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ATTRACTION: Harbourfront Centre offers fun & freebies at Toronto's waterfront

A picture-perfect lakeview and freebies are abound at the glistening central Toronto waterfront.

The Harbourfront Centre on Queen’s Quay, melding the bustle of the city with the downtown shore, draws throngs of locals and tourists to play.

New vendors every week at the World Café serve international eats and street performers light up the boardwalk. Visitors can hit the water — at the Natrel Pond — for a canoe or paddleboat ride ($4 and $5 per person, respectively). The mariner can rent a sailboat or powerboat.

Featuring concerts, performances and films, festivals at the Harbourfront Centre lure approximately 17 million every year to eat, shop and take in the lake view.

From May to October, take in a different free festival every week ranging from Ritmo y Color to the Hot & Spicy Food Festival.

This year, more than 20 of the free events at the 10-acre site will encompass the theme of “terrain,” said Harbourfront Centre spokesperson Danielle Castellino.

“Every festival has a take on terrain and landscape and where you come from,” she said. “Whether it’s taking from the urban setting or the rural area of different types of culture.”

Change is underway along the downtown shore. The revitalization of the waterfront, a joint effort by all three levels of government, is meant to entice more tourists to the heart of the waterfront and better it for residents.

As part of its Canada Day weekend fest, Harbourfront will unveil Canada Square July 1 — a tree-lined pedestrian promenade — and its sister square Ontario Square, at the foot of York Street June 23.

Call it a 146th birthday with a bang: You can watch “Canada Eve” fireworks lakeside for the first time in more than a decade.

“We are featuring Canada Eve fireworks, which is a first in many, many years,” Castellino said.

Plus, expect a big playlist for the birthday bash, she said.

“It will feature a lot of bigger artists. We have Jully Black coming, Elliott Brood, Nightbox…[and] Keys N Krates.”

New this year is DJ Deep Fried Fridays, a take on the ever-popular DJ Skate Nights, which kicks off Canada Day Weekend. Every Friday, a DJ will spin by the lakeside — soca, eclectic and reggae are in the mix. The World Café will serve a decadent fried treat to complement the beat.

“We thought that on Friday, it would give people an option to be outdoors.”

A returning favourite is Dancing on the Pier, Castellino said.

“It’s growing in terms of how busy it is. It’s early in the evening, it’s warm, it’s an outdoor event by the pier so it’s nice.”

This year, Harbourfront is encouraging visitors to share a memory to weave together its own 40-year history, Castellino said.

“We’re asking people to tell their stories. Throughout the summer, you’ll see on site little tear sheets. [People] can fill it out and drop it at our info desk.”

Some of the anecdotes will be curated and posted online.

How to get here:

Walk: A 10-minute walk south on York Street from Union Station

Transit: Take the 509 Harbourfront replacement bus (there is no streetcar service due to construction) to Lower Simcoe Street

Drive: South on Lower Simcoe Street from Lake Shore Boulevard

A selection of the summer line-up:

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