21 FREE things to do

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Downtown St. Catharines

Hey students! Welcome to St. Catharines! Get off campus and let’s go! Distinct neighbourhoods, great outdoor life, amazing arts and culture, the best foods – its all here in St. Catharines. We’re here to help you find your new favourites with St. Catharines 101. Here’s 21 FREE things to get out and do on Saturday, September 10. This is the weekend you start to love STC.

Of course, you don’t have to be a student to enjoy these free activities – they are open to all.

Celebration of NationsCelebration of Nations returns to St. Catharines’ FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre from Friday, September 9 to Sunday, September 11. This annual Indigenous arts gathering celebrates creativity, diversity and resilience. 

Here are a few free activities happening Saturday, September 10 in Downtown St. Catharines.

1 – NFB Animated Shorts at The Film House

Animated shorts films from Indigenous filmmakers will play in a loop at The Film House from 9-11 a.m.
This is a FREE event and tickets are not required.

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2 – Indigenous Discovery Zone in the Backyard

An interactive area in the Backyard of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre designed for hands-on learning, fun for the whole family and vendors. The Indigenous Discovery Zone takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Don’t miss the special music showcase of local emerging and established Indigenous musicians from noon to 2 p.m.

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3 – The Red Dress Exhibit at Robertson Theatre

Based on the 13 Grandmother Moons and the cycle of the women, the Red Dress Exhibit will feature stories of 13 Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) from 13 Indigenous Peoples in Western New York and Niagara whose loved ones fell victim to these crimes. This immersive and poignant exhibit is open Saturday from 3-10 p.m. and features 13 empty and suspended red dresses tells their untold story.

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With more than 40 in-person events this three-day Indigenous Arts Gathering offers something for everyone.

Official Website

Downtown PromenadeThere’s much to see and do in Downtown St. Catharines, and this weekend is a great time to explore the neighbourhood. Enjoy these free activities on Saturday and stick around to check out the unique shops and restaurants that make our downtown so special.

4 – Saturdays at the Market

Fresh, local food from the St. Catharines Farmers’ Market is always worth the trip Downtown. And, Saturdays at the Market feature cooking demonstrations with local ingredients, A discovery table to learn about local produce and growers and more. The farmers; market is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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5 – Downtown Promenade

Enjoy pedestrianized streets in the heart of Downtown St. Catharines with community-based activities and events promising all kinds of fun for everyone. On Saturdays, the Downtown Promenade runs from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on the following streets:

          • St. Paul Street from Court Street and Bond Street and Carlisle Street to James Street
          • James Street from King Street to St. Paul Street

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6 – Free Concert at Market Square

Local talent hits the stage during the Music in the Square concert series. Don’t miss Robert Alfieri from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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7 – James Street Market

Browse handmade goods and more from artisans, makers and curated vendors at this open air market on James Street. Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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8 – Downtown Heritage Walking Tour

Explore Downtown St. Catharines and learn about our rich history through a series of interpretive plaques throughout the core. Find tour maps at the following locations:

          • Market Square on King Street
          • The Gateway on the corner of St. Paul Street and Ontario Street

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9 – Yates Street Heritage District

The Yates Street Heritage District was first developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s along the banks of Twelve Mile Creek. This eclectic neighbourhood is only steps from the downtown core and worth a wander to check out the elegant residences and beautiful tree-lined streetscape forged during the early days of the Welland Canal.

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When you’re downtown, be on the lookout for street art. St. Catharines has it’s own Graffiti Alley between James Street and Garden Park. Plus, a number of community art projects have put colourful surprises around every corner. A walkabout search for these artful expressions is a perfect start for cultural  tour of St. Catharines.

10 – Niagara Artists Centre

Explore the galleries at the Niagara Artists Centre and become inspired. The NAC is a not-for-profit, charitably registered, member-driven collective formed by and dedicated to the working artists and community of Niagara. Galleries are open from noon to 4 p.m. BONUS Check out the NAC Studio Shop, a collective artist-run vintage and art shop curating vintage home goods and clothing. It’s just across the street and a few steps away.

