I had the privilege of traveling to Toronto in June to finally visit my dear friend (and favorite Canadian/photographer/IG stories selfie-dancer), Nicole. It was one of those trips that should have happened a while ago but finally came together this year. I booked it quickly and just happened to plan it for Nicole’s birthday weekend (extra bonus!)
We had the best time exploring Nicole’s favorite spots on Queen Street West and the surrounding area. My favorite thing when traveling is being able to explore with a local and feel like a local for a few days. I adore getting the sense for how it is to live in a different place.
We had smoothie bowls. We ate fabulous food besides smoothie bowls. We heard amazing music outdoors. We dined and danced with her awesome friends on her birthday. We explored a street festival and drank fresh pineapple juice right from the pineapple. We shopped at cute shoppes (yes, shoppes) wherein I bought a “Canadian as $*#@” shirt and I didn’t have any everyday responsibilities (besides doing a teeny bit of work for both of us – ie. the photos of photos for Nicole’s project for Parabo Press). It was amazing.
Two Days on Queen Street West
If you ever find yourself with a little time to spend on the west side of Toronto, here are some suggestions for what to do, where to eat and what not-to-miss.
AM: Put on your comfy (but cool) shoes for walking and head to The Drake Hotel for breakfast. It’s an iconic hotel in Toronto, super cool and no, not named after Drake. Sit on the patio if you can and I recommend the eggs benedict. Mmmm.
Next up, plan a little shopping time. My favorites are Drake General Store (the perfect place for good souvenirs – the line of floral prints representing the Canadian provinces is my favorite!), Peace Collective (super cool Canada-wear, where I got my rad tee), and Lululemon’s specialty locations, like The Local (on Ossington) and 318 Queen St. W. (where I snapped the LOVE tile pic) Grab a Station Cold Brew while you’re there for a local Toronto caffeine-fix.
PM: Hopefully you’ll make it on a weekend with a fabulous event in the area, like Field Trip, a seriously great music festival held in June every year at historic Fort York & Garrison Common. You can hear iconic Canadian bands like Broken Social Scene & Feist (my long-time fav!) and check out new voices like LP (amazing amazingness). Definitely snag some poutine while you’re there because I mean why would you not want to get authentic french fries with gravy and cheese curds on top?
For a nice dinner in the area, try out Noce, a gorgeous little Italian restaurant with beautiful food. The burrata was seriously delicious, as was the pasta. The service was lovely and the ambiance is great for chatting and enjoying the evening. This is where we had Nicole’s birthday dinner and it was a perfect spot for a celebration.
AM: After yesterday’s indulgences, maybe try a delicious but lighter breakfast at The Grow Op – Insanely tasty and healthy smoothies/bowls/juices. Nicole’s addiction. So good. We love the Peanut Butter Acai bowl best!
Get your smoothie bowls to-go and walk over to nearby Trinity Bellwoods Park. This is a lovely park in this area where locals meet, walk, and hang out. If you’re lucky you might even catch a movie being filmed there like we did!
If you can hit it at the right time of the year, check out one of the street festivals midday. We made it to Dundas West Fest and had a blast. Such great finds from local artists, yummy food, and pineapple drinks. Yes. Our favorite. Many neighborhoods in Toronto have spring/summer street fairs and I highly recommend checking one out when you’re in town! Hopefully you’ll get pineapple juice in a pineapple, too. It makes for excellent photo ops!
PM: Do yourself a favor and head a little farther west to the Parkdale neighborhood for dinner where you’ll find Electric Mudd BBQ. Being from the South, I am picky about BBQ. This was good. Get the Crack Rolls. Trust me.
For late night, check out a good spot for dancing & drinks, like Clinton’s Tavern, near Christie Station. They had a 90’s dance party the night we were there and it was a blast! They’re known for their retro dance parties and they don’t disappoint!
It’s not all the time that one gets to meet a soulmate later in life but Nicole and I were granted that pleasure two years ago when we met at a conference in Portland. After a rough year (for both of us, it turns out) this trip was just what we needed. It’s also wonderful to get to live a few days in the life of a good friend, spend time at their favorite haunts and meet their friends, so when you have to be apart you can picture their life. I love that I have that now.
I hope you have the honor of having a Nicole in your life…an instant friend who even though you may not get to spend time together often, when you do it is magical.
As mamas/partners/superwomen sometimes we forget to take time to check in with ourselves, to see what we need to feel whole again. But I’m realizing it’s so crucial to do that regularly. Whatever it is for you that makes you feel like you…make time for that.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram @elletrain to see daily outfits, puppy updates, and of course, Sienna’s dance moves.
Most of these amazing photos by my favorite Canadian herself, Nicole Hudson.