Welcome to the Toronto Destination Guide, specifically written with meeting planners in mind. With a unique combination of stunning skyscrapers and eclectic neighborhoods, this major Canadian city ranks as the most popular choice for U.S.-sponsored association meetings outside of the United States. The city is rated in the top 10 of conference destinations on the continent, in great part thanks to its millions of square feet of meeting and trade show space. It is also rated as one of the safest major cities in North America, which gives Toronto event venues an added advantage when wooing group business.
Toronto is convenient and accessible, so it's obvious why meeting planning in Toronto is so alluring. An impressive 60 percent of the U.S. population is within a one-hour flight of Toronto. Canadian airlines that have regularly scheduled flights between the U.S. and Toronto include Air Canada, Porter Airlines, and WestJet. Major U.S. airlines flying directly to Pearson International Airport include American Airlines, Delta, Continental Airways, and US Airways. Airlines with direct flights to Toronto from other parts of the world include Air France, Lufthansa, British Airways, Emirates Airlines (from Dubai), Etihad Airways (from Abu Dhabi), and Turkish Airlines. Groups flying directly to Toronto on Porter Airlines from other parts of Canada, New York, Chicago, Boston, Burlington, Vermont, Washington, DC or Myrtle Beach, land at the central Billy Bishop Toronto Island Airport.
There are several large Toronto convention venues. The downtown area's largest convention facility is the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which comprises more than 600,000 square feet of space conveniently located within walking distance of over 12,000 hotel rooms as well as the waterfront, public transportation stops, shops and restaurants. Environmentally-friendly Exhibition Place, where The Direct Energy Centre is located, is Canada's largest event complex. Boasting one million square feet of flexible exhibit space, The Direct Energy Centre attracts over 3.8 million visitors a year.
Airport proximity is key to both the International Centre and the neighboring Toronto Congress Centre, both of which offer 500,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. Additionally, Pearson Convention Centre, a 60,000-square-foot facility, offers the latest in cutting-edge technology. Aside from the array of convention centers, Toronto has a variety of event venues capable of creating memorable meeting, conference and event experiences – another reason why event planning in Toronto continues to grow.
And with approximately 40,000 hotel rooms throughout the city, accommodations abound in the Toronto area. From the old-world elegance of the historic inns to large familiar chains to chic boutique hotels, Toronto runs the gamut when it comes to hotel choices. With new hotels cropping up across the city, the options are limitless. Luxury hotels in the downtown core include the Fairmont Royal York, Harbour Castle Westin, Le Royal Meridien King Edward Hotel, and the Sutton Place Hotel; Trump International Hotel Toronto & Tower, Thompson Toronto, the Ritz-Carlton Toronto and Le Germain, a boutique hotel. Other boutique hotels include the Windsor Arms and Wellesley Manor Boutique Hotel. High-end hotels under construction in Toronto include the Shangri-La and the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences.
Major event venues include the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts (formerly the Okeefe Centre) with a 3,191-capacity auditorium; Roy Thomson Hall with its 2,630-capacity theater; and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, which can accommodate group events of up to 2,163 people. Other excellent choices for large events include historical Massey Hall (built in 1894) with its 2,753-seat theater, and North York's Toronto Center for the Performing Arts. The Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex is also an ideal space for groups that range in size from 150 to 3,000 people.
Phase II of the MaRs Centre in the MaRs Discovery District is under construction. Toronto's historical event venues include Estates of Sunnybrook, Evergreen Brickworks, the Carlu, 1 King West, the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, the George Brown House, Casa Loma, Spadina House, and the Miller Lash House. Toronto's waterfront venues include Harbourfront Centre, Palais Royale, the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, the Argonaut Rowing Club, the Atlantis Pavilions at Ontario Place, and the Toronto Island Yacht Club.
