Shopping used to be my number one favourite pastime. That is, until Maxwell came into the picture. I know some mamas love passing the time there with their hub but the thought of fighting for one of two designated family parking spots, struggling to find somewhere to breastfeed or warm up a bottle and don’t get me started on changing diaper full of poo in a busy washroom with no privacy. Yeah, no thank you!
I had been hearing rumours about a mall mecca for mommies that promises to make the shopping experience with a baby on board not only manageable and actually convenient. I was intrigued. So much so, I was willing to compromise Max’s nap schedule to make the trek 35 minutes outside of the city to Richmond Hill to see this with my own eyes. Quite a few of you mamas that happen to live in the area have told me after seeing my IG stories that Hillcrest has been around for an eternity and had no idea about this major renovation they recently went through. Guys, the glow up is REAL! This project includes a refresh of both interior/exterior with a whole new north wing, tons of new retailers and yes some very much needed conveniences for the whole family, specifically mommy shoppers.
Wondering if Hillcrest should be destination for your next family shopping haul? Here’s the lowdown on how it measures up based on our experience:
Location. If you live Newmarket, Markham, Thornhill or Richmond Hill, this is basically a stone’s throw away for you and I am a bit jealous of your proximity. For you downtown folk that consider anything north of Bloor St unchartered territory, if you’re are located close to one of the major highway arteries in the city, the drive to Hillcrest can be surprisingly easy as it’s a straight shot up the 404 north. Your best bet is to strategically plan to travel outside of high traffic times. I left the city around 10:20am and comfortably made it there at 11am. We left to head back to the city around 3pm (and yes we actually stayed that long) and missed most of the afternoon traffic. It isn’t located close to the highway exit and is about a 9-minute drive for the DVP still once you exit so in rush hour it could add on to your transit time.
Parking. SO. MUCH. FAMILY. PARKING. I was actually really impressed. Where you normally see anywhere from 1-4 spots allocated for family designated parking total. Hillcrest is setting the bar damn high with several…and I mean several at each of their main entrances.
Shopping Experience/Retailers. Hillcrest doesn’t claim to be anything they are not so if you’re looking for solely high end shopping across the board, this is not the place for you. However, if you’re looking for a collection of retailers to appease the everyday shopping needs for everyone in your family, you will not be disappointed. They have the all the regular mall retailers everyone knows and loves; The Gap, H&M, Mendocino, Hudson’s Bay, SportChek, Aldo, Old Navy, Aritzia, Sephora and Indigo (opening here soon) but I think people will want to go for the stores they can’t find just anywhere like SportingLife, Miniso – a really cool Japanese specialty store that I’ve never seen before, Okaïdi, West Coast Kids and their newly opened HomeSense/Marshalls. I am always looking for decor items for the house and can never go wrong with that store. The HomeSense at Hillcrest is actually incredible. So is Marshalls. Kid you not, I spent over an hour in there picking up stuff for Max and other miscellaneous stuff that I have convinced Réjean we absolutely need. Do you remember Maxwell in this unicorn suit from my stories? I don’t know if it’s for Halloween or for everyday wear but she looked irresistible in it. If she wanted to wear just that every single day, I would totally let her.
I spent the rest of my time powering shopping. I passed through Artizia like a Tornado and copped a super cute skirt and classic tee that I plan to wear next week to an event with Maxwell. There was a quick stop in at Sephora to quickly stock up on some Tatcha products and I was even able to find some great pieces to create a couple fall looks for Réj at SportingLife before dedicating the rest of my time to all things baby.
We also found a super cool store named Okaïdi. It’s a French brand that has recently landed here in Canada, with only a couple locations to date. The baby girl collection is quite adorable and super affordable so Maxie got to take home some new outerwear and dresses to take her through the season. The newborn and baby collections remind me of clothing that I found in boutiques when we were in Barcelona but the prices are more aligned with Zara Kids and H&M. But truthfully friends, the mall’s piéce de resistance is West Coast Kids. I think there is one other location, but it pales in comparison to the one you will find at Hillcrest. Hands down the best and largest collection of merchandise for kiddos from newborn to teens. Every square inch of the of the space has speciality items ranging from books and apparel inspired by our city of Toronto, super fun accessories, high end outerwear – Mackage parka’s for toddlers if you can believe, tees inspired by hip hop, the cutest footwear to keep your mini in style through all of Canada’s seasons, the coolest strollers and nursery items that will have you rethinking your decorating choices. I wanted everything in the store for Max. EVERYTHING. And tried to justify she needed it all too, plus a new nursery LOL. I did exercise some restraint and left with a couple of cute dresses, some new books for her reading collection and the YYZ sweatshirt you guys have seen her rocking on my stories from Canadian brand Posh & Cozy.
Food. You will find the regular food court restos here and even a Panera Bread location, however it’s not actually connected to the mall. There are some tasty speciality spots like Uncle Tetsu’s for those who are obsessed with the Japanese cheesecakes that people line up for year round at the downtown location, Bake Code and Chatime (hello, my fave!) for the bubble tea aficionados. After all the cardio I did shopping for hours my last stop of the day was actually at Chatime for a Mango bubble tea and a matcha croissant – and yes both were they are insanely delish.
Mommy/Family Amenities. The extra family designated parking spots are one thing but Hillcrest really knocked it out of park with some of the extra conveniences they thought of for families. The mall is actually all one level so it makes navigating with a stroller and young toddlers simple. Both men’s and women’s washrooms have baby change stations so the dad’s need not worry when they venture to this alone with the kids. For the mamas who are still breastfeeding, you’re going to love this…they have a nursing room so you can feed your bub quietly in private and wait for it, the Guest Experience Kiosk offers complimentary diaper kits plus baby bottle warming. It’s located a bit away from where the nursing room and washrooms, but it’s nice to not have to run around a food court asking for milk to be heated. I actually used the service when we were finished shopping so Max could have a bottle for the ride back home.
HILLCREST FINAL ROUNDUP
Was it worth the drive to Hillcrest? Yes. Would I return to shop? 100%. I’m already planning our next visit and will probably do it with a few girlfriends and their kids. I am in need of a little refresh on our holiday décor so that is the perfect excuse to go back and the Homesense there is bound to have everything I need. Plus, there are loads of things I still want to get for Maxie at Okaïdi and West Coast Kids.
Intrigued? Head over to HillcrestMall.ca for all the details on the renovation, new store openings, promos, and upcoming events.
This post is in formal partnership with Hillcrest for either monetary compensation or product however all opinions are my own.