It’s a new year. Time for a fitter, funner, and—what the hell—friendlier you. Yeah, it’s cold out, but you’re not going to transform your life watching Golden Girls: The Complete Fourth Season under microfleece throw. Get out there and self-improve, already. Here are 29 Toronto clubs—some brainy and arty, some athletic and social—that would (probably) have you as a member (plus a few that might not).
1. Sling some arrows
Archery Club at Hart House
Channel your inner Katniss Everdeen at U of T’s indoor shooting range. Fees include an introductory lesson and give you free rein over the equipment, so you can become an expert with recurve and compound bows (or, at the very least, find out what those are). Registration opens on Jan. 9, but the club is popular so sign up quick—and may the odds be ever in your favour.
7 Hart House Cir., 416-978-2452, utoronto.ca/hharcher. $175 annual Hart House membership; $20 annual archery club membership.
2. Strain your brain
Toronto Trivia League
It’s one thing to shout the names of Enlightenment-era French philosophers at Alex Trebek from the comfort of your futon, and another thing entirely to drop those knowledge bombs on other trivia buffs. Let your genius flag fly as a member of this 21-year-old group, organized in a round robin–style league of five-person teams that hop around the pub circuit from week to week. Think of it as the NCAA Championships for your frontal cortex.
Potential barrier to membership: Single players are welcome, but readymade teams are preferred.
Various locations, trivialeague.com; $7 per player per night.
3. Stay in the crease
Origami Society of Toronto
Looking to improve your manual dexterity and create tiny masterpieces? This group convenes every month with experts on hand to assist beginners. You’ll be showering friends with paper cranes in no time. For the extra keen, OST’s website has a dozen diagrams so you can cram before the next gathering.
The Japan Foundation, 131 Bloor St. W., Ste. 213, 416-966-1600, origamitoronto.org; $15–$35 annual membership.
4. Pick up the pace
The Running Room Run Clubs
Sometimes you need a buddy to help you go that extra mile. The Running Room franchise holds runs and walks every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning for people of all fitness levels and there are pace-holders to keep you from slacking off. Register online, where you also can also track your progress and get alerts on other running events happening near you.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CLUB:
Hayley Cockerton from The Running Room
“It’s a drop-in. People of all abilities are encouraged to come, whether they are walkers, beginning to run, or training for a marathon. We have an information board showing the groups, the distances, route maps, and the group leaders. We have between 50 and 60 people on average at each run club. Some groups will do a group stretch or go out for coffee or brunch. Some go to yoga or boot camps together. Friendships and even relationships have been made at the run clubs. It’s become a family.”
5. Take some parental leave
At the Melody Bar, every Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., parents and caregivers get a chance to talk and caffeinate with one complimentary cup of dark roast while their munchkins run amok.
Potential barrier to membership: While strollers aren’t requisite, a child is, so don’t go putting a doll in a baby buggy just to get free coffee and pick up single moms and dads. That’s just creepy.
The Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St. W., 416-531-4635, gladstonehotel.com.
6. Haul axe
Backyard Axe Throwing League
Easily the most badass way to stay active (seriously, what other league has an official BYOB policy), the league may sound daunting, but just think of it as darts on steroids. Members congregate at the Junction Triangle warehouse (or the newly opened Port Lands location) Sunday to Wednesday to compete and catch up with fellow axe-heads over beers.
Potential barrier to membership: A reluctance to throw axes with people who’ve been drinking.
213 Sterling Rd. or 33 Villiers St., batl.ca. $120 for eight weeks.
7. Get with the program
This wet dream of a club for the tech savvy has been home to such practical inventions as a smartphone-controlled toy train, a six-legged robot, a functioning Adam West–era Batphone, and a tweeting toilet. Membership gets you 24/7 access and a personal bin for all your tech-y stuff.
Potential barrier to membership: You need to be voted in by current members. You can prove your worth at Tuesday open houses.
170a Baldwin St., 416-595-5785, hacklab.to. $50 per month.
8. Lose your faith
Centre for Inquiry
There is no god. Does this sound like something you might have blurted out at a bar or on the streetcar? Opponents of organized religion, superstition, and pseudoscience will be among skeptical friends. This downtown hub for secular freethinkers regularly organizes film screenings and lectures, along with book clubs, board-game nights, and the odd bar evening to lend some liquid courage to spirited chats—and to blow off steam. You’re only humanist, after all.
2 College St., Unit 214, centreforinquiry.ca.
9. Nurture your nature-love
Toronto Outdoor Club
These folks are far too hardcore to let a little thing like winter keep them from exploring the city’s natural bounty. All year, hikes (most about 10 km) are organized around local neighbourhoods and parks, and social events (like theatre and comedy nights) are regularly scheduled, too. Looking to escape the grid? Skiing, mountain biking, snow shoeing, and bird-watching excursions outside of the GTA are also on the calendar.
10. Roll the dice
Toronto BoardGame and Social
Start off the New Year by trading nights alone on the couch playing PS4 for some actual human interaction. Daily events range from small gatherings at members’ homes to larger outings at pubs and even group attendance at conventions. Strategy games like Settlers of Catan, Arkham Horror, and Android: Netrunner are some of the go-tos, but the friendly, inclusive group is always up for trying something new.
