25 reasons to get outside this spring in Toronto

From street fairs and street protests to art shows and concerts, these are the best events happening outdoors in April and May


April

Score free stuff at the Really Really Free Market

Experience the life-changing magic of tidying up (or, alternately, of getting free stuff) at this recurring event in the Junction Triangle. Once a month, declutterers and treasure-hunters meet in the open air to scour through pre-loved items, from clothing, shoes and jewellery to housewares, books, movies, pet items and more. There’s no cash and no swapping – just take what you want to keep. Everything not claimed at the end of the day gets passed along to charity.

April 6, May 4 and June 1. Campbell Park (225 Campbell). rrfmarket.blogspot.com.

Get your bike ready to ride

After a winter of storage, it’s time to make sure your wheels are road-worthy (unless you’re one of those brave souls who rides all winter long, in which case, hats off to you). If you need some pointers on how to do a DIY tune-up, Broadview bike repair studio Bike Sauce is hosting free workshops that will walk you through safety checks and basic maintenance. Can’t make it? Bike Sauce and Parkdale studio Bike Pirates are both open for DIY tune-ups throughout the week.

April 6 and 13 at Bike Sauce (341 Broadview). 11 am. Free. bikesauce.org.

Show up for National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis

According to the latest numbers, more than 600 people died from opioid overdoses in the first six months of 2018. Three years after frontline workers first warned of the opioid-induced overdose crisis sweeping the country, we still grieve. And now the Ford government has announced it will no longer be funding safe injection sites. We’re falling behind when it comes to dealing with the biggest health care crisis since AIDS and stemming the death toll from tainted drugs. Organizers of this year’s National Day of Action on the Overdose Crisis, which takes place in cities across the country, say 2019 is a wake-up call for the urgent need for the legalization and regulation of all hard drugs.

April 16, see website for details. Noon-2 pm. facebook.com/NationalDOA2019.

Get legally stoned on 420 for the first time

Organizers for city’s first post-legalization 420 smoke-out couldn’t secure a permit for Nathan Phillips Square so are staging their annual event at Woodbine Park. The event is also happening on a Saturday, so you don’t have to worry about the stigmatization that comes with getting stoned midday on a weekday in uptight Toronto. The park location means there will be vendors and a stage this year. 

April 20 at Woodbine Park (1695 Queen East). Noon-7 pm Free. fb.com/420toronto.

Get social with Toronto’s cherry blossoms

Over 10,000 kilometres separate Toronto and Tokyo, but cherry blossoms can be enjoyed in both cities. Starting in April, partake in the centuries-old tradition of hanami, the Japanese term for viewing sakura, at parks and sites across the city including High Park, Trinity Bellwoods, York University and Birkdale Ravine. Once cherry blossoms bloom, the equally photogenic Eastern redbud follows suit. Find these bright pink trees at Corktown Common among dozens of parks.

Late April/early May. toronto.ca

Help clean-up and revitalize the Don Valley Ravine

The 200-hectare ravine stretching from Pottery Road down to Corktown Common is Toronto’s largest and most hidden urban park, which means it’s also a common dumping ground for trash. Join a large volunteer group to clean up a section of the lower Don Ravine and help revitalize a green space that’s home to deer, fox, beavers, muskrats and great blue herons. 

April 27 and May 11 starting at E.T. Seton Park parking lot (next to 71 Thorncliffe Park). 10 am-2 pm. Free (registration required). dontmesswiththedon.ca.

Mark Earth Day at Downsview Park

We’d like to think that every day is Earth Day, but most people recognize April 22 as the largest environmental celebration in the world. While there are events scheduled across the city that day, a big one happens a week later. Now in its 15th year, Earth Day at Downsview Park is a free family-friendly event including outdoor vendors, a scavenger hunt, workshops and more. See a birds of prey demonstration, enjoy guided nature walks and take part in litter pickup and invasive species removal. 

April 28. Downsview Park Discovery Centre (70 Canuck). 11 am-4 pm. Free. downsviewpark.ca.

Rally to protect public health care

Spring is the perfect season to hit the streets, protest and demand progressive change. The Ontario Health Coalition, a network of more than 400 grassroots community organizations, says the Ford government’s recently tabled legislation to restructure health care will end up selling off vital services and impose costly “mega-mergers” that will put local services and hospitals at risk. In response, the coalition is organizing a massive rally at Queen’s Park, which will bring in busloads of protestors from across the province. So much for Ford’s promise to end hallway medicine. 

April 30. Queen’s Park Lawn. Noon. ontariohealthcoalition.ca.

Kensington Market Pedestrian Sundays

Michael Watier

Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sundays return for the season on May 26.

