Toronto is the capital of the province of Ontario and home to the country’s largest queer community. It has a population of 2.9 million people and is a vibrant and diverse metropolis built along the shore of Lake Ontario. The country’s outstanding hospitality makes anyone and everyone feel welcome. Canada has long been ahead of the pack with regards to LGBT equality. In fact, it was the first country outside Europe to legalize same-sex marriage back in 2005.
Most of the LGBT venues in Toronto are located down by the waterside in what is known as ‘Old Toronto’ where you’ll find everything from craft beer bars to popular fetish nights. Enjoy a night out in the gay village at the intersection of Church and Wellesley Street where Toronto’s annual pride takes place. Here you’ll find a variety of gay bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. Take a tour of Toronto’s main sights which include the CN Tower, a key element of the city’s skyline and the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere or Old Town Toronto where you’ll find historic architecture, cute shops, quality restaurants and the Hockey Hall of Fame. Lastly, be sure to explore Toronto’s gastronomy scene with dinner at one of the city’s great restaurants.
Table of Contents
1. General Tips
2. Transportation & Airport Transfer
3. Gay Hotels in Toronto
4. Sightseeing & Activities in Toronto
5. Gay Shows in Toronto
6. Restaurants & Cafes in Toronto
7. Toronto Gay Bars
8. Toronto City Gay Clubs & Parties
9. Toronto Gay Saunas & Cruising Bars
10. Gay Events in Toronto
11. Day Trips from Toronto
Toronto is Canada’s largest city and it is certainly a diverse place. Considered as one of the most diverse cities, Toronto has residents from more countries than any city in the world. It boasts a great food scene and is incredibly gay-friendly with its well know gay village located just near downtown. Toronto has an unbearably cold winter so the best time to visit is in the late spring, summer or early fall to avoid the cold weather and enjoy the parks and nature of the nearby Toronto Islands.
Transportation & Airport Transfer
The Union Pearson Express (UP Express) is an airport rail link running between Toronto Pearson International Airport and Union Station in Downtown Toronto. The UP Express travels between Pearson and Union Station in 25 minutes, departing every 15 minutes, between 5:30am and 1:00am, 7 days a week. One-way fare is $12CAD. Taxi fares to and from Pearson International Airport are set by the zone you're traveling to or from in the city, but figure about $50-$60CAD for downtown locations. Once you arrive in the city, you’ll find a great public transport system with subways, streetcars and buses. You can pay your fare and purchase tokens, tickets and passes at the collector booths at all subway and streetcar stations. The subway also connects to the airport but takes much longer than the express train with the journey taking 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Gay Hotels in Toronto
There aren't currently any gay hotels in Toronto, but there are many gay-friendly options.
Shangri-La Hotel – this 5-star hotel is located in the center of the city offering perfect access to Toronto’s main sightseeing, restaurants and shops. They offer great dining options in their restaurant as well as high tea, which is served in the late afternoon including a selection of snacks, sandwiches and desserts.
Westin Toronto – this large property is located downtown and on the waterfront. It has great views of the city as well as the nearby Toronto Islands. This property is very LGBT+ friendly and in 2017, they hosted the annual International LGBTQ+ Travel Association conference.
Sonder (The Wellesley) – located in downtown Toronto, this boutique hotel is next to the Wellesley subway station. It is recently renovated and features free WiFi, flat-screen TVs in all rooms and a nice courtyard where guests can relax.
The Broadview Hotel – this 4-star hotel is located in an 1891 redbrick building and offers a rooftop bar/restaurant with city and river views. Located in Toronto's east end, the historic Broadview Hotel is your gateway to the city's most captivating neighborhood.
There are many sites for apartment rentals including Airbnb and Vrbo. Both companies have inclusive policies and support the LGBT+ community. Prices are generally comparable to budget hotels, especially if you’re willing to get a room in a shared apartment.
There are even a few LGBT-oriented booking sites like misterb&b where you can rent a room from a local gay host. Founded in 2014, misterb&b is not a hotel or chain, but rather a booking site for rooms, apartments and homes. Similar to AirBnB, Vrbo and Booking.com, misterb&b is an online service, but it allows you to from gay and gay-friendly hosts around the world. They have hosts in more than 200 countries and territories with more than 1 million total listings. Understanding the gay scene is much more easily done with the help of a local and apartment sharing is one of the best ways to meet someone living in the city who knows how things work, where and when are the best nights to go out, and what places to eat at and which to avoid.Special Offer! Sign up with misterb&b and you will receive a free $10 credit to use on your first booking!
Sightseeing & Activities in Toronto
Casa Loma – this gothic-style mansion with a beautiful garden space was made famous as professor Xavier’s school for the gifted in the popular X-men movie series. Located in midtown Toronto, you can visit this landmark which offers a public museum and guided tours.
CN Tower – you can’t miss this massive communications tower located in the heart of downtown. The concrete tower is by far the tallest building in Toronto and you can head up to the observation deck for amazing views 360-degree views. If you’re adventurous then book the Edgewalk activity which allows you to step outside the observation deck in the open air to walk around the circumference of the tower all while attached to a harness.
