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By Alex Hamlyn

Arts & Life Editor

So after a summer of hard work and a financial plan that would put Ebenezer Scrooge to shame, it occurs to you that one particular aspect of school life eluded your budget: fun. Unless textbooks are suddenly made free, chances are you won’t have a whole lot of extra funds for excitement. Fortunately for you, Toronto has a respectable range of cultural events and activities — and a surprising number of them are free.

Ryerson’s Parade and Picnic

The fun starts right here on campus. You can get to know the student body as you march down Yonge Street towards the Toronto Island. Once on the island, you can move that body thanks to an afternoon concert sponsored by the RSU. All this happens on Friday Sept. 5, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Check for more details.

Nathan Phillips Square

Perhaps the pick-up hockey games on Lake Devo (that pond in the middle of campus) are keeping you from dusting off your skates once the mercury drops. Don’t get discouraged, just walk an extra kilometre and you’ll be at Nathan Phillips Square, home to various city events, festivals and a mighty fine skating rink. Skates can also be rented on site for those who come from less ice friendly areas — I’m looking at you, Vancouver. Newbies may want to invest in a helmet.

WinterCity Festival

Speaking of Nathan Phillips Square, it’s home to the city’s winter culture and music festival. Check out ice sculptures, food tents, crafts and, above all, free concerts. If you can brave the cold, WinterCity often wrangles some of Canada’s finest tunesmiths with the likes of the New Pornographers, Sloan and Tokyo Police Club all making past appearances.

After some free rock, you can wander around the city looking for some tasty eats courtesy of Winterlicious, the culinary portion of WinterCity. You can eat at Toronto’s priciest cuisines for cheap.

Toronto parks and beaches

Despite what you may hear about the smog and various violent crimes, the great outdoors of Toronto actually aren’t so bad. Grab some friends and head off to one of the many parks around and play some frisbee or soccer, or even do some live-action role-playing.

While it may be rather infamous for its pollution, Lake Ontario can be fun. The boardwalk is a popular summer hangout and the lake itself can be a nice way to cool off on summer days. As long as it’s been declared safe for the day you choose to jump in.

The Art Gallery of Ontario

While the AGO being closed for a few months was probably good news to elementary school students, for those art lovers over the age of 12, it’s been tough times. Thankfully, it will be reopening on November 14. And from the 14th to the 16th, admission is free. Also, the AGO is generally an inexpensive way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And nothing says classy on a first date like a little Monet.

Toronto Independent Film Festival

From September 4th to the 13th, Toronto will be the jewel of the independent and not so independent film community. Most of the actual film screenings have an entrance fee and mega-long line-ups. Enter at your own risk.

However, there is a very free and very fun upside to all this: celebrity stalking! The city is flooded with some of Hollywood’s finest, so start hitting up the downtown bars and restaurants. Just don’t run around with a big camera, as you’re liable to get punched, paparazzi-style.

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