There’s one thing you’ll notice pretty quickly about Toronto: queer culture is everywhere. The notion of there being a single “gaybourhood” in the city is so last century.
While the Church-Wellesley Village remains the focal point of LGBTQ activity, queer-owned and queer-friendly establishments can be found all over the city – especially in the west end, where the affectionately named “Queer West Village” has quickly been gaining a reputation as an alternative to the Church Street scene.
Centered around Queen Street West between Trinity Bellwoods Park and Roncesvalles Avenue, Queer West is like The Gay Village’s younger, funkier, more hipster cousin. You won’t find any exclusively “gay bars” here, but you will find several venues and events that attract a mixed crowd of open-minded gays, straights and everyone in between. In Queer West, you’re more likely to offend someone with your musical preference than with your sexual preference.
With an abundance of trendy restaurants and cafes, edgy art galleries and shops – not to mention some of the hottest nightlife in the city – Queer West is a must-stop spot for any traveller to the city.
Mixed Crowds and Mixed Drinks
Ask anyone in Toronto where the best nightlife is and there’s a good chance they’ll say it’s along West Queen West, right in the heart of the Queer West Village. Whether you’re in the mood for live music, dancing or something more relaxed, you can find it here.
There’s always something going down at The Ossington, if you don’t mind a crowd. Sip on your drink of choice while grooving to the DJ in the front room. Or make your way to the back room for special performances and events, including monthly comedy nights, live theatre, film screenings, poetry readings, art auctions, and more.
Over at The Beaver, you’ll find a differently themed dance party every night of the week. Plus, every Monday is Drag Industry Night, featuring an up-and-coming drag king or queen. For more drag entertainment (with a Latin-inspired twist) head north to Little Italy where El Convento Rico is renowned for its fun weekend drag shows.
Looking for something different? Catch a musical at the Lower Ossington Theatre, or a live rock concert at Bovine Sex Club. And when you get hungry, there’s no shortage of delicious restaurants, bistros and cafés to choose from, featuring cuisine from all around the world.
Queer West Arts Scene
Music or movies? Poetry or prose? Minimalism or modernism? Queen West’s arts scene is so vibrant and diverse, you won’t have to choose. Oozing with creativity, the area is home to some of the city’s most cutting-edge galleries, performance venues and arts festivals.
The area boasts the largest concentration of art galleries in Toronto, including the trendy Twist Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. Admire the work of established and emerging artists in gorgeous, well-lit spaces. If you prefer to experience art in auditory form, you can head to any of the area’s many live music venues, such as The Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Avenue) or Velvet Underground (510 Queen Street West).
Every summer in August, Queer West celebrates its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered artistic community with the Queer Arts Festival – a week-long event that includes a film festival, spoken word events, concerts, art gallery tours by bicycle and more. Take in art that challenges and explores the concept of sexuality.
At the end of the summer, the Queen West Art Crawl brings together the neighbourhood’s arts community once again for three days of exhibits and events that showcase and benefit local artists. And the arrival of autumn means the return of the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche festival, which sees Queen West turn into an outdoor haven of contemporary art.
With its artsy-alternative vibe, happening nightlife, and welcoming atmosphere, it’s no wonder the Queen Street West has become a mecca for Toronto’s LGBTQ community.