If you want to get outdoors this season without schlepping to the cottage, you’re in luck: Toronto’s private clubs make for pretty perfect summer staycations. Below, we narrow the list down to three that come with loads of outdoor and indoor activities. Though the initiation fees may be steep, it’s still way cheaper than that property on Lake Muskoka.
The Boulevard Club
~ A paradise for boaters and non-boaters alike ~
When is a yacht club not a yacht club? When it’s a quick hop from the financial district and features spin classes, two pools and an indoor basketball court. You’ll find the Boulevard Club on the shores of Lake Ontario between High Park and the CNE. And yes, you can park your yacht there (there’s a waiting list for the privilege), but that’s really only part of the story.
Founded in 1905 as the Parkdale Canoe Club, this member-owned club has evolved into a family-friendly getaway in downtown Toronto. In fact, children make up a quarter of its 4,000-strong membership. As such, it offers a huge array of kids’ programming, from sailing to karate, as well as supervised kids-only activity spaces.
“We have a myriad of both land-based and water-based activities, which sets us apart from most clubs,” says Tony Reyes, club president and a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP. Thanks to a recent $14-million addition, the club now boasts 10 outdoor tennis courts (eight are bubbled in the winter), five indoor badminton courts, a full-service spa, and more than 40 group exercise classes per week, like Aquafit and Zumba.
The fine print: If you want a solo membership, the initiation fee is $19,500, with monthly dues of $225. To make your spouse and children (under 13) members, the initiation fee rises to $28,500 plus $337 a month.
The Cricket Skating & Curling Club
~ A haven for the sports junkie ~
Cricket, anyone? Yeah, we don’t understand the rules either. If cricket isn’t your jam, members of this club, at the 401 and Avenue Road, can also curl, go figure skating, play squash and enjoy the indoor pool (complete with retractable roof), so you’re bound to find a new way to embrace your inner athlete.
“In the summertime, it’s like having a cottage in the city — without any of the regular weekend traffic headaches,” says Matthew Cameron, a member of the club and an associate at Stikeman Elliott LLP. He and his wife Jennifer Hefler, a lawyer at the Competition Bureau, value the club for its family-friendly atmosphere and array of kids’ programming. “The club’s daycare service also provides us parents an opportunity to swim, play squash or work out.”
And the club keeps changing. A recent renovation added a whack of new activities, from a new yoga studio to a HIIT (high intensity interval training) gym. The club offers over 100 weekly exercise classes. And of course there’s always cricket — the rules of which the club’s team members would be only too happy to teach you.
The fine print: Initiation fees for a single adult (from 35 to 59) cost $19,800 plus annual dues of $2,570. If your spouse joins with you, the initiation fee for him or her would be $13,200. (The cost is cheaper for anyone outside this age range.) There are no initiation fees for children ages 18 and under.
The Island Yacht Club
~A family-friendly cottage in the city~
Take that, Johnny Depp and Richard Branson — now us normal folk can have our own private island, too. Sort of, anyway. Located on Muggs Island (just east of Hanlan’s Point), the Island Yacht Club has been a getaway for city dwellers since the 1960s. Under new ownership since 2015, it now has an alliance with the Spoke Club — so members get $500 off the annual dues at the exclusive social club at Bathurst and King, replete with its own art gallery and mini movie theatre — which is attracting a new generation of urbanites.
Open from May through October, this yacht club has two clay tennis courts, a volleyball court and a heated outdoor pool. Its modern clubhouse (which members can rent for special events) has two dining areas, a full-service kitchen and a library lounge complete with a fireplace.
“We’re seeing more and more younger members with families join the club, with many taking an interest in our social events,” says David Moscovitz, long-time member and semi-retired lawyer, who spent much of his career at Goodman and Carr and Dentons Canada LLP. “Then a lot of these people, because they’re new members, start thinking, Well, maybe I’d like a boat.”
When it was founded, in the anti-Semitism-ridden 1950s, the club was one of the sole places for Jewish sailors in the city. And it’s always been a tight-knit group. These days, it has fewer than 200 members, making it intimate — but by no means exclusive. Programming like live music nights, a three-kilometre walking/running trail and a shuttle boat that can bring non-sailing members to Centre Island — a scenic getaway best known for its amusement park for children — means there are plenty of options to keep busy on dry land. That is, until you get your boat.
The fine print: To join on your own will cost $750 up front and $2,000 a year, while a family membership will set you back $1,000 in an initiation fee and $2,700 a year. For a membership that includes docking space for a yacht, the initiation fees start at $5,000 (plus up to $4,000 in annual dues).
Photography courtesy of The Boulevard Club, The Cricket Skating & Curling Club and The Island Yacht Club.