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May 01, 2012 | By: Kerri Barreca

Play tourist in your own backyard.

With the summer months approaching, talk of travel to exotic lands is starting to circulate. At work, among friends, even at home everyone wants to know what new and exciting things everyone else will be up to. I have already been put on the spot with the casual convo-starter “so do you have plans for the summer yet?” This makes me cringe as sadly, no, I do not. Maybe I’ll be able to manage that dream holiday down south and then again maybe I won’t.

It’s no secret that vacations can be pretty pricey; even pricier during the summer season when school is out and airlines, hotels and attractions are looking to capitalize on the surge of families hoping for a getaway. A good variation on the traditional vacation is the “stay-cation”, meaning to stay at home and do fun activities closer to home to cut down on costs. Most cities have summer festivals and special events and many of them free of charge. Toronto for example, hosts the Jazz Festival, the International Street Festival and Carabana just to name a few. Check out http://wx.toronto.ca/festevents.nsf for more exciting details.

With our busy schedules, we can easily forget just how much this city has to offer. When was the last time you took your niece to see the polar bears swim at the zoo? Had a good scare at a haunted house on Clifton Hills in Niagara Falls? Learned something new at the ROM or Science Centre? Or drifted down the lazy river at Wild Water Kingdom or Canada’s Wonderland? With or without kids it’s great to get out there and enjoy the summer season. If being a beach bum is more your style, head up to Wasaga Beach for a day trip, down to the waterfront downtown or any neighbourhood park close-by to soak in the rays. Pack a picnic lunch, don’t forget your hat and invite a friend and voila, easy and cheap day of relaxation. One hint however for those park-goers…speedos are strictly beachwear, no exceptions!

Another advantage to playing the role of tourist in your own city is that you can avoid tourist traps more easily. If crowds and postcards aren’t exactly what you had in mind, seek tips from friends and colleagues about where to go rather than depending on your Lonely Planet. Ask about favourite restaurants, good hiking trails, free parking spots; people generally love to share their good finds.

In the end, it’s not as important WHERE you spend your time off as WHO you spend it with. Whether you want to spend some quality family time or some well-deserved alone time, consider staying close to home this summer if you are on a budget. And next time someone asks you what your summer plans are, don’t be afraid tell to them you are going to live it up right here in your own backyard!


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