Toronto Pride: Ultimate Restaurant, Bar & Nightlife Guide
Toronto Pride means days of food, fun and fab. The heart of the celebration is in Toronto’s gay village but opportunities for entertainment can be found in LGBTQ-friendly bars, restaurants and nightlife spots across the entire city.
All that celebrating can work up an appetite (and a thirst). Check out our ultimate guide for where to eat, drink and party during Toronto Pride 2016 – wherever your travels may take you.
In the Gay Village
During the final weekend of Pride, Church Street in Toronto’s Gay Village shuts down to become a pedestrian-only party zone.
Where to eat: Grab a bite to eat at any of the numerous street food vendors lining the street. For pub grub, get a seat and a plate of nachos on the patio at O’Grady’s (518 Church Street) or The Churchmouse & Firkin (475 Church Street). More upscale dining can be found at Church Bistro (555 Church Street), Lola’s Kitchen (634 Church Street), or Sambucas on Church (489 Church Street).
Where to drink: There’s no shortage of places to drink in The Village, and even more so during Pride when beverage gardens spring up all along Church Street. Head to The Green Space on Church beside The 519 Community Centre, where the beer tents and outdoor dance floor always draw a big crowd. Drop in at Crews & Tangos (508 Church Street) to enjoy live drag entertainment, or chill out with a pint on the patio. Across the street, Woody’s (467 Church Street) is a local institution with hot bartenders serving up cold drinks.
Where to party: The parties during Toronto Pride are legendary. At The Green Space on Church, there’s a different party happening every day from July 1 to the July 3, including Lipstick Jungle after the Dyke March and Disco, Disco after the parade. If you feel like a change of scenery, simply walk down Church Street where you can always find live music and DJ’s stirring up fun. And make sure to check out Fly 2.0 nightclub (6 Gloucester Street), whose go-go dancers, strobe lights and fist-pumping music have earned it a legendary reputation and numerous Best Dance Club in Toronto awards.
Toronto Pride 2016: Ultimate Restaurant, Bar & Nightlife Guide
In the West End
West Queen West (a.k.a Queer West) is the Village’s younger, trendier, hipster cousin.
Where to eat: You won’t have a problem finding good food on restaurant-lined Queen Street West. Grab a table at Terroni (720 Queen Street West) for authentic Italian cuisine including their famous wood-fired pizza. Thai Elephant (813 Queen Street West) has some of the best Thai food in the west end. If you’re feeling classy and have money to burn, head to La Palette (492 Queen Street West) for escargot, duck confit and a wine list to die for.
Where to drink: The west end’s watering holes attract varied crowds of all ages, genders and orientations. The Beaver (1192 Queen Street West) is a former gallery turned bar/restaurant with a great patio and an artsy laid-back vibe. Not far away, The Steady (1051 Bloor Street West) is an unpretentious Miami-inspired bar for anyone who likes good cocktails. Speaking of cocktails, it’s hard to beat BarChef (472 Queen Street West), which boasts over 5,000 housemade bitters and the famous Vanilla & Hickory Smoked Manhattan.
Where to party: If you get tired of the scene in the Village, the scene in Queen West is every bit as bumping. The Drake (1150 Queen Street West) is famous for its raucous themed parties during Pride. Continue the fun with live music and DJs at Velvet Underground (510 Queen Street West) or Bovine Sex Club (542 Queen Street West), where you can dance the night away.
In the East End
The east end offers a quieter atmosphere than The Village or Queen West, with plenty of eye candy in The Beaches.
Where to eat: Between Leslieville’s cafés, The Danforth’s Greek food, and The Beach’s pubs, the east end is a haven for foodies. Grab a locally sourced meal from Chef Lynn Crawford’s Canadian-themed seasonal menu at Ruby Watchco (730 Queen Street East). Savour the taste of Greece at Messini Authentic Gyros (445 Danforth Avenue) or Pan on the Danforth (516 Danforth Avenue). Or enjoy the famous pulled pork poutine at Hogtown Smoke (1959 Queen Street East) in The Beach.
