Planning the perfect trip to Toronto…

Graffiti Alley, Toronto.
Toronto is one of my favourite cities, small enough to navigate around with ease but still full of the hustle and bustle you would expect from Ontario’s capital.  This vibrant Canadian city has so much to explore, from gritty Graffiti Alley in Kensington to the cobbled streets of the Distillery District. The excitement and crowds on the street when there’s a Blue Jays game on is unforgettable; it’s a cool place to spend a few days.  Read on for my Toronto favourites and planning your perfect trip.


When to go
Toronto is a wonderful city to visit year round, although the best time of year to visit is April to May and September to November. You’ll get good weather for sightseeing, less crowds and potentially cheaper accommodation. I have visited in May, the days were sunny and a little chilly, but nothing a light jacket couldn’t sort out. July was gorgeous, sunny weather and last September when I visited it rained, but I was only there for 48 hours. Doing some weather research Toronto seems to have an average of 6 days of rainfall. I must have been unlucky! If you like snow then winters in Toronto will be right up your street although be prepared for bitterly cold weather and make sure you pack plenty of warm gear. For the colder months choose a hotel that is connected to the PATH, Toronto’s underground footpath.


Getting about:
Toronto is easy to get around on foot; Uber and taxies are all over as are trams and the subway too. The Path, an underground system of walkways connects the city below street level covering 30 kilometres. It is full of shops, restaurants and bars and connects to offices and the transit system. Perfect for exploring during the freezing winter months. Sightseeing buses are a fantastic option, City Sightseeing Toronto has open top hop on, hop off buses. You can combine tickets with Toronto Island cruises and there’s loads more options too.



CN Tower
This famous landmark can be spotted from most parts of the city. It sits proudly downtown and was once the world’s tallest free standing structure. There are all sorts of ticket options from general admission with access to two observation levels and packages to combine the tower with other venues like Ripley’s Aquarium. If you are feeling really brave and have the budget you can walk around the outside on the EdgeWalk. This is, by the way no normal walk; it’s hands free 116 storeys up! I opted for a little less of an adrenaline fuelled visit and went for dinner at the top. By booking a table at the 360 Restaurant you skip the queues for the viewing platforms, which often have a couple of hours waiting time. It costs $70 for a three-course meal plus access to both the LookOut and Glass Floor level. Glass elevators whizz up 1136ft in 58 seconds and the 360 Restaurant revolves so you get beautiful panoramic views of the city while you dine at 350 metres in the sky. The views are awesome and the food and wine are both top notch. I really recommend this for a special evening out.


Niagara Falls
The incredible Niagara Falls is a must see on your trip to Toronto, around 1 hour 45 minutes drive from the city it is easy to fit in on a short trip.  Hire a car, go on an organised trip or book tickets like I did with Mega Bus. I got the 7am bus from Toronto Coach Terminal, arriving at Niagara Falls Bus Terminal at around 8.45am. Tickets were reasonably priced and the bus had WIFI. From the terminal it’s a short taxi ride to the falls. I then booked the 1235pm bus back to Toronto, which allowed for more than enough time to explore. If you plan on doing any of the tours you might want to book a later bus.
Once at Niagara Falls take a leisurely stroll alongside, to see this waterfall up close is incredible. Although it is not the largest in height it holds the record for the largest volume of water. That really hits home as you watch the water thundering down below. It is truly breath taking and the colours of the water are incredible. What struck me about it though and not to put a negative slant on visiting is how touristy it felt. Niagara is literally on the side of a road and the path alongside it gets packed with people. It didn’t take away the beauty of the falls itself, it just surprised me as the images you see paint a different picture to what I had in my mind. My best advice would be to arrive early to beat the crowds. A must is to take a boat ride with Hornblower Niagara Cruises; the 20-minute boat journey takes you right up to the edge of the falls. You get given a very fetching pink ‘mist poncho’ and believe me you need to wear it.  I wasn’t prepared for how wet I actually got, so be very careful with cameras and phones, as both of mine got drenched! I loved the boat journey, to feel the full force of Niagara up close was an amazing experience. Boats run from early spring to early winter. There are plenty of other options to get close to the falls too; Journey Behind The Falls is an opportunity to see the rush of water from below and behind. If there’s time you can also cross over the Rainbow Bridge into America, don’t forget your passport for the border.


