ontario place toronto

Why Ontario Place is the new hot spot for events

Food festivals are taking over Ontario Place this summer. Toronto's former amusement park on the water is in the process of getting an extreme makeover, but as it awaits its facelift, it's becoming a destination for all sorts of events.

Ontario Place, the amusement park, shut down in 2012. Since then, Torontonians and tourists mainly accessed the space via Echo Beach and the former Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, now called the Budweiser Stage.

"Ontario Place over the years has been pretty stagnant there hasn’t been much going on there until recently," says Brad Wishen from TasteToronto.

He and his team landed on Ontario Place because they needed a bigger venue for their second annual Taco Fest - as well their new beer, bourbon and BBQ fest - and he's looking forward to contributing to the revitalization of the site.

Philip Suos, who runs the Mac and Cheese Festival as well as the new BBQ Eats Festival notes Ontario Place works for food festivals because it can accommodate large crowds. The Mac and Cheese Festival came under fire when its first ever event in Liberty Village was too small to accommodate thousands of local cheesy pasta lovers.

The West Island, which hosts most of the food events can hold up to 8,700 people.

According to its 2016 to 2018 business plan, Ontario Place uses event rentals as a key revenue driver and aims to, "develop the site as a festival and event space with distinct flexible, multi-purpose applications and features."

This Victoria Day long weekend, the Culinary Ontario Festival will take over Ontario Place as part of the provincial government's sesquicentennial celebrations. And later this summer, phase one of the revitalization efforts will open to the public.

"I think people will really find it a beautiful gathering place," says Ontario's Minister of Tourism, Eleanor McMahon.

Along with this weekend's food fest, Ontario Place played host to the immersive in/Future arts festival and will host myriad events this summer. And even though the Budweiser Stage couldn't open due to Lake Ontario's high water levels, the West Island is dry for now.

Lead photo by

Andrew Williamson


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