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 sports game 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 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.
Walk hand-in-hand with your partner along the boardwalk as you soak in the summer sun and check out the attractive “scenery.” Then 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 always-anticipated Beaches 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 old-world charm and 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.
Feeling risqué? 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 1970’s. Bare it all as nature intended while you work on your full-body tan.
Summer in Toronto means picnics, patios, parks, and plenty of cute boys and girls out enjoying the sun. Ditch the hotel for the day and take to the great outdoors. In gay Toronto, you don’t have to worry about being yourself in public.