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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Getaway: Exploring The Far East of Toronto

You don’t have to board a plane or spend a fortune for a getaway. Toronto has a big backyard and The Hip + Urban Girl’s Guide is exploring it in our local travel series. Stick with us – we’ll hook you up.
This week, I 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.

1. Hiking in Rouge Park
It’s only a twenty minutes by car to Canada’s only national urban park. 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 hours
2. The Toronto 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. For hip and urban parents, check out our zoo experience here.
Cost: $20/person.
Time allowance: 3-7 hours.
3. Whittamore'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.
4. 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, so it’s perfect for a special occasion with a grandparent. This is the ultimate country bumpkin experience that you just can’t get in the T-Dot.
Cost: $59-65/person (depends on the night)
Time allowance: 4 hours

-- Lisa Jackson is a freelance writer and travel junkie. Follow her on Twitter @lisajtoronto.

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

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