LGBTQ Toronto: Parks & Beaches

Out of the closet and out of doors – gay Toronto is the place to be for fun in the sun. During the spring and summer, couples and singles of all persuasions take to the city’s spectacular trails, parks and beaches for everything from exercise to people-watching.

Whether you’re L, G, B, T, or any other letter of the alphabet, you can feel safe walking around in Toronto. So don your tracksuit, your swimsuit or (if you’re at Hanlan’s Point) your birthday suit, and experience the warm, inviting atmosphere of Toronto’s outdoors.

Out in the Park

Toronto has over 1,400 parks covering more than 11 percent of the city’s surface – plenty of space in which to enjoy a picnic, afternoon stroll or go for a run with your partner, family or friends.

In the west end, High Park is the city’s second largest park and one of its most popular, featuring over 400 acres of natural green space, sporting facilities, playgrounds and a zoo. Not far away, Trinity Bellwoods Park is at the centre of Toronto’s Queer West Village, a gay-friendly neighbourhood known for its trendy shops, bars and art galleries. Explore tree-lined trails amongst gay and straight couples out for a stroll, then grab lunch at one of the area’s numerous restaurants.

At Cawthra Square Park in Toronto’s Gay Village, you’ll find plenty of gay and lesbian families, couples and singles enjoying the fresh air. Located right next to The 519 Church Street Community Centre, Cawthra Square Park has long been a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community to mix and mingle. During Pride Week, it is also the location of some of the hottest events including Lipstick Jungle and Disco, Disco.

For spectacular views of Lake Ontario and Toronto’s harbour, head down to the Harbourfront district, where the newly revitalized Waterfront Trail winds its way around marinas, parks and lakeside patios.

Beaches and Boardwalks

Toronto’s beautiful beaches are its best kept secret. Just 15 minutes east of the downtown core by streetcar, the area surrounding Queen Street East between Coxwell Avenue and Victoria Park Avenue is known simply as The Beach (or “The Beaches,” depending on who you ask). A 3-kilometre long boardwalk separates the wide stretch of soft, sandy Lake Ontario beachfront from the collection of hip shops, sidewalk cafes and patios along Queen Street. Get in a game of beach volleyball before cooling off in the lake or the free-entry swimming pool. If the sun isn’t your friend, take it easy in the shade at Kew Gardens, a large public park which is home to the neighbourhood’s many craft shows, concerts, exhibitions and festivals – including the very popular annual Beaches International Jazz Festival.

More beaches await on the Toronto Islands. A short ferry ride away from Toronto’s harbourfront, the Islands feel far removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown, characterized by their unspoiled beauty. If you’re travelling with kids, head to Centre Island Beach for unforgettable family fun. Play in the sand with your little ones and then take them to Centreville – a turn-of-the-century themed children’s amusement park, complete with antique carousel and miniature railway.

Or check out Hanlan’s Point, a clothing optional beach that is an especially popular destination amongst gay men. Hanlan’s Point has a long history of association with the gay community, being the spot where the first Gay Day Picnics were held at the beginning of the queer liberation movement in the 1970s. Bare it all as nature intended while you work on your full-body tan.

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