Toronto Island –
Getting over there by ferry can be a bittersweet experience. The beautiful breeze, the fresh air and the lovely view can be momentarily soured by the overwhelming shriek of children, and the even more overwhelming shriek of their parents as they beg them not to toss their toys and bottles overboard. That being said, once the ferry docks, a whole new world opens up. They have a charmingly tame amusement park geared towards children, or ride-o-phobes like me. You can perch on the gondola ride as it carries you over the park, pet furry beasts at the petting zoo (watch out for the goats though, they’re not there to make friends), pedal your way along the paths in a manually-powered retro-style golf cart, or sit at one of the many patio restaurants which overlook the ponds and lake. My personal favourite hideaway spot is a bit further into the Island though. If you arrive at the Centerville port, and travel east along the main path you come across a series of small, abandoned beaches with lovely rocks scattered about. A few minutes further, there is a lovely dock which is PERFECT for achieving that cottagey-relaxed vibe without having to pack up the van and haul the crew into the middle of the wilderness. I never see anyone around those beaches, and they’re a lovely and semi-private place which is great for photography, allowing your group to gallop around without being crammed in with the crowd, or even picnic dinners for two as the sun sets. Love!
Kensington Market –
I’m a bohemian at heart. There will always be a small part of me that wants to toss my phone off a bridge and spend the afternoon banging a tambourine and dancing in the sunshine. Luckily for me, I work in the heart of one of the coolest communities in Toronto. Kensington Market was originally home to refugees, activists, and other social and political rebels who made their homes within this accepting, inclusive community of cool cats. At any given time you can find folks in groups playing music in the park, strangers bonding over vegan cupcakes, and friends poring over old-school vinyls and leather bags from the seventies. The market often smells AMAZING, with the mixture of freshly baked goods and incense dancing up my nose, and the people filling the streets are funky, eclectic and colourful! My parents knew the neighbourhood well – they snuck away from their high school which was just up the street, and dined on the diverse cuisine sold out of independent eateries and trailers, long before I was born! I love spending time in the market, even on my days off, because there is always something to be seen or heard, and new faces to smile at every single day. This neighbourhood is alive and vibrant, and I call it home!
This neighbourhood is one which I hope maintains its independence, as it was once known as the hub of up-and-coming fashion and edgy, unique businesses. Over the last few years, quite a few larger corporations have set up shop along the street, but many of the original businesses, and some new fun ones, have made their homes there too. Queen West boasts some of the quirkiest shops, the most progressive salons and the most delicious eateries in the city. The neighbourhood prides itself on the individuality of each and every store, and you can bet you’ll come across some pretty unique things (like Fresh Collective!). Its also a great place to bring your out-of-town friends to, as it truly has something for everyone. I typically walk eastward along Queen west until I hit Nathan Phillips Square, then stop for ice cream and a short bout of people-watching. Its high-energy, high-traffic and high-impact, but its a community unlike any other and it has a lot to be proud of!