Founded in 1793, the city originally known as York was populated by many fleeing Loyalists from the United States. Resentment lingered for some time after US forces raided and pillaged the community during the War of 1812. In 1834, the city became known as Toronto, from tkaronto, the Mohawk name for the narrows.
Growing rapidly since the end of the 19th century, metropolitan Toronto now has over five million people. Almost half the city's residents were born outside Canada, making this a multicultural as well as an economic powerhouse. Ranked among the 14 most visited world cities, there's plenty of gay life and lots of businesses competing for the pink dollar.
Pearson International Airport is seved by 66 scheduled carriers. GO bus service will get you to the center for $7.20 in Canadian currency; or take the TTC public transit system 192 Airport Rocket bus route and subway (Kipling Station) for $4 (March, 2015) - a trip of 20 to 25 minutes. Purchase single fare tickets at Toronto Pearson at either of two TTC vending machines in Terminal 1.
Taxis and rental cars provide other travel options on the ground. Park 'n Fly is a convenient airport parking and shuttle service nearby where residents flying out can safely leave their cars.
Maple Leaf rail service from New York City, Penn Station to Toronto Union Station, takes just over 12 hours. See the Amtrak website for schedules and rates. From Montreal there are six (Saturdays) to ten (weekdays) daily trains, downtown to downtown, taking 4-5 hours. For information on these and other trains on routes throughout Canada, see the Via Rail website.
For Coach/Bus services see the websites of Trailways and Greyhound with service from most major US and Canadian cities. Coach Canada covers most Canadian connections, plus the Buffalo, NY to Toronto route.
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and the Metrolinx Go transit systems have buses and subways that cover the metropolitan area and connect with other regional systems. Multi-ticket and day pass plans are available. AT Find The Way they have a portal for all transportation information for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas.
Bike Share, Toronto's all-year public bike-sharing system (was Bixi), has 80 stations. Sign up with a credit card for 24 ($7), or 72-hour ($15) memberships, or for a month or a year. Print your unlocking code to access a bike for unlimited trips from any station, to return to that or any other. Half hour trips cost nothing extra, and up to 90 minutes the surcharge is just $4, but after that it's $7 per half hour. So check into a station, and start back at zero.
The Gay Village, around the intersection of Church and Wellesley, contains many sophisticated bars, cafes, and restaurants. There's an interesting street scene of guys and girls strolling up and down the sidewalks, particularly on Church Street. Take advantage of the window seats at any of the bars or grab a table at the many patio restaurants to watch the passing parade.
The increasingly gay West Queen West, (start your explorations at the Gladstone Hotel or website Queer West), is a vibrant district mixing together all kinds of young, creative and alternative types. Old Cabbagetown is another residential district to watch out for.
Media & resources
Xtra, our weekly Toronto local paper, ended print publications in February 2015, but DailyXtra will continue to provide daily LGBT news, current events, commentary, listings, travel articles and more, online.
The website of Church Wellesley Village has info on Toronto's Gay Village district.
Now Toronto Magazine is a local general public lifestyle and listings resource. The official Toronto city website lists services, resources, recreational and cultural facilities and other area attractions.
The Grid Toronto weekly city magazine and daily website provides a fresh "vibe and energy of a city in ascendance ...rejecting the glossy, doggedly aspirational vision ...(of) other publications."
The Inside Out website has details on Toronto's annual May LGBT film festival.
The Toronto Queer West Arts Centre produces the Queer Arts & Culture Festival and Queer West Film Festival in August, as well as the Outexpressions Newspaper. Their website also has a map, and listings info for the Queer West Village.
The website of the July annual Toronto Fringe Festival also has information about their Next Festival and The Creation Lab.
The TNT Men website has events for men who enjoy being naked with other men, including swims, yoga, bowling, dances, house-parties, game nights, art showings, and retreats.
For locations and website links to businesses listed below, and more, see our gay Toronto map & listings pages.
Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen W; 416-531- 4635), in Queer West, boutique hotel, 37 artist-designed rooms, bar.
Hyatt Regency Toronto (370 King; 416-343-1234), convenient downtown hotel, 394 guestrooms and 32 suites, near over 150 restaurants and bars.
Isabella Boutique Hotel (556 Sherbourne; 416-922- 2203), landmark building, 8 unique-design suites, 31 cozy rooms, culturally diverse neighborhood.
Jare's Place B&B (87 Empire Ave; 416-778-1940), three modern, spacious rooms, WiFi, massage services, gourmet breakfast in or to go.
