TORONTO has been a major draw for decades for tourists of all kinds. Gay travelers love the city, celebrating North America’s largest Pride festival on masse in the city every June. Toronto’s queer scene has branched out from Church Street village into new territory. LGBTQ+ visitors can be found all over the city, finding venues that are mixed and inclusive of all.
If arriving by plane you will probably land at Toronto’s main airport, Pearson International. For $3.25 you can take the express bus and subway into the downtown in about 50 minutes.
For $12 you can ride the UP Express train which comfortably rockets you to Union Station in 28 minutes.
If touching down at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, you will already be downtown. A short and cheap cab ride should get you where you need to be in no time.
If you plan on crossing the city frequently, consider purchasing one of the TTC passes. Day passes cost $12.50, and a weekly one costs $43.75.
Alternatively, you can purchase a reloadable Presto Card for a fee of $6. That will provide a more flexible option if your stay is between 2 to 6 days.
Where to stay
A boutique hotel in the middle of Queen West, Toronto’s current hot spot. The ground floor and rooftop bars appear on international best-of lists and the basement event space has the best acoustics in town. (From $269 per night)
A quirky, art-focused hotel in which each room was designed by a different artist: check out “The Canadiana Room” and “Parlour of Twilight” for atmospheric, playful touches. Weekly music events downstairs are a favorite. (From $179 per night)
This cheap and cheerful hostel is conveniently located near the Church Street village and employs a knowledgeable, fun staff. A lively bar on the main floor hosts events ranging from open mic nights to trading zone swaps, where backpackers can exchange items and share a drink with new friends. (From $33.90 per night)
This multi-night string of parties are the most attended and anticipated events at Toronto Pride. Kicking off the long weekend is Starry Night, a dazzling garden shindig that annually features performances by RuPaul’s top queens. International DJ’s keep the crowd grinding all weekend long, climaxing on parade Sunday when the frenzy finally takes over an entire University quad. This hedonism isn’t for nothing since all proceeds go to the 519 Community Centre, which provides counselling and social services to the LGBTQ+ community.
North America’s longest running queer theatre company also happens to host year-round Saturday night dance parties that rival any club night in town. A bonus: All profits from the revelers go back into operating costs for this important institution. Programming for this year’s Pride includes a live drag version of Clueless, and the annual favorite Bitch Salad.
Drawing an estimated one million spectators annually, this is one of the largest pride parades in the world. Held on the final day of the festivities, it is both fun, and a sobering reminder of the sacrifices past generations have made.
This free, queer-focused art and performance festival coincides with Pride and spans two distinct neighborhoods. Head here for provocative work by local, as well as international artists.
This monthly camp dance party has been going strong for seven years. Alternative drag moments and niche themes abound.
This predominately lesbian dance party takes place at The Round, on the third Saturday of every month. Dancehall, hip-hop and party anthems keep the girls and friends coming back.
This popular party takes place the first Friday of every month at the bar, Miss Things.
Bars and clubs
This tiny cafe turns into a good time with nightly dance parties. One of their most popular is FIT, an active wear enthusiasts’ dream.
This East End gay bar holds great parties. Daddy Next Door is their most popular, attracting handsome mature men and their admirers.
If you want a large-scale club with a sound and light system as beefed up as the boys are, head here.
This hangout hosts frequent drag shows; has four bars, pool tables; and is a great place to start or end the night.
The world’s oldest LGBTQ+ bookstore has moved to a new location that now hosts regular events, parties, and has a great bar. A welcomed and much-needed addition to Church St.
What to see and do
This ultra-hip area was recently named the second coolest neighborhood in the world by Vogue magazine. While any such list is arbitrary, most Torontonians can agree that Queen West has the highest concentration of independently-owned eateries, shops, and nightlife. In addition to all this coolness, the fact that it is seen unofficially as the city’s second LGBTQ+ village is icing on the cake.
This beautiful complex of forty-seven former Victorian distillery buildings now houses elegant shops, restaurants, cafes, live theatre and galleries. Toronto’s outdoor glittering Christmas market is held here every December.
Toronto’s only clothing optional beach has a strong gay following and is the perfect local escape. Take the ferry to the island, or call a tiki taxi boat ($10 per person).
A colorful mix of cultures, cheap eats, lively bars and vintage clothing. The market is an ideal place for finding odd items and great for people-watching. Sundays are pedestrian only.
This Park is Toronto’s largest and loveliest. Attractions and activities include the almost-too-popular cherry blossom trees (avoid weekends during blooming season if possible), and the annual outdoor Shakespeare in High Park productions which operate on a pay-what-you-can admission system.
Where to eat
The best eatery in the village. Elegant, modern design with high-quality dishes. Try to grab a table on the back-alley patio if visiting in summer. Solid wine list and well-crafted cocktails. Reservations recommended.
This popular Taiwanese hipster joint modelled its menu after the street market foods of East and South-East Asia. There is an impressive selection of local and microbrewery beer on tap.
Bare bones but exceptional Vietnamese pho house to check out when you need refueling from shopping up and down ultra hip Ossington Avenue.
A relatively new fixture on the Toronto foodie map, Alo offers a high-end, multi-course tasting menu with a focus on modern interpretations of French recipes. Reservations required, the bar is walk-in friendly.
A high-end Italian with ingredients of the utmost quality, as are the cocktails. Also, the all-too-rare-in-Toronto aperitivo happens here daily.
If you want mouth-watering Mexican tortas, head to this casual eatery in the market. Only nine varieties of griddled sandwiches are on offer here, which explains the high level of quality. End your melted Oaxacan cheese and chorizo feast with a sugary Churro.