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11 – The Salem Chapel

Built in 1855, the Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church is a national historic site and was an important centre of nineteenth century abolitionist and civil rights activity in Canada. Harriet Tubman, famous for her role in helping African Americans escape slavery in the United States, lived near the chapel between 1851 and 1858 and is traditionally associated with the chapel. Tours are by appointment, but there is historical information and plaques installed around the exterior of the church.

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12 – The Brown Homestead

The Victory Garden at The Brown Homestead is a heritage-based community garden that encourages sustainable gardening, education, and outdoor recreation. Through free weekly meetings the Victory Garden is an inclusive, sustainable and fun weekend activity for the community! The topic for the Sept. 10 session (at 10 a.m.) is beekeeping and bee conservation in Ontario. Spaces are limited and pre-registration is required.

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13 – 13th Street Gallery

Located at 13th Street Winery, the gallery specializes in Canadian historical and contemporary fine art. Its collection features some of Canada’s most celebrated artists, including members of Les Automatistes, the Painters Eleven and Isaac’s stable of artists, and also represent exciting young, entry-level and esteemed senior contemporary artists. Sept. 10 also features a chance to meet artist Silvio Russo.

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14 – Morningstar Mill

The Morningstar Mill is a picturesque heritage site that backs onto the Bruce Trail and Decew Falls and is a popular picnic, hiking and historic destination for residents and visitors alike. A rural industrial heritage site featuring a working grist mill built in 1872, Morningstar Mill is one of the few mills in Ontario that houses all its original equipment and still operates its millstones using waterpower. Tours are available by chance or appointment from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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15 – St. Catharines Sports Hall of Fame

If you happen to be at the Meridian Centre for the Niagara IceDogs pre-season game on Saturday night, check out the St. Catharines Sport Hall of Fame, which features an exhibition space showcasing a selection of sports artifacts and memorabilia as well as the Wall of Fame displaying the names of those who have been inducted into the Hall. The current exhibit showcases the history of Lacrosse in Ontario.

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16 – St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre

The St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre is home to extraordinary historical collections and exhibits that feature local St. Catharines perspectives, artifacts and stories of the area and its canals, exciting museum events, educational programs and tours, a packed gift shop and more. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please note – admission to the museum is by donation.

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17 – Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum

Learn all about lacrosse, one of Canada’s national sports, at the Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum. Being the most recognized sport in Ontario, the museum has the most incredible players and history to share with video presentations, historical resources and a lacrosse shooting gallery. The Ontario Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum is found at the St. Catharines and Welland Canals Centre.

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Ship WatchingThe St. Catharines Museums and Welland Canals Centre also features an observation deck overlooking the Welland Canal that offers a bird’s eye view of ships transiting Lock 3. There are many amazing spots for ship watching along the Welland Canals Parkway Trail, one of many trails and paths cutting through St. Catharines that help make outdoor life here the best.

18 – Canal Driving Tour (self guided)

The Canal Driving Tour gives visitors information about the history of Merritton and highlights some of the interesting sites along the Welland Canal. The tour starts at the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre with interpretive signage installed along the route.

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19 – Victoria Lawn Cemetery Walking Tour

Take a walking tour through Victoria Lawn Cemetery, established in 1856, and learn about the history and legacy of our community through the contributions of important individuals. Pick up a Walking Tour Brochure for a map and complete list of grave sites from the cemetery office. 

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20 – Lakeside Park Carousel

Step back in time and take your family to the Lakeside Park Carousel. With 68 animals to choose from, the carousel can bring out the child in all of us. The historic carousel, a Charles I.D. Looff original, was hand carved from 1898 to 1905 and is beloved by all who visit. While the carousel is not exactly free, but it is only 5 cents a ride.

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21 – Happy Rolph’s Animal Farm

Happy Rolph’s Animal Farm is a City park offering a tranquil and unique setting that provides a fun, free animal viewing and park exploration experience for everyone. Enjoy exploring the walking trails and quiet seating and viewing areas on the shores of Lake Ontario or alongside two ponds.

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