Toronto as a Gay Destination
Liberal, broad-minded and free-thinking – modern Toronto is a model city for unconditional acceptance of diversity. Gay and lesbian Torontonians enjoy virtual complete legislative equality – in fact Ontario was the first Canadian province to pass same-sex marriage legislation, ahead of the federal initiative. It was the American adaptation of the British television series, Queer as Folk that drew international attention to the gay scene in Toronto – the series was filmed in the Ontario capital.
While Toronto may not be known for its beach culture, Toronto Island on beautiful Lake Ontario boasts several beaches. Luckily for gay and lesbian travellers, Hanlan's Point is considered a gay clothing optional beach. Take the ferry from downtown Toronto to Queen's Quay and walk around 15-minutes until you hit the beach.
The gay scene is focused on the intersection of Church and Wellesley Streets, just north of the main downtown business district. The centrepiece of the gay district is Woodys and the adjoining Sailor Bar – this is a great place to chill, chat and generally socialise with the locals. Other popular bars include Slacks Restaurant and Bar, Crews and Tangos, Black Eagle and The Barn. Remingtons is the city's only male strip club.
Toronto is one of the most accepting cities in the world, so gay and lesbian travellers will be welcomed with the same Canadian hospitality as anyone else. However, travellers may like to stay in a boutique hotel in the heart of the gay district at the intersection of Church and Wellesley Streets. Alternatively, check into a hotel in the downtown business district, which is only a short subway ride to the gay scene or a 20-minute stroll north.
Toronto's pride festival traces its history back to 1981 when police raids on a gay venue sparked a demonstration at Yonge and Wellesley Streets the following day. Three years later, in 1984, Church Street was closed for the first time to allow a street party in honour of diversity and the City Council formally supported the now annual event in 1991. Today Pride Toronto encapsulates a week long arts and cultural festival in June that culminates in the famous parade watched by 1.2 million people. The parade route starts at Bloor Street and travels down Yonge to Gerrard Street.