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Toronto, Canada, is a multi-cultural destination for all seasons with the infrastructure to support major events, meetings, and conferences. With a variety of venues, ample green spaces, and a range of outdoor and indoor attractions, Toronto offers something for everyone. It’s also the perfect base from which to explore destinations nearby. Here are 9 tips for event planners considering Toronto as a destination.
A Snapshot of Toronto
The City of Toronto encompasses the downtown core and what were previously the boroughs of East York, Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough.
The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) extends well beyond these boundaries and includes Durham Region in the East, York Region in the North and, in the West, Peel Region, and Halton Region.
Some of the areas that groups will enjoy exploring include the downtown business district, the Distillery District, Kensington Market, Chinatown, and the entertainment district. Major attractions include the CN Tower, Harbourfront, Ontario Place, St. Lawrence Market, Casa Loma, and the Eaton Center.
Beyond the GTA
Groups in search of outdoor adventures will find lakeside resorts within 1 – 2 1/2 hours from Toronto in York Region, Caledon, Huntsville, the Muskokas, Orillia, and Haliburton. Niagara-on-the-Lake, a historical town with heritage venues, theatre and wineries, is just a 1 ½ hour drive away, as is Niagara Falls, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Helicopter and airplane charters departing from Billy Bishop Airport in downtown Toronto can whisk groups to their chosen destination.
Of Interest to Event Planners
Toronto is a clean, safe destination with an infrastructure that has made it possible to host major international events including the Pan Am Games and the G20 Summit. Toronto has the longest cellular network in the world and more fibre optic cable than any other area of North America. In the GTA, there are large luxury hotels in Toronto’s downtown core as well as boutique hotels, and heritage venues. For large conferences, trade shows, and special events, Exhibition Place, Metro Toronto Convention Center, and the Toronto Congress Center are available.
Major trade shows for event industry professionals include Canadian Special Events Live in March and Incentiveworks in August. TECHSPO Toronto Technology Expo shines a spotlight on the hottest technology trends. Event professionals can keep abreast of trends in floral design and décor at consumer shows like Canada Blooms and the co-located National Home Show.
9 Tips for Planning Events in Toronto
1. Head outdoors
In the spring, when the maple syrup flows, sugar shacks in Halton Region (Caledon and Bronte Creek) and York Region (Stouffiville) throw sugaring off parties. Book early as these experiences always get sold out.
Golf, canoeing, cycling, and treetop walking are just a few of the spring, summer and fall activities available in the GTA.There are equestrian centers in York, Durham, Peel, and Halton regions. If groups are not interested in winter hacking along snow-covered trails, some equestrian facilities have indoor arenas.
Indoor skydiving is available in Peel Region. At soccer domes, play is possible all year. Golfers can practice their swings at indoor driving ranges even in the winter.
Winter activities include skiing, ice hockey, ice skating, tubing, and snowshoeing.
2. Pinpoint the prime season for winter events
Ontario winters are becoming increasingly mild. To be guaranteed enough snow for activities that require it, groups should plan their visits between January and March.
3. To avoid rush hour travel, stay near where you intend to play
For example, eliminate the need to commute for dog sledding and snowshoeing by selecting a resort in the Muskokas, Haliburton, or Collingwood.
4. Avoid the Don Valley Parkway and Highway 400 during business hours and when major athletic teams have evening games in town
With the growth of the population, heavy traffic is no longer restricted to “rush hour”. If a group is going to split time between areas, make the transition during the evening (after 7 PM).
5. Take in an athletic event
Sporting events have widespread appeal but they are underutilized by conference and meeting planners. Fortunately Toronto has sporting events all year.
At the Rogers Center, group tickets and Gondola Hospitality Suite rentals are available for Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey games in the winter and spring and when the Blue Jays play baseball in the spring and summer. At the Air Canada, the Raptors play basketball in the spring and summer and the Toronto Argonauts play football in the summer and fall. Luxury hospitality suites are available for groups. With the influx of immigrants from countries where there are a lot of soccer fans, soccer has become increasingly popular. BMO Field is where Toronto FC home games take place.
Major equestrian events include Polo for Heart in York Region in June and the Tournament of Champions show jumping tournament in Halton Region in September. In November when the weather gets cooler, groups can still enjoy equestrian events in comfort during the Royal Horse Show at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. For world class horse racing, head over to Woodbine Racetrack in Etobicoke.
6. Take advantage of the thriving arts scene
Toronto’s world renowned arts venues include the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Canadian Stage. The thriving arts scene features performances by the National Ballet of Canada, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company. The Toronto International Film Festival is a star-studded event that takes place in September.
Enrich events without increasing budgets by leveraging city-wide arts events such as Luminato, Nuit Blanche, and Doors Open Toronto, when over 700 arts organizations through open their doors for an entire weekend.
7. Make magic with a multi-cultural mix
While the reported United Nations declaration that Toronto is “the most multicultural city in the world” is an urban legend, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has undergone a major demographic shift in the last 15 years. Immigrants now make up over 49% of Toronto’s population.
Since, the world has come to Toronto, events can incorporate cuisine, music, and dance from every corner of the globe. For entertainment, highland dancing, Taiko drumming, lion dancers, salsa, reggae, capoeira, Bollywood dance performances, and hip-hop are just a few of the options.
The Canadian Aboriginal Festival, Franco-Fête, Corso Italia Mercato, Chinatown Festival, Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival, Taste of the Danforth, and a myriad of events during Black History Month celebrate Toronto's ethnic diversity.
8. Consume culinary creations prepared with fresh, local ingredients
Fresh fish, lobster, shrimp and other seafood, game meat and farm to table options are readily available in Toronto during the summer. In the winter try arctic char, venison, rabbit, or turkey.
Due to Toronto’s multicultural composition, groups can access pasta, fondue, sushi, pad Thai, Szechuan-style chicken, jerk chicken, duck confit, beef Wellington, and much more. Winterlicious and Summerlicious gives groups the opportunity to stretch their budgets with special prix fixe menus at participating restaurants.
Pick up ideas to enhance menus at one of Toronto’s food fairs and festivals including Taste of Toronto at Fort York in June, Toronto Food and Wine in September, The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo in November, and the Restaurants Canada in February.
9. Add action with automobiles
In July, sports cars race along Lakeshore Blvd during the Molson Indy. In February, the Canadian International Auto Show showcases what’s hot and new in automobiles. At the end of the summer, venture over to Burlington in Halton Region where Marques d'Elegance showcases Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and other luxury cars during its Luxury Supercar Weekend. For an exhilarating experience, head North of Barrie for 4x4 jeep adventures (1 ½ hours away).
We’ve just scratched the surface and highlighted some of the outdoor adventures, arts venues, cuisine, festivals, and multi-cultural events that Toronto offers. Toronto also has a thriving theatre scene and world famous fashion events. Remember, there is much more to explore in Toronto than the downtown core.
Photo Credit: Pictures without EMB watermark are kindly provided by the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (21/03/2016)