Sitting pretty on the shores of Lake Ontario, Canada’s biggest city is a melting pot of music, arts and cuisine. There are loads of budget activities in Toronto too, for example:
Toronto is a city of music festivals and some of the best lay on free gigs. NXNE (North by North East) for example, includes plenty of free showcases that are open to the public, while TD Jazz in June and Beaches Jazz in July feature some free gigs. In July and August, you can catch live orchestras and jazz each Sunday at Mel Lastman Square, while the Harbourfront Centre’s Summer Music in the Garden (July to September) includes many different types of music from all over the world.
Take the Queen streetcar from one side of the city to the other and you’ll get to see many of Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods including the Beaches, Lesliville, Queen West and Roncesvalles. The classic streetcars are in the process of being replaced by snazzy modern ones, so enjoy the nostalgia while you can.
High Park is the most popular park in Toronto, with hiking trails and plenty of charming spots to stop for a picnic in the sunshine. The park includes everything from a free mini-zoo to tennis courts, baseball diamonds and football (the round kind) pitches. Trinity Bellwoods and Humber Bay Park offer distinctive alternatives. Riverdale Farm, meanwhile, is a working farm in the heart of downtown – if you like the company of pigs and chickens, it’s the place to go!
Tobogganing & Ice Skating in the winter
There are plenty of tobogganing spots in and around Toronto’s parks where you can speed downhill, separated from the ground only by a thin piece of plastic (or wood if you are a traditionalist). Riverdale Park East has some of the steeper slopes, while offering fine views of Toronto’s iconic skyline. Lithuania Park on Keele Street also has a fine selection of hills to choose from.
Free museums & galleries
Many of Toronto’s museums offer free or discounted hours on a weekly basis. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) offers discounted admission on Friday from 15:00 to 17:30, while the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is free on Wednesdays from 18:00 to 20:30 and half price on Friday evenings.
Hiking on the Trails in the summer
Toronto is sometimes referred to as “a city within a park” and there are many hiking trails in and around town, most of which are short and sweet. For example, Cedar Trail is a 2.2km long route through the Rouge River Valley, running parallel to the Little Rouge Creek. For something a bit more challenging, the Highland Creek Trail in Colonel Danforth Park lasts 11km and is also accessible by bike.
Visit the Distillery District
This historic district is a pedestrianized village within the city. In among the beautiful Victorian-industrial architecture, you can enjoy any number of independent shops, bars, cafes, galleries and restaurants. There are big festivals during the weekends and a popular Christmas market during December.
Stroll Kensington Market
In a similar vein to the Distillery District, but more grungy, Kensington Market is a funky part of town where you can find retro furniture, vintage clothing and lots of places to pick up a cheap take-away meal. Toronto’s large immigrant population ensures you have a wide range of cuisines to choose from.
When the heavens align correctly, you can enjoy 20°c water in Lake Ontario during July and August, perfect for a trip to the beach. But even when the water is chilly, Toronto’s beaches are ideal for a day of volleyball, romantic walks on the sand or the simple pleasure of people watching. Woodbine, Kew and Balmy Beaches are all close to each other and are popular with Toronto’s twenty-somethings. Alternatively, Bluffer’s Park is possibly the city’s most scenic beach and a popular spot for fishing trips.
Get the best view in town
If you like the “top down” kind of view, the CN Tower is hard to beat, although the Panorama Lounge on the 51st Floor of the Manulife Centre means you can enjoy a view including the CN Tower. If you prefer your views “from the bottom up”, head to Toronto’s Islands and get the full skyline panorama. Either way, bring your camera!
What are you tips for enjoying Toronto on a budget?Image credits: Sights & Sounds @ NXNE 2010 by Jeff via CC, Urban Fast by Mauricio Lima via CC, please walk on the grass by Kai Schreiber via CC, Tobogganing in High Park by Toronto History via CC, Golden Spiral by Ian Muttoo via CC,The Distillery District by Josh Evnin via CC, Toronto’s Skyline by Michael Gil via CC.