I lived in Toronto for almost 12 years, which means I likely know it better than I know my own hometown of Vancouver! I’ve been planning to get back for a visit as soon as it felt safe to do so since I made the decision to relocate back to the West Coast in March 2020, and after what felt like forever, we finally made it happen this last month.
I went into this visit with a list of my old standby favourites to revisit, but what I didn’t expect was how many awesome new businesses have popped up all around the neighbourhoods I once called home. Plus, I had the new perspective of seeing The Big Smoke through a toddler’s eyes – because we made our move while Summer was still a baby, it was a completely new experience to explore with her now. Some things, like public transit, were more complicated and than I had anticipated, while others, like hanging out at my favourite brewery, were more kid-friendly than I could have known!
In all the years I called Toronto home, I featured a lot of local businesses, but I never put together a proper city guide. So here it is, a pastel (family friendly!) guide to Canada’s biggest city.
If you see a *, it means the spot is better suited to adults, otherwise this list is family friendly!
I stayed at this upscale downtown hotel pre-parenthood and I loved it then, but my expectations were definitely exceeded this time around with a toddler in tow. The room was spacious and quiet, the staff was incredibly helpful, and they even provided a crib so we didn’t have to pack one! Plus the central location made taking TTC all over the city quick and easy. If you’re looking for a beautiful (and well-priced) home base to explore the city from, I highly recommend this hotel!
This project has been a LONG time coming! I’ve been pastel hunting for “good walls” for so many years now, and though I always wanted to do a guide like this for Toronto but the colourful walls there were few and far between, and every time I’d get a substantial list together half the walls would be painted over with a darker colour or covered in graffiti tags (insert old lady eye roll.
When I moved to Vancouver this past spring I was amazed by the seemingly endless colour wall options all over the city (and beyond!) Despite having grown up here, and visiting annually for the past twelve years, I had never really noticed just how many #randomactsofpastel can be found in alleyways, down the side of warehouses, and decorating storefronts. It’s one of those fun things that you notice once, and then forever notice everywhere you go (you just wait!)
Before long I had a google doc going with intersections, addresses and company names pointing to rainbow stripes, mint green murals and faded pink facades. It quickly became clear this list was too good not to share, so armed with my camera and a very patient, sweet, wonderful boyfriend (thanks Jonnie), I set out to document as many of the colourful walls that I’ve spotted over the past few months as possible. Some of the photos in this list have already made it to the Instagram grid, either recently or through snaps I took on my past visits to Vancouver, but there’s also a lot of totally new shots (with outfits inspired by each different location, of course!)
The final result? A prismatic pastel rainbow tour of the city as seen through my favourite photo walls!
Casa Gelato (1033 Venables St) – East Van
This is THE pink wall in Vancouver. There’s a ton of space, different angles / options depending on where the sun is at in the sky and what kind of exposure you’re looking for, and best of all, it’s part of a very fun ice cream shop that I HIGHLY recommend working into your shoot plans! I took my pregnancy announcement photos here (and continue to shoot here with Summy) so it holds an extra special place in my heart, and obviously, gets top place on the list!
Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant (1132 E Hastings St) – East Van
If you’re looking for something a bit lighter than Casa Gelato, Pink Pearl is just a few blocks away and I hear the Dim Sum is delicious!
Pink Palace (2222 Bellevue Ave) – West Van
An architectural wonder on the West Van waterfront, this building was based off of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki, and reminds me of wedding cake every time I drive past.
Honorable Mention //
Opus Hotel “It’s Love Baby Wall” (322 Davie St) – Yaletown
This tiny slice of pink wall is perfect, for, well, a baby! I heard a rumour this one is already gone but I haven’t been by in person to confirm yet.
Lorna Jane (295 Terminal Ave) – East Van
A bright magenta pink building with lots of wall space, but I haven’t shot anything there yet as it’s a bit bright for my feed!
