9 city escapes in Toronto that will make you feel like you’re at the cottage

Want to break away from the hustle and grind of the city and find total relaxation in cottage country? Us too! Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy when you’re back at the office and have kids in school or summer camp—plus, summer weekends have a way of booking up fast. Since we want city-bound cottagers to enjoy their time off, we put together a map of adventures you can have in Toronto that will remind you of your home-away-from-home. 

Bike the city

Ditch your car and hop on a city bike using Bike Share Toronto—we suggest bringing your own helmet to stay safe. There are 625 stations across the city, which you can find (and see bike availability) using the PBSC app. Simply download the app to unlock bikes from your phone and to purchase a day pass for seven dollars or a three-day pass for 15 dollars. Passes provide access to unlimited 30-minute rides. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can also buy tickets at the stations.

Head to the trails

If you’re anything like us, you like to wake up early to the birds singing (or the horns honking, in our case) and jump right to a morning trail walk. Toronto has a variety of footpaths with diverse scenery and difficulty levels. We recommend you check out the Beltline Trail, which runs alongside the Moore Park Ravine near Yonge and St.Clair. The trail spans across the northeastern part of the city, offering over nine kilometres of beautiful and peaceful escape. Crossing through lush neighbourhoods like Rosedale, Moore Park, Forest Hill, Chaplin Estates, and Fairbank, you’ll see the city without seeing the city. 

Visit a farmers’ market 

Eat local and visit one of Toronto’s many farmers’ markets, including the year-round St. Lawrence Market, located just east of Union Station. From fresh fruit to crisp vegetables and essential charcuterie board goodies, St. Lawrence’s many food options will have your tastebuds dancing. The market is open Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. You’ll also want to check out the Saturday-only farmer’s market, located on the south side of St. Lawrence Market, for the freshest local produce and goodies.  

Take your fruits, cheeses, crackers, and other picnic must-haves, grab a blanket, and mosey down to the Toronto Music Garden, where your feet can dance alongside your taste buds in the enchanted gardens. Check out the Summer Music in the Garden series, featuring 18 free, in-person concerts running every Thursday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m., from June 21 to August 28, 2022. 

Time for ice cream 

A sweet summer cottage day wouldn’t be complete without this tasty treat. Our city pick may not be the beloved Kawartha Dairy, but Bang Bang Ice Cream and Bakery will win you over. This Ossington spot offers a range of homemade goodies and never-heard-of ice cream flavours like burnt toffee or cinnamon toast. If you’re unsure what to order, we recommend London Fog—a mix of Harney & Sons earl grey tea and rich cream. P.s. arrive early because lines get long.

Grab a boat, and get on the water

Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre is a boater’s retreat—offering canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards for rent. Explore Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands on a solo adventure or with a guide—look north and see Toronto’s picturesque skyline, or look south into the island river paths. 

Insider tip: For $99, you can rent the Paradise F13 and the Lunds powers (without a boater’s license!) and cruise Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands for an hour. 

Head to the beach

Whether your summer kryptonite is tanning, beach volleyball, swimming, or snagging one of the city’s Muskoka chairs, Toronto has the beach for you. There are tons of small sandy beaches right off of Lakeshore Boulevard West. Or, maybe you’re looking for a more traditional beach? Toronto’s Woodbine Beach in the east end is the spot for you!

If you are trying to avoid crowds, we also know of a secret beach in the west end—Marie Curtis Park. This local gem is filled with wildlife and native plants. Set up your umbrella and towel on the sandy beach, head to the playground, wading pool, or public swimming pool, bring lunch and dig in at one of the many picnic spots, or lace up your shoes and explore a walking trail. Bonus: There is an off-leash dog area for your furry friends. 

The inside scoop on your next stop

It’s time to cool down and indulge in a big scoop of ice cream—yes, we are suggesting two ice cream stops in one day. Head over to Summer’s Ice Cream, located in the heart of Yorkville. You will melt over the range of homemade flavours—we recommend orange creamsicle or salted caramel. Bonus: Summer’s Ice Cream is open late—until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 p.m. every other day of the week. 

Wind down and relax at the Cottage 

Aptly named, there’s no other way to end your cottage day in Toronto than at the Cottage, a bar and lounge located steps away from Trinity Bellwoods. You’ll feel like you’re at your home-away-from-home when you grab a beer and sit in one of the Muskoka chairs. Make sure to check out the Cottage’s Instagram page for event updates like live music, DJs, comedy nights, and more. 

Hit the hay 

It’s been a busy day in wannabe cottage country. Time to take a water taxi or ferry to your final destination: the Toronto Islands

End your adventure at Smiley’s B&B. Located on Algonquin Island, one of the Toronto Islands, Smiley’s greets you with a warm and cottage-esque welcome. You can spend the night in one of their two unique accommodations—the Studio Suite, a private apartment with its own entrance, or Eric’s Room, a simple room with a double bed. Bring your own food for a barbecue or grab breakfast on your way out in the morning.

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