Marriot Courtyard (475 Yonge; 416-924- 0611), gay area, full service hotel, 550 rooms, 25 suites, cable/satellite TV, free internet.
McGill Inn B&B (110 McGill; 416-351- 1503), longtime favorite, straight/gay clientele, 6 rooms, antique fixtures and character, all modern amenities, mostly shared bathrooms.
Neill Wycik (96 Gerrard E; 416-977-2320), fall through spring student residence, summer budget rate hotel rooms, individuals and groups
Toronto Garden Inn Bed & Breakfast (142 Seaton St; 647-346-4719), affordable 1890s Victorian townhouse rooms, antique furniture and decor, breakfast, cableTV.
Toronto Marriott Bloor (90 Bloor E; 416-961-8000), 220 rooms, 38 suites, full breakfast, business center, sophisticated shopping quarter hotel, walk to gay bars.
Town Inn Suites (620 Church; 416-964- 3311), kitchens, work spaces, living and sleeping areas, indoor swimming pool, sauna, fitness and business centers, WiFi.
Victoria's Mansion (68 Gloucester; 416-921- 4625), “self catering” B&B, affordable rates, private bathrooms, cableTV, wireless internet.
Bars & Clubs: Gay Village
Black Eagle (457 Church), bi-level leather, fetish and cruise bar, patio, barbecues, bear and naked nights.
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander), innovative theater productions, bar after 10:30pm Friday and Saturday.
Boutique Bar (506 Church), mostly guys at this "gourmet" cocktail bar with great patio overlooking the Church Street parade.
Byzantium (499 Church), upscale martini bar/ restaurant, men, women, mixed ages, cool rear patio, weekend DJs. Exotic steak meals to veggie fare, pizza to seafood.
Church on Church (504 Church St), new locals' watering hole, drag king and queen performances, hip-hop, and an industry nights.
Churchmouse & Firkin Pub (475 Church), central location, pub ambiance, summer patio, comfort food, many beers on tap.
Club 120 (120 Church St), queer/pansexual playground, promoters/private party events. Eclectic calendar: theme nights, burlesque, cabaret, dance parties, urban events, weekly Sunday underground afterhours, downstairs 120 Diner cafe with late menu. The former Goodhandy's.
Crews & Tango (508 Church St), mostly men gay dance bar with drag shows and karaoke; Tango upbeat lesbian dance floor.
Lola (40 Kensington Ave), Kensington Market dive bar, cheap beers, live music, mixed crowd.
O'Grady's Tap and Grill (518 Church), cozy pub and restaurant, fireplaces, patios, Friday night bears.
Pegasus On Church (489 Church), upstairs neighborhood bar, games galore, pool tables, big TVs screen sports and gay-faves.
Remingtons (377 Yonge), male strip club, totally nude dancers, amateur nights, private encounter booths.
Sailor (465 Church), gay bar next to/ part of Woody's complex, in heart of gay village.
Woody's (467 Church), city's busiest bar, cavernous complex of five bars, nightly DJs, view of street; hot men shows include body contests. Sexy videos, gay TV shows, pool tables and games, bartender hunks. Priape gay store upstairs.
CLOSED: Gladaman's Den, Slacks, and Play on Church.
Bars & Clubs: West Queen West
Baby Huey (70 Ossington), mixed crowd of hipsters and expats, casual ambience, good local DJs.
Beaver (1192 Queen West), popular diner and bar, perfect paninis, great evening music, patio, diverse crowd.
Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington), country music bar, live performers, burgers and chili, Sunday brunch.
Henhouse (1532 Dundas St W), party place, Drag Race, home of "Snakepit," "Trash," "Chicken" queer parties and more; mix of all kinds crowd.
Melody Bar at Gladstone Hotel (Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen West), 1930s-era decor, piano bar, live entertainment, ballroom dance parties.
CLOSED: Naco Gallery Cafe, Levack Block
Comfort Zone (480 Spadina), Friday and Saturday night/Sunday morning after-hours dancing until 9 or 11am.
El Convento Rico (750 College), gay, straight, tranny mix, hot and sweaty Latin dance club, legendary drag shows.
Flash (463 Church), x-rated holiday Sunday nights dance parties, live sex shows - also an every-night members sex club and bar.
Fly 2.0 (6 Gloucester), warehouse-size dance club near Wellesley Metro, four dance floors on three levels, great sound and light systems, local and guest DJs, dance videos. AX Asian dance parties happen here, and Snatch at The Flying B Bar at Fly (8 Gloucester) women's nights too.
