Toronto’s planning community is definitely a fair-weather friend when it comes to organizing events in the great outdoors. Out of necessity, of course! However, when the sun shines down and the temps soar high, we’re there, taking the party outside!
Here are a few unique alfresco venues and activities to help make the most of summer entertaining:
Where: The Rectory Café is located on Ward’s Island within a five-minute walk from the ferry docks.
The Setting: An enchanting spot nestled beneath a canopy of trees and a stone’s throw from the boardwalk and lake. The expansive garden patio is sublime, set with colourful flowers, lush foliage and pretty wrought iron tables and chairs for up to 180 guests. Two draped gazebos on the restaurant’s upper deck offer intimate dining for up to a dozen people each. A large open area on the patio’s east side is easily configured with long tables for communal dining. The surrounding wooden fence railing has a ledge that makes an ideal rustic bartop for resting drinks.
Activity Musts: Stroll the island’s nearby residential streets lined with charming cottage-style homes. Pair a pre- or post-restaurant gathering with a bike ride around the island, a paddle along the inner channels or fun and games in the vast parkland.
Where: The Lakeview Terrace of the Westin Harbour Castle Toronto.
The Setting: Cast your gaze on Toronto Islands and the Inner Harbour from the second-floor perch of the hotel’s terrace. Redone last year, the outdoor patio sports a new, contemporary look with comfy lounge areas, and sleek steel tables and chairs. Accessible either through the hotel’s Harbour Ballroom or main lobby, the space is completely reconfigurable for different set-ups plus is tentable. Illuminated bar and landscape fixtures light up the evenings.
Activity Musts: Sip cocktails by the lake after a day of conferencing or touring the city and nearby Harbourfront neighbourhood.
The Setting: The park’s heart-shaped spring-fed lake is angling-ready, amply stocked each season with rainbow trout. Ten picnic areas with capacities ranging up to 350 accommodate catering, tent set ups and all kinds of entertainment. Park reps will even help coordinate logistics for you! A pool and themed splash pad get two thumbs up for annual corporate family picnics. Take the team hiking along great trails.
Activity Musts: Enjoy a three-hour tour of the park’s forests with Treetop Trekking, a zip line and aerial obstacle park that opened onsite last summer. Advanced booking required.
Where: Holland Marsh Wineries, a picturesque 22-acre winery in Newmarket, ON.
The Setting: The winery’s rustic, two-storey Clubhouse is a wonderful indoor hosting option for up to 200 guests, however, the beautiful grounds and surrounding vineyards offer several alfresco sites for warm-weather events. Set up teambuilding events in scenic tableaux such as the gazebo with its tranquil waterfall pond and vineyard vista. Locate intimate events of up to 20 people on the Tasting Room’s covered garden patio set with picnic and trellis benches, or a cocktail reception on the Clubhouse’s flagstone terrace where a majestic stone fireplace presides.
Activity Musts: Drink wine, of course! Arrange a tasting and a winemaster-led tour of the production facilities. Consider a helicopter fly-in for VIPs.
Where: The Toronto Zoo is one of the world’s largest zoos with 5,000 animals and 500 species.
The Setting: Reserve one of several private picnic areas scattered throughout the grounds and arrange for BBQ catering. For more exclusive events, there’s the Wildlife Marquee, set between the Giant Panda Experience and Splash Island, which accommodates up to 300 guests. Dressed with carpet, ceiling fans and lighting, the sides are removable to bring the outdoors in. Private viewing time with the Giant Pandas is available.
Activity Musts: Custom design a teambuilding experience around the zoo’s Serengeti Bush Camp with an overnight under the stars in authentic African tents.
Where: Evergreen Brick Works, an experiential environmental learning hub for all things green and urban sustainable, nestled within the Don River valley at the foot of the Bayview extension.
The Setting: Lush parkland, wetlands, wildflower meadows and forested ravines (over 27 acres!) encircle the Brick Works’ cluster of historic industrial buildings that offer versatile indoor and outdoor hosting options. The covered open-air Holcim Gallery and tentable Koerner Gardens are spectacular warm-weather backdrops for gatherings of up to 2,000. Other outdoor spaces include the Frances and Tim Price Terrace overlooking the ponds, and the Pavilions which are a unique blank canvas for creating stunning events.
Activity Musts: Oh so many to dos, from hiking and biking to skating and outdoor classrooms! Piggyback on the centre’s educational programming and its many outdoor culinary and arts festivals.