LGBTQ+ Travel Guide: Toronto
The largest city in Canada, with 2.93 million inhabitants and mountaineering, it is also one of the most diverse, creative, fashionable, and LGBTQ destinations.
Like Montreal and Vancouver, Toronto has a "gay town", Church and Wellesley, who became especially famous during the 2000s thanks to the American version of Showtime's outrageous gay series "Queer As Folk", which used many from its LGBTQ bars and clubs to filming locations (although, oddly, the series was set in Pittsburgh).
Toronto is also the site of many important milestones in Canadian LGBTQ history, including a 1981 police raid on gay bathrooms known as Operation Soap, which sparked a massive protest and is considered the equivalent of the city's Stonewall Riot (Montreal experienced a similar event in 1977).
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Fast forward a few decades, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is proud to make a tradition of marching in the joyous annual Toronto Pride parade that takes place during the last weekend of June.
Pride events also include a Trans March, Dyke March, and a large 15-block street fair (approximately 1,700,000 attended in 2019). Celebrating its 39th anniversary, Pride Toronto 2020 is scheduled for June 26-28.
Every September, the Toronto International Film Festival sees LGBTQ filmmakers and celebrities from around the world (from Pedro Almodóvar to Ellen Page) converging for the world and North American premieres of their latest films, while late spring's Inside Out is completely dedicated to queer work.
The Best Things to Do
Start with a scoop on the history of Toronto, LGBTQ, and others by taking a tour with Bruce Bell Tours.
The openly gay and youthful Bell offers private themed tours as well as a 90-minute walking tour of St. Lawrence Market and Old Town (scheduled up to four times a week during peak season).
His namesake "Bruce Bell History Project" plaques mark and tell the stories behind a number of historically significant sites around the city.
Speaking of history, the world's oldest LGBTQ bookstore, Glad Day Bookshop, moved from its cramped space on Yonge Street to a nearly 2,700-square-foot gay town on the ground floor in 2016, located right off Church Street.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020, Glad Day has also added a cafe, restaurant, and bar to this new version and hosts dance parties on the weekends.
For a shop for everything LGBTQ, from clothing to pride clothing, check out Out On The Street in town.
If you're into comics and comics, it's worth stopping by The Beguiling Books & Art and its brother Page & Panel, the official showcase for the annual Toronto Spring Comic Arts Festival, with offerings from many LGBTQ writers and illustrators and local.
Keep an eye out for the work of talented queer comic book creator Erik Kostiuk Williams in Toronto.
Created as a permanent base for the Toronto International Film Festival, the impressive TIFF Bell Lightbox is a multi-screen arts theater showcasing new and retrospective titles, with a free movie reference library, exhibits, a shop, and an excellent level of lot. cafe and restaurant on the second floor.
One of the most unique museums in North America, the Bata Shoe Museum has more than 13,000 artifacts in its collection, including a pair of silver platform Elton John boots and Queen Victoria lounge slippers.
Exhibitions by Canadian queer artists and collectives such as General Idea and Bruce La Bruce sometimes take place at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Buddies in Bad Times Theater (which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019) is a pioneering queer alternative theater company and a venue with a solid schedule of diverse and edgy performances.
In the summer, many local LGBTQ people flock to Toronto's Hanlan's Beach clothing option, site of the country's first queer pride picnic in 1971, to worship the sun and have fun (Pride Toronto celebrates the occasion with a party "Till Sunset Island Party" in June).
And you can always sweat your skin at any time of year at one of the city's gay saunas, including Steamworks Toronto.
The Best LGBTQ Bars and Clubs
The gay town of Church and Wellesley has seen the shutdown of some longtime favorites, including Fly 2.0 (which spanned two decades and was featured in the US version of "Queer as Folk") and The Barn, but you still have plenty. options to choose from. when it comes to nightlife options.
Woody's has been called Toronto's gay "Cheers," but it's a lot more colorful than the comparison suggests (it looks a lot more like New York's Stonewall), and you can expect drag queen performances and hot boy competitions among socializers.
Another neighborhood stronghold, Pegasus on Church hosts weekly open mic comedy nights (Monday), bingo (Tuesday), and trivia (Wednesday), plus pool tables, darts, shuffleboard, and other games.
Billed as Toronto's "# 1 Drag Bar," Crews & Tangos is where you'll find fierce local queens working the stage and those who feel ready to try it out at the open mic equivalent on Mondays, while the almost 7 Church Street Garage adds food to the literal menu, in addition to RuPaul's Drag Race viewing parties.
LGBTQ sports fans can watch games, drink specials, burgers and pizzas, and other events at the three-year-old Striker Sports Bar.
French-inspired cocktails and an outdoor patio set the Boutique Bar apart (its decadent Belvedere Truffle consists of Belvedere, Frangelica, creme de cacao, and a Nutella cube), while leather, bears, dads, and their collective admirers ( And friends!) Complete the Black Eagle.
On weekends, Tallulah's Buddies nightclub at Bad Times Theater is one of the funniest spots in town. Check the online calendar for special theme parties (for example, a "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" tribute) that may require advance tickets.
Meanwhile, on Toronto's west side, don't miss LGBTQ hot spots The Beaver Cafe and El Convento Rico, and to the east, WAYLA, aka What Are You Looking At.
The Best Places to Eat
Head straight for breakfast, brunch, or lunch at Fabarnak, a cafe located at The 519 Community Center.
In addition to the altruistic element of their earnings that directly benefit members of the LGBTQ community at risk, the vegetarian menu from the start is absolutely delicious, from a spicy bacon sandwich to a plate of slow-roasted pork belly and scrambled tofu.
The old hair of the Dogfood pub remains a gay town favorite, while ramen fans can savor tasty tonkatsu, pale chicken, and creamy vegan varieties at Church Street's Jinya Ramen Bar.
If you're more into shared Japanese dishes, kabobs, and some sushi, Kintaro Izakaya is right next to Woody's.
On Toronto's east side, stroll through the Distillery District, which offers great restaurants and specialty cafes and patisseries, including Italian-inspired Archeo, artisanal Javanese Arvo Coffee, and excellent local chocolatier, SOMA.
Where to Stay
Queen Street West is Toronto's heaven for the hipster and alternative LGBTQ scene, and its 37 rooms (each designed by a different artist) Gladstone Hotel is home to what it calls a "Queer Street West" location and hosts a daily program of events and Pride month exhibits as well as Pride-themed room packages.
Toronto has seriously upped its hotel game over the past decade, and its innovative luxury properties include the 55-story, 259-room Four Seasons Hotel Toronto in the Yorkville neighborhood, which debuted a massive new 30,000-square-foot spa in 2018.
The Four Seasons Too features the interior design of Toronto's gay power couple and design gurus George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg. Also five-star, the 202-room Shangri-La Hotel Toronto features floor-to-ceiling windows and a Miraj Hammam Spa for a little self-pampering luxury.
Part of The Library Hotel Collection and dubbed an "urban complex," the 404-room Hotel X Toronto opened in 2018 at the Downtown Exhibition Place and impresses with the lush living wall of the lobby, a rooftop pool, and a SkyBar in the three-story building. attic, cinema and exhibition hall and much more.
Trendy and artsy, the 19-room The Drake on Queen Street West is hip and artsy, serving as a display space for contemporary work and music (bonus for guests: a discount at the hotel's gift shop).
A favorite venue for film and television screenings (notably Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale) Toronto's Grande Dame estate, the Fairmont Royal York of Old Toronto, celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2019 with impressive film renovations.
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