As often happens in this small community, I ran into a friend at the Communitech Breakfast Series event on Wednesday. We caught up and started to make lunch plans. We both stopped dead in our tracks when we realized that we’re just over a week from December. 

If this has shocked you, please take a moment to settle yourself. 

I know I needed a minute.


December means it’s time for company holiday parties and team-building events. If you’re looking for something different this year, then you’re in luck. Waterloo Region isn’t only the home of innovative tech companies. It’s also home to some pretty innovative (and awesome) places to celebrate your team and the holidays.

Here’s a few ideas to make your holiday celebrations fun and different.

When I’m at someone’s home for a party, it usually ends up with everyone in the kitchen. Instead of having food prepared and served to you, get your team and learn to cook something new together. Kitchener-Waterloo is home to two great cooking schools - Relish Cooking Studio and The Culinary Studio.

Located on Victoria Street behind Google and across from Bridgit, Relish Cooking Studio offers team culinary events for groups from eight to 24 people. Their sessions run around two to two and a half hours and include professional cooking instruction from their staff. My mouth is watering while I look at their menu options - Moroccan Magic with chicken shawarma and lemon almond polenta cake, The Italian Job featuring mushroom risotto and deconstructed cannoli.

Over in Belmont Village next to Arabella Park, The Culinary Studio has team-building events for groups of 12 to 24 people. Our Marketing team went there last December for our team-building afternoon and we still ask Anthony to cook for us. They offer an awesome array of challenges. My favourite offering is their “International Challenge.” Your team starts out with a  'wrap and roll' competition where you compete to make the best pierogi, patty or samosa. You then work together on a matching main dish. 

While Relish and the Culinary Studio are both licensed to sell wine, beer and cider, these events are great if you want to offer an alcohol-free event for your team.

If cooking together isn’t your team’s thing, there are a couple of gaming options for you. The Adventurer’s Guild on Ontario Street is available for private events. Besides their collection of board games, they're also known for classic video games. They have a great selection of classics for you and your team to challenge each other to.

Head back to the arcade days of the 80s at The Pinup Arcade Bar in Waterloo on King at University.  I’m dating myself here, but arcades in the 80s were awesome. Take my word for it. You can rent Pinup Arcade for private events or bring your team there after work.

Another way to celebrate is at the Arthritis Society’s Jingle Brews party on Dec. 12. The Arthritis Society has put on Jingle Brews events in other cities in Ontario. Now Jingle Brews is making its Kitchener-Waterloo debut this year. Jingle Brews is a mix of a holiday party and networking event. You can come on your own or buy a table for your team for a night out. 

“This isn’t a typical networking event,” said Fara Jamal from the regional office of the Arthritis Society. In addition to a four-course dinner at the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Kitchener, there’s also a live band and silent auction. “We’re going to have three different gaming tables too,” Jamal added. And yes, there’ll be a photo booth. What’s a holiday party without a photo booth?

The event raises money for the Arthritis Society’s programs. The number of programs they offer surprised me. “One in five Canadians suffers from some form of arthritis,” Jamal said. “It’s not a question of if it affects you - but of how it affects you or someone you know.” The Arthritis Society provides free physiotherapy, support classes and resources for people with arthritis and their families. In the summer, they run a camp for children with arthritis to help them enjoy summer as much as any other child. “We’re here to support and make life better for people with arthritis.” 

Tickets for Jingle Brews are $75 per person or $750 for a table for 10 and all money raised goes to support their programming. 

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While the soup is cooking, I see and hear that TWH Social has live music with Jack Pender starting at 6 p.m on Friday, Nov. 22. The Etsy Waterloo Region Holiday Market is happening from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at RIM Park in Waterloo on Saturday, Nov. 23. You can shop local from more than 75 vendors. And coming up next Tuesday, Nov. 26,  join CSR for Startups for Diversity and inclusion for startups: D&I strategies at scale at Workhaus.