Potential barrier to membership: Privacy lovers may not dig having to create a profile with a photo so they can be identified at events.
11. Eat on the cheap
The Depanneur Drop-in Diner
Like to dine out but don’t have the money? This community hub hosts weekly $10-$14 dinners made by aspiring chefs and avid home cooks who want to share an awesome recipe. For $40, you can join the Rusholme Park Supper Club for a fancier, BYOB, multi-course dinner for 20 served family-style. If you feel up to the challenge, you can also sign up to be a guest chef for a drop-in dinner or supper club (and earn some tips while you’re at it).
1033 College St., 416-828-1990, thedepanneur.ca.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CLUB:
Len Senater from The Depanneur
“The idea is to create a venue where interesting food things can happen: taking the energy in supper clubs, building on it to create events that aren’t all very fancy, and disentangle quality from luxury. It’s also for people who love to cook but don’t want to do it every night, or don’t get to cook what they want in their job in the restaurant industry. It’s family-style so people pass and share and chat. It’s intimate and friendly, but the food can be really high calibre.”
12. Unchain the melody
Choir! Choir! Choir!
Wannabe gleeks and chanteuses should drop by No One Writes to the Colonel (Tuesdays) and The Monarch Tavern (Wednesdays) to join others in singing pop songs in sweet harmony. No experience is required and sheet music is provided for a mere $5 cover. There’s also a Sunday kiddie offshoot for parents who want to hear their tykes sing some Everly Brothers.
13. Give it a twirl
The Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps of Toronto
A Pride Parade stalwart for almost 20 years, the ROTC is open to anyone with a positive attitude towards the LGBT community. Based in the Village, the flamboyant precision–colour guard group has long been the city’s best exhibitor of flag twirls and rifle spins.
14. Befriend with benefits
Centre for Social Innovation
Attention, citizens of Toronto the Good: Add to your social capital with a community membership at this hub of philanthropists and forward thinkers. Whether you’re interested in city affairs, the non-for-profit sector, founding a local-food startup, or other do-gooder enterprises, a cool $30 will buy you hangout time at one of CSI’s three downtown locations, promotional assistance from the organization, and invites to exclusive CSI networking events (like its weekly Salad Club). Big minds should be eating their vegetables, anyway.
720 Bathurst St., 416-979-3939, socialinnovation.ca. $30 per month.
15. C’mon get hoppy
Lady beer-lovers would have you join them in socializing over suds during monthly get-togethers, tastings, and even some brew-focused field trips. Meet the brew crew and throw back a pint on the 15th of every month at various locations around the city. Sign up on their website or join them on Facebook to receive invites to events.
Possible barrier to membership: Being a dude.
16. Get served
Spin Toronto Table Tennis Club
Make friends and improve your hand-eye coordination at this Susan Sarandon–owned club. Membership includes half-price table rates, one free hour of court time a month, waitlist avoidance, priority access to special events, and—best of all—a free t-shirt!
461 King St. W., 416-599-7746, toronto.spingalactic.com. $50 and up per month.
17. Do it yourself
Toronto Tool Library and The Kitchen Library
It works for books and (less so) for movies, so why not tools and kitchen gadgets? These libraries allow you to save space and money by taking out equipment a few days at a time to tackle projects both constructive and culinary. After all, not everyone has a chainsaw or cheese fondue set.
Toronto Tool Library, 1499 Queen St. W., 647-498-1258, torontotoollibrary.com. The Kitchen Library, 1803 Danforth Ave., 647-559-6734 thekitchenlibrary.ca. Memberships $50 and up. *
18. Get revenge
Nerd Nite Toronto
Who runs the world? Nerds. Pop in your finest pocket protector and head down to this monthly series. First up, two speakers hit the podium, presenting information on their area of very esoteric interest (nanotechnology, evolution, pinball, magic tricks)—basically, TED talks for people who spent most of high school in a locker. Following that is trivia, stand-up, live music, and even the occasional costume contest.
Tranzac Club, 292 Brunswick Ave., 416-923-8137, toronto.nerdnite.com. $5 drop-in fee.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CLUB:
Virve Aljas from Nerd Nite Toronto
“Last year at the Holiday Nerdtacular, we had Graeme Dymond. He’s the master builder for the Legoland Discovery Centre in Vaughan. He had people in tears, because he was saying how he loved Lego all his life and was miserable in his bank job, but Lego was holding a contest looking for a master builder. He entered and got his dream job. He was just so into it and he’s become a good friend.”
19. Dig in
One of the first (and few remaining) underground supper clubs, this group hosts monthly dinners featuring chefs from around the world, as well as Toronto’s finest, preparing multi-course feasts with lots of wine pairings (emphasis on lots). Once the club accepts you as a member, after filling out an online questionnaire, a menu is sent out each month detailing the courses, chefs, and drinks.
Potential barrier to membership: It’s free to join, but dinners veer to the luxurious side at around $200 per person.
