Tag Archives: travel

free & cheap: mtl edition

posted by jroselkim

Tam Tams - aka MTL having a good time, every Sunday

After reading missmsian’s post on free and cheap things to do in Toronto, I wanted to write one for my adapted “home” Montreal immediately. For someone recovering both mentally and financially from grad school, the city has offered numerous diversions and fun nights which often don’t cost a thing.

Sure, the streets are a little grungy, the construction may be ongoing, and the French might sound weird to non-Québecois ears, but the city is literally full of things to do for 10 dollars and under.

1. Tam Tams – Mont-Royal park
Every Sunday in the spring/summer*, Mont-Royal park is filled with a drum circle that goes on almost all day (anytime between noon until 8-9pm), medieval live battles, line-walkers, jugglers, and picnic-ers out to enjoy the spectacle and the beautiful weather. Want to see a guy in full samurai armour battle against an aspiring sword-wielder (made out of duct tape and broom)? Check. Sketchy people whispering “weed” on every corner of the mountain? Check. Handmade jewellery? Check. It’s a truly unique event to Montreal and a great place to people-watch.

*when the weather is nice enough for everyone to be sitting outdoors

2. Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (185 rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest)
The Contemporary Art Museum presents many exciting multimedia pieces and interdisciplinary exhibits, including past exhibitions like Sympathy for the Devil – which examined the intersection of rock and art. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for students, or free every Wednesday evening from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The museum has also started a special series called Musée Nocturnes with live music performances (one of them featured the dynamic Tune-Yards, whose live performance will seriously blow your mind) every first Friday of the month, which can be enjoyed with a regular admission ticket.

3. Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal (1380 rue Sherbrooke Ouest)
The permanent collections at the Museum of Fine Arts are always free to the public. And while exhibits will cost $15 for adults and $7.50 for students, the museum still makes it under the $10 mark every Wedesday evening (5-8:30pm) when it offers half-price admission . Don’t let the somewhat restrictive name fool you – the museum offers a diverse range of exhibits – from the beautiful art of J.W. Waterhouse to the love story of John Lennon and Yoko Ono – and collections.

4. A Bixi adventure
Last year, Montreal rolled out Bixi bikes – public rental bikes with stations all around the city (with the exception of the Westmount borough). You can sign up for a yearlong membership for $78 (which comes with 6 transit fares until Jul. 30) and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Montreal instead of smelling someone else’s armpit on the bus or the metro. It’s great for visitors too – it costs $5 to use the service for 24 hours. This means that you can use a Bixi bike to ride for 30 minutes or under each time (be sure to check the time – the service will charge a $1.50 fee if you go over the designated half-hour time). It’s a handy way to get around the city and much more economic than using the transit system, too. Make a day of biking to different areas and exploring the distinct neighbourhoods of Montreal.

5. Piknic Elektronic
Every Sunday in the summer, Parc Jean-Drapeau (a short metro stop away from the central Berri-UQAM station) becomes a big dance party with 6 hours of electronic/house/techno beats by artists from Canada, US and Europe. It is as fun and exhausting as it sounds, all for a modest cost of 10 dollars.

6. Lachine Canal
Located near Lionel-Groulx metro station, this beautiful canal has great waterfront green space ideal for a picnic and a bike ride. It’s also home of Atwater Market, one of the Montreal public markets, where you can buy locally grown produce or delicious Quebec beers such as La Fin du Monde and L’Éphémère Cassis (my personal favourite), and some squeaky cheese curds too.

7. $2 chow mein at Chez Mein
You’ve hit the clubs hard, or are pulling an all-nighter and need a midnight (or post-midnight) snack, there’s only one place to go and one repulsive/awesome snack to have. On St-Laurent at Pins, you’ll find “Chez Mein” – a little shack (really, just a window with a counter – I have yet to see anyone go inside to eat). Their specialty is the house “chow mein” for $2; I put these in quotation marks because these are not your regular greased-up chow men of Chinese restaurants. No, they are something much more – first you see them pan-fry the noodles with a bit of soy sauce and oil. When you order one, they ask if you want “sauce” with it – this sauce is straight-up melted peanut butter, no joke. It’s a delicacy that cannot be captured until you try it out for yourself. I will say this: it has a special place in my heart for those brutally cold nights when you’re walking home from a party or a bar far away, and have forgotten all feeling on your feet.

If you live in MTL, or have visited it often that you have your own events/spots in mind, I’d love to hear’em.

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free & cheap things to do in toronto

posted by missmsian

New to T.O.? Just visiting? A longtime-local who’s never stepped outside your neighbourhood?

Here are eight fun thangs and happenangs around the city. Not entirely ‘mainstream’ but not so far off the beaten track that you need an ice pick and bottled water to do them.

1. The Bluffs

One of the most beautiful areas in Toronto, and I’m not bluffing! Okay, that joke failed … but the view is for real. The bluffs run for 14 km along the Lake Ontario shoreline in Scarborough. Bluffer’s Park, accessible from Brimley Rd., is probably the most foot-friendly area.

2. National Film Board (150 John St.)

I can’t count how many hours I’ve spent at the digital viewing stations since I discovered the NFB two years ago. Settle down in a comfy chair and access more than 5,500 NFB films on a personal, flat-panel, touchscreen monitor. Here’s the clincher: for free.

The films are organized into categories for easy searches. My favourite search? “Cultural Diversity and Multiculturalism.”

3. Subway station tour

Have you ever ridden the entire subway system in one trip? It’s pretty fun.

Take pictures with tacky, fake artifacts at Museum station. Visit Bathurst station’s Bakery On The Go–the best subway bakery in the system. Buy half-priced books at Eglinton station. Enjoy busker performances at most stations.

Need more ideas? How about a subway dance party, some spoken word or …

4. CBC building (250 Front St. W.)

Visit the CBC Museum (free admission!) to learn about the history of Canadian broadcasting. You’ll probably run into a lot of school groups there. If you’re looking for something more grown-up, try to score tickets to a taping of The Hour or The Rick Mercer Report.

Stop by the Glenn Gould Theatre to see what’s on. There are usually cool artistic performances, but I prefer the media-related panel discussions they run every once in a while.

5. Riverdale Farm (201 Winchester St.)

Farm! In! The! City! Worth a visit if you’re a city snob with no knowledge of, or inkling to visit, farming communities. The farm was my first school field trip as a newly-arrived immigrant to Canada, so I have fond memories of it.

6. Heritage Toronto self-guided tours

From May to October, HT offers free neighbourhood walking tours. If you’re like me and embarrassed to be the only 20-something single person on one of these (okay, to be fair, I’ve only had one awkward experience), try downloading self-guided tours off the HT website.

I recommend the Spadina Ave. tour because it’s the only one I’ve done … it takes you through Spadina’s development as an industrial centre and waves of Jewish and Chinese immigration.

7. York University observatory

Bring a date and a camera to the University’s observatory on public viewing nights. This summer, it’s Wednesdays from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. On clear nights, you can try the telescope with the help of observatory staff. On cloudy nights, there are info sessions and a planetarium show.

8. The Docks (Polson St.)

Now known as Polson Pier, it’s home to concert hall/nightclub Sound Academy, go karts, mini golf and the newly-opened Oh Boy! Burger Market. But the real treat is Toronto’s only downtown drive-in movie theatre.

What have I missed?


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