Toronto is the place to be. It is also the place to avoid when looking to book your next budget destination. Or so some say. Toronto may look wealthy, but it is not expensive. Unless you’re a local, which you’re not, so yay! Don’t let the men in business suits fool you, Toronto is cheap and fun and fresh. I’ve been living here all eighteen years of my short life and am still discovering new things each day. So put away the wallet and get ready to uncover the top 7 free things to do in Toronto.
Stroll through bustling Chinatown
The markets are vibrant. The people even more so. Pick through the assorted fruits and vegetables with strange names and an even stranger taste (to a foreign palate that is)! Pick up some herbs and ask one of the locals about their traditional Chinese remedies. A rewarding experience, join in on the free weekend festivities: attend a performance of the lion dance, or try your hand at various cultural crafts. No trip to the area would be complete without a sampling of Chinese cuisine. Drop by Butterfly Bakery to try their green tea mousse cake; just $2.50 a slice!
Feed the geese at Scarborough Bluffs
Reaching the eastern-most portion of Toronto’s waterfront, the Scarborough Bluffs are an area of water and rock, but mostly geese. Referred to as the “Bluffs” by us locals, it has become a central meeting place for people of all ages looking to enjoy the outdoors. Use one of the many hiking or walking trails in the morning, swim in the natural waters of Lake Ontario in the afternoon, and host a bonfire with all of your closest mates to end off the night. Features include: hiking and walking trails, picnic tables, fire-pits, places to pitch tents, a parking lot, marina and even a boating club! Be sure to bring bread for the geese though, you’ll instantly become their best friend!
Sample local produce at Evergreen Brickworks
Located in the Don Valley, Evergreen Brickworks is an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. A collection of heritage buildings, it is open year-round as a community environmental centre that aims to inspire visitors to “live, work and play more sustainably.” To me its an escape. A place I go to walk through the gardens, play with the turtles, and sample local produce from the weekly farmer’s market. Join in on the many festivities and events, or do your own thing and pick a trail. Either way don’t leave until you’ve tasted the cheese!
Ride your bike through Taylor Creek
Over 16-kilometres long, the creek flows through Scarborough and East York, where it enters the Don River. In the spring, summer and fall months it remains the perfect spot to enjoy a scenic and isolated bike ride. You’ll stumble upon Canadian wildlife, while breezing through the rough terrain. In the winter months take out your skis, toboggans and snowshoes to turn the trails into winter fun!
Enjoy Sugar Beach
An urban resort, Sugar Beach remains a unique whimsical park. Once a surface parking lot it now features brightly coloured pink beach umbrellas and candy-stripped rock outcroppings. So indulge our famous ex-mayor Rob Ford on his $530,000 splurge on the umbrellas-alone, and sit back relax and tan, or sunburn, whatever suits your fancy. Change out of your flip flops and into your dancing shoes: some weekends music events are held to celebrate!
Go topless at Hanlan’s Point
Just a short and inexpensive ferry ride away, Toronto’s islands are the “Hamptons” of the north. Kidding. Most tourists visit Centre Island for a day of amusement, often overlooking the other islands (and in my opinion the better ones). As BlogTo puts it, “There are three reasons to go to Hanlan’s Point Beach: the sand, the view, and the flesh.” A clothing-options area, it is the ideal place to go free and be free, with a panoramic view of Toronto’s skyline to match!
Singalong at a free concert in Dundas Square
Throughout the year, Yonge-Dundas Square hosts free events, movie screenings and concerts. The best time to visit is during the summer months. I am a complete fan of their Indie Fridays and spent a good portion of my time last year taking in the underground music scene. Not only is it free but you get to be up-close and personal with the artists. About five years ago I even had the privilege of seeing Beyonce perform a full-set live for free (costume change and all)!