Vancouver Taxi (790 Clark Drive) – East Van
Patchy orange with lots of greenery, and different shades from painting over graffiti (which I always sort of love) but not a ton of space to shoot larger scenes.
No. 5 Orange (205 Main St) – East Van
A darker burnt orange wall with a good amount of space to shoot! Perfect for autumn outfit photos with your pumpkin spice latte. And in case you google it – yes, yes this building houses a strip club.
Honorable Mention //
Hey Kokomo (2028 Vine St.) – Kits
This storefront is the perfect shade of peach but it’s mostly window (not much space for a full body shot!) Fingers crossed someday the paint the alleyway down the side the same colour.
Granville Island Kid’s Market + Bridges Restaurant
Note: Granville Island has a wealth of colourful walls in general! Personally I’ve spotted blues, greens, a small pink, but the possibilities are endless when wandering around that sweet tourist spot. Make sure you go on a weekday if you want to beat the market crowds!
Andina Brewing (1507 Powell St) – East Van
A darker shade of yellow panelling, this brewery doesn’t have a ton of open space to shoot but it works well for “top half only” shots (or full body if you don’t mind the non-yellow bit at the bottom). I’ve also heard they serve great Ceviche!
Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale (290 West 3rd Ave) – Near main Street
We happened across this perfect pastel yellow warehouse while shooting at Juke Print (you can see one from the other!) and it’s the ideal photo wall if yellow is what you’re looking for.
A-Tech Auto Service (328 Clark Drive) – East Van
Right in the same neighbourhood as the Andina dark yellow, Relaxus dark purple, and __ dark blue, I love the texture of this softer buttery shade of yellow. There’s also a very good RED just down the street at Callister Brewing (red is the anti-pastel, so it doesn’t get an official spot on the list.)
North Shore Taxi (264 Pemberton Ave) – North Van
If you’re looking for the perfect key-lime backdrop, look no further than this taxi HQ (right across from the pink and purple garages mentioned above!)
Warehouse at the Corner of Pacific and Hornby – Central Vancouver
This seemingly abandoned warehouse building near the Burrard Street Bridge is a great shade of green on all sides, and because it’s not currently in use there are few cars in the way.
Angel Building (68 East 1st Ave) – Main Street
Painted cement in the ideal shade of toothpaste green tucked on a very unexpected street just off main. This spot is super close to the light blue listed below!
Honorable Mention //
Queen’s Park (4600 Cambie) – Upper Main Street
Rumour has it there are cute mint spots in this park but I have yet to see them myself! Can anyone confirm?
Century Car Wash (33 E 2nd Ave) – Main Street
I’ve been eyeing this adorable tiled mint wall for awhile and will add a photo here when I’ve shot something there!
Meetrice Noode (4488 Main Street) – Main Street
A neon green wall on the side of a restaurant
Helen’s Grill (4102 Main Street) – Main Street
Patchy Kelly green down the side near the bus stop!
Despatch Centre (1481 Franklin St.) – East Van
This massive building is darker blue at the bottom, and lighter blue at the top, which means there are so many options for shooting there (and all the space to do so!)
Main + Industrial (228 Industrial Ave) – Main Street
For a lighter, aqua blue, look no further than the big blue building at the bottom of Main Street. There are also darker blue accents that can be worked into photos (see cute example from my pal Tina’s account here)
Capilano Custom Interiors (1311 Pemberton Ave) – North Van
Maybe one of my favourite unexpected photo spots ever! I came across this pastel set of garages on a run shortly after I moved to the North Shore and stopped in my tracks! Bonus – it’s almost directly across from Douce Diner, one of my favourite breakfast restaurants in the city.
Palette Coffee Roasters (323 Semlin Drive location) – East Van
Good coffee, and a great purple wall! Lots of different spots to shoot with varying shades of purple and interesting textures. I highly recommend following the building around the corner for my favourite section!
RELAXUS (1590 Powell Street) – East Van
A brighter, deeper purple option with tons of space to shoot and different wall textures down the sides.
