Toronto: I Know This Little Place

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PETERSON FIN ART

For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews a planner for their choices of compelling, high value destinations

PLANNER: KATEHERINE SMALL
Association Manager
National Association of Temple Administrators
Vancouver, WA
Next to the University of Toronto, just a short cab ride from downtown, the Yorkville district was once Toronto’s bohemian base in the ’60s where artists and authors from Neil Young to Hemingway lived. The cozy little cultured community eventually evolved into Canada’s highest valued commercial real estate, with a shopaholic love fest of little vintage storefronts, Provençale art galleries and every imaginable designer shop from Diesel to Zegna. The many restaurants parallel Toronto’s demographic diversity, considered to be one of the most multicultural in the world, and the bevy of colorful gardens and landscaped parks are filled with crabapple trees and wildflowers.

For group biz, Yorkville is anchored by the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, InterContinental Toronto Yorkville, Park Hyatt Toronto and The Hazelton Hotel, a 5-diamond boutique.

Last November, 135 delegates with the National Association of Temple Administrators convened at the 380-room Four Seasons for a full slate of educational and networking sessions. The group consisted of executive directors and managers of synagogues and Jewish temples from the US and Canada, who’ve previously gathered in cities such as Washington DC, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Houston. This year is Portland.

“After doing a number of site inspections, we chose the Four Seasons Toronto because it provides the quality, service level and attention to detail that our attendees have come to expect,” says Katherine Small, association manager. “We try to make the event feel a little special, and generally we prefer hotels that are a little more boutiquey.”

The final night gala dinner was held in one of the hotel’s ballrooms trimmed out with fine linens and fresh flowers. Small says the food was “impeccable” and the staff was exceedingly accommodating with her group’s wide variety of dietary needs.

But this is also an active group who like to hit the streets.

“They love to go out and explore and see a new community,” says Small, “and Yorkville has a very quaint village feel so you can walk everywhere. There are so many different places to go close by, the variety of things to do is almost endless.”

That includes the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Bata Shoe Museum, showcasing footwear from Classic Greece-era sandals to Elvis’ blue suede shoes.

Was that cool, Kathy?

“Oh it was great! It’s such a unique place to go, it really drew all of us in.”

Another night, the group took in a show at Canada’s famous Second City comedy venue where Dan Aykroyd and Tina Fey honed their craft. That was preceded by dinner at the adjacent Wayne Gretzky Restaurant, owned by the Canadian hockey hero.

For fine dining, Small suggests dinner at the 80-seat Trattoria Sotto Sotto near the hotel, where she went with 20 people.

“It has wonderful Italian food, and when we were there, there was some big rock musician rapper person,” she laughs. “I had no idea who he was but the staff was all abuzz about him…. We had a lot of fun because it wasn’t stuffy at all, and there was just all these incredibly different types of people.”

Small also likes the Moroco chocolate shop, where she bought gifts for the Four Seasons’ staff.

What does she remember most about Toronto?

“Everything is so clean and nicely landscaped, and people there take a lot of pride in that,” says Small. “Even the metro and cabs, it’s not like when you’re in them, you can’t wait to get out of them. That’s just really refreshing, you know?”

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