of them are free.

Naturally, the library is a great place to come (Toronto Public Library has special opening hours during this time of year).  There are family programs at library branches across the city.

 But, the rest of the city  has many free programs to offer at this time of year, as well.  I've listed a few here. Be sure to follow the links provided to find the details about each event.  And don't forget that all Toronto Public Library branches give away free Museum + Arts passes to many of Toronto's museums, galleries and cultural attractions.  But, be aware that some locations will not accept passes during the holidays


Allan GardensIf you love flowers and plants in a tropical setting, you could tour Allan Gardens  or Centennial Park Conservatory, both of which are open every day of the year.  You can visit their special Christmas exhibit of flowers by candlelight on December 15, 16, 22 and 23. The Christmas exhibit ends on January 6th. 


For music-lovers, on December 21st at 11:30 a.m. Toronto City Hall will host the Christmas Choral Celebration featuring performances from three choirs. 


COC free concert series

The Canadian Opera Company offers free concerts and dance events throughout the year, including some in January.  Free performances take place most Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, and some Wednesdays at noon or 5:30 p.m.

Kensington market solstice LanternsCelebrate the longest, darkest night of the year on December 21st at the Kensington Market Winter Solstice parade.  People walk through the streets of Kensington Market while artists, musicians and singers perform all along the parade route.  You don't need to bring anything, but since it is the longest night, most people bring lanterns and become part of the spectacle. Some of them are handmade and very beautiful.  Be sure to dress warmly.


Skating in Nathan Phillips Square


Go skating! Toronto has lots of outdoor rinks where you can skate for free, including the rink at Nathan Phillips Square where City Hall is located. Skating at City Hall  is something just about every Torontonian has done, and while you're there you can admire the lights decorating the square.  Of course, you can also ring in the New Year at Nathan Phillips Square with a free concert and fireworks at midnight. Check the list of city-operated rinks to see which ones are open and where they are located.

The Brickworks has the most unusual rink - an outdoor skating trail.

Brickworks skating trail

At Harbourfront's outdoor ice rink beside Lake Ontario you can attend DJ Skate Nights, including one dedicated to Bollywood music.  Harbourfront has several events for families during December, many of which are free.

                                                                                                                              Walking in snow

Take  an end-of-year guided walk into the winter wonderland in Rouge Park. You can discover nature and wildlife with volunteer leaders on walks that range from easy to challenging. Dress for the weather, walks are scheduled rain or shine!

 My favourite free things to do?  Listening to The Shepherd being read on the CBC on Christmas EveThe Shepherd is the story of a   pilot, going home on Christmas Eve in 1957, whose aircraft runs into trouble over the North Sea. Don't worry, it's a holiday story, so you know it will all end well.

And I love driving or walking around looking at the lights people have put on and around their houses.  You can see some of the best light displays from last year here.  Why not check them out this year to see if they've outdone themselves?

What's your favourite free thing to do at this time of year?