As a longtime resident of Kingston, and a person who has never enjoyed spending money, I love that there are lots of things to do around town for free during the warmer season.
Caveat: There is the option to spend money at most of the events or places I have listed below. There are no admission fees for attending,
As a parent I love taking my kids to these sorts of things around town. It’s an easy day (now that they are older!) and the kids usually love exploring events and even just being downtown. BUT, these fun free things to do are just as lovely – if not more so – as a way to spend time with friends, or reconnect with your spouse.
Get out and enjoy some of the amazing free things to do in Kingston!
Walk the waterfront
I love doing this so much I do it twice a week on my lunch break. Working in downtown Kingston means I’m only 3 blocks from the water all day long. Then I head to the Tett Centre for our dance life and that is literally waterfront property.
Have you explored the waterfront trail? It extends along the lakeshore here in Kingston, but it’s part of 3000 kms of trail connecting 140 communities and First Nations in Ontario.
Read more about the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail on their website. Then get outside and take a walk!
Movies in the square
Every year Downtown Kingston! shows free movies in the square over the summer months. Beginning in late June, and continuing for almost every Thursday until September, there will be a movie beginning at dusk in Market Square.
Check out this year’s lineup here.
Art after dark
An art appreciation evening held twice a year. This is another Downtown Kingston! event but it takes place in various locations around the downtown core.
Art and artists are hosted by galleries and stores in downtown Kingston. Many locations also have complementary snacks and refreshments available. Watch Downtown Kingston’s event page for more details about this biannual event.
From the website: “You are invited to celebrate Kingston-area science & scientists by being in the audience when the Leon’s Centre becomes a giant pop up Science Discovery Centre! Meet and talk to scientists, engage in scientific experiments and learn about the excitement and possibilities of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This event is free and family-oriented. There is something for everyone!”
Science Rendezvous happens every year in May. Queen’s University is the main player in putting this event on, and they do an amazing job! We’ve been many times – there are tons of hands on experiences, and the kids enjoy every minute!
Our local Science Rendezvous is part of a Canada-wide initiative to increase science literacy in Canada. Read more about it here.
Wolfe Island Ferry
Take a ride on the ferry across to Wolfe Island. My suggestion is to leave your car on the mainland and walk on. The ferry lands right in the village and you can take a stroll, or visit a restaurant or some stores before heading back again.
The ferry gives a unique view of Kingston’s City Hall for those who don’t regularly get out onto the water. Sitting up top on the deck is a beautiful way to enjoy a summer’s afternoon.
Check out the ferry schedule here.
Doors Open Kingston
Every year Doors Open Ontario opens the doors to many of Ontario’s heritage locations so patrons can visit for free. While I can’t find the date for this year’s event in Kingston, Doors Open Ontario has a great list of other cities and their dates on their homepage.
Previous years, visitors have been able to visit the some of the Martello Towers around town, various churches, buildings at Queen’s and RMC, as well as a few locations around the hospitals.
Keep your eyes on their Kingston events page – it still has last year’s info at the time of publishing, but hopefully will be updated soon!
Skeleton Park Arts Festival
From the website: “Skeleton Park Arts Festival is a free, grassroots, multi-disciplinary art experience that happens in Kingston on the summer solstice weekend, and at pop-up events around the neighbourhood all year round.”
I’ve taken the girls in the past and they love walking through the booths of artisans and local businesses or community groups. We’ve also caught a few acts on stage – be sure to bring a blanket or chair for these.
You can find the full list of events here.
One of my favourite events of the summer! Buskers Rendezvous is a street performers festival which happens in downtown Kingston every July.
Street performers come from around the world to show off their stuff in the streets of downtown Kingston. It draws great crowds and the kids love it!
Keep your eyes on the Downtown Kingston! website for more information on when the festival will be happening this year.
City Hall Tours
Visit Kingston’s historic city hall, and take either a guided tour, or wander the first two floors with a paper you can print at home (or read on your phone or tablet while you’re there.)
Tours are free and run every day but Sundays and holidays during the summer season. For more information visit the City of Kingston’s website.
If you’re visiting City Hall on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Saturdays over the summer months, be sure to wander Market Square as well. Local vendors sell fresh and wonderful items – just taking a walk through the area gives you a sense of how hard farmers and artisans work to get products to you. Read more about the Kingston Public Market here.
There are many other fun and free things to do in Kingston – this is not an exhaustive list! What do you enjoy taking in (that’s free) in Kingston? For us, just heading downtown or to a waterfront park is a fun day.
Leave me a comment with your experiences visiting Kingston. I still enjoy being a tourist in my own town!
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