Toronto is filled with sensational places and settings for hosting events. However, there are some that truly stand out for various reasons whether it’s for their striking features, unique vibe or role in the community.
Check out this line up of distinctive venues:
Where: Aga Khan Museum
Inspiring Because: With permanent artifact collections, ever-changing exhibits, live performances, lectures and workshops, the museum’s mission is to foster a greater understanding of the contribution that Muslim civilizations have made to world heritage across the centuries.
The Space: This architectural jewel is surrounded by 17 acres of parkland with five reflecting pools and manicured green space fronting the museum’s entrance. Ceilings soar in the light-filled atrium lobby with a glass and filigree-latticed open-roof courtyard taking centre stage. In addition to its exhibition galleries, the museum also features a two-level auditorium, beautifully set with warm textured wood accents and reception lobbies. The Bellerive Room is a Persian-style salon with sumptuous tapestry rugs and furnishings. Floor-to-ceiling windows boasting panoramic views of Toronto and the obelisk of the adjacent Ismaili Centre embrace the second-floor Patrons’ Lounge. Diwan, the on-site restaurant managed by Chef Mark McEwan, features 19th-century wooden panels hand-carved and painted in Damascus.
Event Notes: Host a progressive event. Start with a ceremony in the courtyard, cocktails in the atrium, dinner outside by the reflecting pools ending back in the courtyard with dancing under the stars.
Bonus: The museum’s gift shop will curate takeaway bags with in-house designed items like pottery, ties and scarves handmade by craftspeople in places like Turkey and Syria.
Capacity: Exterior (2000/600 tented), atrium (300), courtyard (125), auditorium (335), Diwan (90), Patron’s Lounge (40), Bellerive Room (40)
Where: Casa Loma
Inspiring Because: This 1914 historic landmark, built on a hilltop perch overlooking the city, is an authentic castle, one of North America’s few.
The Space: Since taking over management of the property, Liberty Entertainment Group has brought the Gothic Revival castle into vogue again with noteworthy décor and a/v upgrades and inventive event programming. The Great Hall, with 60-ft. oak beamed ceiling and 40-ft. bay window, encapsulates stately elegance. Rich wood finishes and an early 1900’s to-the-manor born elegance extends throughout several other main-level event spaces including The Library and The Billiard Room. A light-filled conservatory is a stand out with its marble flooring and stained glass dome ceiling.
Event Notes: Host events outside amid the estate’s 5-acre garden splendour with its lush floral beds, fountains and sculptures. Drink in the view from the terrace or enjoy from within the new glass-enclosed garden event pavilion.
Bonus: Add in a tour or book a teambuilding challenge with the Casa Loma Escape Room Series, a theatrical, interactive way to explore the castle’s rooms and passageways.
Capacity: The Great Hall (250); The Library (300); The Conservatory (150); The Oak Room (80); The Billiard Room (80); Terrace & Garden (200); Glass Pavilion (400); Total venue (1,500)
Where: Bar Raval
Inspiring Because: The warm, undulating interior design, eclectic playlists and Iberian-inspired menu create a vibe that’s just so sublime!
The Space: Seating is spare, apart from the bar and a few wine barrel high-tops and stools scattered around, since stand-up mingling feeds the social energy of this bar’s ambience. Instead, a Gaudi-inspired Art Nouveau installation of magnificent mahogany pieces fluidly curve around the walls, bar and ceiling enveloping the room in a warm womb of rippled wood that invites guests to lean into its soft, sinuous edges. Stunning to say the least! In summer, two patios open up with the side terrace offering a raw bar.
Event Notes: From morning to night, Bar Raval serves a taste of Spain with cured meats and cheeses, traditional pintxos (toothpick-skewered snacks) and bocadillos (small sandwiches) arranged across the bar, in-house canned seafood delicacies, served in the tin, and beautifully executed tapas plates.
Bonus: Chef’s Grant van Gameren (Bar Raval and Bar Isabel) and Chris Brown of Citizen Catering are joining forces in early 2017 to extend their distinctive culinary concepts through Victor Dries (website coming soon), a new catering company.