Jukebox Print – Near Main Street
A fun rainbow striped wall with lots of space and different colour variations depending on where you stand. There’s even a little rainbow staircase!
City Centre Motor Hotel (2111 Main St) – Main street
This hotel/motel looks somewhat unremarkable from the front, but walk down the side of the building and you’ll find one of the most magical pastel works of art in the city.
Arbutus greenway (1606 W 5th Ave) – Kits / South Granville
The greenway is an amazing pathway to explore by bike or on foot, and it crosses through a handful of epic photo spots. There’s a honeybee mural nearby, but this abstract wall of shapes where the path meets Fir St. is my pick.
Dachi mountain mural (2297 E Hastings St) – East Van
One of my favourite restaurants in the city, and one of my favourite murals too! Go for the photos, stay for the wine and oysters.
Fun Alley (106 W 1st St) – Lower Lonsdale, North Vancouver
Doesn’t get much better than a colourful alleyway complete with continued painted pattern on the ground!
Elyse Dodge “Traverse” mural (812 East Cordova Street) – Strathcona
I am a big fan of Elyse’s work, and this massive mural is a total showstopper. She and I have teamed up for a framed print giveaway, coming soon to the feed!
Alley-Oop – Downtown Vancouver
Yellow, pink, purple AND orange? Oh my! This colourful alleyway has a basketball court vibe but lots of plainer bits for photos too (pink example from my feed here)
Honorable Mention //
Pink and blue “It’s Love Baby” mural @ Davie and Thurlow (beside Denny’s)
Hootsuite primary colour shapes mural (111 E 5th Ave)
A few general courtesy reminders:
-If the wall belongs to a business, try to support that business! Eat at the restaurant, buy a product they sell, or use their services at a later date.
-Try not to park illegally or get in anyone’s way! I am always conscious not to disrupt business if I’m using someone’s building for photos without paying.
-If you come across a location on this list (or otherwise) that has since become private property, please ask permission before entering!
What colourful walls did I miss? Let me know in the comments!
In an effort to get better at quick, informative blog posts without all of the fluff, I’ve challenged myself to get this guide to camping with a toddler live the same week we went on our very first camping trip. Let’s hit the road!
To start, I’d like to say I’m an extremely inexperienced camper and definitely not an expert on this subject – in fact I’ve probably only camped 6 times in my entire life and two of those times were at music festivals in a field. I was really nervous about taking Summer out on an overnight camp, but being back in BC has pushed me to reconnect with my roots and spend as much time in nature as possible, so I figured why not give it a shot? Turns out all of my fears about camping with a kid were the biggest obstacle to overcome – she LOVED it and other than the intense packing and unpacking, the whole experience was super stress-free.
A few notes //
-We did just one night for our first trip as a test run, and I highly recommend this route as a fun way to introduce camping without being too overwhelming.
-So much of parenting is about knowing your kid, and in my case, Summer is an outdoor baby through and through. She loves to get dirty, sit in the sun, explore, and actually spends a lot of our indoor time at the front door banging to go out with the dog, so I had a feeling sleeping under the stars would be a hit, and it was.
-I did not attempt our first camp alone! We took this trip with the very lovely guy I’m dating (I will share more about this at some point but for now I’m keeping the details to myself!) and I was really grateful to have the extra set of hands. Not to say you can’t camp solo with kids, but toddler age is definitely easier with a partner / friend / family member to share the responsibilities.
Top Tips //
-Pack a few familiar toys and books (especially those you use at bedtime), but keep it simple – rocks and sticks won every time!
-Even if you plan to co-sleep, bring your travel crib! In our case the travel crib didn’t fit in the tent, but it was extremely helpful to have while making dinner over the fire and setting up the camp site.
-If you have a travel stroller, bring it for evening strolls around the campground (great to set the stage for bedtime!) We also found a carrier was super helpful when we went on longer hikes – I swear by the Sakura Bloom Scout, which I’ve been using since the day Summer was born and absolutely adore!
