Gay Country Rank: 3/193
Pack a coat and head over to Toronto. The guys know how to warm the night up in a country that has long legalized and recognized gay rights. They reward gay travelers with a vibrant scene that consists of dozens of bars, nightclubs, saunas, and more all designed to make even the wildest of fantasies come true.
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Church-Wellesley Village is Toronto’s iconic gay neighborhood. Sitting on the north part of Church Street in Downtown Toronto, “The Village” plays host to over a dozen gay bars, gay restaurants, and a widening expanse of LGBT-heavy residential blocks. Many of its local establishments acted as backdrop to popular 90s American TV show “Queer as Folk”. Among other venues, the area features the world’s oldest gay bookstore (Glad Day Bookshop), an independent gay theatre (Buddies in Bad Times), gay saunas, coffee shops, and a community centre (The 519).
Toronto’s nightlife and gay establishments are clustered around the Church Wellesley Village , adjacent to the Wellesley TTC metro station. The dual bars of Woody’s and Sailor are an institution drawing local and international visitors alike. Nearby Byzantium is a restaurant bar with mean martinis and lays claim to being the first martini bar in Toronto. Around the corner, the Fly rocketed to worldwide fame with the filming of the American version of Queer as Folk.
Recent years have seen the growth of a secondary gay-friendly hotspot, with many gay-friendly arts and nightlife venues popping up in “Queer West Village”, the trendy neighborhood stretching along Queen Street West from Trinity Bellwoods Park to Roncesvalles Avenue. These bars and arts spaces tend to attract a younger, mixed clientele.
Every June, Toronto’s gay village becomes the epicentre of North America’s largest LGBT festival, Toronto Pride, lasting ten days. Highlights include numerous stages with live performance and DJs, the Dyke March, the Trans March, and builds up to the enormous annual Pride Parade down Yonge Street.
Other annual festivals and events hitting Toronto each year include Toronto Fashion Week in March, the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival each May, Toronto Fringe Festival in July, Toronto International Film Festival in September, and Nuit Blanche in October. Halloween, known locally as “Gay Christmas”, limits part of Church Street to pedestrian traffic, as locals pack the streets in elaborate costumes.
Popular affordable accommodations include a number of large hotels near the Gay Village: Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Toronto, Chelsea Hotel, Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville, Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Centre, and Bond Place Hotel. The Drake Hotel in Queer West Village serves as both a boutique hotel and popular nightspot with three separate bars, a restaurant and café. For higher-end accommodations, visitors should look to either the upscale Yorkville area (Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, The Hazelton Hotel, or the iconic Windsor Arms Hotel), or one of the entertainment district’s luxury properties (The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto or Shangri-La Hotel Toronto).
Music or movies? Poetry or prose? Minimalism or modernism? Queen West’s arts scene is so vibrant and diverse, you won’t have to choose. Oozing with creativity, the area is home to some of the city’s most cutting-edge galleries, performance venues and arts festivals.
The area boasts the largest concentration of art galleries in Toronto, including the trendy Twist Gallery and for photography, the Stephen Bulger Gallery. Admire the work of established and emerging artists in gorgeous, well-lit spaces. If you prefer to experience art in auditory form, you can head to any of the area’s many live music venues, such as The Dakota Tavern or Velvet Underground.
Every summer in August, Queer West celebrates its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered artistic community with the Queer Arts Festival – a week-long event that includes a film festival, spoken word events, concerts, art gallery tours by bicycle and more. Take in art that challenges and explores the concept of sexuality.
At the end of the summer, the Queen West Art Crawl brings together the neighbourhood’s arts community once again for three days of exhibits and events that showcase and benefit local artists. And the arrival of autumn means the return of the Nuit Blanche festival, which sees Queen West turned into an outdoor haven of contemporary art.