Toronto, Canada’s largest thriving metropolis of over five million Torontonians is a major destination for international LGBTQ+ travellers, year-round. Things kick up a notch in June each year as the city puts on its annual Pride celebrations, which are among the biggest and best in the world.
Host to a multitude of other international and LGBTQ+ events, Toronto was the city of choice for the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) Global Convention once again in 2018, and the team at Gayvan.com had the pleasure of joining hundreds of attendees from destinations around the world, to get a fresh and up close look at T.O.
One of our first stops after checking into our downtown hotel was a trip to the Church-Wellesley Village. The original gay village is an urban destination with the largest percentage of LGBTQ+-owned and welcoming businesses in Canada. Home to renowned LGBTQ+ bars and clubs, bookstores, saunas, cafes, restaurants, and community organizations, Church-Wellesley is a great place to start things off, before setting out to explore the city. It’s also home base for Toronto’s extensive Pride celebrations, now known as Pride Month, taking place June 1 to Jul 1, 2019.
After a celebratory happy hour beverage and snack at Woody’s, in the heart of the Village, we headed across town to the West Queen West Art & Design District, known locally as the Queer West Village. This is known as Toronto’s second neighbourhood of interest to the LGBTQ+ community and is home to broadcasters, gay-welcoming bars, restaurants, shops, cafes, design houses and galleries galore. Queer West Village’s cool vibe is welcoming to everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The Gay West Community Network Inc., also known as “Queer West”, organizes the annual Queer West Film Festival, Toronto Queer Arts and Culture Festival (Queer West Fest) and Smash Words Festival. They also produce OUTexpressions, an online publication with listings of some of the hottest events and places in town. A fab way to top things off after a day of exploration in West Queen West is to stop by the trendy Gladstone Hotel, for a refreshing cocktail or meal.
Queer East Toronto, which includes Leslieville, The Beaches and Greektown, are also becoming popular areas for LGBTQ+ Torontonians. Somewhat more laid-back than the Church Wellesley Village, these LGBTQ+ welcoming neighbourhoods offer a wide range of restaurants, pubs, shopping and nightlife.
Canada’s largest LGBTQ+ Centre, The 519, is located at 519 Church Street in the Church-Wellesley Village. This registered charity is an agency of the City of Toronto and works with community businesses and sponsors, to provide a broad range services, programs and meeting spaces for the LGBTQ+ community. The 519 co-sponsored walking tours of the Church-Wellesley Village for IGLTA convention delegates during our visit, which seemed like a perfect fit with their ongoing efforts to make a real difference in people’s lives. So much to do and see, it’s no wonder Toronto is on so many LGBTQ+ traveller’s “To Do” lists!