If you're spending the long weekend in Ontario's capital, don't sweat the budget. We've got several ways to celebrate that won't cost you a dime.
The likely scenario is that you hear, "Let's go out for New Year's Eve in Toronto" and start to feel your wallet get lighter. It doesn't have to be that way, though. If you'll be in town for the holiday, there are a variety of free (or very inexpensive) ways to ring it in, whether you're visiting solo, with friends, or the whole family. Read on for our picks.
The Big Downtown Bash
For more than 30 years now, crowds of locals and visitors alike have converged upon Nathan Phillips Square on New Year's Eve. In the earlier part of the night, you can skate to the musical grooves of a DJ spinning, enjoy a game of street curling, or grab a snack or an impromptu dinner from a fleet of on-site food trucks. Closer to the countdown, you'll start seeing live musical performances, a countdown, and a shimmering, midnight firework celebration, choreographed to music—all free of charge. Even better? The city's transit also offers complimentary transportation around the city all night, too.
If You're in the 'Burbs
If you're just west of Toronto, in Mississauga, head to Celebration Square by the Square One Shopping Centre, where the party gets started at 8 p.m. Live musical acts, DJs, gourmet food trucks, and a firework finale at midnight rings in the new year. There's also a Skate on the Square if you'd rather party with a side of exercise. In downtown Brampton at Garden Square, there will be buskers, stilt walkers, and a marshmallow roasting for the young and young at heart. Live musical acts go on the main stage around 9:15 p.m. East of the city in Scarborough, at their Civic Centre, you'll find a few kid-friendly movie screenings along with face painting for the little ones, and live musical acts from 7 p.m. to midnight. All events are free.
Wild and Wonderful
If you're visiting with little ones and not likely to make it to the midnight countdown, consider taking the kids to the Toronto Zoo. Every New Year's Eve, they put together a family-friendly event from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., which includes a magic show, live music, a few animal visitors, and a countdown just before 8 p.m., because kid's just wanna have fun, too. General admission is $20 for adults, $12 for children 3 to 12, and free for kids under 2.
Skate in the New Year
Skate to some DJ-spun tunes at the water's edge on the Natrel Rink at the Harbourfront Centre this year. From 8 p.m. to midnight, skaters bundle up, bring thermoses of hot chocolate, lace up, and hit the ice. Adults, families, and anyone who loves the great outdoors enjoys this most Canadian way of greeting the New Year, also for free.
Mary Luz Mejia covers Toronto for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter.