Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Wed August 31 2016

Opinion Home | Tales From the Leap

  • Shannon Wolf | August 31, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    Top 6 Budget-Friendly Ways to Enjoy Toronto

    Top 6 Budget-Friendly Ways to Enjoy Toronto

    PHOTO: Toronto is a city brimming with affordable possibilities. Sometimes you just need to be creative. (All photos by Shannon Wolf)

    With a nervous smile on my face and my heart racing a million miles a minute, I boarded the plane in India with a familiar emotion I’d experienced when I initially left home for the unknown.

    I sat in my window seat and as we took off, I thought, “well, here goes nothing.” Still smiling, I ordered a glass of wine and orange juice, complimentary from Emirates, and toasted to my new venture with my poor-man’s sangria.

    My heart has brought me back to my roots. After nearly two years in vastly different countries, especially India, I wanted to experience the complete opposite: The city of my birth, my roots and my country, through infinitely fresher eyes.  I itched to explore, rediscover and immerse myself in the cultural diversity and richness that is Canada.

    My first stop in Canada brought me back to my former stomping ground: Toronto.

    In the summer months, this city comes fully alive and vibrant. It is a cornucopia of endless possibilities for entertainment. The downside? It comes with a hefty price tag, especially after spending nearly five frugal months in India.

    The upside is that there are ways around it. Because Toronto is my city, I know it like the back of my hand, so here are the top six ways to enjoy the city without having to spend a fortune.

    Brewery Tours and Tastings

    With craft beer booming in Toronto, you’ll easily find a handful of breweries offering free tours and reasonably priced tastings that won’t break the bank, including Mill Street, Amsterdam Brewery, Steam Whistle Brewery and my favorite place for tastings, Bellwoods Brewery.

    Wander Through Kensington and Indulge in Street-Meat

    If you’re spending your days wandering around the city, look no further than Toronto’s famous Kensington Market. Here, you’ll find eclectic-looking streets, dive bars with cheap drinks — like the speakeasy known to locals as “Cold Tea” — and glorious secondhand shops where you can happily rummage through treasures for weeks.

    While you’re walking around, if you’re in need of some on-the-go cheap eats, make sure to not miss out on what we call “Street Dogs.” For all you vegetarians, fear not — there are delicious veggie hot dogs available as well, ringing in at a pocket-friendly $3. Make sure to load up on all the free toppings for the ultimate street-meat experience. It will blow your mind.

    READ MORE: How Bunz is Transforming Toronto

    Free Movie Nights

    In the summer, you can spend your evenings enjoying the weather while watching a movie without the sour residue of overpriced theater costs. Head to Sail-In Cinema located off of Queen’s Quay East on Sugar Beach. To check for dates and schedules visit: On Tuesdays, Cineplex Movie Theatre offers 50 percent off tickets to every film. If you or your friends are Virgin Mobile customers, you can get a free two for one ticket, all of which can be paired together for extra savings.

    PHOTO: If nature is more your thing, you’ll forget you’re even in the city once you wander through the relaxing paths of the Don Valley Trail.

    Beach It Up

    If you need a little sand and sun in your life, head on the TTC or bike to the east side of town to Woodbine Beach to walk along the boardwalk, relax in the sand or play outdoor sports.

    You can swim in Lake Ontario if you’d like, but as a Torontonian, the word is “don’t be surprised if you come out with another limb” — a local way of saying the waters aren’t exactly clean. Needless to say, we wouldn’t dare swim in it, but it is an absolute beauty to behold.

    If you’re more into island life and looking for a staycation, take the $7.25 ferry located at the end of Bay Street & Queens Quay and head over to Centre Island, where you can easily spend your whole day wandering, relaxing and swimming freely (the water is really nice here), or ride the rides in the island’s enchanting amusement park and snack on candied apples and floss. Whether you’re 10 or 50, being a kid is easy here.

    Go Green

    My favorite thing to do during Toronto’s summer months is hang out in its many green spaces. It doesn’t take much to be surrounded by nature when you’re over the sights and sounds of the concrete jungle.

    READ MORE: Tourism Toronto Lets Kids Plan Trips

    Head to Brickworks and walk along the Don Valley Trail, Scarborough Bluffs, or meander a little outside of the city to the impressive Cheltenham Badlands, the peaceful Bickford Park opposite of Christie Pitts, High Park and Old Mill which are also easily accessible by TTC, or kick back and relax with some blankets and refreshments at Trinity Bellwoods Park.

    Cheap and Free Festivals

    PHOTO: If you’re in Toronto during Pride Week, you will be guaranteed to have the time of your life immersing yourself in local color.

    There’s no better way to feel Toronto’s energy than joining a community where locals and tourists collide, when they take a minute out from their busy lives for some fun. Some of the top free festivals include North By North East, Beaches International Jazz Festival, Pride Parade and Roundhouse Craft Beer Fest, each for just $20.

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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