Free Things to Do in Toronto

Easter in the Kingsway

If you are looking for something fun and free to do Easter weekend with your little bunnies, head over to Easter in the Kingsway in the west end of Toronto. There is lots of free entertainment, free chocolates, surprise giveaways and Easter bunnies hopping all over the place. The trampoline is always a hit.

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Get your picture taken with the Easter rabbit at the northwest corner of Royal York Road and Bloor St. West. Easter in the Kingsway takes place the Saturday of Easter weekend in Etobicoke's Kingsway neighbourhood, which stretches from Prince Edward Drive to Montgomery Road. The Kingsway is home to lots of lovely restaurants and boutiques and a location of one of my favourite bakeries, Bake Sale and French restaurants, Merlot. Rosie :)

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LOVE in the Distillery District

An art installation of love locks, inspired by Jane Austen. "My heart is, and always will be, yours." Rosie :)

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New Year's Eve Dresses & Parties in Toronto

Whether you call it a party dress or a cocktailklänning, if you have a fancy night out planned for New Year's Eve you probably want to buy a new frock. My favourite go-to boutique is Rescue Vintage on Ossington, which is currently having a holiday sale- 15% off everything online (enter the code "15HOLIDAYSALE" when checking out.) Another gorgeous online boutique I've just discovered is Jenny Joseph. This international dress shop has a stunning selection of sheaths that range from sweet to sexy. I'm loving these two styles particularly:

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Jenny Joseph ships to North America and has weekly specials. Now, let's talk parties. If you are looking for a great New Year's Eve party in Toronto to wear your fabulous dress to, check out BlogTO's guide for some options. And remember the best free New Year's Eve party with fireworks in Toronto is at Nathan Phillips Square, where the show this year features DJ Clymaxxx of KISS 92.5 spinning for the crowd and performances by the funk and blues groups Fathead and God Made Me Funky. And, for the first time our New Year's Eve party in Nathan Phillips Square will be featured live on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest. Rosie :)

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Free Movie Morning at Cineplex Odeon

November 16th is Community Day at all Cineplex theatres and free movies start at 9am. (Doors open at 8:30 am.) The films being screened for free are MEN IN BLACK 3 at 9:00am, THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS at 9:15am, THE SMURFS at 9:30am, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN at 9:45am and HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (3D) at 10:00am. Popcorn, drinks and candy are only $2 with the 100% of the proceeds donated to the Canadian Olympic Foundation. Click here for a list of theatre locations. Rosie :)

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Boris Achour's The rose is without why

The other work of art I loved from Nuit Blanche 2013 is right across from Ai Weiwei's Forever Bicycles. French artist Boris Achour's The rose is without why makes Nathan Phillips Square glow with light. The work consists of a short poem by 17th-century poet Angelus Silesius written with fluorescent lights. It spans more than 300 feet.

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"The rose is without why, it blooms because it blooms, it cares not for itself, asks not if it is seen." You can still see it for yourself until October 27th at Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West at Bay. Rosie :)

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Ai Weiwei's Forever Bicycles

There aren't many chances in life to see and touch a sculpture created by a living legend. That is why all I wanted for my birthday was to see Ai Weiwei's Forever Bicycles. It was unveiled for Nuit Blanche and is still on display in Nathan Phillips Square (Après Nuit!). It is absolutely beautiful. One of the coolest things I've ever seen.

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This is a new edition of Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei's three-dimensional structure of 3,144 interconnected bicycles. The way they are lit is stunning to look at both from a distance and up close. There was something magical about the way we came up from the parking garage into the huge space of the square, and they illuminated the night.

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Forever Bicycles Nuit Blanche

You can visit these beautiful bicycles any time until October 27th at Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West at Bay Street. But... I recommend going after the sun sets. Rosie :)

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Sheldon Lookout

There is a view of the city so beautiful in Humber Bay Park that if this was New York, everyone would be telling visitors YOU HAVE TO GO TO SHELDON LOOKOUT. A gift to the city from the Sheldon family, it sits on the western beach of the Humber River along the Toronto Waterfront Trail.