Where to drink: When the sun is out during Pride (which is usually), many people head east to The Beach, where the patios provide a perfect vantage point for people-watching. Hop on the streetcar and go patio-hopping on Queen Street East. The Stone Lion (1958 Queen Street East) features two patios and a great selection of imported beers, while The Salty Dog’s (1980 Queen Street East) west-facing patio ensures plenty of sun in the afternoon. Afterwards, take a walk along the boardwalk to admire the shirtless guys and bikini-clad gals hanging out on Ashbridge’s Bay Beach.
Where to party: Newcomer Wayla Bar (996 Queen Street East) has a funky vibe inspired by the nightlife in France and underground clubs in New York City. During Pride, it plays host to many special LGBTQ-themed events. Also check out The Duke (1225 Queen Street East) for live music and karaoke, and The Roy (894 Queen Street East) for Irish-style drinking and dancing.
By the Harbourfront
Picturesque views of the lake make the Harbourfront the perfect place to wander during Pride, with the allure of the Toronto Islands only a short ferry ride away.
Where to eat: Toronto’s waterfront restaurants combine great food with beautiful views of Lake Ontario. Munch on baked stone flatbreads, maple chipotle baked wings and pulled pork on Against the Grain’s killer lakeside patio (245 Queens Quay West). Chow down on pub food at Watermark (207 Queens Quay West). Or enjoy authentic Szechuan and Cantonese dishes at Pearl Harbourfront Chinese Cuisine (207 Queens Quay West). Wherever you dine, you’re guaranteed a spectacular view.
Where to drink: Craft beer aficionados will love Amsterdam Brewhouse (245 Queens Quay West), which boasts a 14,000 square-foot space, an extensive selection of regular and seasonal craft beers and a fully functioning brewery. Other good spots to grab a brew include The Miller Tavern (31 Bay Street) and Firkin on Harbour (10 Yonge Street), while The Wine Bar (9 Church Street) has a list of vintages to please the most discriminating of sommeliers.
Where to party: Take the ferry over to the Toronto Islands where there is always at least one wild party during Pride. While there, be sure to head to Hanlan’s Point, a clothing-optional beach that is a popular hangout for gay men.
Toronto Pride 2016: What to Do and Where to Go
If You’re Looking for Live Music
Toronto Pride always boasts an impressive roster of musical artists, and this year is no exception.
Watch Forte – Toronto Gay Men’s Chorus, Christian Jeffries and Backburner and many others perform live amongst mummies and marble at Friday Night Live: Colour ROM Proud, a one-night dance party at the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park, June 24, 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.).
Boundary-pushing and in your face, the Alternaqueer dance party is a chance to let your hair down and rock out, with live performances by Toronto feminist art rockers Vag Halen and JD Samson of Le Tigre (Bud Light South Stage, 423-425 Church Street, July 1, 7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.).
With live grafitti by Lauren Hortie, back-to-back DJs Denise Benson and Cozmic Cat, live music by Witch Prophet, and much more, Lez Get it On! is the official after party of this year’s Dyke March. (Bud Light South Stage, 423-425 Church Street, July 2, 2:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.).
End your Pride celebration the right way with the star-studded stud lineup of The Final Play, featuring Joe Jonas and his pop band DNCE (Molson Canadian Stage – Yonge-Dundas Square, July 3, 2:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.).
Toronto Pride 2016: What to Do and Where to Go
If You’re Looking to Party
The parties at Toronto Pride are fun, frenzied and fab.
Kick off Pride early and soak up the sun at Sugar Beach for the XLSIOR: Sugar Beach Party. All the way from Brazil, Felipe Lira will be laying the beat down at this hot and happening circuit party (22 Dockside Drive, June 19, 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.).
Relax on a private cabana and enjoy the sunset over Lake Ontario at Cabana Pool Party. Madrid hottie Anthony May and local enchantress Ticky Ty provide the music, while queen Naomi Smalls of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 hosts (Cabana Pool Bar – 11 Polson Street, June 29, 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.).
Immerse yourself in a world of glitter, glitz and glamour at Starry Night. Filled with performances by multiple Juno award-winner Kim Richardson, Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 8 breakout star Kim Chi, Toronto-grown Tynomi Banks and more, this FREE soirée is one you won’t want to miss (Barbara Hall Park – 519 Church Street Community Centre, June 30, 5:00 p.m. to midnight).