In proximity to downtown hotels, Toronto, which is Canada's number-one tourist destination, has many sites and attractions that offer a taste of the city's distinctive character. These include Harbourfront Centre, the Distillery District, Historic Fort York, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the iconic CN Tower (with its new Edge Walk). Ontario Place is partially closed for renovation. Areas close to downtown that visitors will want to explore include Chinatown and Kensington Market. Outside the downtown core, Toronto's must-see attractions include Black Creek Pioneer Village, Canada's Wonderland, Ontario Science Centre, Casa Loma and the Toronto Zoo.
A city proud of its green accomplishments, Toronto has an extensive network of parks, gardens and green spaces. Many of them have event venues. Downtown, visitors will find the Toronto Music Garden, Riverdale Farm, and, a short ferry ride away, Toronto Islands. Scarborough Bluffs and Guild Inn Gardens at Guildwood Park are in the East. In the West, there is High Park, James Gardens and Humber Bay (which even has its own Butterfly Habitat). To the north, visitors can explore Edwards Gardens and the Toronto Botanical Garden with its outdoor spaces and greenhouses. Other greenhouses include Allan Gardens Conservatory in the downtown core and, to the east, the Conservatory at Centennial Park. The 22-kilometer Martin Goodman Trail, an area reserved for walking, running, cycling and roller blading, stretches along the waterfront.
Toronto is spearheading the movement to preserve green spaces and promote a more environmentally-conscious tourism industry. These initiatives allow meeting and convention groups to take advantage of its many eco-friendly facilities and event venues.
Toronto's reputation as the most multi-cultural city in the world is reflected in its vibrant and expansive art scene. Over 125 museums (including the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum), 50 ballet and dance companies, 6 opera companies, and two symphony orchestras contribute to this thriving cultural mecca. The city also has a phenomenal stage presence. Boasting over 90 sites for events, theatrical venues include the Ed Mirvish Theatre (formerly the Canon Theatre), the Princess of Wales, the Panasonic, and the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Toronto is recognized as the third-largest theater center in the English-speaking world after New York City and London. Major arts organizations include the Canadian Stage Company, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the National Ballet of Canada and the Canadian Opera Company.
Additionally, the city is the home base for Alliance Atlantis, the largest movie and television Production Company in Canada. Media outlets including CTVglobemedia and Rogers Communications are based in Toronto. Toronto is also known throughout the world for the elaborate festivals that it hosts, including the Scotiabank Caribana Festival, North America's largest Caribbean-style carnival, as well as the Toronto International Film Festival, the 2nd largest film festival in the world.
Sports enthusiasts can take in basketball at the Air Canada Centre, hockey at the Air Canada Centre and Ricoh Coliseum at Exhibition Place, and baseball at the Rogers Centre (formerly Skydome). Every summer, Tennis Canada presents the Rogers Cup at York University's Rexall Centre.
Major equestrian events include the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair's Royal Horse Show at The Ricoh Coliseum and the PACE Polo for Heart charity tournament that takes place in Gormley, north of the city in the GTA's York Region. A number of show jumping events take place throughout the year at the Caledon Equestrian Park in Palgrave. Iron Horse Equestrian Complex (formerly Hendervale Equestrian Centre) in Burlington has hosted hunter and jumper shows and equine expos.
There are small skiing and snowboarding facilities at Centennial Park in Etobicoke and Earl Bales Park in North York. For serious skiing and snowboarding visitors will need to venture outside the GTA to the Blue Mountains, Horseshoe Valley or Mount St. Louis Moonstone.
Finally, as the heart of finance in Canada, Toronto serves as the regional headquarters for all of the Big Five banks: Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. In addition, several prominent corporations call the city home including Thomson Corporation, Bayer Inc., Xerox Canada Inc., Procter & Gamble Inc., Kraft Foods Canada. The area is also home to a number of major colleges and universities including the University of Toronto, York University, Ryerson University and Ontario College of Art and Design. Toronto's universities and colleges have event venues for rent.
View the other pages in the Toronto Destination Guide to learn more information about event and meeting planning in Toronto.