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This lovely park is just steps from the Humber Pedestrian Bridge, so you can't miss it.

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Sheldon Lookout is a perfect place to walk, bike, fish, roll down a hill, or sit and enjoy the stunning views. It's really pretty, and peaceful.

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Sheldon Lookout received an Honourable Mention in the 2000 Architecture & Urban Design Awards. The natural stones are really impressive; your little ones will love to climb on them. Here is a rock showing the directions to dawn at the summer and winter solstice.

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Sheldon Lookout is located in Humber Bay Park, just west of the big white bridge you can see from the Gardiner. Rosie :)

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Free Movies in Toronto at Yonge-Dundas Square

What in the hell's diversity? Well, I could be wrong, but I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship. If you recognize those lines from one of my favourite movies of all time- Anchorman, The Legend of Ron Burgundy- then you are probably excited for the sequel, and you even may feel like rewatching this gem. You should know then that there are free film screenings in downtown Toronto at Yonge-Dundas Square on Tuesdays in the summer, and the next movie scheduled on July 16th is none other than this hilarious and ridiculous 2004 hit.

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This summer the City Cinema theme is "Cult Classics" and the upcoming flicks include Napoleon Dynamite and a Spaceballs and Serenity double feature. The shows start around sunset and are cancelled if it rains. Follow the Yonge-Dundas Square Twitter account @ydsquare for cancellation alerts. Click here for the complete list of movies scheduled for summer 2013. I don't know what we're yelling about! Rosie :)

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LEGO Store at Sherway Free Mini Model Build

LEGO. It's the retro toy that you don't feel kind of weird about loving, like Barbie or the Easy Bake Oven. The LEGO stores are so colourful; the one at Sherway Gardens in Etobicoke has this giant red block right at the entrance that I would love to put right on my front lawn.

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On my most recent trip to Sherway, I noticed a huge line outside the LEGO store.

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That's because it was Mini Model Build Night. Once a month, kids can learn how to build a special LEGO model, and then they get to take it home for free. That explained the line! The event is open to kids ages six to 14 and there is a different theme each month. To find out when the next Mini Model Build is taking place, click on the LEGO store closest to you at the LEGO website and you'll see a store calendar on the right. Rosie :)

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Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District

All afternoon I was distracted from the boring things I had to do because I couldn't wait to see the giant tree at the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District. This event is free to attend and absolutely beautiful. Go at night, the lights are spectacular.

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The tree is perfect: massive and sparkling. It was donated by Trees Ontario.

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There is free hot chocolate at the entrance, and dozens of vendors selling everything from poutine and mulled wine to apple fritters and roasted nuts. There is a great area for the kids, with a ferris wheel, merry-go-round and pony rides. (You have to buy tickets for the rides.) But even without spending a cent, there is so much to do and see. The caroling performance was so festive!

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The Toronto Christmas Market runs until this Sunday December 16th in the Distillery Historic District (Mill Street and Parliament.) Rosie :)

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Free Halloween Things To Do With Kids In Toronto

Free Halloween Things to Do in Toronto for Kids.jpgIf you need some ideas for fun and free things to do this Halloween weekend with your kids in Toronto, consider these events taking place at Wychwood Barns and in Bloor West Village:

BOO! at the Barns There are tons of games, crafts, Halloween movies, a costume contest and a dance party at this event, and all of the fun is free. Food and drinks require a ticket, although there is no charge for the pumpkin seed roasting. That's one of my favourite things about Halloween- roasting pumpkin seeds! BOO! at the Barns takes place on Saturday October 27 from 5pm to 9pm at Artscape Wychwood Barns, in Barn #2.

Pumpkinfest In The Village  Kids can get their faces painted, hunt for treasure and carve pumpkins at this Halloween festival in Bloor West Village which features lots of fun family entertainment like clowns, juggling and other wacky stuff. Pumpkinfest In The Village takes place on Saturday October 27 from 11am to 4pm. Click here to print out the form you need to participate in the Halloween Treasure Hunt.