Distillery District
I’m a big fan of exploring local drinking spots so the Distillery District ticks all the boxes for me.  It is also a great area to spend some time on a rainy day. The pedestrianised cobbled streets and 19th century red brick distillery buildings are in complete contrast with the surrounding cityscape and make for great photos. Full of boutique shops, microbreweries, restaurants and tasting rooms it is just right for a boozy lunch and a spot of shopping. Go to Mill Street Brew Pub and sample their beers, brewed on site it’s a beer you’ll spot all over the city. There’s also a Japanese distillery serving up samples of Sake. Having never tried it before I had to give it a go. It wasn’t my favourite tipple of the day, but I’m glad I tried it!



Toronto Islands
The Islands are a must do while in Toronto. There are 15 in total, stretching for 5kms, all connected by bridges and paths. Head to the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal on Bay Street to catch the ferry or a private water taxi. The crossing only takes around 15 minutes, if you take the ferry a return adult ticket is $8, bargain. There are boats to three of the islands, Centre, Hanlan’s and Ward’s. Go to the beach, walk, hire bikes, kayak, paddleboard, eat, have fun at the amusement park, see the lighthouse at Hanlan’s Point….there is so much to do. On Olympic Island there is a fantastic spot right near the ferry terminal looking over the city. I really recommend going there to take in the scenery and to take some fantastic photos of Toronto’s skyline.



Kensington Market
Kensington Market is a really cool area; I’d liken it to Camden in London. It’s got an edgy vibe going on with an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants and shops. Augusta Avenue is one of the main streets, it’s got a great craft beer hall called Trinity Common and Nu Bagel, a bagel shop specialising in wood fired bagels, they also serve beer.
Graffiti Alley has become a tourist attraction in its own right. Located off of Queen Street West on Rush Lane it’s worth a stroll along this once dingy alley to see what all the fuss is about.
If you like Instagram then get yourself to Eye Candy and get your ‘gram on! On Queen Street West it’s a pop up gallery with a difference. There are 12 different themed rooms to pose and pout in with props and colourful backdrops. My favourites were the giant pizza and the bank vault. It’s a really fun way to spend 45 minutes especially if there are a few of you. Tickets are $15 for adults if you visit on a weekday between 10am and 4pm, $20 for a 4pm – 9pm visit and $10 for kids. You also get candyfloss.



Toronto sign
Have you even been to Toronto if you’ve not had a photo by the Toronto sign?! Found in Nathan Phillips Square, it’s not necessarily a spot you need to spend a long time at but it is worth planning a stop here to take some photos. Head there after dark when the sign is illuminated for a different view of the city.



Try Poutine
If you like cheesy chips and gravy then you’ll love Poutine, it’s Canada’s equivalent to this British dish. Fries, cheese curds and gravy, it’s a simple but very tasty snack. Found all over the city, my favourite was a brunch dish at Trinity Common in Kensington Market. They put their own stamp on it by using potato croquettes, a bechamele style sauce and a fried egg on top, yum!




If you love shopping then head to the Eaton Centre, this shopping mall has over 250 stores and restaurants. Perfect for a rainy Canadian day and a bit of retail therapy. I can spend hours in this place! I love the Urban Eatery for food too.



I’d recommend spending a good few days exploring this vibrant city and I hope this guide has helped you in planning the perfect trip to Toronto. Anything I’ve missed that you loved about Toronto? Let me know in the comments below.



