County Bound

Do you have Prince Edward County (PEC) on your radar yet as an out-of-town destination for meetings, retreats and VIP incentive-travel? Home to Ontario’s eastern wine region, the island (yep, it’s an island!) is picture-perfect with pastoral farm and country-side, and a thriving arts and culinary community.

As PEC’s popularity grows, so does its event infrastructure. The following curated mix-and-match suggestions highlight just a few of the many available venues, activity ideas, gifts and local talent:

TheJuneMotel_WineLobby_LaurenMiller_TorontoBrandPhotographer-9869The June Motel

The June Motel

County Venue: The June Motel became an instant sensation when it opened its doors in May. A former nondescript 50-year-old motel in the hands of two savvy Toronto gals is now uber-cool accommodation (16 rooms) that rocks a totally Instagram-worthy pink neon ’50s-retro Palm Springs motel vibe. A cute lobby bar pours local wines and brews. Lawn games, a campfire and outdoor yoga add to the motel’s chill. Two thumbs-up on affordability and on-site concierge/event-coordination services.

Perfect For: Corporate retreat lodging, bachelor/bachelorettes, photo/film shoots

Call On: A cycling tour of the County. Load up on bike rentals and self-guided maps at Bloomfield Bicycle Company or Ideal Bike. Or book guided two-wheel tasting excursions with The County Wine Tours.

Pick Up: Local wines to pair with farm-to-table event menus, as gifts or as impromptu post-bike sippers. FYI — WhiteCap from Hinterland Wine Company is a favourite of Sophie Trudeau, the prime minister’s wife.

Crystal Palace Photo credit Kristin Rose PhotographyThe Crystal Palace. Photo credit: Kristin Rose Photography

Fairground Attraction

County Venue: Built in 1890 as a replica of its namesake in London, England, The Crystal Palace is a light-filled architectural beauty with window-filled walls, soaring ceiling, graceful timber arches and a historic yellow-green exterior. Available May to October, there’s lots of space for different set ups plus a stage (Capacity: 535 seated). A smaller building adjacent to the “palace” makes for a great break-out room (Capacity: 100). A spacious lawn offers outdoor event options with room for teambuilding activities and tents. Located on the Picton Fairgrounds, planners can extend their event to include the property’s baseball diamonds, the Prince Edward Curling Club and the Prince Edward Community Centre & Arena.

Perfect For: Trade shows, exhibitions, meetings, teambuilding, festivals, fundraisers, galas and weddings

Call On: Local food trucks. There are several. Here are a few: Jerkebago Charcoal Grill for County-style Island cooking; PicnicPEC turns local artisanal ingredients into healthy fare; and Big Mike’s BBQ for firing up lip-smacking brisket, ribs, sausage, chicken and pork with a heaping of yummy sides.

Pick Up: Event itinerary ideas from the region’s many year-round festivals, including TASTE, Homegrown County Craft Brewing Festival, Maple in the County, The Great Canadian Cheese Festival and Uncork Canada.

The Grange Winery of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate WineryThe Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery

Vineyard Visits

County Venues: PEC has close to 40 wineries. Most offer group tastings. Many have the on-site capability to host private events, from winemaker’s dinners to special occasions. A few of our event-ready favourites include: The Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery with its spectacular 19th-century barn, event loft and limestone-walled dining terrace; Karlo Estates for its fun wine-education approach and 1805 post-and-beam tasting room barn; the contemporary beauty of Huff Estates, offering an onsite restaurant, 21-room inn, Oeno Gallery and sculpture garden; By Chadsey’s Cairns Winery & Vineyard, a PEC-viticulture pioneer, offering an historic “apple-house” tasting room, a theatre-event space barn, and four-bedroom farmhouse, perfect for retreats.

Perfect For: Itinerary activities, touring, tastings, meetings, weddings and private events

Call On: Prince Edward County’s wine directory for a location map and overview of winery amenities

Pick Up: Cheese and charcuterie at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co., a local producer of award-winning goat and water buffalo cheese. Enjoy onsite under the beautiful outdoor terrace pavilion or arrange for event delivery.

Loch Sloy Holdings Photo courtesy of TasteLoch-Sloy Business Park. Photo courtesy of TASTE

Military Precision

County Venue: Dinner on an airport runway anyone? How about dressing up an airport hangar for gatherings of 500+? Fancy a meeting in an original military-bunker, drill hall or a mess hall? These are the very unique event spaces and ideas at Loch-Sloy Business Park. The former Camp Picton, a WW II air-training base, and home to the AVRO Arrow test planes, was built in 1940. The historic 688-acre site still has 44 of its original buildings many of which are now used by entrepreneurs, artists and businesses, like art gallery Maison DePoivre. In addition to the indoor spaces, use the grounds for teambuilding or the three functional runways for flying in VIP guests.

Perfect For: Large-scale events, festivals, trade shows, photo/film shoots, teambuilding, meetings

Call On: Seasoned Events, a catering company helmed by Chef Scott Royce and Kyle Ostuka, to put the County on a plate, from elegant canapés to multi-course gourmet dinners set in a vineyard. Services include rentals and planning details.

Pick Up: Local, hand-crafted edibles to add to guest goodie bags. Check out the small-batch treats from Cressy Mustard Co., The Prince Edward County Honey Company and Walt’s Sugar Shack maple syrup.

Drake Devonshire PavilionDrake Devonshire Inn’s Pavilion

A Happening Escape

County Venue: Since opening in 2015, the Drake Devonshire Inn has become a major attraction. With edgy décor, quirky art, stylishly mod guestrooms, and attention to hospitality details, the luxe boutique inn (11 rooms plus two suites) is VERY fun! Sitting on Lake Ontario shoreline, the inn is an event planner’s dream with in-house coordination and kitchen teams that are the bomb! Host in the A-frame dining room and bar with its panoramic windows overlooking the lake, the light-filled Glass Box games room-cum-event space, or the cottage-like Pavilion with colourful wall mural. Do cocktails on the waterfront deck. Piggyback on the inn’s event happenings – there’s always something going on – or brainstorm with the event-planning team for your own memory-making activities.