And while it's not free, the cost for the Toronto West Halloween Fest supports a very good cause- St. Joseph's Health Centre. This event takes place on Sunday October 28 and features tons of music and food, a two-kilometre community parade and a party at the Palais Royale with a performance by Jaymz Bee's Royal Jelly Orchestra. Rosie :)

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Toronto Sculpture Garden: Gold, Silver & Lead

Right now, there is a stack of Honda Civics piled up in the Toronto Sculpture Garden. Gold, Silver & Lead, the free park's current exhibit, is very cool.

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I love this little garden for the free art exhibits, and my little man loves it for the absolutely fantastic waterfall fountain. It's really unique and peaceful to take in.

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The Toronto Sculpture Garden is located at 115 King Street East right across the street from St. James Cathedral. This is a perfect spot to admire the architecture of this stunning church, which has the tallest tower and spire in Canada.

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My only knock against the park is that the city locks it up at 6:30p.m., which I think is really early for the summertime. I felt bad for the city employee who had to kick us out; it is not a good day at the office when you have to tear a happy little toddler away from a water fountain in a public park in broad daylight. But it's a lovely green space downtown with free art so I can't complain too much. Rosie :)

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Celebrate Yonge at Yonge-Dundas Square

Yonge-Dundas Square is so awesome now compared to when my husband and I went to Ryerson over a decade ago. It certainly had character then, but it really wasn't an area of the city you wanted to take your toddler to run around. Now you can... it's like a mini Times Square, plus it has lots of splashy water fountains for little water lovers.

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It really feels like the heart of the city, with tons of special events like free concerts, free movie nights and the T.O. Tix booth where you can pick up discounted theatre and comedy show tickets. Right now there are temporary patios set up right on Yonge Street between Queen and Gerrard for the Celebrate Yonge event, giving the downtown core even more of a fun party vibe. There are some neat things to check out in the different event areas, including life-sized board games and a bike art gallery. Rosie :)

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Sir Casimir Gzowski Park Playground

There is a playground on the Lake Shore that has many of the criteria I look for in a great playground. Sir Casimir Gzowski Park has a huge toddler wading pool, a fun and colourful playground with swings, lots of grass, huge old trees and a boardwalk cafe. All this, just steps from the sandy shores of Lake Ontario.

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When you are done with the playground, you can just walk across the boardwalk to the beach where you have the most stunning view of the Toronto skyline.

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Sir Casimir Gzowski was an engineer who served as Ontario's Lieutenant Governor from 1896 to 1897. His awesome playground is located at 1751 Lake Shore Blvd West. There is Green P parking, and it's free if you park before five from Monday to Friday. The other lovely thing about this park is that you are about a ten minute walk from the lovely Humber Arch Bridge, and then about another 20 minutes away from the Humber Bay Park, where the butterfly exhibit is. Rosie :)

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Public Art at the Humber Bridge

I love art in public spaces and wish we had more street art in Toronto. When we went to Chicago last summer we spent our days walking from one sculpture to another, and we couldn't get enough. That's why I love that Toronto's Interactive Arts Collective installed this beautiful sculpture on the Humber Arch Bridge.

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These "dancing creatures" caught my eye last week while driving on the Lakeshore and when we took one of our walks by the water I couldn't wait to see them up close. This installation is filled with 1,200 LED lights, making the creatures just glow with colour. I absolutely love it. You have until the end of September to see this luminous work of art at the Humber Bridge and you should. It is stunning, and costs nothing to experience. Rosie :)

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Jamie Bell Adventure Playground in High Park

I was pretty excited when I read that celebrity renovator Mike Holmes would be rebuilding the beloved wooden castle in the Jamie Bell playground that was destroyed by arson in March. Canada's Most Trusted Contractor was not going to mess this up. When he compared the project to building the Coliseum, I was impressed. This was going to be something really special and really grand. The playground reopened on July 13th and it is just spectacular. THIS is a playground!

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And THIS is a castle fit for little princes and princesses. It has shiny copper turrets!

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There are so many fun things to play with here that the kids are literally spinning around in circles. It's wild.

