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downtown yonge

Frugal Faves: Gardiner Museum, Kidzfest and the William Ashley Warehouse Sale

There’s so much to see and do in this city, but after a while, admission fees, restaurant bills and shopping sprees start to add up. Where Toronto’s weekly tips on discounted tickets, exclusive sales, free events and more help you get the most out of your trip without burning a hole in your pocket.

The Gardiner Museum (photo by Shai Gill)

The Gardiner Museum (photo by Shai Gill)

Pay Less, See More
Nurture your passion for porcelain with a visit to the Gardiner Museum. On Friday evenings, admission is half price from 4 p.m. until closing time. The renowned institution’s permanent collection boasts more than 3,000 ceramic pieces  of Ancient American, Asian and European provenance, as well as many dynamic contemporary pieces by international artists. The current exhibition Bigger, Better, More: The Art of Viola Frey invites visitors to come face to face with whimsical, larger-than-life clay sculptures created by the late California artist. Through to December 10, a dozen spectacular holiday trees, decorated by some of Toronto’s top designers and architects, are on display in the museum lobby. And for a jump-start on holiday shopping, stop by the Gardiner Shop, which offers beautiful ceramics, glass, jewellery and more—perfect for the gift-giving season.

Admission to the Gardiner Museum is half-price every Friday, 4 to 9 p.m.; call 416-586-8080 or visit here for more information.

Child-friendly fun abounds at Kidzfest

Child-friendly fun abounds at Kidzfest

Festive Family Fun
Exotic animals and beloved cartoon celebrities invade Yonge-Dundas Square this weekend for Kidzfest, an annual holiday hootenanny for little ones and their willing parents. Part of the ongoing Winter Magic celebrations in the Downtown Yonge neighbourhood, the free event features kid-friendly activities, educational entertainers and zany stage shows. Budding young artists can make colourful creations in the craft tent and wildlife lovers will love the live jungle cat shows and birds of prey demonstrations. Popular characters like Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer are sure to create a frenzy during special meet-and-greet sessions.

Kidzfest runs November 28 and 29, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Southeast corner of Yonge and Dundas streets; click here or call 416-597-0255 for further details.

William Ashley's warehouse sale is a bonanza for bargain hunters

William Ashley's warehouse sale is a bonanza for bargain hunters

China on the Cheap
Whether you’re picking up presents for loved ones or treating yourself this holiday season (hey, you deserve it!) you’re sure to find some stunning pieces at the 34th annual William Ashley warehouse sale. Savvy shoppers can save up to 90 per cent on a vast selection of name-brand china, crystal, flatware, and chic home decor items that are ideal for any gift-giving occasion. Hint: to avoid the crowds hit the sale on weekday afternoons between 3 and 6 p.m.

Sale on now to December 6. Monday, Wednesday to Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., weekend 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed Tuesdays). 62 Railside Road; call 416-964-2900 or visit here for details.

Weekend Bonus: Ice, Wine and Dine Festival

Holiday Ornament MartiniNovember 20 & 21 Fire jugglers, stilt walkers and strolling songsters take over Elm Street this weekend, as the Ice, Wine and Dine Festival transforms the relatively quiet downtown strip into a festive holiday block party.

Organized by local businesses, the event also features live music, fortune tellers, magicians and ice-sculpture carvers, while restaurants and cafés serve up delectable food and drink specials under heated patio tents—recently opened pub The Queen & Beaver offers mulled cider and warm gingerbread, Commensal has organic hot chocolate and a tasty $5 vegetarian sampling platter. Even the Elmwood Spa participates in the festive fun by handing out free Lindt chocolate goodies. Those who seek heartier fare can stop by the Duke of Somerset and feast on pot roast sandwiches and the miniature deep-fried Mars bars, or pop into the Wolf and Firkin pub for spicy chili served with toasted garlic bread.

Culture vultures are encouraged to peek inside the Arts and Letters Club—a heritage building that, this weekend, hosts visual artists, poetry readings, music performances and more—while party enthusiasts will want to stop by the impressive Ice Martini Lounge, a chic outdoor space featuring a frozen ice bar. Here, revelers can pose for photos beside large-scale ice sculptures and sip on signature cocktails like the “Yongetini,” made with crème de menthe, chocolate liquor and vodka, and garnished with chocolate rosebuds. This downtown neighbourhood event has something for anyone looking to catch a bit of early holiday cheer.

Elm Street (two blocks north of Dundas Street) between Yonge and Bay streets. 4 to 9 p.m, free (excluding food samples); for further information, click here.

Frugal Faves: T.O. Tix and Festive Winter Windows

There’s so much to see and do in this city, but after a while, admission fees, restaurant bills and shopping sprees start to add up. Where Toronto’s weekly tips on discounted tickets, exclusive sales, free events and more help you get the most out of your trip without burning a hole in your pocket.

<i>Jersey Boys</i> swings it '60s style (photo by Joan Marcus).

Snatch up discounted tickets to Jersey Boys and other hot shows from T.O. Tix (photo by Joan Marcus).

Box-Office Bargains
Want to take in the hottest shows in the city without paying the hefty price?  The T.O. TIX outlet is your one stop shop for exclusive deals on tickets for stage performances around the city. If you’ve got a flexible schedule (all tickets are for same-day shows) visit the booth at Yonge-Dundas Square to purchase half-price and discounted tickets to popular shows like Jersey Boys and Medieval Times. You can also purchase seats for select shows online.

T.O. TIX accepts Visa, Mastercard, debit and cash, and is located on the southeast corner of Yonge and Dundas streets. Tuesday to Saturday, noon to 6:30 p.m; call 416-536-6468, ext. 40 or visit here for more details.

Check out the city's holiday window displays (photo by Jessica Napier).

Check out the city's holiday window displays (photo by Jessica Napier).

Take a Walk in a Window Wonderland
Get in the holiday spirit early by embarking on a self-guided tour of the festive window displays in and around downtown Toronto. At The Bay’s flagship store, Christmas creatures come to life alongside a working train and an animatronic Santa Clause in a series of Toyland vignettes. Explore the tony Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood and marvel at the dazzling high-fashion window decor at chic retailers like Holt Renfrew. And creative windows designed by retail management students at Ryerson University can be spotted at businesses throughout the Downtown Yonge area—you can even vote for your favourites online.

The Bay is located at 176 Yonge St., while Holt Renfrew resides at 50 Bloor St. W. To check out a map of Ryerson students’ holiday windows, click here.