-Do your research on the campground and it’s amenities. We went to BirkenHead Lake and though it was amazing, in the future I would probably choose a warmer lake for Summer to swim in more comfortably!
-Food-wise a lot of folks recommended pre-cooking meals that could be heated and served instantly, but we mostly just did lots of snacks like handheld fruit, crackers, juice boxes and baby food pouches. I did make a big batch of orzo salad that we all ate, and we cooked veggie dogs on the fire, but otherwise we kept food as simple as possible (Summer prefers snacks to full meals at this stage anyway, so it worked!)
-Load up on layers (for you and your child!) We went through more changes of clothes than I could ever have thought possible and barely made it home with anything dry / cleanish to wear.
-if you’re risking a longer road trip, try to plan it around nap time and make sure you do something to tire your toddler out before loading up the car and hitting the road! We learned this lesson the hard way on the drive up because we were rushing to get going, and she ended up awake and angry for 2.5 of the 3 hours. Before heading home we spent the morning at the beach, and she slept 2.5 hours instead!
-Be prepared, then have fun! I made sure we had Summer’s favourite hat, the best natural sunscreen (works for the whole family) and natural bug spray (I highly recommend this one!) I also put together a little emergency pack with an assortment of kiddo medication, bandaids, and antibacterial cream.
-My last *very* unofficial tip: use your stroller muff as a sleeping bag if it’s cold at night! Summer slept in pjs with feet and hand covers, a warm sweater, her sleep sack, a knit hat, and then I put her down in her Bugaboo winter stroller muff (as far as I can tell… it’s the exact same thing as a toddler sleeping bag!) We also hung her white noise machine in the tent and brought her blankie from home, and she did so well! You can also put a hot water bottle or hot pockets in the bottom of the sleeping bag on extra cold evenings for good measure.
That about covers everything I learned from our first experience overnight in the great outdoors! More camping trips (and probably more camping tips) to come soon!
Before I got pregnant I had plans to leave Toronto as soon as the weather turned cold. It’s become a bit of an accidental yearly tradition for me after moving to the wintery side of Canada, and in my mind 2018 would be no exception. I started the year in sunny Palm Springs, and in the case my attempts to get pregnant didn’t work out (everyone reminded me again and again it can take a lot of time) I hoped to finish out the year on an epic adventure to Japan, topping it off with Christmas in Hawaii.
When I saw those two lines appear on a test back in June it didn’t immediately click that for the first time in a long time I’d be firmly grounded in Toronto this winter. As Summer slipped by and the sweaters hit shop shelves it finally dawned on me with what I can only describe as a feeling of total panic. I’m not great with the cold, and even though I have the best reason ever to get cozy at home this year, the idea of not being able to leave the snow and ice behind had me shook.
I started to reason there had to be somewhere hot I could go in my second trimester, the best time for a babymoon before things get really rough, but it turns out there are still a ton of Zika travel warnings in Mexico and the Caribbean, making pregnant vacations at any stage more complicated than I had expected. Yes, the threat has significantly dropped and the chances of coming home with Zika at this point are fairly low, but I decided for me personally the cons still outweighed the pros. Again and again my heart kept calling for Hawaii, but it just seemed too far away and too expensive. I had sort of given up on the idea of escaping to the sun one last time before baby when my dear friend Bianca surprised me with a trip for the two of us! It was the sweetest gesture EVER, and before I knew it I was boarding a plane to one of the most beautiful places on earth!
Originally from the West Coast, I had been to Hawaii a couple times as a kid on family vacations, but this was my first time visiting the Islands as an adult with my own agenda. I landed in the humidity armed with a long list of pastel places I had to see, with inspiration from my pals at Ban.do and suggestions from my local friend @GirlandHerPearl. We chose to stay downtown Waikiki to get the bustle of the city and all the fun that includes, but rented a cheap car to explore faraway beaches and tasty food destinations most days.
