Sign up for our newswire newsletter


On the Scene: Exploring Toronto, Canada’s Diversity Capital, Through Venues and Cuisine

Toronto Sign in Nathan Phillips Square

The streets of Toronto’s Kensington Market neighborhood are lined with vintage houses that have been transformed into funky business storefronts.  The walkable community in the heart of Toronto lays claim to being the city’s most vibrant and diverse neighborhood, with indie shops, vintage boutiques and mouthwatering smells wafting from cramped kitchens inside dozens of local restaurants. On the streets of Kensington Market, everyone belongs.

Kensington Market Sign
Kensington Market Sign

But it’s safe to say that wherever you are in Toronto, actually. The city is Canada’s diversity capital and home to more than 250 ethnicities and 170 spoken languages, according to Toronto Global.

On a food tour of the multicultural community with Seed Eat Repeat’s Aashim Aggarwal ( on Instagram), I ate everything from wuxi-style crab and pork xiaolongbao (“soup dumplings”) from Qin’s Garden; spicy beef Jamaican patties from Golden Patty; traditional octopus Takoyaki from Takoyaki6ix; and classic Peruvian ceviche with grouper, crispy plantain, cancha (“corn nuts”), leche de tigre (“broth”) and camote (“sweet potato”) from Latin Taste—all within walking distance of one another.

After tasting all of that within 90 minutes, Toronto’s diversity was deliciously undeniable. 

“New York City is a melting pot,” Aggarwal offered. “Toronto is a mosaic.”

And it surrounds you wherever you go, from boutique hotel properties to diverse local retail and offsite attractions like those that I got to explore on a recent FAM trip with Destination Toronto

Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel

Upon checking into Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel for my weekend in the city, I was greeted with a warm welcome and treats for both myself and my dog. 

Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel Club Boardroom
Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel Club Boardroom

Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel gets its name from truly being in the center of the city, putting guests within walking distance of sites and attractions including Nathan Phillips Square and City Hall, The Eaton Centre, CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, sports arenas and more. Just off the hotel’s front doors is the iconic Queen Street, with its historic buildings, vibrant street life and diverse and local shopping. 

The award-winning Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel is Canada’s largest convention hotel, offering more than 130,000 square feet of meeting space and 60 meeting rooms. The 20,212-square-foot Grand Ballroom can accommodate 3,500 guests for a standing reception or 1,900 banquet-style, and the Grand Ballroom Foyer provides prefunction space for up to 2,000. 

On the hotel’s 43rd floor is the 348-square-foot Club Boardroom, with a permanent boardroom setup for 14 guests to take in some of the best views in Toronto with CN Tower front and center. Take the elevator back down to the lobby and enjoy a handcrafted cocktail in the curated and intimate 43 Down, a bar situated just off the main lobby ideal for informal business meetings or casual social gatherings.

Before heading out to explore the city, I stopped at the hotel’s reimagined cafe experience, Dual Citizen, for my morning coffee while people-watching in the lobby when Canada’s 23rd prime minister, Justin Trudeau, strolled past me and out the hotel’s main doors.

[Related: Historic Eastern Canada Event Venues That Feel Fit for Royalty]

Gladstone House

My Uber made its way down Queen Street and past some of the best shopping in Toronto before stopping in West Queen West in front of Gladstone House, a hotel that’s stood at 1214 Queen St. West since 1889. The 55-room boutique hotel has seen the neighborhood transform into the artistic and culturally diverse community it is today all while ensuring it stays true to its rich history as an iconic architectural landmark. 

Melody Bar at Gladstone House
Melody Bar at Gladstone House

Gladstone House, featured in Michelins’ Toronto Hotel Guide, has been a celebrated boutique hotel for more than 130 years. The space’s restored exposed brick walls are on full display in the 1,152-square-foot ballroom, with space for 250 standing and 100 seated, and once the customizable LED lights are turned on, the walls become illuminated in bright neon light. Open the curtains on the back wall and connect to Bistro + Bar, a 765-square-foot space with warm natural lighting and a capacity of 50 standing or 30 seated. 

While the history of Gladstone House consists of more than a century’s worth of stories to tell, its curated collection of local and regional artwork tells the story of Greater Toronto today. As part of the hotel’s nearly top-to-bottom redesign during the pandemic, Gladstone House called on local artists to share their work for a chance to be featured in rooms throughout the hotel.

The commitment effort rooted in the hotel’s artistic and creative identity received 524 applicants. Currently, 41 of the hotel’s 55 guest rooms feature artwork selected by Gladstone House Curator Lee Petrie alongside two art experts from the community, and a third of the artists self-identify as a person of color, disabled or LGBTQ+, Petrie said. 

“It’s really important for us to have that kind of representation that reflects Toronto’s diversity and can be seen through the hotel,” she added. “Diversity is obviously really important to us here.”

The Drake Hotel North + South Lounge
The Drake Hotel North + South Lounge


The Drake Hotel

Less than a 10-minute walk from Gladstone House is another artistic boutique property, The Drake Hotel. Like the Queen West neighborhood it calls home, The Drake Hotel is rooted in contemporary art, culture, diversity and the celebration of its local surroundings and community, and has been since opening its doors in 2004. 