Craft Beer, History and Culture Tour – Explore Toronto and learn about its history while stopping in at a number of different bars and pubs. Over 4-hours, trace the city's development through the story of Canadian beer and stop by Saint Lawrence Market to sample some local beers. Book tour →
Harbor and Islands Sightseeing Cruise – Enjoy a short cruise in the Toronto Harbour to enjoy views of the Toronto skyline and visit the Toronto Islands. This tour features live narration designed to entertain and inform as you explore the region. Book tour →
Food tour through Kensington Market – Designed for the adventurer, this food tour introduces you to flavors from around the world with the beginner and novice in mind. Experience Toronto's amazing diversity through food, which includes tastings from over 6 countries. The most culturally diverse city on the planet means the best city to taste the world! This tour takes the worry of figuring out what to try on your ethnic food adventure. Book tour →
Royal Ontario Museum – When visiting Toronto, be sure to stop at the Royal Ontario Museum, dedicated to art, culture, and nature. The museum currently holds 13 million objects in its collections with over 40 galleries and exhibition spaces showcasing art, archaeology, and natural science. The exhibits explore everything from dinosaurs to mummies, Chinese architecture to Indigenous objects, and more. It’s an entertaining and educational experience for all ages. Book tour →
Gay Shows in Toronto
Gay Drag Bar Crawl – check out this VIP activity and experience Toronto’s drag scene from a local performer. Enjoy a night out in the gay village, see great entertainment, enjoy exclusive drink specials and make new friends. You’ll also get to see a performance from the bar crawl host, Chansa Showers. Book tour →
Buddies in Bad Times – This professional theatre was formed in 1978 and is a leading venue for artistically rigorous alternative theatre and a world leader in developing queer voices and stories for the stage.
Restaurants & Cafes in Toronto
Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world with a wide variety of ethnic restaurants. From Chinese food to Mexican food, Indian food to Italian cuisine, they’ve got a restaurant for all tastes.
Sambucas on Church – renowned for having some of the best Italian food around, made from the finest and freshest ingredients. Fresh pasta, sumptuous seafood, authentic Italian pizza – pair any dish with a bottle of wine for a truly magical meal.
O’Grady’s on Church – an amazing super fun pub in the village serving up comfort food and excellent cocktails. They also offer a great selection of craft beer, wine by the glass and bottles.
Fabarnak – it’s part restaurant and part social enterprise initiative. FABARNAK offers a range of culinary dishes prepared and served by members of the LGBT+ community who face barriers to employment. More than 60% of the food is locally grown and produced, so you can feel good about what you’re eating while also feeling good about helping at-risk community members.
Hair of the Dog Pub – this is an upscale but unpretentious, neighborhood pub and restaurant located just north of Church and Carlton and they offer one of the best patios in the city. Drop by for brunch on the weekends or for a hearty dinner before enjoying the nightlife on Church Street in the gay village.
Queen Mother Cafe – this Thai restaurant is a hidden gem located in the Entertainment District. It’s known for its delicious food and sinful desserts. Enjoy pad Thai and ping gai chicken before finishing up with some chocolate raspberry truffle cake.
Toronto Gay Bars
Woody’s – often called the Cheers of Toronto, Woody’s never charges an entry fee and they have several bars where you can chill with a beer with friends or catch one of the popular drag shows. Everyone who visits Toronto should spend at least one evening in this Church Street staple.
Black Eagle – This bar used to be the exclusive domain of those into fetish play. It’s recently been taken under new ownership and is now frequented by the great and good of the gay community in Toronto. They host regular theme nights and there’s still plenty of opportunity for those who want to get a little kinky in the sex room upstairs.
Boutique Bar – This high-end cocktail bar nestled amidst the more high-octane gay bars in the area is the perfect spot to grab a drink and catch up with friends or meet a new gentlemen friend who can show you around this fantastic city.
Statler’s – This gay village staple is famed for its piano where budding musicians take to the keys to entertain both the patrons and the passing public. Its live entertainment and fantastic terrace are perfect for those wanting something a little more sedate away from the crowds and parties.
Toronto City Gay Clubs & Parties
Toronto no longer has any large gay dance clubs. Previous places including Fly Nightclub 2.0 and Club120 closed in recent years. Fly Nightclub 2.0 in particular was the most popular club in Toronto hosted in an old theatre venue for two decades but was forced to close due to rising rents in the gay village.
Toronto Gay Saunas & Cruising Bars
Steamworks – this is a private men's gym, sauna, bathhouse for men 18 years and older… you know, men looking for other men! Cabins are only available for rent but there are plenty of public spaces to play as well. No alcohol is served in this facility but you can purchase a variety of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. Steamworks is located in The Village, Toronto’s popular gay neighborhood and includes are the standard amenities.
Gay Events in Toronto
Toronto Gay Pride – All month long there are Pride Events across the city with lots of glitz and glamour. The Pride Parade in particular is one of the more popular events featuring over 120 marching groups and 40 registered floats.
Inside Out LGBT Film & Video Festival – Expect no fewer than 180 films and videos at the Inside Out LGBT Film & Video Festival, produced by and about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people from around the globe.
Halloween in the Gay Village – The annual Halloween party on Church Street attracts thousands of revelers (many in costume, many scantily-clad) to the pedestrian-only street party in the heart of Toronto’s LGBTQ neighborhood.
Day Trips from Toronto
Niagra Falls – Experience the beauty of Niagara Falls illuminated at night on a 9-hour tour from Toronto. Get up close to the majestic cascades aboard the Hornblower boat. Learn informative information about the history of the area and the role of the native people, and discover why the geography makes the Niagara Peninsula so unique. Visit an award-winning winery, and drive through the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and marvel at one of the most violent white water rapids in North America with an up-close on the “Voyage to the Falls” boat tour. Book tour →
Algonquin Provincial Park – Enjoy the beauty of Canada’s oldest provincial park on a convenient day trip from Toronto. The forests, lakes, and sweeping views contrast with the busy-ness of Toronto. You’ll spend time canoeing, hiking, swimming, and cliff diving (if you dare). This is an ideal tour for active travelers, especially groups of friends looking for a fun day out in nature. Book tour →
Image credit © Destination Toronto unless otherwise noted
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