Toronto heats up as the temperature cools down. Cozy patios, twinkling festive lights and an abundance of natural spaces will get your visiting group members bundling up and out enjoying Toronto, all year-round.
Something magical happens in Toronto as the cooler weather arrives. We love that very first burst of autumn colour, annual holiday festivals and sunshiny spring days. Expect a warm Toronto welcome, no matter what time of year your group visits.
We know Torontonians are enthusiastic about patio season, but who could have predicted the crazy popularity of CaféTO? Launched in 2020, CaféTO helps cafés, restaurants and bars expand their outdoor dining space onto sidewalks, curb lanes and other public areas. More than 1,200 restaurants created over 12 linear kilometres of lively dining experiences during 2021 and some restaurants offer heated sidewalk dining during winter.
The Yorkville Royal Sonesta got in on the cool-weather patio trend four years ago with heated domes that operate from mid-October through to March and accommodate as many as five guests each, says Shaun Pearson, director, sales and marketing. “Some clients set up different food and beverage stations in each dome as a dine around for their guests,” Pearson explains. “I think people want to have a unique local experience, and our domes offer a very intimate vibe.”
BlueBlood Steakhouse has eight pods to keep dining guests cozy, says Nick Di Donato, president and CEO of hospitality management company Liberty Entertainment Group. “We can now extend our patio season until about mid-November, and in the spring we’re looking at opening them in April,” Di Donato explains. “I think a lot of Toronto restaurants are doing that — turning their patios into almost year-round spaces.”
Room to move
If you’re looking for unique meeting and event venues that open onto wide open spaces, Toronto’s got you covered.
The Aga Khan Museum uses the outdoors as a canvas for exhibitions. Its exterior walls were recently lit up with public art projections created by OCAD University students as part of BigArtTO, and the museum hosted an outdoor photography exhibition based on Christopher Wilton-Steer’s 40,000-km expedition along the Silk Road. The museum is an inspired choice for corporate functions, board meetings or training sessions with an assortment of meeting spaces, including a room inspired by a Persian salon and a glass-enclosed courtyard.
The Toronto Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals and 10 km of walking trails as well as a variety of year-round options for conferences, meetings and receptions. Add on interactive discovery stations, meet-the-keeper talks and team-building activities such as a zoo-wide scavenger hunt, or the Gorilla Climb Ropes Course.
Get ready for frosty fun
Toronto gets all twinkly as the festive season rolls around and nowhere more so than in the Distillery Historic District where the magical Distillery Winter Village runs from mid-November to December 31. Stroll the cobblestone streets beneath canopies of sparkling lights while exploring more than 75 stores, cafés and restaurants. The Distillery District offers a unique selection of historic spaces for private meetings and events, including the Archeo courtyard patio, Distillery District Loft and the 7,500-sq.-ft. Fermenting Cellar.
The city core boasts numerous public skating rinks close to conference and meeting venues, but you can’t get any more downtown than the rink at Nathan Phillips Square. The location offers skate and locker rentals as well as opportunities to take selfies with Toronto City Hall or the illuminated 3D TORONTO sign as a backdrop. A bit further west, the Bentway’s Skate Trail, located underneath the elevated Gardiner Expressway, is a 220-metre, figure-eight trail within walking distance of Fort York National Historic Site.
If your group is inspired by their time on the ice, check out the Hockey Hall of Fame, home of the famed Stanley Cup and a popular spot for corporate functions and award ceremonies.
The colourful city
You can see why Toronto is called a “city within a park” as you discover its many lush green spaces, ravines and waterways.
Spring is cherry blossom time and two of the more popular spots to see the delicate pink spectacle are Trinity Bellwoods Park and High Park’s Cherry Lane.
In summer, Toronto Island Park is a mere 10-minute ferry ride across the harbour, but a world away from city bustle thanks to vast parkland (where group picnicking is welcome), numerous walking paths, clean beaches, a pint-sized amusement park, a lakeside boardwalk and a charming, car-free residential neighbourhood. Rent bicycles, canoes, kayaks or stand-up paddleboards on-site, or enjoy the park’s PDGA-certified disc golf course. For photographers: Toronto Island Park is the best vantage point for panoramic views of the city skyline.
Catch the city’s colourful transition into autumn at Evergreen Brick Works. Located in the heart of Toronto’s ravine system, the former industrial site showcases groundbreaking urban sustainability practices and offers a unique collection of heritage spaces available for conferences, symposiums and other group functions.