Offering 51 guest rooms—19 in the Classic Wing and 32 in the Modern Wing—The Drake Hotel provides an intimate setting in historic buildings that have undergone updates to offer something timeless yet contemporary. The property has been described as being part hotel, part exhibition space with a cafe, restaurant, outdoor bar area and hidden underground music venue.

Depending on which door you enter, your experience at The Drake Hotel will change. Enter through the corner Drake Cafe on the main floor of the Classic Wing and you’ll find yourself surrounded by lush greenery and the smell of freshly brewed coffee. The Drake Cafe can host 30 for a fully seated meal or 40 standing, and when combined with the south patio can host up to 80 for a cocktail reception. 

Sky Yard at The Drake Hotel
Sky Yard at The Drake Hotel

Connecting the Classic Wing to the Modern Wing is the North + South Lounge, featuring a main stage for live music or presentations and enough space for 130 guests seated or 240 standing. When combined, the lounges are ideal for experiencing The Drake Hotel’s famous sushi offering, kitschy food stations and “mini meals” paired with samples from the hotel’s exclusive cocktail program. 

The main floor Lounge is outfitted with green leather banquet seating, vintage finishes and wall-to-wall art from local and international artists. Separated, the North Lounge features custom industrial-inspired lights and space for 40 seated or 60 standing, while the South Lounge offers space for up to 180 in a high/low approach with elevated booth seating and standing cocktail tables. 

Directly above the lounges is the Sky Yard, The Drake Hotel’s famous rooftop patio situated in between the Classic Wing and Modern Wing. In the warmer months, the Sky Yard can host 150 standing, and 70 standing in the fall and winter with heaters to keep warm. The Sky Yard is decorated with seasonally rotating art showcasing the cultures and creativity of Toronto’s diverse local artists alongside some international artists and connects directly to Room 222, a private nook that comfortably hosts 16 seated or 24 standing for a private space off the busy Sky Yard area.

And finally, down a few staircases and through a dark hallway, is The Drake Hotel’s Underground, an intimate space equipped with a full stage, complete audiovisual support, two bars and customizable capabilities for events of up to 150 guests. The Underground has been hailed as one of the best music venues in Toronto, hosting performers including Leon Bridges, Kid Cudi and Billie Eilish. 

[Related: On the Scene: Destination Canada’s Legendary Winter Incentive Experience in Quebec City]


Since launching in April 2019, the dynamic and unique STACKT Market—a 100,000-square-foot public gathering space made entirely of shipping containers—has reimagined and reinvented what it means to grow and create together.


The award-winning Toronto flagship has featured more than 1,600 brands in residence since opening, showcasing local art and retail from a number of diverse suppliers based in Canada’s diversity capital. STACKT claims to be “much more than a market,” as it encourages opportunity, inspiration and genuine connection while striving to always offer something new to discover. 

The unique architectural design of STACKT Market offers a setting unlike anyplace else, with views of the downtown Toronto cityscape that serve as the perfect backdrop for outdoor events in the heart of the King West neighborhood. The 130-plus shipping containers used to build the site offer a microbrewery, three kitchens, seven outdoor patios and additional indoor event spaces including the 585-square-foot Workshop, with a capacity of 44 standing, and the 1,800-square-foot Studio, which can host up to 100. 

STACKT Market’s Horseshoe is a dedicated event space featuring a flexible configuration of three indoor rooms connecting to an intimate outdoor patio called the Horseshoe Lookout, a 1,200-square-foot space with a capacity of 100. 

Plus, hosting a meeting or event at STACKT Market gives attendees the opportunity to shop and support local, with more than 25 retail units and a dedicated portfolio of diverse pop-up vendors to choose from. 

Little Canada

Across the street from Yonge-Dundas Square and The Eaton Centre—two of the busiest areas in downtown Toronto and where the diversity of both its residents and visitors shines as bright as the LED billboards—is Little Canada, “a celebration of all things Canada” that sends visitors on a journey through the sights and sounds of the country’s popular destinations on a miniature scale. 

Petit Québec City at Little Canada
Petit Québec City at Little Canada

Walking through the exhibit typically takes 90 minutes, and the experience encourages visitors to tap into their “childlike sense of wonder, discovery and curiosity” as they explore Canada like a giant stepping from city to city across the country.

Little Canada offers more than 45,000 square feet of open-concept space available for private events and a full-venue capacity of 500 as well as three separate event rooms with space for 20-25 guests. Groups of up to 200 can book the three event rooms and lower level of Little Canada for a cocktail reception, and unique event add-ons include teambuilding workshops in which groups create their own custom scene for their Little Me’s to live, Littlization Station packages and custom scavenger hunts. 

Experiencing the “mosaic” of Toronto made me feel like a Little Me myself, surrounded by people and places so diverse it reminded me of just how big our world can be. 


Destination Toronto
(416) 203-2600

Read this next: A First-Hand Look at Unique Offsite Venues in Toronto

Profile picture for user Taylor Smith
About the author
Taylor Smith | Content Developer, Destinations and Features

Taylor Smith joined Stamats in May 2022 as a content developer, destinations and features for Meetings Today. Smith has experience covering everything from travel to breaking news and graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in news and magazine journalism. Previously, she’s written for St. Louis Magazine and worked as an editorial assistant and apprentice for Aubree Nichols, who has been published in premier publications such as The New York TimesELLE and The Los Angeles Times.