Capacity: Interior restaurant (40); front patio (20); side terrace (30)
Where: Artscape Gibraltar Point
Inspiring Because: The Toronto Island venue is one of several Artscape sites that the not-for-profit organization has transformed into accessible community hubs where cultural programming is sustained through affordable rental and user fees revenues.
The Space: The century-old building, once the old Island School, is home to an ever-changing roster of in-resident artists. Inside, the windowed simplicity of the Beacon and Fireplace Rooms, adjoined by a hallway, are blank canvases for all kinds of events, from workshops and meetings to receptions and seated dining. Outside, the expansive green oasis of the West and South Lawns, with beach access, has hosted everything from music festivals and teambuilding to outdoor retreats and dining under the stars. An outdoor fireplace, fire pits and pretty overhead lighting trellises are among the amenities. Pull the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse into play with tours and themes – reportedly it’s haunted!
Event Notes: Dock a private charter at the base of the lighthouse for easy orchestration of guest arrivals. Incorporate an art activity into an event or retreat with an artist talk, tour or hands-on session.
Bonus: A large in-house inventory of tables, chairs, dishware and more saves the hassle and cost of transporting rentals across the water.
Capacity: Beacon & Fireplace Rooms (200 each); West Lawn (1,500); South Lawn (300); Total capacity (2,000)
Where: The Richard L. Hearn Generating Station. Email for details and bookings.
Inspiring Because: There couldn’t be a more raw, gritty, industrial setting with ugly-duckling-to-beautiful-swan potential than this 21-million-cu.-ft. decommissioned power station for staging large events, from cultural-driven gatherings like the Luminato Festival to the unconventional scene of a swanky seated dinner.
The Space: Located by the water in Toronto’s Port Lands, this landmark icon, with its towering 700-ft. smokestack and 5.6-acre building footprint, is cavernous. The ceiling is 160 ft. high! A labyrinth of iron and steel girders, beams, pipes and stairs crisscross and arch above, around and across the brick and concrete-based interior. Passageway tunnels have depth-of-field visual appeal, especially when cast in gorgeous lighting hues. There are no fancy names here identifying designated event spaces. It’s all a matter of eyeing up the potential and adapting to the needs. Click here to read how the 2016 Luminato Festival, in partnership with Toronto architectural firm Partisans, transformed the Hearn into event-welcoming space.
Event Notes: While it takes a budget to stage events here, lighting, creative materials and props, like the 48 cargo containers used for the 2016 Luminato Festival, go a long way. From an audio-visual perspective, there’s definitely no shortage of beams and girders to pull into rigging action!
Bonus: Party in the place that’s set the scene for television and films like Pacific Rim, Robocop remake, RED, Orphan Black and more.
Capacity: 10,000+ proven capacity
Where: Palais Royale Ballroom
Inspiring Because: Musical greats from Duke Ellington to the Rolling Stones and generations of ballroom dancers have made the scene here since the former boat-building factory converted to a full-time music and dance hall in 1932.
The Space: This waterfront beauty, with views east and west along the shoreline, pays glorious tribute to days gone by with preserved Art Deco nuances and a Gatsbyesque vibe. A recent refurbishment by Pegasus Hospitality Group refreshed the interior with a slightly more contemporary edge including gorgeous new chandeliers dropping from The Ballroom’s barrel-vaulted ceiling along with new furnishings. A bank of French doors to the walkout verandah frame Lake Ontario. Extend the space with a VIP area in the Red Room, right behind the stage, and cocktails in the Parlour. There’s also a Lower Lounge that can be pulled into event action.
Event Notes: A two-tiered patio, extending to the water’s edge with a custom tent spanning both levels, is a versatile and spectacular setting for warm-weather gatherings.
Bonus: Dish up food truck-style eats from Pegasus Hospitality’s The Food Studio’s mobile trailer with pop-up marquees for event messaging and menu.
Capacity: Ballroom (800); Parlour (150); Red Room (25) Lower Lounge (60); Patio (318)