Overall this 5 day vacation was everything I could have hoped for and more for a last hurrah. I absolutely do not believe life ends after baby, but it was really precious to have a final trip to myself, with endless time to bask in the sun and wander through shops full of breakable objects without worry. It gave me time to thank my body for all the heavy lifting its done lately, and fuel up for the final three months of pregnancy in Toronto’s deep winter. And now? Now we wait for the biggest adventure yet!
Scroll down for my list of must-see pastel places!
Where to Stay //
There are so many amazing hotel options in Waikiki that it can be hard to pick just one, but we couldn’t help but fall for The Laylow . Newly renovated and steps from the beach, this pastel paradise was dreamy down to every last detail. The restaurant, the gift shop… even the wallpaper in the elevators was on point. I’m not sure I’ve ever blended in at a hotel quite so well!
How to Get Around //
A car is pretty much necessary in Hawaii unless you want to stay right in downtown Waikiki (or whatever city you’ve chosen a hotel in!) We rented something super basic for super cheap and it was a great decision, though you may want to consider a larger vehicle with 4 wheel drive if you’re venturing off the beaten path (we may have gotten a bit stuck in some sand on a beach at one point!)
What to See //
Leonard’s Bakery // Hawaii’s first Malasadas, which are basically delicious Portuguese donuts served hot! I recommend getting one of each kind (the Li Hing was incredible) Rainbow Drive In // A classic Hawaiian fare takeaway counter with amazing cheap eats. Bailey’s Aloha Shirts // All the vintage Hawaiian shirts you could ever ask for! Careful with your shopping though, some of the oldest shirts go up to $3000. Hula Pie at Duke’s // A tourist favourite, I remembered this place from visiting as a kid and I have to admit the Hula Pie was JUST as good. I recommend bringing a friend or two to share this monster dessert… or if you’re pregnant and anything like me go ahead, get a whole piece to yourself! The Royal Hawaiian What kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t mention Hawaii’s pink palace? If you’re able to get a table for brunch be sure to try the pink guava pancakes! Shimazu Shave Ice // There is shave ice available almost everywhere but this place makes them as big as your head and has SO many delicious flavours. By far the best selection we saw. The Surfjack Hotel // Famous for their awesome “Wish You Were Here” postcard pool, this hotel wasn’t my favourite for food but their coffee/gift shop was adorable! Yanagi Sushi // A local favourite, this might just be the best sushi outside of Japan (and it feels like you’re in Japan too!) Reservations highly recommended. SALT at Our Kaka’ako // We only stumbled across this spot because I was determined to go to ARVO for their famous avocado toast, but basically it’s a brand new shopping centre of sorts in Hawaii’s most “indie” neighbourhood filled with all sorts of wonderful curated shops and restaurants. These were our favourites but more businesses were in the process of opening too! Paiko Plant Shop ARVO Lonohana Estate Chocolate Butterfly Ice Cream Here. Store
*If you’re not on a babymoon I also highly recommend walking around all the awesome breweries in this neighbourhood – there are so many and they’re all SO cute!
I’ll admit, in the past when I heard the word “baby moon” I couldn’t help but cringe – it seemed like an indulgence reserved only for super privileged pregnant couples, and I never really saw it being a priority for me personally. Don’t people have better things to do when planning to bring a new human into this world?!
The thing is, now that I’m here with three months to left in my pregnancy and a constantly growing belly that has me just a bit off-balance at all times, I get what all the fuss is about. Being pregnant is such an incredible feeling, but it can also feel like your losing your whole body (and existence) to a tiny human living under your skin. I have really struggled with my newfound limitations body-wise, and travelling in the second trimester before I got too big to even sit in a car comfortably for half an hour (I’m getting there) ended up being really important to me. If you’re craving some time out of town, why not take a trip while you’re still feeling up to it?