My 2018 travel highlights…

I always love reading other bloggers yearly round ups and I always enjoy writing my own. It’s a great way to look back and see all the positives of the year gone, especially if I’m feeling a bit miserable on a cold and rainy day in England! This year I’ve struggled with keeping on top of my blog, I’ve had the work/life/keeping a child alive balance to contend with so writing regular blog posts has been a struggle. Although this might mot sound like a big thing to some, blogging is a huge passion of mine and I’ve made myself feel really guilty for not doing enough of it. But onwards and upwards and into the new year, so I guess my first New Years resolution will be to write more.
I’ve had some amazing opportunities this year from writing for travel companies and working with some very cool brands. I work part-time as cabin crew and have been lucky to explore some fantastic countries. I’ve been to four new destinations this year, Cape Town, Peru, Toronto and Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Read on for my travel round-up of 2018.
January: California and Edinburgh
Matt, Emily and I celebrated the start of the new year up in the air as we flew back from our Christmas trip in California on New Years Eve. We had the loveliest Christmas with family, combined with 10 days exploring the Californian coastline. Starting in San Francisco we embarked on a road trip with Jucy campers. This was Emily’s first experience in a camper van and she loved it. From San Francisco we headed north to Point Reyes National Seashore. It was our first time visiting this part of Marin County and I was blown away by the natural beauty of the area. We stayed right by Tomales Bay, I honestly have never spent time in such a tranquil spot. Waking up to watch the sunrise over the waters edge certainly made jet lag a little bit easier and exploring picturesque spots such as Point Reyes Lighthouse and the Cypress Tree Tunnel were two highlights of our time there. If you’ve not been before I totally recommend visiting. From there the next stop was Monterey, we stayed in the area for three nights. More than originally planned as wild fires shut the campsite we planned to stay at on the beach in Carpinteria. It all worked out fine though and Monterey is a gorgeous spot and has plenty to do with kids. Carmel, the Big Sur, Morro Bay, Santa Monica, Carlsbad and Lake Jennings were all on our hit list too. Read more on our adventures in California here:
Adventures in California with Jucy campers…
Road Tripping with a baby in California…
Back in the UK I got to spend a day in Edinburgh, I love Scotland in the winter. The Royal Mile is a popular tourist designation in Edinburgh, home to Edinburgh Castle and loads of tourist attractions. There are also plenty of coffee shops to keep warm in. Mrs Macintyre’s Coffee House is one of my favourites, views out onto the pavement make it a perfect spot for watching the world go by. The pretty tea cups and saucers add a touch of shabby chic too. I also sampled some Edinburgh gin in a cosy Scottish pub.


February: Gloucestershire and Mauritius
A trip to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire with friends was a lovely way to start February. We stayed in a log cabin with Forest Holidays. Nestled amongst tall trees, big enough for two families and complete with a hot tub, I can’t recommend it enough. There is so much to explore in the Forest of Dean and plenty of picturesque walks. Biblins Bridge and Symonds Yat Rock were two of my favourites. It snowed while we were there too, it was such a novelty to be sat in the hot tub while watching snow fall down between the trees. I loved getting cosy inside by the log burner in the evenings too. Here’s what I thought of our time there: A log cabin break in the Forest of Dean…
I had a work trip to Mauritius in February, being cabin crew I only had 48 hours to explore but boy did I have some awesome adventures! The first evening was spent on a sunset cruise out of the harbour in Port Louis. It was a great way to get a different view of Port Louis and I loved having a few beers while watching the sun go down. The next day some of the crew and I set off to find hidden waterfalls and to see a bit of the island. The highlights of the day were stopping off at Eau Bleu waterfall, hidden off the side of a road near Curepipe it was an adventure just getting to it. Enclosed footwear is definitely recommended for the steep climb down to it. We were clinging onto tree roots wondering what we had let ourselves in for, but it was totally worth it for the beautiful views! Jumping off of Rochester Falls was an experience I won’t forget, being blessed by a Hindu priest at Grand Bassin and a refreshing dip in the ocean on the beach at Le Morne made the day an incredible one. If you are planning your own adventures in Mauritius here’s what I got up to: Chasing waterfalls and other adventures in Mauritius…
March: South Africa
In March I went to Cape Town for the first time. I had an awesome time there and with only 48 hours I crammed in as much sightseeing as I could. On the first day I explored Cape Point and took in the dramatic views of the coastline from the lighthouse, followed by a trip to Boulders Beach to meet the penguins. I had read so much about Boulders Beach so it was amazing to finally visit it in person. There are around 2,200 African penguins living on the protected beach, it’s such a picturesque place and to see penguins on the beach felt like such a novelty. Lunch at Camps Bay, steak for dinner, a tour of the vineyards in Stellenbosch and taking the cable car to the top of Table Mountain made this one of my most favourite trips of the year and has put Cape Town at the top of my list of my most loved places. For more on Cape Town head here: Things to do in Cape Town for first timers…


April: Jamaica and Cornwall
A quick 12 hours in Kingston, Jamaica gave me just enough time to take some photos of the gorgeous views from the air, have a beer before bed and get a spot of sunbathing in before flying home. A 12 hour stop over is often the reality of my job. Sometimes it’s so quick I often don’t get the chance to explore or leave the hotel.
Emily turned two in April so we marked her birthday with a trip to Bude in Cornwall. We stayed at Sandymouth Holiday Park in a static caravan, I have no shame in saying that I love a caravan holiday! It was brand new and with views of the sea was just perfect. We enjoyed blustery walks along the Cornish coast and lunch time beers on our terrace overlooking the sea. It even got warm enough for Emily to play in the outdoor splash zone at the holiday resort. It’s a great spot to head to with kids, there’s a soft play area, a pirate ship play park, an indoor pool, kids activities and  the beach is just down the road.


