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  • Writer's pictureJessyca Stoepker

Toronto, we meet again!

Toronto, Canada--a buzzing, multicultural, cosmopolitan metropolis and one of the coolest cities I've ever had the pleasure to visit.

Before accepting my job up here, I requested three days off in August for a family vacation to Canada planned long in advance. Once making the tiring drive downstate after work on Tuesday, my mom and sister packed our car and headed out early Wednesday morning. It was their first time out of the country! Wednesday and Thursday night we stayed at the Pembroke Inn just off of Gerrard Street, at the time under renovation and a changeover from the Knight's Inn.

My teary-eyed pic with Josh Dun from Twenty One Pilots!

My friend Victoria and I had road-tripped alone to this dazzling city for a spontaneous weekend adventure in 2015. Just 19 and surviving on coffee, city vibes, and a little bit of grungy teenage rebellion, we spent the entire weekend pushing our bodies to the limit: walking miles in terrible shoes, weathering unexpected storms with no coats or umbrellas, waiting for 9 hours in a concert line using socks from the nearby Asian market to cover our freezing hands. But it was worth it! We made Canadian friends (who I still interact with on social media to this day) and we were among the first in line to see Twenty One Pilots up-close. We cried and hugged and screamed the night away. AND we just happened to be the twenty or so concert goers to meet and have our pictures taken with the drummer, Josh Dun! My pathetic heart burst.

The city from the observation desk in the CN Tower.

Flashing back to this year, our trip wasn't near as wild, but it was just what each of us needed. I led my mom and sister around downtown (oh, lovely Yonge Street), through the huge underground mall, and towards the business and government districts when we visited the CN Tower. They weren't near as overwhelmed as I thought they'd be--they handled everything, including the parking frustrations, like champs! We ate and drank at some amazing places (Toronto is a vegan's paradise!) and relaxed at the Allan Gardens and Conservatory less than a block from our hotel.

The craziness of such a large city gradually weighed on us three country-raised girls, so by the time we packed up for our next destination we were ready for a different scene. We spent the next two days camping at Pinery Provincial Park, a gorgeous and HUGE natural area with fantastic campsites and scenic views about two hours west of Toronto on Lake Huron. I can't express how nice it was to stay there. Quiet, secluded, and clean--quite a different atmosphere than the city center. I'm definitely going back there so I can finish exploring all the trails.

On our way back to Michigan, we also stopped at a place that had been strangely calling to us: Sarnia. Located right by the USA-CA boarder near Port Huron, this magical-sounding town (we kept saying Narnia) had a wonderful little restaurant right on the harbor, Dockside. We had a great last lunch in Canada there before returning to our home state across the water.

But our vacation wasn't over yet. On Sunday, I returned to Petoskey for work on Monday, and my mom and sister followed me up to stay at the Petoskey State Park for a couple nights. I was glad to show them my favorite places and all that this area has to offer. We ate at Roast and Toast and Tap 30, an awesome pourhouse on Mitchell with tall windows that open up to the patio. They were able to fit in a bike up to Harbor Springs and a few minutes to shop, too, and then we sat by the campfire and enjoyed the peace.

After stopping by my office midday Tuesday to meet my coworkers and give my sister the tour, we said our goodbyes. I'm not sure when I'll get to spend that much quality time with them again, but I'm so glad we had our little August adventure.

Have you ever been to Toronto? Would you go, or do you prefer more nature-centered places like Pinery?

Mom taking a look out over the water during a 40-minute hike.

Have a great week!


(P.S. While my mom, sister, and I were in Toronto, my dad was also in Canada--but in Mont Tremblant, completing an IRON MAN! If you see him, clap in on the back and talk him into getting that Iron Man tattoo he earned!)

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