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.
Pride Toronto features a month of activities, culminating with the annual Pride Parade, the first Sunday in July. Inside Out, the Toronto LGBT Film & Video Festival, takes place over 11 days from late May to early June - this past year with over 200 films from Canada and around the world.
Other annual events include: Prism, North America’s largest gay circuit music festival of 5 days in late June; Green Space, the Toronto queer cultural festival in June; Fringe Festival Toronto, celebrating under-represented voices from the margins of the performing arts world in early July; the Queer West Film Festival in October; and Church Street’s Halloween Night Party on three blocks at Gay Village central, in late October.
The April through October Shaw Festival, 11 plays by George Bernard Shaw and Shavian playwrights, on 4 stages, takes place in the Village of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The April through November Stratford Festival presents a dozen or more productions of classics, contemporary dramas and musicals, with special emphasis on the plays of Shakespeare, in Stratford, Ontario. The ten-day Toronto International Film Festival of early September, screens more than 300 films from over 60 countries each year in Toronto. At the Reel Awareness Film Festival, Amnesty International Toronto presents some of the world's best human rights documentaries and feature films of the year, for three days in November.
See more events listings and activities, along with links to theatre and performance venues, and museum and gallery listings, to be found at our maps & listings and other pages. See some local faces from around the city at our gallery pages.
Pearson International Airport is seved by over 60 scheduled carriers, with non-stop and same-plane service to over 180 destinations around the globe. The Union Pearson Express, dedicated air-rail link, connects Toronto Pearson to Union Station in downtown Toronto, a 25-minute trip for a $9 fare. GO bus service will get you to the center for $7.70 in Canadian currency; or take the TTC public transit system 192 Airport Rocket bus route and subway (Kipling Station) for $7.25 (Nov 2016) - 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, has around 200 stations. Sign up with a credit card for 24-hour ($7), or 72-hour ($15) memberships, or for one year. Print your unlocking code to access a bike for unlimited 30 minute trips from any station, to be returned there or to another station. Half hour trips cost no extra, minutes 30-60 are $1.50, minutes 60-90 are $4, followed by $7 per half hour rates - so check into a station to start back at zero. Online and apps maps indicate how many bikes and empty slots there are at each of the stations.
The Gay Village, around the intersection of Church and Wellesley, has many bars, cafes, and restaurants to check out. Guys and girls stroll these sidewalks, particularly on Church Street. Take advantage of the window seats at one of the bars or grab a table at any of the many patio restaurants to watch the passing parade. The legal drinking age in Ontario is 19. In neighboring provinces of Manitoba, and Quebec, it is 18.
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 all ages, including many 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.
See the DX Guide for events in and around Toronto each month.
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 OUTexpressions online newspaper. Their website also has a map, and listings info for the Queer West Village.
See the website of Pride Toronto for info on the big dates in June each year, and other year-round activities; and of Toronto Leather Pride each August, with links to other area leather/ fetish sites.
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.
See Girl Play for the hottest party nights for women in Toronto.
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.
Blyss Nightclub (504 Church St), gay dance club, pop music, rotation of DJs, theme nights, special event - taking over Church on Church.
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander) presents innovative queer theater productions. Their Saturday after-show club nights feature weekly dance parties with DJs and a mixed men/women crowd from from 10:30pm, plus monthly New Queen on the Block performances.
Boutique Bar (506 Church), mostly guys at this "gourmet" cocktail bar with great patio overlooking the Church Street parade.
Church Street Garage (477 Church St), breakfast, lunch, dinner entees, burgers/wraps/sandwiches, late evening bites; drag shows, karaoke. Formerly Big Johnson's.
Churchmouse & Firkin Pub (475 Church), British-style pub on two levels, central location, summer patio, comfort food and daily specials; craft beers, cocktails, single malt scotches, wines by the glass.
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.
Statlers Lounge (487 Church St), friendly mixed/ gay bar, live bands, open mic, performers, game nights, weekend dancing.
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.
CLOSED: Byzantium; Church on Church; Gladaman's Den, Marquis of Granby, Slacks, and Play on Church.
Bars & Clubs: Queer West
Baby Huey (70 Ossington), mixed crowd of hipsters and expats, casual ambience, good local DJs.
Beaver Cafe (1192 Queen St West), popular daytime diner and bar, perfect paninis, great evening music, patio, diverse crowd; women's nights, karaoke, queer synthy and sweaty dance parties, amateur strip contests, and more monthly and holiday special nights.
Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington), country music bar, live performers, burgers and chili, Sunday brunch.
Melody Bar at Gladstone Hotel (Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St West), 1930s-era decor, piano bar, live entertainment, ballroom dance parties.
Miss Thing's (1279 Queen West), Pan-Asian/Hawaiian restaurant, retro tiki bar, Coconut Room dance floor, live music, arts performances, first Friday Big Primpin' queer hip-hop parties. The former Wrongbar.
Sky Yard at The Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St West), breakfast, lunch/brunch, dinner, snacks, sashimi/sushi; all-season roof patio/ cocktail bar.
CLOSED: Henhouse; Naco Gallery Cafe; Levack Block.
Comfort Zone (480 Spadina, Spadina Crescent), Friday and Saturday night/Sunday morning after-hours dancing until 9 or 11am.
El Convento Rico (750 College, Little Italy), gay, straight, tranny mix, hot and sweaty Latin dance club, legendary drag shows.
Flash (463 Church, The Village), x-rated holiday Sunday nights dance parties, live sex shows - also an every-night members sex club and bar.
Fly 2.0 (6 Gloucester, The Village), 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 nights and other LGBT dance parties happen here.
Sodom (120 Church, The Village), (inactive) monthly or so "decadent dance party" for mixed, mostly young gay crowd, dress-up theme nights.
CLOSED: Barn; Zipperz.
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.
The Blake House (449 Jarvis St), lunch/dinner sharing plates, burgers, sandwiches, veggie options; plus entrees including steaks, ribs, pot pies, salmon and fish 'n chips. Also Weekend Brunch and Sunday Roast prime rib, with Yorkshire Pudding. Full bar.
Cafe California (538 Church), relaxed Mediterranean-fusion restaurant; solarium, seasonal patio.
Churchmouse & Firkin Pub (475 Church), Cabbagetown British pub, daily specials, pub-style fish and chips, savory pies, local craft beers, pleasant patio.
Guu Izakaya (1314 Queen St W), 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.
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.
See 90 Toronto restaurant and cafe suggestions at our map & listings pages.
Saunas & sex clubs
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.
Urge (199 Church St), XXX video cinema, play room, glory holes, dark rooms, weekends until 4am.
CLOSED - The Attic (473a Church), gay men's sex club.
Glad Day Bookshop (499 Church St) famous queer icon, gay literature of all kinds, photo books, comics, periodicals, videos, music and novelties. New location adds coffee shop/bar, patio, performance space and art exhibits - in addition to the retail store.
Grain, Curd & Bean (1414 Dundas St W, Brockton/Beaconsfield), artisan cheeses, cured meats, dairy, local-source baked goods, bagels, condiments, snacks, teas, unique espresso/coffee blends.
Love Shop (489 Church), mixed sex shop, male video porn chain, sex toys for men, clothing, accessories, oils, lubes.
Northbound Leather (586 Yonge) world of fetish fashions, leather clothing, lingerie, kinky gear and accessories.
Stag Shop (532 Church, and 239 Yonge), adult retail stores in the gay neighborhood.
CLOSED - Priape (501 Church). See Montreal store or Priape.com, for beach and sportswear, leather gear and accessories, rubber fashion boutique; sex and fetish toys, lubes, aromas, books, comics, magazines and porn videos.