May: Peru
Another first for me in 2018 was a trip to Lima in Peru. I’ve yet to write anything up about my trip to South America but I had the best time. Lima is often overlooked as a must do destination as most be people fly into Lima and head straight to Machu Picchu. But there is so much on offer in the city, from the old town, to the markets and the food; there’s plenty to explore. I loved shopping in the Indian markets in Mira Flores, I came home with a gorgeous alpaca blanket and a few mini llamas for Emily! I explored the wonderful architecture of Lima’s old town, had my first pisco sour and also surfed. There is still so much of Peru I need to see, Cusco and Machu Picchu are at the top of my list along with sand boarding in the dunes at Huacachina…watch this space!
June: Menorca
It’s been years since I’ve been away with my parents so a family holiday to Menorca was so nice. I often feel like I need to go half way around the world but actually our trip to Menorca made me realise how accessible Europe is from the UK. The beaches and weather were amazing and we were there in two hours from London. Emily has got harder to ‘manage’ on an aircraft! Being two she wants to be on the move all the time. Even with new toys and books, there’s something about being on an aircraft that makes her want to investigate all the time rather than just chill out with an iPad in front her! So the shorter the flight the better right now for Matt and I!
Anyway it was the loveliest family holiday, we stayed in a four bedroom villa with a pool overlooking the Mediterranean in Punta Prima. Our ten days consisted of spending time by the pool, building sand castles at the beach, a few evening meals out and barbeques by the pool at our villa. Matt and I hired a car for a day while my parents looked after Emily so we could explore a bit more of the island. We had planned to go kayaking along the coast and explore the caves but due to bad weather the night before the sea conditions were too rough. Instead we spent the day leisurely stopping off at glorious beaches and strolled around quaint white washed towns. We stopped off at Cova D’En Xoroi, a bar in a cave, I discovered this place last year on a press trip in Menorca and knew Matt would love it. It’s a stunning place to watch the sunset and enjoy a glass of prosecco or a pomada. One very adventurous trip saw Matt and I along with my brother Chris and his girlfriend Sarah kayak a mile from the beach at Punta Prima to the tiny island opposite known as Black Lizard Island or Illa de l’Aire. There is nothing on the island apart from a lighthouse and black lizards. It was a brilliant little expedition and fun to walk around an uninhabited island.
July: Toronto
In July I got to tick Toronto off my list of must see places and with only 48 hours there I did a lot. On the first morning I went to Niagara Falls which was incredible. I did it in half a day and managed to squeeze in a boat tour going right up to the falls. I had dinner up above the city at the CN Tower, walked all over the city and got a boat over to Toronto Island. The views of the city skyline from there are beautiful.
August: Dorset and Mauritius
In August I turned 34, writing that makes me feel so old! To celebrate my birthday Matt booked at surprise trip for just the two of us to Dorset. I had no idea what we were staying in until we reached the door. Hidden in the Dorset countryside on the grounds of Warmwell House, amongst woodland and rolling hills was ‘Sika’ the shepherd’s hut. The weather was glorious and the trip was so relaxing. This was my first time staying in a shepherd’s hut and I loved every minute. It had a cosy double bed, a small kitchen area, a table and bench seat and a log burner. There was also a separate bathroom hut which I was really impressed with. Waking up in the morning with a cup of Dorset tea in such a tranquil setting was the perfect way to spend my birthday. We explored the Jurassic coast on a walk in between Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove and cooked under the stars on the fire pit by the hut at night. Glamping has alway been one of my passions and the shepherd’s hut really reminded me why. Check out what we got up to here: Glamping in Dorset
Not long after my birthday I had another work trip to Mauritius. This trip was spent relaxing by the pool, spending a bit of time at the spa with a massage, eating curry and watching the sunset on a boat trip. I often feel like I need to always be on the go and explore all the time but I realised on this trip that sometimes it’s ok just to slow down and also save the pennies a little!
September: Toronto and House buying
September saw me back in Toronto, I had so much planned but the weather was horrendous and it rained for the whole 48 hours I wasthere. I still got to see parts of the city I hadn’t already seen on my first trip though. A highlight was visiting the Distillery District. With its quirky cobbled streets it sits in complete contrast to the rest of the city. Dating back to the 19th century the gorgeous red brick buildings now house art galleries, boutique shops, bars, restaurants, micro breweries and tasting rooms. We stopped at Mill Street Brew Pub for lunch and to try their beers which are brewed on site. I also tried Japanese Sake for the first time at the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company.
Matt and I put an offer in on a house in the New Forest and had it accepted which we are over the moon about, we are hoping to complete in January. It needs some work doing to it so we can’t move in straight away but we are so excited!


