I gotta be honest. When I realized that my flights had been changed to include a 12-hour layover in Toronto alongside a 10-hour layover in Munich, I groaned. And complained. And moaned.
Until a wise guy said, “Ooo! What a cool adventure.”
With that my perspective shifted: click. He was right. This was an opportunity for more adventure on top of an already exciting destination to be reunited with a dear friend.
How To Plan For A 12-Hour Layover
Research is your best friend. When you’re looking at 12 hours in a foreign city with your hand luggage in tow, you gotta know what’s up.
What are your priorities?
I always ask myself versions of this question. What will make my time in this city the best ever? After all, the reality is that I’ve limited time. I can’t spend 8 hours in a museum because I’ll miss my next flight.
Do I want to carry my hand luggage?
A lot of airports offer luggage lockers. The Toronto airport has the Travel Shop where you can pay to leave your luggage for a certain amount of time. However, you may decide that you don’t mind toting your backpack around with you. And, honestly, you’ll blend in because many other city commuters carry backpacks and large tote bags.
How do I get downtown from the airport?
When I first began traveling, I had this idea that airports were located downtown, too. Shockingly, they’re not. Most international airports offer train transportation straight from the airport to the city center. Toronto offers the UP Express, which transports you from airport to city center in 30 minutes.
How much time do I need to not miss my connecting flight?
Okay, this comes down to preference. I always like to be heading back towards the airport at about three hours before my flight. You never know what could go wrong. However, since your big luggage is already checked and you already have your flight tickets, all you’ll need to do when you arrive at the airport is go through security.
How much research do you do?
Gosh. I feel more confident the more I plan. Therefore, I had copious notes on my phone for how to get around Toronto. I even used Google maps before hand to stalk the routes I’d be taking to my Two Things (see below). But, of course, this is a travel style choice.
My 12-Hour Toronto Layover
My main priorities when it comes to traveling is food and…well, food. However, I also like to plan a couple of specific things to do so that I feel accomplished. Anything else is just icing on the top.
My Two Things
- an aerial yoga class
- The Monkey’s Paw book vending machine
For my time in Toronto, I decided to purchase a day pass for all city transportation because I wanted the freedom to jump on and off public transportation as much as I wanted. I didn’t want to count change or to be frugal when my feet hurt.
But first, the Cacoa 70 Cafe
As soon as I was in Toronto, I bee-lined to the general vicinity of the Fly Studio for an aerial yoga class that I had previously signed up for online. But, I was hungry and eager for my second breakfast (since my first flight had been ridiculously early).
I lucked out because one location for the Cacoa 70 is right next door to the aerial yoga studio.
And then, Fly Studio aerial yoga!
For my first experience of aerial yoga, the Fly Studio on Queen Street West was the best experience I could have asked for. If you’re looking for a studio with ambiance and warmth, you’ll find it at the Fly Studio. But, it was the Yelp reviews and pictures that sealed the deal for me (and the fact that they had a class right in my window of need).
Next, The Monkey’s Paw
Obviously, I had to. How could I (a book carnivore) pass up such a fun opportunity?
The Monkey’s Paw located in coffee shop central (seriously, I spotted five coffee shops nearby) offers a collection of hardback old books. The space is open and you find some delightfully archaic ideas and books in the space!
The Extra Stuff in Toronto
Obviously, Toronto has SO much to offer, and I had to unfortunately choose only a few things to do while on this short day trip. Naturally, I would have loved to explore some museums, eat my way through the Historic Distillery District, and view a show. But, with limited time and a plane to catch, choices had to be made.
The CN Tower – I opted to not go up that gigantic structure because the day was overcast.
A Show – I chose not to view anything because I wanted to see the city.
The Historic Distillery District – A “next time” item
Casa Loma museum – A “next time” item
But I did see Casa Loma
Because how could I not go see a castle on the North American continent? After all, I thought castles kept to Europe. I trekked across Toronto on foot and by public transportation to catch a glimpse of this local castle.
Chomping down on a granola bar and thinking about my sore feet, I rounded a corner…and Casa Loma. My mouth dropped open and I lost a crumb or two of granola.
It’s truly a beautiful building.
And Grabbed More Food From CALII LOVE
Before heading back to the airport, I wanted some more food and I craved healthy. I wandered down a random street in hopes of finding something. I passed lots of comfort food spots, but then, from afar, I spotted this green color.
That color looks healthy. And it was.
Enter Calii Love, a restaurant inspired by Hawaii and LA. And I’m thinking, “Of course, of course, an American would meet this type of food in Canada…” But, hey, now I know what to look for in Hawaii or LA!
Canada Lives Up To Its Reputation
Everyone I met was SO nice. I mean, maybe it’s their job in those establishments to be nice, but seriously, everyone I chatted with was nice, knowledgeable, and willing to throw in information to my journey.
And with that, back to the Airport
Although my time in Toronto was so short, I loved every moment of exploration. Even the few moments that I got lost and worried that I’d never find my way back to the Union Station.
Tip: find a fellow pedestrian walking with purpose and follow him or her (that’s what I did and he led me right to the Union Station. Granted, this might not always work!).
Once back at the airport, I picked up my hand luggage from the Travel Shop and whisked through security. By the time I was seated on my flight, I was ready to sleep.
Next Stop: Munich. Stay tuned!