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All the colourful children's art really captures the spirit of the park. Community activist Jamie Bell had a vision to build a playground that kids would play a role in creating. Children offered their ideas of what their dream park would be, and together with parents, teachers and many volunteers that vision became a reality in 1999. In the same spirit, the 2012 Jamie Bell playground was rebuilt by the hard work of many volunteers and donors.

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My little man likes a good swing, and one of the really lovely things about this park is that there is a perfect mix of sunshine and shade from High Park's beautiful trees.

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Mike Holmes and the many volunteers who worked on the project had to deal with some pretty hot temperatures during the rebuilding. You can watch the project from start to finish this fall on an episode of Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV Canada.

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The Jamie Bell Adventure Playground is located in High Park at 1873 Bloor St. West. Kids who like parks may also enjoy this summer camp in Toronto. If, like me, you head over to Jamie Bell many times in the summer as a way to expend some energy in a VERY energetic toddler, you may want to consider the camp route. Rosie :)

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Lithuania Park at Keele & Glenlake

Likely unimpressed with the planned afternoon activity of watching his mama watch Olympic men's swimming, my little man starting tearing around the house post-nap exhibiting levels of energy that only an excursion involving water play would even begin to exhaust. Weary from a busy morning of watching men's gymnastics (what a emotional roller-coaster it's been for Kohei Uchimura) I knew the answer was Lithuania Park. Located just north of High Park, it has the perfect wading pool for toddlers. Mamas and nannies can really phone it in here; the kids just entertain themselves. Once my little guy armed himself with a suitable twig, he was ready to get his pool on.

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Or so I thought I was going to phone it in. This pool proved to be so fun that little man insisted I join him. Glad I dressed up. Go Canada!

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The playground here is great, if your child lets you out of the pool long enough to get to it. I love all the lovely leafy shade at this park, and the huge beautiful trees.

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Apparently in the winter, the toboggan hills at this park are awesome. Lithuania Park is located at 155 Oakmount Road, north of High Park at Keele and Glenlake. Rosie :)

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High Park Zoo

The High Park Zoo is the perfect zoo to take your toddler. There are many different animals to see such as bison, reindeer and capybaras. It's a short walk from one species to the next, and it's situated in Toronto's beautiful leafy green High Park. Here's one of North America's largest land mammals looking very calm.

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Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world. It appears that once a rodent exceeds the size of a big stuffed animal, it goes from being totally gross to quite adorable. They are a very social species as you can see here.

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Hello reindeer! You show such composure despite the constant stream of parents parading their kids in front of you saying "look, look, there's Rudolph!"

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Along with many interesting animals, there are also lots of great twigs in High Park. My little man loves to run around and pick up twigs. The bison distracted him only momentarily from intense twig-gathering.

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There are also llamas, peacocks and wallabies at the High Park Zoo, which is free to visit. Due to funding cuts by city council, this zoo almost stopped operating in June.

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The non-profit Friends of the High Park Zoo and private donors have raised funds to keep the zoo going for at least another year. Make a donation if you go (there are donation boxes) or online at the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation. Rosie :)

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Michael Power Park in Etobicoke

You know you are old when you take your toddler to a park that is located on the exact spot where your high school used to be. Michael Power/St Joseph's High School was long ago razed to make room for a condo complex. The homes encircle a large playground with a wonderful water feature. My little man sized up the spouts from all angles before he attacked. (I think this is where north portable was!)

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The playground is huge and lots of fun. If there was a Toddler Olympics, we would have won gold in Baby Swinging. I'm pretty sure the smoking section was somewhere here. So funny... what high school has a smoking section? Those days are long gone.

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Michael Power Park is located at the corner of Dundas St. West and Michael Power Place in Etobicoke. Rosie :)

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Free Outdoor Movies in Toronto

I used to see about a billion movies a year, then I became a mum. Since then my movie-going has seriously slowed. I barely count the two movies I saw at Mommy+Me screenings- I found it impossible to concentrate on plot points while nursing a voraciously hungry baby. (Not that it should have been hard to follow the plots to The Back-Up Plan or Letters to Juliet, but mummy mush brain is a real thing.) I finally just saw my first 3D movie, Promethesus. (And it was good, because Ridley Scott thought about how the 3D should add to every scene.) But before that, it was the Descendants. And before that, Jack Goes Boating at the Toronto Film Fest. Just one TIFF movie... it used to be ten!