Perfect For: Corporate retreats, meetings, weddings and social gatherings

Call On: Artisanal sausage maker Angelo Bean for Italian cooking classes in his home-based culinary studio. Groups of up to 14 marry local and Mediterranean ingredients in engaging, interactive multi-course workshops. Sessions such as pasta and sausage-making are customizable, with guests enjoying the delicious results at Bean’s hand-made harvest table.

Pick Up: On the interactive learning theme with photo tours by County Outings. Led by local lensman and adventurer Phil Norton, excursions can be tailored from 2 hours to a full-day photo exploration of PEC history, architecture, nature, birding and local attractions.

The-View-at-Picton-Golf-&-Country-Club-The View at Picton Golf & Country Club

Scenic Greens

County Venue: A hidden gem is The View at the Picton Golf & Country Club. The 18-hole course, one of Ontario’s oldest, sits high on an embankment overlooking Picton Bay. The bay and shoreline scenery fill the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling window. An outside deck gives guests a closer view. Two bars service the dining room and front-of-house members’ lounge — perfect for pre-dinner cocktail receptions. Let the kitchen team do the cooking or bring in catering for specialized menus. An onsite coordinator can put tournament and event details into play.

Perfect For: Golf tournaments, meetings, weddings and events

Call On: Floralora Flowers for exquisite arrangements inspired by what’s in season from its sustainably run flower farm in the County. For lush succulents and leafy accents, check out The Parlour Studio.

Pick Up: Guests in a 15-seat horse-drawn trolley from The County Carriage Co. for novel transportation between event destinations, or tours of towns, countryside, wineries and breweries. There’s even a horse-drawn pub crawl! The company can also hitch up its horsepower to carriages, wagons and sleigh.

The Hayloft Photo credit Paul ParsonsThe Hayloft Dancehall

Barn Party

County Venue: Gather the gang in The Hayloft Dancehall’s big red barn. From the owners of The Dakota Tavern, the laid-back, rustic ambience of the restored barn is perfect for a County event. With excellent acoustics, a large dance floor, stage, two bars and lounging areas, inside capacity is 120 seated. Strings of Edison bulb lights give the space a homey glow. A new 1,100-sq- ft. patio expands the space with outdoor options. Caterers can use a small prep area. Or order from the Hayloft’s southern-style BBQ menu. Shuttle service can be arranged. The space is available from May to October.

Perfect For: Corporate events, weddings, cocktail receptions, concerts, film shoots

Call On: County entertainers like Moon Sugar, a party/dance band that rocks the house with wicked cover tunes, multi-instrumentalist Jeremy Kelly, either as a soulful soloist or with a band, and The Reasons, a fun, dynamic ‘50s-‘60s-and beyond trio.

Pick Up: Antiques and curios, or hand-crafted pieces, from pottery and sculptures to jewelry and fine art. PEC’s famed Arts Trail shows you how to wind your way around the island’s many design studios and galleries.

Parsons_Brewing-15Parsons Brewing Company

Brew Haha

County Venue: Parsons Brewing Company is a marvellous spot for country-chic gatherings and tasty brews. A timber-hewn beauty created from two 150-year-old barns that were disassembled, moved and repurposed as a bottle shop and tap room, the farm brewery sits on expansive tract of land. Host events in the fabulous beer garden (Capacity: 70) where two oversized picnic tables are perfect for family-style sit-downs. Receptions can also take over the tasting room and bottle shop. There’s an onsite kitchen serving Mexican and southern comfort cuisine, outdoor BBQ pit and games like ping pong.

Perfect For: Event dining and tastings, weddings, receptions, teambuilding

Call On: Other County craft breweries like Lake on the Mountain Brewing Co.,  Prince Eddy’s Brewing Company, Barley Days Brewery (the area’s first brewer), Midtown Brewing Co., and County Road Beer Company for on-site tastings, private events, brewery tours and delivery of event-sipping suds.

Pick Up: Event permit and park passes to take folks into the dunes of Sandbanks Provincial Park which embraces Lake Ontario plus the shallow, sandy shores of West Lake. Fun for teambuilding, picnics and beach-themed events (of course!).

The CAPEThe CAPE. Photo credit: Marc Polidoro Photography

For Foodies

County Venue: Set to be one of the largest event venues in the area, The CAPE — Culinary Arts Prince Edward — is open for business with the completion of phase one restorations to the historic Ross/McMullen house. Taking the lead from the region’s farm-to-table tourism, on-site cooking classes and curated culinary experiences will be available. The grand circa 1865 building houses a new commercial kitchen with three beautiful main-floor rooms each seating 60. Look to the verandah (Capacity: 170) and spacious lawn (Capacity: 250) for al fresco gatherings. Future plans include the addition of demonstration kitchen/cooking labs, meeting rooms, accommodation and a spacious ballroom seating 300.

Perfect For: Culinary-based learning and tastings, galas, weddings, meetings

Call On: Eph*ra Events for all things event-related. From site-selection suggestions to stylin’ décor these County-based pros are a great go-to for management of event logistics, inspiring ideas and local connections.

Pick Up: The bounty of the County at numerous roadside stands and pick-your-own fields. This is just a smattering of potential cornucopia-laden stops: Hagerman Farms, Campbell’s Orchards, Vicki’s Veggies, and the all-organic goodies of Portico Gardens  and Blue Wheelbarrow Farm .

Karen Orme

Editor at TSEvents

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