Toronto's Gay Culture
Canada’s largest gay community calls Toronto home. Toronto’s Gay Village, informally known by all as “The Village” and “The Gaybourhood,” surrounds the Church Wellesley intersection in Toronto’s downtown core. Cafés, restaurants, gay-oriented shops and a vast array of hot bars and nightspots fills this predominantly gay neighbourhood. An enormous street party takes over the area during the popular annual event, Pride Week.
Food and Drink
- With eclectic, modern décor, Smith prepares a stylish Saturday and Sunday brunch on Church Street. On weekends, Smith’s bar stays open late catering to nightlife crowd.
- Hair of the Dog serves another popular brunch along with their famous Caesars. It’s also been voted one of the best summer patios and a perfect place for dinner and drinks before dancing.
- The 519 Church Street Community Centre created a social enterprise initiative, Fabarnak Restaurant and Catering. Fabarnak provides a structured training environment that helps people with employment barriers under the guidance of a professional team of chefs and front-of-house staff. The restaurant serves an innovative lunch and dinner during the week and brunch on weekends.
- O’Grady’s and The Vic Public House both have expansive street-side patios, ideal for mingling in the summer months. These pubs, open seven days a week, offer traditional comfort food and a warm atmosphere.
- Conveniently located at Yonge Street and College Street, Fran’s serves up late night eats around the clock. This diner opened in Toronto in 1940 and has become an institution with three locations across the city.
- Established in 1971 and very gay-friendly, Bumpkins Restaurant & Lounge has been a popular restaurant serving local Toronto residents and visitors. Steak and seafood are its specialties, served by dedicated and professional staff in a modern yet warm ambiance.
- Located at the heart of the Church-Wellesley Village, Boutique Bar offers everything from classic cocktails to inventive drinks mixed by its passionate and attentive bartenders. Boutique Bar’s patio is open year-round with a great view of Church Street.
- Woody’s and its brother bar Sailor have been the hottest gay men’s bars in The Village since 1989. Woody’s features nightly DJs and “The Best Men’s Contests” every Thursday to Saturday.
- Pegasus Bar has a friendly, social atmosphere and stays opened until 2 a.m. every day.
- Leather-lovers want to hit The Black Eagle to mingle with a like-minded crowd.
- South of The Village, Club 120 offers events many nights a week. Saturday nights are especially know for the dance party.
- Remington’s and Flash are two notable strip clubs near The Village.
Nightlife Beyond Church Street
- What Are You Looking At Bar and Lounge or WAYLA in Leslieville and The Beaver in the West Queen West neighbourhood, host 2SLGBTQ+ events and parties on a rotational basis.
- Henhouse, a gay and lesbian bar on Dundas St. West, keeps a full calendar of events; pop up restaurants use the space regularly and well as monthly, themed parties.
- The West Queen West area includes events like Big Primpin’ at Wrongbar the first Friday of every month.
- The Flying Beaver Pubaret in Cabbagetown hosts a comfortably mixed crowd of gay and straight. Comedy, music or a variety of other performances happen nightly.
Notable Gay Parties
- Business Women’s Special at Augusta House
- Yes, Yes Y’all at Annex Wreck Room
- Toastr at Riverside Public House
*Check the websites and Twitter feeds since all events are subject to change.
Theatre and Drag Shows
- Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, a not-for-profit professional theatre company, creates performances that question sexual and cultural norms. Buddies supports new and experienced artists and works that reflect values of queer libation. It’s the world’s longest-running and largest queer theatre.
- Theatres and concert halls are not far from The Village and close to the Eaton Centre, including The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre, the Ed Mirvish Theatre (formerly known as the Canon Theatre) and the historic Massey Hall.
- El Convento Rico has featured world famous drag shows for over 20 years and originally starting as an underground club catering gays, lesbians and trans people who were once persecuted.
- Crews & Tangos features drag performances seven days a week in addition to two dance floors. This bar welcomes everyone to their daily drag queen and king events including karaoke, musical performances, and sharp-tongued wit.
- Over one million people crowd The Village for Pride Week every June. Ten days of queer celebration shuts down Church Street and culminates in a spectacular parade.
- In 2014, Toronto replaced the city’s usual Pride Week with WorldPride 2014 (WP14TO). Highlighting Canada’s continued progress in human rights, WP14TO also celebrates Toronto’s diversity and dynamism as one of the world’s most progressive and livable cities. WP14TO marked the first WorldPride celebration ever held in North America and the fourth such festival in the world.
- Heart of the Flag Federation Inc. (HOTF) is a not-for profit membership club that presents the Toronto Leather Pride Week, including the Mr. Leatherman Toronto, Ms. Leather Toronto and Mr. Rubber Toronto competitions, Leather Ball, and Toronto Leather Pride Day in mid-August. In addition, it raises funds for its yearly charity of choice, present educational workshops and demonstrations and host various other events throughout the year within Toronto’s sexual minorities’ community.
- For more than 20 years, Inside Out has brought Toronto’s 2SLGBTQ+ community together celebrating the best queer films from Canada and around the world. This not-for-profit holds annual film festivals as well as engaging youth programs.
- In October, The Village streets bustle late into the night for Nuit Blanche. This all-night art party fills the city with performances and installations.
- The best Halloween costumes can be found on Church Street during Halloweek. This week-long, Halloween celebration has pumpkin carving and costume contests as well as a block party that takes over the neighbourhood.
- October also brings the annual Everything To Do With Sex Show held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This three-day adult event has seminars, stages shows, celebrities, erotic art and well-informed staff.
- Rainbow High Vacations, based in the heart of Toronto’s gay village, is the premier 2SLGBTQ+ tour wholesaler providing unique, innovative and safe, worldwide custom and guaranteed departure, group and FIT travels since 1992. It’s the official tour operator for Toronto Pride and now WorldPride 2014.
- The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) is the world’s leading global travel network dedicated to connecting, educating and supporting 2SLGBTQ+ travellers and the businesses. Whether it’s for individual, group, corporate, or student travel, IGLTA has affiliates around the world offering competitive packages for the perfect getaway.
- Canada’s gay and lesbian tourism industry association, Travel Gay Canada, provides gay and lesbian travellers with products and services that meet their needs and expectations. It also aims to better inform travellers of the unique and vast travel opportunities and experiences available within Canada.
Networks & Clubs
- The Gay Guide Network, a popular Canadian 2SLGBTQ+ Digital Magazine, started in 2002 and has been contributing high-vibe content, personal empowerment and better living ever since.
- GET Out! Canada leads the exciting gay, lesbian and trans events, shows and sports in Toronto, Canada. As top leisure and recreation club for Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community, it hosts events from drop-in sporting activities and trivia nights to volunteer and culinary events.
- The Village Church Wellesley BIA serves Toronto’s lesbian, gay, bi and trans village businesses, organizations and residents, working together to create a healthy, welcoming neighbourhood.
- The Ontario Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (OGLCC), a federally chartered, non-profit organization, aims to create an environment in which LGBTQ+ businesses and professionals can thrive through the sharing of knowledge and resources.
- Founded in 1973, the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA) has grown to become the second-largest 2SLGBTQ+ archives in the world. The house, which was built in 1858, has been extensively renovated for improved public engagement and it now offers a large reading room, an art gallery, and a meeting room that can be rented by other community groups.
- Toronto is the first jurisdiction in North America to legalize Gay marriage.
- Same sex marriages have been legal in Ontario since June 10, 2003.
- The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto married the first same-sex couple in Canada and has become a favourite spot to tie the knot.
- Other options for same-sex wedding ceremonies include City Hall, the Civic Centre or off-site.