If You’re Looking for Multicultural Flare
Toronto Pride is all about celebrating diversity.
Join Mexican-American superstar Lila Downs at Mariposa: From Latin America with Love for a hot night of authentic Latin rhythm infusions. (Wellesley Stage, July 1, 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.).
Learn the delicate art of Spanish seduction at Pink Flamenco! This same-sex ultra-hands-on Latin dance party aims to teach only the spiciest flamenco moves (Harbourfront Centre Boulevard Tent, 235 Queens Quay West, June 23, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.).
The Two-Spirit Rainbow Pow Wow promises a drum beating celebration of indigenous art, culture and music, all while promoting an inclusive atmosphere for everyone. Catch live performances by DJ Shrub of A Tribe Called Red and JUNO award-winning duo Digging Roots (TD Village Stage, 77 Wellesley Street East, July 1, 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.).
If You’re Looking for Activism and Dialogue
The Pride movement was born out of a spirit of political activism and Toronto Pride Week continues that tradition with critical dialogue and events tackling issues that affect the LGBTTIQQ2SA community.
Listen to a power humans rights panel discuss the systemic and daily oppression faced by members of the Black queer and trans community at Blackness and Queer Politics (The 519, 519 Church Street, June 29, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.).
The Trans Community Fair is a place to find more information on, make connections in or get support from the Toronto trans community (Allan Gardens, Carlton and Sherbourne Streets, July 1, 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.).
Commemorate those lives lost and affected by HIV/AIDS at the AIDS Candlelight Vigil (Barbara Hall Park – 519 Church Street Community Centre, June 28, 9:00 p.m.).
If You’re Looking to March (or Spectate)
Toronto Pride Weekend features three major parades and marches that celebrate gender and sexual diversity in all its forms.
Founded in 2009, the Trans Pride March has evolved into one of the largest annual events put on by Canada’s trans community. (Starts at Church Street and Hayden Street, July 1, 8:00 p.m.)
The Dyke March is Toronto’s celebration of women and trans people in the LGBTTIQQ2SA community. (Starts at Church Street and Bloor Street East, July 2, 2:00 p.m.)
Close off Pride at the one and only Toronto Pride Parade, led this year by International Grand Marshal and trans activist Aydian Dowling. Let loose and have fun amidst the elaborate floats, colourful costumes and rousing music. (Starts at Church Street and Bloor Street East, June 3, 2:00 p.m.)
If You’re Looking for Artistic Inspiration
The arts are essential vehicles for the exploration of queer identity.
Nuit Rose, Toronto’s annual queer art and performance festival, is celebrating three years with the inclusion of Light Parade, a cavalcade of light through the heart of Pride (Begins at Norman Jewison Park, 13 Isabella Street, June 25, 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.).
Cuddle up and grab some snacks for a special 25th anniversary FREE screening of “Truth or Dare,” the famous documentary of Madonna’s landmark tour. (FIDO Ryerson Quad, 43 Gerrard Street East, July 2, 4:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.).
Art Fair is an exposition of the artistic efforts of Toronto’s youth addressing identities, mental health and other social justice initiatives (Alexander Parkette, 16 Alexander Street, July 2 and 3, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.).
If You’re Looking for Divine Drag Divas
From the stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race to homegrown talent from Toronto and Montréal, there’s more drag entertainment at Toronto Pride than you can shake a boa at.
Australian drag DJ, Kitty Glitter, returns to Pride with a special performance amongst the fishes, mermaids and sharks for A Night at the AQUEERium (Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, 288 Bremner Boulevard, June 26, 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.).
Fan favourite from Season 7 of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Katya is returning with friends for her one-of-a-kind show at Fly 2.0 nightclub (6 Gloucester Street, July 1, 10:30 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.).
With 50 drag performers at Drag On!, co-hosted by Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 6 winner Bianca del Rio and Lady Bunny with music by Britney Spears impersonator, Derrick Barry, this event will be as fierce and flamboyant as they come (Molson Canadian Stage – Yonge-Dundas Square, July 2, 2:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.).
Pride Toronto 2016
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