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Toronto is a fabulous, multicultural city that offers visitors cultural, natural and gastronomical adventures. It’s possible to explore this dynamic city on a tight budget with a few insider tips courtesy of Toronto native Lauren from Global Locavore! Here are six of her favorite summer activities both on and off the beaten path. Stick around until the end advice about getting around!
1. The City Explorer: Tour the City by Bike
Exploring the city by bicycle is a perfect way to explore Toronto’s many neighborhoods. Follow this itinerary for a budget-friendly ride through a few of my favorite areas.
Local’s itinerary: Start your journey at the Coxwell Avenue Subway in Greektown. Here you can find a Toronto Bike-Share stand where you can rent a bicycle for the day. Head out along Danforth Avenue to appreciate the character of the
Grab a sandwich from Bricks Bakery for a budget-friendly lunch before heading back to Queen Street. Cycle across town and stop once you reach the Queen West area for some funky window shopping.
Your last stop is Trinity Bellwoods Park. If you’re thirsty, grab a craft beer from Trinity Bellwoods Brewery ($4-8/bottle). While I can’t officially condone drinking them in the park, you’ll see many locals doing so.
Insider’s advice: This route doesn’t follow streets with designated bike paths,
Budget tips: To keep this bike rental on
2. The Multicultural: Chinatown, Kensington Market & Little Italy
Photo by Lauren (Global Locavore)Toronto is an extremely multicultural city and it’s possible to “travel” the world without leaving Toronto within its many distinctive cultural neighborhoods with fantastic food, shopping, and people watching.
Local’s itinerary: Start your day in Chinatown for a brunch of Dim Sum at Rol San, a local budget
3. The Creative: Appreciate Art Attractions
With world-class museums, art galleries, and studios, Toronto is a wonderful place to enjoy a dynamic arts scene. Annual festivals including TIFF (Toronto Film Festival), North by Northeast (live music festival), and Fringe (live theatre festival) offer the perfect opportunity to discover up and coming artists. Open year-round, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) offer cheap access to their general galleries.
Local’s itinerary: Spend the afternoon exploring downtown on foot. Make sure to visit Nathan Phillips Square, the Eaton’s Centre and Queen’s Park. Take a stroll through the University of Toronto Campus and grab an affordable early dinner at one of the plentiful food trucks. Enjoy an affordable evening of culture at the AGO or ROM.
Budget tips: Save by planning ahead by visiting on the days with discount admission. The ROM offers $10 admission on Fridays from 4:30pm-8:30pm and the AGO has free entry on Wednesday nights from 6-9pm. Bonus: The COC offers a weekly free concert series on Tuesdays and Thursday from 12-1pm during several months of the year.
4. The Outdoorsy: High Park
Local’s itinerary: High Park is easily accessed by its namesake subway station (High Park). Follow the paved trails that crisscross the park to discover a pond with many wildlife species and a public pool. There is also a zoo with deer and bison.
Once you’ve had your fill, leave the park by the south side, close to the waterfront. Enjoy the views as you walk down the car-free waterfront path to the Humber Bay Arch Bridge. Finish your walk in the Roncesvalles
Insider’s guide: If visiting in the spring, come on a weekday to experience the cherry blossoms in relative peace. If visiting in the summer, Shakespeare in the Park puts on a nightly play which is
Budget tips: Entry to the park and the Zoo is free. One adult day pass to the pool is $3.50 and the lockers are free if you bring your own lock. Having dinner at one of the neighbourhood Polish restaurants in Roncesvalles can be economical and very hearty. More information about where to eat in this historic neighborhood here!
5. The Classic: Day Trip to the Toronto Islands
The Toronto Islands are a series of pretty, miniature islands in Lake Ontario. These tranquil, car-free islands are easily accessible by a short ferry ride from downtown Toronto making for a lovely, inexpensive day trip.
Local’s itinerary: From the ferry docks, take the Ward Island ferry, which will drop you at the eastern part of the island. Go for a walk along the pedestrian-friendly streets and marvel at the cottage-like houses before grabbing a spot on the beach. Stroll along the boardwalk along the southern shore.
Midway you will find the busy and aptly named Centre Island. There are a number of overpriced activities, including renting a bike, concession food, and amusement park rides. Instead, play a game of FREE BYO (bring your own) frisbee golf on the dedicated course.
Afterwards, walk west to Hanlan’s Point, a clothing optional beach filled with friendly locals. It’s the perfect place to have a drink and watch the sunset over the city before taking the Hanlan’s Point ferry back downtown.
Insider’s advice: Plan a full day visit by arriving early and staying until dark. Avoid the lines at the ferry by
Budget tip: Picnic! Food and drinks on the island are expensive, so bring your own food and drinks from home or the grocery store
6. The Sustainable: Tour Evergreen Brick Works
Within the Don River Valley, you will find a stunning example of urban renewal within an abandoned brick factory. The Evergreen Brick Works (EBW) is a sustainable tourism highlight and fun for all ages!
Local’s itinerary: Visit EBW on a Saturday or Sunday. Enjoy a late breakfast of local, organic produce at the Farmer’s Market before listening to some great live music. There is a free walking tour at
Insider’s advice: Evergreen has a calendar filled with free events that are worth looking up when planning your visit. Take a self-guided hike in the park behind EBW to enjoy ponds filled with turtles, beavers
Budget tips: The EBW is completely free,
Getting around Toronto can be accomplished by taxi, Uber, walking, cycling or taking transit. The most budget-friendly option is taking the TTC. You can buy (a minimum of) three tokens for a good price. A day pass includes unlimited travel for one person on weekdays OR up to 2 adults and 4 kids on weekends. Remember to always get a paper transfer as proof of payment to allow you to switch between subway, bus
Getting to Toronto will likely involve a stop at Union Station which connects directly to the TTC. If you are arriving via Pearson Airport, you can take the new UP Express train to Union. Those taking flights from Billy Bishop Airport can take a shuttle from the island to Union. Both the VIA train and the regional GO bus are found at Union Station.
A TTC bus (192) is available from Pearson Airport to Kipling Subway Station at the standard TTC fare. However, the extra comfort, convenience, and speed
Cheap accomodation in Toronto
The problem with being a local is that you live in a city, which makes it difficult to have experience staying in hostels and hostels, however Karen has stayed in a number of hotels around the city, from Yorkville to Downtown.
According to Booking.com, you’ll pay about 60-70 per night for a low/mid range hotel although you can book a hostel bed for $29-$39 per night.
Have you been to Toronto? Which of the six itineraries appeals most to you?
Enjoyed this? This was written by guest author, Lauren!
Lauren is on a mission to change the world through the power of food. Global Locavore is a sustainable food tourism website dedicated to connecting travelers to local food experiences. Lauren chronicles her journey around the globe through stories about growing, sharing and eating really good food. Follow along on through her Blog, Facebook and Instagram.