There is something simply sublime about hosting events in museums. Not only do history and culture combine for a unique setting backdrop, but the opportunity to enjoy a private viewing of extraordinary collections and memorabilia goes a long way in enticing positive RSVPs from guests.
If you’re looking for museum-style event cachet, check out the following:
Royal Ontario Museum
A major city attraction, the Royal Ontario Museum is well-heeled and -versed in event hosting with several spectacular spaces and galleries on each of its five levels that can accommodate intimate gatherings of 10 to grand galas for 2,000. Among the settings is the Hyacinth Gloria Chen Crystal Court, the 8,000-sq.-ft. four-storey atrium that visually melds the museum’s old and new architectural aesthetics and combines with other main-level hosting areas for up to 1,800 people.
Dine with dinosaurs on level two, while stunning decorative arts through the ages backdrop events on the third floor. The RBC Foundation Glass Room on four, with its double-height ceiling, is a hidden gem for up to 100. On the top level, C5 Restaurant/Lounge is ideal for breakfast or evening events and catching great sunsets. A lower level theatre accommodates up to 300.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame may be as close as we come to the sport this season as players and owners continue at lockout loggerheads. Make the Stanley Cup and other hallowed memorabilia the centrepiece for events in the Esso Great Hall (Capacity: 225), a spectacular heritage-steeped space beneath a gorgeous stained glass domed ceiling. Two small boardrooms fit up to a dozen people, and a theatre can be flexibly configured for 100.
Full facility rental for up to 1,000 guests is also available, allowing food stations to be staggered throughout the museum and the interactive game areas open for on-site entertainment and fun. Add-ons include guest photos with the Stanley Cup, custom-branded hockey puck giveaways and guest appearances by NHL VIPs. Tourney silverware is also available for travelling exhibitions.
Museum of Inuit Art
Celebrate amid the art and historical artifacts of Canada’s True North at the Museum of Inuit Art located on the ground floor of Toronto Harbourfront Centre’s Queen’s Quay Terminal overlooking the lake. Canada’s only public museum for Inuit art south of the Artic offers a showcase for permanent and rotating collections of Inuit artists, past and present.
The 8,000-sq.-ft. venue accommodates over 190 guests. Light-filled and airy with floor-to-ceiling windows, the white-and-glass interior design evokes the ice flows, snow drifts and wind-swept tundra of the Canadian Arctic. The collection ranges from sculptures to ceramics, prints and wall hangings. Interactive talks and guided tours can be layered into special event rentals.
Bata Shoe Museum
Housing a collection that spans 4,500 years of footwear fashion, the Bata Shoe Museum is a uniquely engaging venue. Check out Elton John’s platform boots and Marilyn Monroe’s red stilettos while learning about the evolution of footwear function and style from different cultures and eras.
The museum’s striking four-storey glassed-in atrium towers over reception area space. Dress the main floor lobby with drama and design for gatherings up to 80. The lower level lobby and adjoining studio accommodates up to 200 reception-style. Full facility rental for gatherings of up to 300 gives guests time to wander through the exhibits. Guided tours also available.
Toronto Historic Museums
Ten distinctive heritage museums curated by the City of Toronto are a haven for history buffs and special events alike. Fort York National Historic Site is among the largest, with defensive walls enclosing seven acres and eight historic buildings. The grounds accommodate fresh-air events for up to 5,000 and the barracks offer gala reception space for 150. A new visitor’s centre is slated to open next year.
The beautiful manicured grounds and gardens of Spadina Museum also set a spectacular scene for warm-weather tented gatherings. For something artfully unique, look to the Todmorden Mills Heritage Site nestled in the scenic Don Valley. Along with outdoor events amid picnic areas, meadows and walking trails, a purpose-built reception space within the PaperMill Theatre and Gallery can play host to events of up to 150.
Host events inside or outside at the Markham Museum. Open year-round, the buildings and gardens within its 25-acres of protected parkland date back to different eras and uses while also showcasing technology’s impact on the community’s suburban-to-urban evolution. Check out the museum’s interactive teambuilding activities in its textile lab, old print shop and blacksmiths.
Transportation Hall is among several event-friendly buildings and areas. At 4,000 sq. ft., the room can house a 150-guest sit-down with on-site catering kitchen. Fire up the corporate BBQ around a covered pavilion that seats 120 and a bandstand holding up to 40. Ample surrounds invite up to 500 to enjoy. An onsite chapel with reception hall, a small boardroom, an old railway station and loads of gardens are added pluses.
Located across from the Four Seasons Centre at the crossroads of Queen West and University Avenue, the 1822 Georgian-style Campbell House Museum is the oldest remaining building from the original town of York. Each room has a different character furnished with period vignettes that can be cleared or adapted for private event use. There are six working fireplaces throughout.
Combining the lower level’s historic kitchen and dining room is a favourite option for cocktail receptions of up to 85 people. The main floor reception and drawing room fits groups of 85. Five floor-to-ceiling windows grace the second-storey ballroom, a versatile space for up to 80 guests. Beautifully landscaped grounds make the perfect backdrop for tented events for over 500.
A turn-of-the-century castle on a hill overlooking the city, Casa Loma’s majestic building and five-acre grardens are a favourite for staging film shoots, galas and weddings. The historical landmark offers exquisite architectural elements and is filled with opulent furnishings, fabrics, and artwork.
Three stunning main floor rooms combine for large events of up to 550 guests. The Great Hall, Gothic-inspired with its 60-ft. oak beam ceiling, sculpted pillars and towering bay window, opens to the warm, handsome aesthetics of the wood paneled Library. In The Conservatory, an Italian stained glass dome ceiling, marble floors and leaded windows create a breathtaking setting. The third-floor of the castle also offers two smaller function rooms accommodating from 8 to 70.
MZTV Museum of Television
The medium is the message according to Marshall McLuhan, or in the case of Toronto’s MZTV Museum of Television the medium is both message and venue. Founded by media impresario Moses Znaimer, the collection of historical television sets and boob-tube ephemera is currently on the move from its former home on Queen Street West to new digs within Zoomer Media’s Liberty Village head office.
Slated to reopen spring 2013, the main-floor open-plan museum will be available for private events of up to 100 guests, complete with catering kitchen, separate entrance, and a ready-made communication theme and backdrop. Along with television sets from throughout the ages, the 10,000-plus piece collection includes archives of manuals, books and old TV advertisements, milestone moments and memorabilia such as Felix the Cat.