May

Check out Carrie Mae Weems’s first Canadian exhibition 

One of the U.S.’s most celebrated contemporary artists will make her Canadian debut at Contact Photography Festival, with three site-specific outdoor installations. Carrie Mae Weems, the first African-American woman to have a retrospective at the Guggenheim, will exhibit work at Metro Hall, TIFF Bell Lightbox and via a banner at 460 King West. Her work examines shifting cultural landscapes around the ways Black women have been represented in pop culture – today and throughout history. Other artists’ works will be shown at 16 public sites, as well as on billboards, around town.

May 1 to 31. Various venues. Free. Launch party May 1 at Ryerson Image Centre, 7-11 pm. contactphoto.com.

Get a new perspective on Toronto during Jane’s Walk Festival 

Explore your neighbourhood with fresh eyes or discover a new one during Jane’s Walk 2019, the annual festival that honours urban thinker Jane Jacobs through citizen-led walking tours. This year’s highlights include imagining the future of the high-traffic corridor Bridgeland Avenue, near the 401 and Dufferin a stroll around old Agincourt in Scarborough to explore the development of a suburb and the racial tensions around the Dragon Centre and a walk through Wychwood Park, designed in 1874 as an artists’ haven.

May 3 to 5, at various locations. Free. janeswalk.org/toronto.

Catch a baseball game at Christie Pits 

It doesn’t feel like spring until you sit in open-air stands and watch a baseball game. You never know when the Blue Jays will decide to open the dome, but in the meantime you can catch free games at Christie Pits Park. The Toronto Maple Leafs intercounty league team has been playing since 1969, with baseball at the park stretching back even earlier – and catching a game there is an essential experience. One of the city’s hidden gems. 

Season starts May 5 at Dominico Field at Christie Pits, 2 pm. Free. mapleleafsbaseball.com.

Mosh at Yonge-Dundas Square during Canadian Music Week

Ever since the music fest moved from March to May, CMW has been summoning the summer spirit of its rival festival, NXNE, with outdoor gigs at Yonge-Dundas Square. No headliner has been announced yet, but last year Sloan took that spot. We do know the fest will have Azealia Banks (May 8) and Television (May 6), plus a discovery series with Hooded Fang, Witch Prophet, Ebhoni and Ice Cream. Plus: at least one event at the (finally) reopening El Mocambo. 

May 11 at Yonge-Dundas Square (1 Dundas East), noon to 11 pm, all ages. Free. cmw.net, ydsquare.ca

Ponder urban monuments at the Bentway

Cities are questioning the relevance and meaning of public monuments, particularly as we Canadians grapple with the legacies of colonialism and residential schools. An international art exhibition and day-long event will ponder the future of city monuments to kick off urban park the Bentway’s spring/summer season. New Monuments For New Cities will feature 25 large-scale posters responding to the questions “What should a contemporary monument look like? Who are they for and what should they represent?” The show is simultaneously at similar land-reuse sites in four other North American cities, and will launch at the Monuments Summit on May 11. Public tours will happen every Tuesday (except June 4) during the run.

May 11 to August 30 at the Bentway (250 Fort York). thebentway.ca/new-monuments.

Eat, shop and party on the sidewalk in Parkdale

Summer is a big season for street fests and road closures, but if you can’t wait for pedestrian-only fun, head west. In early May, the annual Spring Into Parkdale Sidewalk Fest takes over a 1.4-km stretch of Queen West between Roncesvalles and Dufferin, with a kids area, a Little Tibet market, a zero-waste fair, free bike tune-ups, DJs, live music, a flea market and a night market. The event is emphasizing zero waste by encouraging visitors to bring their own containers, cups and cutlery.

May 11 in Parkdale Village. 11 am-9 pm. Free. parkdalevillagebia.com/festival.

Dance at Electric Island

There’s some sort of magnetic pull toward the ferry terminal the second the weather gets warm enough to expose your forearms, and Electric Island is the perfect excuse to head over to the island this spring. The first of four outdoor beach-adjacent raves takes place May 19. And though the lineup hasn’t been announced yet, you can bet on a strong-as-always slate of electronic acts and DJs. 

May 19 at Hanlan’s Point Beach (Toronto Islands), 2 pm. $40-$60. ticketweb.ca, electricisland.to

Check out the Strokes’ first Toronto concert in 13 years

Budweiser Stage, the outdoor amphitheatre at Ontario Place, is celebrating its 25th season, and it’s got a hell of an opener: the Strokes. They’ll take you back to the early 2000s NYC rock dives – or at least 2006’s Virgin Festival, the last time the Julian Casablancas-fronted rockers performed here. (If you miss this gig, Bud Stage’s second show of the season is Florence and the Machine with opener Blood Orange on May 26.)

