50 Amazing Free Things To Do in Canada With the Kids
Whether it’s a weekend excursion or winter break, we’ve got 50 free family-friendly activities from across Canada.
Sports and Fitness
1 Visit the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in Halifax to learn about Nova Scotia’s sporting greats – including a special exhibit on Sidney Crosby.
2. At Ontario’s Blue Mountain ski resort, a 90-minute drive from Toronto, pack your skates for five acres of free skating on the village’s Mill Pond.
3. Take a bird-watching tour in Montreal’s Mont Royal Park (pictured on left) and follow it up with ice skating.
4. On the third Saturday of every month in Vancouver, join the Pacific Spirit Regional Park Nature Walk, which helps kids aged four to 10 learn to appreciate nature. Each month’s walk has a different theme.
(Photo courtesy of urbanmkr/Flickr)
5. In Montreal, head to the Museum of Fine Arts for free access to all but a few special collections – all the time. So if the kids get cranky after half an hour, you can leave and come back without wasting any money.
6. With only the odd exception, Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery offers free admission to its 3,000 square feet of exhibition space. Sundays from 2 to 4 pm, drop by for Studio Sundays and family-friendly art activities.
7. On the last Thursday of each month from 6 to 9 pm and on Family Day, get free admission to the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton. Free kids’ programs – such as Wednesday-morning Tours for Tots, aimed at children aged 3 to 5 – are also available with the price of admission.
8. Thursday evenings from 5 to 9 pm, enjoy free admission to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax. And once a month on Sunday afternoons, take part in Family Sundays: With the regular admission fee enjoy a free three-hour session of art activities themed around an exhibit.
9. The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa (pictured on left) offers free admission to its exhibits of Canadian and international art Thursdays after 5 pm.
10. Tuesdays after 5 pm, the Vancouver Art Gallery offers admission by donation, giving you four hours of access to both special exhibits and the permanent collection, with a focus on art from British Columbia, including the world’s largest group of works from Emily Carr.
(Photo courtesy of Robbie’s Photo Art/Flickr)
11. Outdoor activities are offered year-round at Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal; this winter, free offerings include human-scale foosball and an introduction to downhill skiing for young children.
12. In Victoria, head to Mount Work Regional Park for its 11 km of forested trails, including an accessible 630-m loop and a “sometimes challenging” hike to the 449 m summit. Just next door visit the mountain-biking trails on the western slope of the mountain at Hartland. The South Island Mountain Bike Society offers guided introductory rides every second Sunday.
13. Take a self-guided Cultural Walking Tour of Point Pleasant Park in Halifax for a peek into Canadian history and local ecology, including a demonstration site where things were left as-is after the devastation of Hurricane Juan in 2003, which blew down about 70 percent of the park’s trees.
14. Wascana Centre in Regina offers free ice skating and cross-country ski trails in winter. Kids aged 9 to 13 can sign up for the Junior Naturalist program to learn about wildlife and the environment.
(Photo courtesy of abdallah/Flickr)
15. Enjoy the music at Montreal’s Christ Church Cathedral (pictured on left) either during services (Sundays at 10 am and 4 pm) or at scheduled concerts, with admission by donation.
16. UBC’s School of Music offers a series of free and ticketed musical performances; on Friday, February 17, for instance, hear the University Singers and UBC Choral Union perform “My Heart Sings,” with music from Debussy, Purcell and more.
17. Drop by Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre most Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon to enjoy one of a series of free concerts put on by the Canadian Opera Company.
18. Calgary’s award-winning Knox United Church Choir presents a series of concerts throughout the year – or you can hear them leading the congregation for mass each Sunday.
19. Drop by Winnipeg’s Millennium Library for Folk for Families, a Saturday of singing and dancing presented by the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
(Photo courtesy of Stephen Deroches/Flickr)
20. From November 1 to March 31, admission to the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo is by donation. Programs for Young Naturalists are available for free or a modest charge.
21. Drop by Riverdale Farm in downtown Toronto (pictured on left) for an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and a chance for kids to get to know farm animals and even meet the farmer.
22. Visit the RCMP Musical Ride Centre in Ottawa for free tours of the stables and to meet the Mounties’ horses.
23. In Stouffville, Ont., just north of Toronto, Lionel’s Farm Petting Zoo is open to the public by donation. Bring the kids to see and interact with animals including ponies, donkies, llamas, turkeys and rabbits (appointment required during winter).
24. It’s free to visit Pinto Valley Ranch in Ottawa and get to know the horses, ponies, bunnies and other animals – but don’t be surprised if the kids start begging for riding lessons.
(Photo courtesy of jp1958/Flickr)
25. While many Anne of Green Gables-related activities in P.E.I. charge admission (albeit often only a token fee), it’s free to drive to Green Gables Shore and reenact your favourite scenes from the books on the walking trails and picnic grounds.