I also think it’s really necessary to celebrate. To celebrate your incredible body, the massive shift in life seasons, to honour your past and let yourself have one last vacation that’s free of child-related worries before the future arrives. I went from chuckling to myself about the concept of baby moons to insisting it was something I needed to do almost as soon as I got pregnant. Yes, travel with babies and kids is totally possible and can be an amazing experience, but it’s still not the same as taking a trip on your own or with a loved one.
In the end, I planned two pre-baby escapes for good measure – a long haul adventure to Hawaii with my bff Bianca (post on that coming soon!) and a smaller, local trip to PEC right here in Ontario with my little sister. What these two trips taught me: It doesn’t matter how far you go, just that you allow yourself to go at all. I actually enjoyed being closer to home for a shorter trip more with how pregnant I’ve been feeling lately, and I can’t stress enough how important it was to me to give myself a special window of time like this to celebrate, close off the past, and look forward to the future. Whether you’re hopping a plane to an exotic island or just planning a staycation at home in your own city, give yourself (and perhaps someone you love dearly) this special moment to pause and reflect. After all, moments like these will never exist in quite the same way again after you officially become a mom.
Why PEC //
Prince Edward County is a wine lover’s paradise, but this will be me second trip there without drinking and in my books it’s just as good either way!
The county can be overcrowded in the Summer months, so I actually prefer to go up in the autumn – the leaves are breathtakingly beautiful on the drive between towns, harvest season yields all sorts of delicious local goodies, and sweater weather has never felt quite so cozy. It’s also a short distance from Toronto, so it’s not too big a commitment travel-wise if you’re based in Ontario.
Where to Stay //
I’ve stayed in multiple spots all over the county but this trip we went with The Drake Devonshire, a small boutique hotel complete with a lakefront view and amazing restaurant (I recommend the brunch!) When we checked in there were hot cookies waiting beside the bed and we were told how to dial pints of ice cream up to our room if needed, so yeah, basically a pregnant person’s dream come true!
How to Get There //
A short 2.5 hour drive from the city, travel by car is really the best way to get to the county, and once you arrive up there I find driving from town to town on the beautiful country roads is one of my favourite parts of the landscape. We were lucky enough to borrow a Porsche Panamera hybrid for our trip, and it was SUCH a fun (and eco friendly) way to see the sights.
A few of my favourite pastel places //
Bloomfield Beauty Co. // Where do I even start with this incredible spot? Located in Bloomfield as the name suggests, this spa escape is seriously heaven on earth. Owned by two talented sisters, you can get everything from massages to pedicures, all served with a side of tea (or bubbly if you prefer!) We spent an entire afternoon there and still didn’t want to leave! BluBoho // My favourite Toronto jewelry shop now has an outpost in PEC and it’s gorgeous. Hinterland Winery // The best bubbly in the province! I grabbed a bottle to pop after baby Garrison joins us in the new year. County Collective // This spot is SO cute, just make sure you check their Instagram before heading over as they’re often closed off-season. Fete beach // Located in the same Bloomfield building as County Collective and BluBoho, this gorgeous shop is another must-see on the tour of pretty pastel places! County Yum Club // On top of seasonal goodies this roadside restaurant serves vegan corn dogs. Need I say more? Grange Winery // This place makes incredible wine and cider with the prettiest designs, but they also serve local craft soda so you have something to sip while your non-pregnant companions get tipsy wine tasting. Slickers Ice Cream // You have to try the burnt marshmallow here, and don’t worry, the Picton location stays open all year round! Coriander Girl // Another Toronto export, this space is shared with county apothecary brand Sunday’s Company, and their shop together is absolutely gorgeous, filled with plants, dry brushes, skincare and more. I highly recommend taking a locally-sourced bouquet home with you on your last day! The Vic // Did someone say golden milk latte? This coffee shop in downtown Picton has amazing baked goods and lots of caffeine-free hot bevvie options if that’s your thing (they have real caffeinated tea and coffee too, don’t panic!) Kinsip Spirits // Fun fact – you can get a shot of whisky infused maple syrup instead of spirits and it’s absolutely delicious + totally booze free!