May 20 at Budweiser Stage (909 Lake Shore West), 7 pm. $55-$175. ticketmaster.ca.

Visit architectural gems at Doors Open 

The annual architecture festival gives curious Torontonians the opportunity to snoop inside spaces usually closed off to the public, like secret subway stations, water treatment plants and century-old movie theatres. For this year’s 20th anniversary, Doors Open will also include walking tours that explore the social impact of Queen East and the LGBTQ heritage of King Street, as well as spotlight Toronto’s Indigenous past, present and future through events, panels and films. 

May 25 and 26, at various locations. Free. toronto.ca/doorsopen.

Take over the streets at Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sundays 

The launch of Pedestrian Sundays in late May means the city has completely shaken off its winter hibernation hangover. Street performers and pop-up vendors line car-free streets, the patios are bustling and Bellevue Square Park is packed with picnickers snacking on churros, empanadas, fish and chips and burritos from the nearby restaurants. 

Launches May 26 and happens on the last Sunday of every month until October, Kensington Market. Free. kensingtonmarketbia.com.

Ride into Bike Month

What better time than spring to discover the joy of biking? Toronto gears up for another bike month in June with the 30th annual Bike To Work Day group commute on May 27 hosted by Cycle Toronto. Participants will ride together from various starting points around the city and arrive at Nathan Phillips Square for a pancake breakfast and coffee. Cycle Toronto will be hosting events throughout June, from films to group rides to workshops. Check out the events calendar for details.

May 27 to June 30. Various locations. bikemonth.ca.

Go on a modern dance journey on the waterfront

Harbourfront Centre will raise questions around land ownership with a site-specific indoor/outdoor dance show taking place toward the end of the spring season. Toronto-based choreographer Heidi Strauss’s interactive experience Lot X will cap off the dance series Torque by leading audiences from Harbourfront Centre Theatre to the waterfront arts complex’s East Campus. The performance is weather dependent. Also: bring comfortable shoes.

Lot X runs May 29 to June 2 at Harbourfront Centre Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). 8 pm. $20-$35. harbourfrontcentre.com.

Sway to R&B stars Jorja Smith and Kali Uchis at Echo Beach

Ontario Place’s other outdoor venue gives you a chance to put some sand under your feet via its (totally artificial) beach. After a couple of louder concerts from Bring Me the Horizon and Led Zep clones Greta Van Fleet, the venue hosts the perfect soundtrack to wafting warmness: a pair of buzzy and rising R&B/pop singers – UK artist Jorja Smith and Colombian-American Tyler, The Creator collaborator Kali Uchis. 

May 30 at Echo Beach (909 Lake Shore West), doors 7 pm, all ages. $49.50. ticketmaster.ca.

Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers' Market

RJM

The Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers’ Market

All season long

Eat your way through T.O. on a food tour

Think you know everything there is to know about Toronto’s food scene? Walking food tours are a great way to discover something new while soaking up some sunshine. Savour Toronto offers a bunch of tailored recurring tours, including dining excursions around Kensington and old Chinatown ($65 each), as well as a coffee and sweets-specific jaunt around the east end ($55). Or start your weekend off right with T.O. Food Tours’ brunch tour of King and Queen West ($99).

savourtoronto.com, tofoodtours.com.

Shop local at a farmers’ market

The abundance of these markets greatly increases as the weather warms up, and many start up in May, including ones in Trinity Bellwoods, Cabbagetown, Davisville Village and the Junction. Shop local produce, dairy, bread, honey, flowers and more from farmers and artisans. Many of the weekly markets also feature live music, kids’ activities and prepared foods. 

Various dates and times. Visit tfmn.ca for a complete list.

Brighten your life at the Toronto Flower Market

Even if you don’t buy anything, theToronto Flower Market is beautiful to walk around in. Once a month from May to October, over 30 vendors selling Ontario-grown flowers and plants gather on the lawn of CAMH’s Queen West location. They’ve got everything from potted succulents and artful bouquets to bunches of tulips, wildflowers and more. The first market happens just in time for Mother’s Day. 

May 11. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (1001 Queen West). 10 am-3 pm. torontoflowermarket.ca.

Hit up a flea market

In addition to the year-round indoor staples (shout-out to north-end faves like Merchants’ Flea Market on Eglinton and Downsview Park Merchants Market), a few warmer-weather favourites are about to return for your bargain-hunting pleasure. East-end fave Leslieville Flea is back at the Distillery District Fermenting Cellar on April 28 before returning to its open-air location, Ashbridge Estate, on June 9. And the Parkdale Flea is returning from a brief hiatus on April 13 with a brand-new location at 1605 Queen West.

merchantsfleamarket.com, dpmarket.com, leslievilleflea.com, parkdaleflea.com.

@nowtoronto

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