I really love movies, and the only thing more awesome than seeing them in the theatre is seeing them outside, for free. And because we live in such a cool city, there are some options for doing that in the summer time. TIFF in the Park is so fun. Every Wednesday at David Pecaut Square (beside Roy Thompson Hall) there is a movie screening when the sun sets. There is a different theme each year- this year it's Screwball Comedies, which really strikes a chord with me as I can't go an hour these days without doing something ridiculous. We have TIFF and the Toronto Entertainment District BIA to thank for such a lovely and free thing to do in the city.

There are more free outdoor movies to be found in Toronto... Movies in the Park in Riverdale East on Broadview not only has a totally fun line-up (you missed Ghostbusters but Back to the Future is playing on August 5th!) but donations go to kids charities like the Toronto Kiwanis Boys & Girls Club. I also just noticed a really cool tweet from MoviesRiverdale:

Um, I LOVE stuff like that- you can totally tell someone you love them ON THE MOVIE SCREEN! How romantic. And then you get to watch Back to the Future. The perfect summer night. Rosie :)

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Port Credit Memorial Park

Ok, this is not a Toronto park. But it's so close, and so lovely, that I had to give it a shout-out despite the fact it is not in the 416. It's in Port Credit (Mississauga) right across from the Port Credit Harbour. The playground is great and it has a really adorable miniature village. Now, I saw no kids remotely interested in the kiddie-sized model of Port Credit, but I still think it is the cutest thing:

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What's neat about the play area is the blue spongy ground which protects little knees from scrapes and bruises.

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In 1967, part of this park was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Canada's confederation. I have a thing for flags, and there is a lovely display of all the flags of the provinces and territories.

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Port Credit Memorial Park is located by the lake in Mississauga at 32 Stavebank Rd. I like Port Credit, it has a good chilled-out vibe, and the waterfront is beautiful. Rosie :)

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Toronto Music Garden

It doesn't surprise me at all that Frommer's lists the Toronto Music Garden as an attraction to see if you only have one day in Toronto. It is free, right by the water and just exquisite.

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The garden was designed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and landscape architect Julie Moir Messervy. Inspired by Bach's First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, each section of the garden corresponds to a movement in the music.

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I highly recommend getting to the Sarabande section if you have a little one, because there is a small pool of water that is really lovely. This area is meant to be a reflective poet's corner, and we reflected on how totally fun this pool of water was.

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The Toronto Music Garden is located on the waterfront at 475 Queen's Quay West (between Bathurst and Spadina.) It is open year-round. Free concerts take place in the summertime on Thursday and Sundays, weather permitting. You can find out more by calling 416-973-4000. Rosie :)

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A Park With A View

The tallest structure in the world now stands in downtown Dubai instead of downtown Toronto, but that doesn't affect my love for the CN Tower in the least. I think Toronto's skyline is stunning because of it. I have always liked how everyone knows what and where the CN Tower is whether they've lived in Toronto a few weeks or their entire life. It is a very distinct landmark. Even though I went to school downtown for years, my sense of direction is such that I would often find myself using its soaring presence as a navigation tool. As a result, the sight of it provides me with a sense of comfort and familiarity. These days my very favourite place to admire the downtown Toronto skyline is from the very awesome Humber Bay Park.

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Not only does Humber Bay Park offer a really spectacular view of the city, it is home to the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat which I never get tired of visiting.

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You may ask, why a picture of a big grey boulder and not some pretty butterflies? My photography skills are simply not good enough for that. However, they were good enough to capture my jumping laughing dancing little man a good foot off the ground.

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When was the last time you were so happy you just leaped right off the ground? This park, and its view, will bring it out of you I swear. And if you are visiting the city and wondering where to stay that gives you easy access to popular Toronto attractions, One King West is a great downtown hotel in Toronto. Rosie :)

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