Four Cheap Things to Do in East Toronto

Rouge Park OntarioYou don’t have to board a plane or spend a fortune for a getaway. For readers in the GTA, Toronto has a big backyard and we’re exploring it in our local travel series.

This week, we went east to Scarborough and Durham to hike trails and dine on farm fare. You’d be surprised how much there is to do for city folk at very little cost.

Hiking in Rouge Park

It’s only a twenty minutes by car to Canada’s only national urban park (above). Hit the lush trails for a free guided hike through farms, meadows, forests, and wetlands. Some have special themes too – such as fitness challenges, learning about animal tracks or wildlife photography, and walks for dog lovers or families. I saw tons of wildlife and learned the basics of winter hiking from the volunteer guide, Erik. I also snapped a picture of deer sleeping in the snow – so don’t forget your camera. Make sure to wear waterproof boots and pants (no jeans!) and carry at least 1 litre of water per person.

Cost: Free
Time allowance: 1-2 hoursToronto ZooToronto Zoo

With 5000 animals, 720 acres, and 10km of walking trails, Toronto has one of the largest zoos in the world. It also hosts some great events throughout the year – a New Year’s Eve bash, fundraiser walks, and a Halloween spook night just to name a few. The summer kids’ camp is so high in demand that there’s often a waiting lists.

Cost: $20/person.
Time allowance: 3-7 hours.

Whittamore's FarmWhittamore’s Farm

It’s worth the short drive to Markham for fresh pies, produce, and dairy from Whittamore’s Farm. Visitors can pick their own berries, pumpkins, and veggies in the surrounding fields. This place is packed in the Fall, when the farm hosts a Halloween-themed amusement park with a corn maze and wagon rides. It’s loads of fun for the kids (but a bit overpriced at $11/person). Fun fact: this farm is so awesome that it attracts celebrities – Katie Holmes and daughter Suri were spotted berry-picking there a few years back. Open May to October.

Cost: Free entry to field and market. Pay by weight for fruits and veggies.
Time allowance: 1-3 hours.

Heron Gate Barn Theatre Herongate Barn Theatre 

And now for something completely different: enjoy a home-cooked meal and live show…in a barn! Enter the bull pen (yes, this is really happening) for a feast of roast beef, soup, salad, maple-glazed chicken, and decadent desserts. Make sure to order a glass of hot apple cider.

After supper, grab a seat in the cute little barn for the performance. On opening night, there’s a wine and cheese after the show. Herongate attracts an older crowd (65+), so it’s ideal for a special occasion with a grandparent than a happening night out with friends.  Don’t expect stellar acting, as it’s community theatre. In fact, a few people walked out on the show. But your grandma will love it.

Cost: $59-65/person (depends on the night)
Time allowance: 4 hours

Photo credits: Andre Denis, Lisa Jackson, Whittamore’s Farm, Toronto Zoo.


  1. says

    It’s nice to see the wilds of “Scarberia” included on the site along with all the great exotic destinations! Sometimes we forget how good we have it in our own back yards!

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