20. Have a one knight stand
Annex Chess Club
Whether you count “checkmate” as part of your regular vocabulary or you’re all “WTF is a rook?,” this Bloor and Bathurst–based club will jack up your game—or “mind sport,” as the league’s website calls it. (Badass.) The fee affords you participation in 44 Mondays of casual play, as well as tournaments. Non-members can pay a fiver to drop in. There’s also a kids’ league for budding masters.
918 Bathurst St., annexchessclub.com. $190 annual membership.
21. Knock one back
Toronto Temperance Society
Practice the “art of drinking well” at this private club with the one of city’s best curated collection of spirits, and expert mixologists who pour them.
Potential barrier to membership: Group is limited to those aged 25 and older to keep the place from turning into a frat house.
577A College St., torontotemperancesociety.com. $285 annual membership.
22. Put a cork in it
The Toronto Vintners Club
Can’t tell the difference between a Merlot and a Pinot Noir? You’re a terrible person. Kidding! This club meets regularly to try wines from around the world. They also have a “newcomers table,” where a seasoned member guides beginners through their first tastings.
Torontovintners.org. $30–$50 annual fee.
23. Play the field
Toronto Sports and Social Club
Whether you’re a lone wolf looking for a pack or part of a group with excess energy, this is a one-stop shop for people who like staying active but hate actually setting foot in a gym. Over 20 individual and team sports are on offer, including curling, dodgeball, floor hockey, ultimate, and inner tube water polo. Games take place citywide and one-off tournaments are held throughout the year.
Potential barrier to membership: Signing up an entire group is a not inconsiderable financial commitment, and one that might be discouraging if you have flaky friends.
Torontossc.com, 416-781-4263. $95–$249 for individuals, $529–$2,369 for teams.
24. Do some knitpicking
Sew and craft by the hour ($7) with other creative types or sign up for the (free!) monthly quilting bees and stitch n’ bitch sessions, which are open to anyone who has a fabric or wool project on the go. While staff is on-hand to offer advice, these timeslots are for those experienced with sewing machines and sharp objects.
1340 Queen St. W., 416-534-5305, theworkroom.ca.
25. Enjoy some reel talk
Toronto Film Society
Established in 1948, the film society is a haven for cinephiles. The group gathers regularly at the Carlton Cinema for screenings and discussions of classic Hollywood films and indie favourites. For the matinee screening on Jan. 19, enjoy a double feature starring a pre–Jessica Fletcher Angela Lansbury in a film ironically titled Please Murder Me.
Torontofilmsociety.org. $10 and up for annual memberships.
26. Get up to spar
Toronto Debating Society
If you’re the opinionated type, you probably won’t need much convincing to join. Build your powers of persuasion and public-speaking savvy in the company of debaters of all ages and skill levels. Meatier topics like transit privatization and assisted suicide have been broached, but they’re interspersed with more lighthearted fare—“We are unprepared for the zombie apocalypse,” for example. Ready, set, fight! Ahem, argue. Constructively.
Swansea Town Hall, 95 Lavinia Ave., debating.ca. $35–$65 for membership.
27. Put it on ice
Adult Hockey Club
During the winter months, it’s easy to partake in the country’s national pastime. But if you’re looking for something a bit more structured than shinny, this group has pickup games (at Rinx and the Vaughan Iceplex) for every skill level. Full equipment is required, games are coed, and, despite the name, there’s no funny business going on here.
Potential barrier to membership: The equipment-less have to stock up on gear.
Adulthockeyclub.com. $20–$25 per game.
28. Be a big shot
If you happen to have made bank this Christmas and consider yourself a “creative”—that is, an artist, designer, member of the literati, etc.—you may want to apply to this hard-ballin’ private member’s club, with 11 hyper-exclusive locations worldwide. The Toronto chapter’s amenities include a rooftop terrace, screening area, ballrooms, and, obviously, valet parking. Make 2014 the year you swap business cards with a magazine editor or exchange marketing ideas with a CEO.
Potential barrier to membership: A one-year membership will run you $1,200, and a letter of recommendation is also required.
192 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-7646, sohohousetoronto.com.
29. Frame yourself
Limited to those under 40, the Next membership includes free admission to 70 other museums in Canada and the U.S., like the Guggenheim and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Inside the AGO, members get to tour the vaults, meet artists, attend private parties, visit the galleries after-hours, and see Ben Stiller get chased around by a Henry Moore sculpture. (Okay, not the last one.)
Potential barrier to membership: The $600 annual fee is steep, but worth it if you take advantage of the free admission perk to other galleries. Otherwise a basic annual membership is $100 ($45 for students).
317 Dundas St. W., 416-979-6648, ago.net/next.
Five clubs that probably won’t have you as a member
Rosedale Golf Club
Beta Theta Pi, U of T chapter
Raptors Dance Pak
Broken Social Scene
CORRECTION, JAN. 10, 2014: The original version of this article—as it appeared here and in the Jan. 9, 2014 edition of The Grid—included erroneous membership-fee information for The Parkdale Tool Library and The Kitchen Library. The erroneous info has been removed.