Welcome to Toronto, one of Canada’s most vibrant and exciting cities. And the best part? You don’t have to break the bank to experience all that Toronto offers. From world-renowned landmarks to trendy neighborhoods, Toronto is a budget traveler’s paradise.
Toronto is a world-class city, and like other cities, it offers plenty to do. Sure, you can put a serious dent in your wallet, experiencing the best the city offers, but some of Toronto’s finest picks are free or inexpensive.
From the extensive and affordable public transit system to arts, culture, landmarks, waterfront lures, and festivals, lots is going on in Toronto for those on a budget. No matter if you’re staying in the city or making it a road trip destination, there’s something for everyone in this lively urban oasis.
Toronto is filled with eye-catching must-see landmarks, and while you can shell out a pretty penny to get inside and, in some cases, to the very top, you can still experience the best landmarks without reaching into your pocket for cash.
Perhaps the most iconic and visible landmark in the city, the CN Tower is visible from most parts of the city — just look up. However, walking around the very bottom of the tower is its own experience. Awe-inspiring and with well-groomed areas for walking and sitting, the grounds around the bottom of the CN Tower are well worth a visit.
Still called the SkyDome by many Torontonians, this stunning architectural stadium changed hands in 2004 and was renamed in 2005. Whatever you call it, it is impressive. Walk around outside, or check out the SkyWalk — a suspended and covered walkway — from the Rogers Center to Union Station.
Once the epicenter of travel to and from Toronto, Union Station remains an impressive spot to visit. Even if you’re not leaving town, there’s plenty to see inside. Open since 1927, this focal point is open nearly around the clock, and there’s always something to see and do here.
Toronto is a mecca of shopping, with stores of all kinds dotted around the city. However, for the best shopping, despite the weather, head to The Path. The Path is a subterranean pedestrian-only labyrinth of walkways that are lined with restaurants, shops, coffee shops, and more. No trip to Toronto is complete without spending time underground.
Filled with unique neighborhoods, each with its own vibe and charm, plan to spend time in some of Toronto’s most amazing areas. Kensington Market is one such area, and it is a must-see for foodies. With amazing restaurants featuring regional specialties like peameal bacon, cafes, markets, and more, you can spend a month eating your way around this area. Be sure to stop by on Sundays when the main roads are closed to car traffic to encourage people to come out and walk around.
The Distillery District is home to dozens of boutiques, even more restaurants and cafes, and plenty of room to walk around and take it all in. There are buskers to enjoy during warmer days, and when it’s cold, check out the Apres Ski weekends and hang out around fire pits and check out the tasty eats from the food trucks.
Love water? Head down to the Waterfront, where kilometers of lovely landscaped paths and boardwalks encourage meandering between the city and the water. There are art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and plenty of parks along the water, so plan to spend at least a few hours there. Take a picnic, enjoy the weather, and get some fresh air.
Shell out a few bucks to take the ferry across to Centre Island. This is a large island — one of many — off the coast of Toronto. You can see the island from the Waterfront, so it’s not far. You’ll find a small amusement park on Centre Island, plenty of landscaped grounds for walking and lounging, plus restaurants, boutiques, and more. Take a picnic filled with tasty salads and enjoy the day; this can be a full-day destination, so plan accordingly.
Also, be sure to check out Far Enough Farm, a petting farm with more than 40 different kinds of animals for kids to get up close and personal.
“One of my favorite things to do in Toronto during the summer that won’t burn a hole in my pocket is to pack a picnic and take my bike over to Toronto Island for the day and ride around. The scenery is beautiful, and there are a number of great beaches to enjoy.” — Alisa Infanti, The Delicious Spoon
Like many large cities, Toronto is home to a plethora of festivals. Most notably, the Beaches International Jazz Festival, which runs through most of July. This free festival features hundreds of both free and admission-only concerts.
Nuit Blanche is another unique festival, this one featuring art. The festival showcases more than 100 contemporary artists, whose art is on display under the light of the moon In early October.
For indie music fans, be sure to check out NXNE. North By Northeast is Canada’s answer to SXSW, the popular American music festival. NXNE is Canada’s most important discovery music festival and showcases thousands of emerging artists for a few days each July.
Self-Guided Walking Tours
One of the least expensive and best ways to see all of Toronto’s hidden gems is a self-guided walking tour. With various tours, you can focus on art, nature, restaurants, culture, architecture, and more. The best part? They’re free.
Museums and Galleries
With a variety of world-class museums and galleries to discover, you can save your hard-earned dollars to check out these cultural hotspots. Admission is reasonable, and with picks like the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Hockey Hall of Fame to discover, any of these is a great way to spend a rainy or winter day.
The Final Word
Toronto is a must-visit destination, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. With plenty of budget-friendly things to see and do, you can spend as much or as little time in this vibrant city as you like without going broke.
This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.