26. Take advantage of early winter sunsets: Grab a hot chocolate and go on an after-dark self-guided walking tour of Old Montreal (click Official Map and Evening Tour for a pdf you can print) to enjoy the light effects on historical buildings.
27. Get to know more about the Loyalist history of Saint John with a walking tour such as Prince William’s Walk, which takes about an hour and a half and presents the core of the city and its fantastic, well-preserved architecture.
28. Take one of several self-guided tours of Quebec City, downloadable from the tourism website – start by getting to know the Old Town and its fortifications, then venture to the city’s western suburbs for a Heritage Estates tour to discover old villas and historic houses.
29. Visit Vancouver’s Granville Market (pictured above) to browse the shops and food stalls, view performances and enjoy the multi-level indoor play area at the Kids Market.
(Photo courtesy of Gord McKenna/Flickr)
30. Discover where flour comes from (or at least where it used to come from) at Watson’s Mill in Manotick, Ont., with admission by donation. Built in 1860, the working mill even sells flour and fresh loaves of bread every weekend.
31. Take a self-guided tour at Planet Bee in Vernon, B.C. to learn where honey comes from, check out the bees and take part in a free honey tasting (plus mead for the over-19 set).
32. Learn about the history and culture of maple syrup in Quebec City’s Les Délices de l’Érable (pictured on left) maple syrup museum – the only one of its kind in North America – and enjoy free samples along with video presentations.
33. Enjoy samples of Quebec cheeses and other tasty products while you shop for a picnic lunch at Montreal’s Jean-Talon Market.
(Photo courtesy of denseatoms/Flickr)
34. The Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa offers free monthly stargazing nights from the Helen Sawyer Hogg Observatory. They’re 90 minutes long and outdoors – make sure to dress warmly.
35. Come to a public viewing session Friday and Saturday evenings at Vancouver’s Gordon MacMillan Southam Observatory to explore the starry skies with their half-metre Cassegrain telescope.
36. The Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa (pictured on left) offers free admission every day from 4 to 5 pm. Visit to explore the history of Canadian aviation and view about 130 different planes.
37. Collections at the Redpath Museum at Montreal’s McGill University cover ancient and modern organisms and minerals; Sundays, join a free bilingual tour for kids of the dinosaur collection.
38. Visit the Regina Public Library for a series of regular programs for kids including Wii Gaming and Penguins on Parade (with a take-home penguin craft).
39. Saskatoon’s Museum of Natural Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan offers exhibits on the process of evolution through geological time, from the Age of Fish and Age of Plants through to the Age of Mammals.
(Photo courtesy of james_gordon_los_angeles/Flickr)
40. Spend some time in the tropics, at least for a little while, at Allan Gardens in Toronto, which includes 16,000 square feet of space in six greenhouses planted with rare tropical plants, plus a playground and two off-leash dog areas.
41. Visit the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary in Victoria to enjoy hiking trails, bird watching and the Nature House, with interpretive displays, a reading room and a live bee “house.”
42. Winnipeg’s 12-hectare Living Prairie Museum is a reserve inside the city limits set aside in 1968 to promote awareness and conservation. Visit from dawn till dusk for a self-guided tour of the more than 160 plant species and multiple kinds of wildlife.
43. In North Vancouver, the Lynn Canyon Ecology Centre teaches visitors about local ecosystems and local and global environmental issues. Don’t miss the hiking trails and suspension bridge nearby.
44. Thursdays from 5 to 8 pm and on Earth Day (April 22), International Museum Day (May 18) and Canada Day, admission to the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa is free. Current exhibitions cover topics including whales, the Awesome Arctic and Nature Unleashed, which explores cataclysmic natural events such as earthquakes and hurricanes.
45. Visit Saint John’s Irving Nature Park (pictured on left) to enjoy the trails and view some of the local wildlife, including more than 200 bird species, seals, deer, porcupines and squirrels. Free activities include stargazing, moonlight snowshoeing and a search for seals during the annual Walk for Wildlife.
(Photo courtesy of Stephen Downes/Flickr)
46. Peek into 19th-century life on the prairies at Winnipeg’s Historical Museum of St. James – Assiniboia. Look through a two-story Red River frame house built in 1856, a Municipal Hall building from 1911 and exhibits on blacksmithing, farming and transportation.
47. Visit Father Pandosy Mission in Kelowna, B.C., site of the first white settlement in the Okanagan. Four restored original buildings – the Chapel, the Root House, the Barn and the Brothers House – give a glimpse into the lives of the first non-native settlers in the region.
48. Make your way to Peggy’s Cove (pictured on left), just outside of Halifax, and learn about the history of the Nova Scotian fishing village.
49. View documents and other items that “bring 19th-century banking to life” from Canada’s oldest bank at the Bank of Montreal Museum.
50. In Ottawa, brush up on Canadian government by taking a free tour of Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court of Canada.
(Photo courtesy of buck82/Flickr)