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Budget-Friendly Things to Do in Toronto

By AAA Travel Editor Patricia Miller
October 13, 2021
As almost everyone knows, big cities don’t usually come cheap, and Toronto is often no exception. If you want to have a clearly Canadian experience on your vacation but money’s tight, here are a few fun things to do in Toronto that don’t cost a bundle; we even include some free things to do.

City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square

100 Queen St. W.
(416) 338-0338
If you’ve researched your Toronto vacation, you’ve probably seen photos of the gigantic Toronto sign in Nathan Phillips Square. It’s one of the best places to take a photo, especially at night when the sign is ablaze with rainbow colors. The square hosts many free events, including festivals and concerts, so there’s always something fun to do. While you’re there, snap some shots of Toronto City Hall, a breathtaking modern complex that opened in 1965. You can also tour City Hall for free; head to the observation deck and take in a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the city.
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Hey Lucy Cafe

295 King St. W.
(416) 979-1010
Grab a seat in one of the zebra-print booths at this local restaurant for some delicioso meals that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. For about $11-$19, you can enjoy a variety of Italian favorites like paninis, calzones and pasta dishes. Of course, there’s pizza, too, and if you stop in on a Tuesday night, you can get a buy-one, get-one-free deal on this trattoria’s mouthwatering wood-fired pies. If you feel like munching on some greens, try the pear and goat cheese, heirloom beet or Mediterranean salads.

High Park

1873 Bloor St. W.
(416) 388-0338
High Park is chock-full of free things to do year-round. In warm weather, take advantage of the swimming pool, then snap pics of the park’s popular landmark, a giant maple leaf made of seasonal plants. Head to its zoo to meet bison, peacocks, reindeer, highland cattle, emus, sheep and llamas (you can pet and feed the more docile creatures). In summer, see a Shakespearean play in the amphitheater for almost nothing, as Pay-What-You-Can tickets are available. During rainstorms, take cover in the conservatory, which houses tropical beauties like bamboo, banana trees and orchids. In winter, go gliding on the outdoor ice rink.
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AAA/Patricia Miller

Kensington Market

Bordered by Augusta and Kensington avenues and Nassau and Baldwin streets
If the Bohemian lifestyle is your thing, head to Kensington Market for some serious people watching and window shopping. Pop into this neighborhood’s independent bookstores, one-of-a-kind boutiques, farmers’ markets, vintage clothing stores, juice bars and coffee shops. Many local restaurants have patio dining, perfect for when you need to rest your feet and have a bite to eat. The area is also home to many funky, colorfully painted Victorian-era houses that offer awesome photo ops.
AAA/Patricia Miller

St. Lawrence Market

93 Front St. E.
(416) 392-7219
One way to save on meals on your Toronto vacation is with a visit to the bustling St. Lawrence Market. Head for the South Market building, where more than 50 vendors tempt you with inexpensive yet tasty fare. Nosh on local favorites like Carousel Bakery’s renowned peameal bacon sandwiches, Crepe It Up Café’s delightful sweet or savory offerings, Churrasco’s succulent Portuguese rotisserie chicken and fragrant artisan breads and pastries from a variety of bakeries. You’ll find just about every cuisine under the sun here without breaking your budget.