Sodom (120 Church), monthly or so "decadent dance party" for mixed, mostly young gay crowd, dress-up theme nights.
Wrongbar (1279 Queen West), huge dance floor, serious DJs, first Fridays Big Primpin queer hip-hop party.
Zipperz (72 Carlton), piano lounge, classic drag cabaret, secluded patio, inner dance club, country music dance nights.
CLOSED: Barn (418 Church), big space, underwear parties, top-floor dark room, after-hours dancing.
120 Diner (120 Church St), Tuesday through Friday cafe from 11:30am, under Club 120, late-night menu, Saturday/ Sunday brunch from 10am, indoor patio.
Baskin Robbins (536 Church) cones, sundaes, shakes, and frozen yogurt.
Big Johnson's (477 Church St), gay-central street patio bar, “high-end” martinis, fresh pub fare, DJs and drag artists, creative pub fare sandwiches, burgers, appetizers, dinner specials and weekend brunch -- former Village Rainbow Cafe site.
Byzantium (499 Church) chic martini lounge and restaurant, glass front opens to summer patio.
Cafe California (538 Church) relaxed Mediterranean-fusion restaurant.
Churchmouse & Firkin Pub (475 Church) daily specials, pub-style fish and chips, savory pies, pleasant patio.
Guu Izakaya (398 Church St), popular Japanese, striking design, warm lively atmosphere, take friends to sample/share.
Hair of the Dog (425 Church) upscale neighborhood pub, patio, varied menu, generous servings, late hours.
Kokoni Izakaya (459 Church St) Japanese Sushi ,tapas-style lunch, dinner, drinks, extensive menu, gracious staff, evening dancing.
O'Grady's Tap and Grill (518 Church) breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, homemade pub grub, packed patio.
Oishii Japanese Restaurant (556 Church), all-you-can-eat sushi; varied fish, tempura, meat & tofu menu.
Old Nick (123 Danforth) live music, pub fare and comfort food, many beers on tap, patio, organic weekend brunch.
Olympic 76 Pizza (8 Gloucester) Italian specialties, tasty pizzas and panzarotti.
Pizzaiolo (461 Church St, 834 Yonge St, 707 Yonge St) Gay Village gourmet pizzas and calzones, meat/veggie/vegan. Also 624 Queen West.
Rawlicious (2122 Bloor St W), organic and vegan raw food restaurant, appetizers, soups, salads, main entrees, smoothies, fresh juices, and desserts.
Sambucas On Church (489 Church) two-level Italian restaurant and cocktail bar.
The 8th Deadly Sin Restaurant & Bar (6 Gloucester), bar grub; perogies, paninis, wraps, burgers, lobster poutine, Southern fried chicken, grilled salmon; draft beers.
Saunas & sex clubs
Attic (473a Church), Wednesday-Sunday gay men's sex club; 2-level play space, sling room, fuck bench, glory hole booths, 8 XXX cinema screens, 2 mazes, smoking patio, private Raunch events.
Cellar (78 Wellesley) subterranean recess, famous for exceptionally dark ambiance.
Flash (463 Church), 7-night members sex club and bar; x-rated dance parties, live sex shows.
Spa Excess (105 Carlton) glass and tile wet area, big whirlpool, videos, sling, St Andrew's cross, bar, rooftop sun deck.
Steamworks Toronto (540 Church, 2nd floor) gorgeous steel and glass design, full gym, steamy amenities, 18- plus crowd.
Urge (199 Church St), XXX video cinema, play room, glory holes, dark rooms, weekends until 4am.
Glad Day Bookshop (598A Yong) famous queer icon, gay literature of all kinds, photo books, comics, periodicals, videos, music and novelties.
Love Shop / Wega Video (489 Church), mixed sex shop, male video porn chain, sex toys for men, clothing, accessories, oils, lubes.
Majesteas (950 Queen St E, Leslieville), gay, well-travelled/trained tea sommeliers' shop, full retail line of teas; pots of your favorite or take-out lattes and iced teas.
Northbound Leather (586 Yonge) world of fetish fashions, leather clothing, lingerie, kinky gear and accessories.
Stag Shop (449 Church, and 239 Yonge), adult retail stores in the gay neighborhood.
CLOSED - Priape (501 Church) - October, 2013. See Montreal store or Priape.com, with beach and sportswear, leather gear and accessories, rubber fashion boutique; sex and fetish toys, lubes, aromas, books, comics, magazines and porn videos.