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If you have been following us, you know we love a good deal. When it comes to food, drinks and going out in general, Toronto can get pretty darn expensive. Planning your next outing can be intimidating, scary, and costly. Fret not, we’ve put together a list of our favorite budget date ideas to help you plan that next date, girls night out, guys night, or heck, just some personal time to yourself. There are three things that we cannot get enough of, that's nature, art, and music, and our suggestions will revolve around these three themes below.
Research has shown time and time again that nature has a significant role in how we think, feel, and interact with others. Nature can produce feelings of joy and calm, improve concentration and creativity, relieve stress, reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels.
In the summer, there are plenty of nature escapes and walking trails in and around the city, from Tommy Thompson Park, with 10 kms of paved trails along Toronto's Urban Wilderness, to High Park, famous for its Sukura Cherry Blossoms in the spring and year round zoo. In the winter, however, outdoor activities are few and far. When we put together this list, we focused on the outdoors, but also picked spots with plenty of indoor space where you can quickly warm up (if required).
Located in the heart of Cabbagetown, Riverdale Farm is a working farm operated by Toronto Parks and Recreation and sits on over 7 acres of land. This farm, in the middle of Toronto, gives urban visitors an opportunity to explore the many scenic pathways and historic barns, and offers a unique perspective into the daily life of farmers and farm animals on site.
What makes Riverdale Farm even more interesting is that it used to be Toronto's first zoo, the 'Riverdale Zoo', in 1894. Although the animals were eventually relocated to the new Metro Toronto Zoo, remnants of the old zoo still remains. The 'Donnybrook Ruin', for instance, used to be the zookeeper’s residence, and the 'Island House' has housed a myriad of animals and birds. Give yourself at least 1 hour, and make sure you get all the way down to the Island House located in the middle of the Farm’s lower pond. The farm is always free to visitors and opens between 9am-5pm daily.
Be sure to hit up a local bar and restaurant nearby; brownie points if you can catch a happy hour. Our favorite around here is Eastbound Brewery, on Queen St. Enjoy $5 snacks and beers during their Happy Hour, Mon-Friday 12-6pm.
As the name suggests, Evergreen Brickworks was at one point, an industrial brick factory. At its height in the early 1900s, the Toronto Brick Company reached production of 25 million bricks a year. The quarry’s natural resources eventually ran dry by the 1980s when it was bought by the Toronto Conservation Authority in 1987. The site re-opened in 2010, and is a world renowned example of green space and public design.
Today, its bustling with activity, hosting Toronto’s largest farmer’s market on Saturdays (9am-1pm), public outdoor skating in the winter, a children’s garden, walking trails, and seasonal vendors and artisans.
Our favorite bar around here is Danforth Sidebar. Enjoy $1 an ounce of select wines, anytime, and buck-a-shuck oysters on Wednesdays.
Alright, this next spot is not exactly outdoors. If its cold outside, and you still want some semblance of nature, this indoor botanical garden featuring 5 greenhouses will have you covered (literally). The Arid House is home to a large variety of cacti and succulents. The Tropical House features a variety of plants from the equatorial regions including Central and South America, Africa and Asia. Other gardens include a wide display of orchids, bromeliads, seasonal flowers as well as a Koi pond.
When you are done, make sure to walk over to W Burger Bar for $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon (all day), or a burger and fries for $10 (11:30-3pm).
Art and History can help use make sense of the past, and orient ourselves in the present. It can trigger dialogue, reflection, and inspiration, and makes for a great date out. For a full list of free art galleries and museums in Toronto, you can check out our blog specifically covering this topic here, Free museums and art galleries in Toronto.
The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) attracts one million visitors annually with more than 120,000 works of art ranging from cutting edge contemporary, to Indigenous and European masterpieces. Free admission is available on Wednesday night from 6-9pm, but tickets must be pre-booked online. The AGO is also free for anyone under the age of 25 years old.
Before you visit the art gallery, make sure you drop by the AGO Bistro (located in the same building) for 1/2 price bottles of wine, every Wednesday, 5:00pm-8pm.
Home to the World's largest and most comprehensive collection of shoes, tracing back 4,500 years. This unique Toronto attraction allow visitors to experience history through someone else's shoes. Free general admission every Sunday.
Thirsty after all that 'walking'? Walk-over to East of Brunswick for $4 select beers.
Toronto is the largest hub for live music in Canada. On any given night, you can find live Jazz at the Reservoir Lounge and the Rex Hotel, live performances at the Cameron House and Horseshoe Tavern, and Latin dancing at Lula Lounge. But sometimes, we just want a low key night out, a good song to liven up our mood, a smooth melody between conversations, and a beat to tap our feet to.
One of our favorite spots for live music in Toronto's East End. Sauce on Danforth has live music almost daily, with some of the best local artists in and around Toronto (check website or call ahead for specific time and events). The ambiance is small and intimate, drinks are affordable, and there is no cover charge (tipping the band is highly recommended). There is a also a beautiful hidden back patio if you need a little more quiet.
Who doesn't love a coffee date, bar date, and live music all in one. The Only Cafe has a free spirited, hip vibe, where nothing really matches, but everything still looks (and feels) great. The back patio is also a major vibe setter for those sunny days. Live music is a available every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, with no cover and a wide variety of bands. Check their website to see exact time and show listings.