October: New York, Lymington and a spa break in Winchester
On a quick 12 hours in New York I had brunch in Times Square, did a bit of shopping and visited Grand Central Terminal. I know it’s just a train station but it’s a pretty impressive one! I also discovered the Grand Central food market which I didn’t know existed. I love a local market and this one really impressed me, loads of cheese, fresh meat, coffee, some tasty looking cakes, you name it, it was there!
Grand Central Terminal, New York.
Grand Central Terminal, New York.
Back in the UK, Matt and I were very lucky to be the first people to stay in ‘The Snug‘ in Lymington. My lovely in-laws have refurbished a two bedroom town house at the top of the High Street in Lymington on the edge of the New Forest. It is a Grade II English Heritage listed building with a beautiful interior. From the open fire-place in the lounge and bedroom to the roll top bath and Belfast sink, it has bags of character and charm. I loved being able to walk down to the quay in Lymington and with the forest a short drive away it’s the perfect spot for a mini break. I’ve written all about it here: Unique Places to Stay in the UK…
I also spent two nights in Winchester on a spa break with my lovely Mum. We got a great deal through Spa Seekers and stayed at Norton Park. The package included three 25 minute spa treatments, use of the swimming pool and leisure facilities, breakfast and dinner for the stay and lunch on one day. Norton Park is set among 54 acres of Hampshire countryside, it was a beautiful spot for relaxing in and such a nice thing to do with my Mum.
November: Fort Lauderdale, Florida and East Sussex
I’ve been to Florida more times than I can remember with work. Orlando and Tampa pop up on my roster most months but normally only as night stop. I’ve never really had much time to explore apart from inside the shopping malls, so I was really excited when a layover in Fort Lauderdale appeared on my roster in November. I worked with a really lovely crew who were all up for going on an adventure. We chose to go on an air boat trip in the Everglades, although after booking it through at the hotel I realised it was the Everglades Holiday Park we were going to and not the Everglades National Park. I loved riding on an air boat, it was an exhilarating experience whizzing through the wetlands. We were lucky to spot three alligators which was a very cool. Although I enjoyed the experience I’m not sure I would recommend the holiday park, I usually research before I book a trip but on this occasion I only looked into it afterwards. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy buzzing about on the air boat but there were elements I did not enjoy. One was the ‘gator show, I knew this was part of the day so feel guilty that I contributed towards something that I didn’t feel was right. I may be getting myself into deep water by discussing things like this but I want to put my honest opinion out there to you all. I felt really sorry for the alligator who took part in the ‘show’, it clearly didn’t want to be there. I should explain that The Gator Boys who do the show rescue alligators that are found in residential areas, they would otherwise be ‘put down’. The whole thing just didn’t seem that respectful to me and their enclosure seemed pretty small. Perhaps I didn’t get the full picture on how these animals are cared for. Anyway I’m letting you know so you can make your own decision on visiting. Next time I would make a trip to the actual Everglades. Although I’ve moaned on a bit, I did really enjoy aspects of the day especially the air boat.
Back in the UK, Matt, Emily and I enjoyed the loveliest wintery break in Camber Sands. It was our first time exploring the East Sussex and Kent coast and we loved it. We played in the sand dunes on the beach at Camber, strolled the streets and ate cake in the beautiful old English town of Rye and visited Dungeness.
December: The Maldives and Mexico
My second to last trip of the year with work was a trip to the Maldives a few weeks before Christmas and oh my gosh what a trip it was. Two days on an island was absolute paradise. Snorkelling, sunbathing and stunning blue waters was such a treat! My beach bungalow had an outdoor shower which I totally fell in love with, showering while looking up at palm trees and blue skies was such a novelty. My last trip of the year is on New Years Eve, again with work, I’m off to Cancun in Mexico for two nights and will be taking Matt with me. It’s one of the perks of the job to be able to take someone with me. It doesn’t happen often so I’m really looking forward to having him with me while I’m working and I’m very excited to be in Mexico for the start of 2019.
What have been your highlights of the year? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below…
Happy New Year and happy travels for 2019!