Planning an amazing LGBT trip to Toronto this year? Whether it’s your first time in the city or the hundredth, the primary downtown core has plenty to offer by way of shopping, museums, tours, restaurants, historic sites and things to do. However, you might want to consider venturing out to explore the rest of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) during your stay too.
While Toronto is well known for the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre and the Hockey Hall of Fame among its roster of popular and engaging attractions, why not check out Edward Gardens, Casa Loma, the Distillery District, or the Canadian Opera Company? Catch a comedy show at The Second City or take a stroll in High Park (the city’s second largest park) with lots of green space, sporting facilities and a zoo. Whatever your flavor of fun, the GTA has something unique to offer.
From East to West end, here are some things you won’t want to miss across the GTA:
Attractions and Tours
- Ontario Science Centre – Incredibly unique exhibits for every age, plus IMAX Dome Films, hands-on activities and more. Science lovers, this is the place for you!
- Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada – Right next to the CN Tower is Canada’s largest indoor aquarium including the Dangerous Lagoon, discovery centre and touch tanks where you can get up close and personal with a range of sharks and stingrays. Cool!
- Royal Ontario Museum – If you love museums, the ROM in Queen’s Park has a vast collection of world culture and natural history exhibits containing over 6 million items and spanning more than forty galleries. Plan to spend at least a few hours or an afternoon here!
- Treetop Zipline Adventure – This elevated treetop obstacle course in Durham Region will take you through your choice of three courses that will take you through the trees, across suspended logs, over the monkey bridges, and down the zipline – if you dare.
- Canada’s Wonderland – For those looking to go north of the city for a day, Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughn has 16 major rollercoasters, tons of exciting rides and activities and a 20-acre waterpark to cool off at during the summer, all included in admission.
- Toronto Craft Brewery Tour – Beer lovers, this is the tour for you! This three hour excursion will take you to some of Toronto’s finest local craft brewers to learn all about how they create their amazing brews. Lunch, tour guide and transportation included!
- Wine Tours Toronto – Wine lovers, there’s something for you too. Choose from your choice of day tours to any of the offered wineries from Toronto to Niagara region. Take a tour of the winery, learn about the unique wine making process, fill up on samples and don’t forget to take a souvenir bottle home. Transportation included, lunch or snacks may be available for some tours.
- 501 Streetcar Food Tour – Foodies climb aboard the 501 streetcar for an informative and scrumptious day of food tastings in 6 different neighbourhoods across Toronto. Perfect for those who want to taste and soak in the culture of the city.
Parks and Rec
- Cawthra Square Park – Located in the Church-Wellesey Village, Cawthra Square Park is home to many gay and lesbian families from all walks of life. It’s a welcoming area for everyone in the LGBTQ community to meet and make friends, and during Pride Week is the site of popular events like Lipstick Jungle.
- 519 Church Street Community Centre – Since 1975, the 519 has created over 80 different programs to encourage a healthy, welcoming atmosphere for individuals of all genders, sexualities and ethnicities. At any given time they have a wide range of activities and events going on, from dance classes to book club discussions, and the friendly staff are always available to help point you in the right direction based on your specific interests.
- Harbourfront District – Stroll along the Waterfront Trail here to sightsee some of the beautiful marinas and outdoor patios, shop or simply enjoy the natural beauty of the parks.
- Toronto Islands – Take the ferry from the harbourfront and escape to the island for the day to relax on the Centre Island beach or check out the charming buildings and old fashioned feel of the children’s theme park, Centreville.
- Kew Gardens – This is a large public park that hosts many festivals, concerts, exhibits and craft shows. Perfect for an afternoon of leisurely exploring!
- Hanlan’s Point – This clothing optional beach is especially popular as the site of the first Gay Day Picnics. Great for a day lounging in the sun and enjoying the sights!
- Royal Alexandra Theatre – Considered the oldest continuously operating theatre in North America, the Royal Alexandra hosts some of the most renown productions and has included performances from Lucille Ball, Fred Astaire, the Marx Brothers, Gilda Radner and Edith Piaf.
- Princess of Wales Theatre – A homage to Toronto’s first ‘first-class legitimate’ playhouse, the Princess of Wales opened in 1993 with Miss Saigon and has since offered world class musicals such as Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, Chicago and The Sound of Music.
- Buddies in Bad Times Theatre – Departing from Toronto’s mainstream theatre, Buddies in Bad Times seeks to challenge sexual and cultural norms with its performances. They support an artist residency program, youth-focused initiatives, and invite the community each weekend for fun and dancing to support theatre and youth programs.
- Bovine Sex Club – Touted as one of the coolest bars on Queen West, rockers and hipsters unite in this retro environment with live music ranging from punk to metal to indie.
- Queer West Arts and Culture Centre – This not-for-profit organization puts on various performing arts festivals and has developed outreach programs for the LGBT community. Looking for a local LGBT live event? They can help you find it!
Food and Drinks
- St. Lawrence Market – Located on Front Street, this is one of the two major markets in Toronto offering plenty of little food shops, including delis and bakeries, plus weekly farmer’s markets and antique markets. Whether you’re looking for a bite to eat for lunch or to stock up on fresh ingredients, there’s something for everyone at the Market. They also offer events and classes such as hands-on cooking and preserving among other specialties.
- Snakes and Lattes – Who doesn’t love board games?! Located in the Annex, this funky little oasis has more than 2,500 game titles to choose from as part of its massive game library. Whether you sip on a warm coffee or cappuccino or keep the alcohol flowing, this is a fun way to tap into your childhood and wind down the evening.
- Sneaky Dee’s – This popular triple threat in Little Italy is part Mexican-style restaurant, concert hall and clothing store. Its casual graffiti-grunge atmosphere is perfect for a night out with friends or bar hopping – or both!
- Henhouse – Hello ladies! This cozy bar in the west end is mostly for the women to dance, drink and mingle. All are welcome.
- Byzantium – With a diverse martini list and unique menu, Byzantium is equally fit for a romantic night out or a casual dinner with friends. Its stylish atmosphere makes it a cozy retreat.
- The Drake – This openly-gay fashionable restaurant and bar is also a hotel with a rooftop lounge and concert hall in The Underground, featuring international cuisine and a trendy, comfortable atmosphere.
- Woody’s – Featured on the popular show “Queer as Folk”, Woody’s is known for great drag shows and contests such as “best chest” on Thursdays and “best legs” on Friday and Saturday. Fun all around and super laid-back, this is one of the most popular hangouts in the Village.
- Fly – Also featured in “Queer as Folk”, Fly has a spacious dance floor and consistent all-star DJs to get your party on all night. Think go-go dancers, strobe lights and high energy!
- Crews and Tangos – Known for its drag shows 7 days a week, Crews and Tangos has two dance floors, a patio, and karaoke nights to let your inner diva shine.
- Pegasus – If you love a game of pool, pinball machines, darts, euchre or video games, then Pegasus is your place to relax and make friends with similar gaming interests.
- Zipperz/Cellblock – This combo piano bar and nightclub has it all – dancing, singalongs to Broadway classics, cabaret, drag shows and a piano lounge. From the casual atmosphere at Zipperz to the charged up dance floor of the Cellblock, there’s no shortage of fun to be had here.
What are you most looking forward to when you visit the GTA? Have suggestions? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!