by Dirk Baumgartl
For Toronto Gay Pride has long been routine. When Pride Week takes place at the end of June, between 500,000 and one million visitors come to the events of the Pride, which is one of North America’s largest gay events. A total of 22 blocks of streets around Gay Village around Church and Wellesley Street is closed to traffic for a weekend, so that gays, lesbians, transgender and queers can celebrate an ample street festival. The time couldn’t be better: Summer has long since arrived in the city and Toronto presents itself at its best. The best view of the city is from the 553 metre high CN Tower, probably Toronto’s most famous landmark. You have a good view of the skyline, Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands outside the city from there.
If you want to stay longer than a weekend and escape a hot day in the city at least for a few hours, a trip to the islands is recommended. Whether on foot, by canoe or bicycle – the local recreation area offers plenty of opportunities for activity. But many gays are also drawn directly to Hanlan’s Point, one of the very few official nude beaches in North America. And even those who prefer culture have more than enough choice in Toronto. Whether at the huge Royal Ontario Museum with its collections on cultural history, natural science and indigenous people or the Art Gallery of Ontario with works of international and Canadian, mainly contemporary art. Don’t miss Casa Loma, located on a hill a bit towawrds the suburbs. It was built at the beginning of the 20th century in the style of a medieval castle and the building as its gardens are among the city’s most popular attractions.
If you prefer locations off the beaten track, you can visit the West Queen West art and design quarter. You find all branches of typical North American chains in downtown Toronto along Yonge Street, including the well-known Eaton Centre. An alternative and also creative scene has developed in the western part of the city. In the centre of the hip neighbourhood you can find two hotels that are more than just accommodation. The Gladstone Hotel has contemporary art each floor of and each of the 37 guest rooms was designed individually by various artists. The neighbouring The Drake Hotel, another popular artists’ meeting place with bar and restaurant, also hosts gay parties frequently. A large group of restaurants, boutiques, galleries and shops have created the label “Queer St. West” to express their attachment to the community and promote it at the same time. The label is a sign in rainbow colours on their doors.
For jumble, fashion and art fans, there is always something exciting to discover along West Queen West Street and its side streets. From the wallpaper designer INAbstracto + Verso, the trendy tapas restaurant Nyood, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art or the specialist for used and new motorcycle clothing and equipment Doc’s Leather & Motorcycle Gear – the range is as diverse as the residents. Take at least a quick look at the Academy of Lions Gym store on Ossington Avenue. Here, art, sport, fashion and food form a rather unique symbiosis. If you want a real insider’s view of West Queen West, Artinsite.com offers individual guided tours. Art columnist Betty Ann Jordan also offers a two-hour walk every Saturday at 12 noon.
The nightlife in Toronto’s Gay Village is at least as diverse as the art scene in West Queen West. From cosy trendy restaurants like the Vic Public House or Fire on the East Side to popular hangouts like Byzantium or Hair of the Dog to stripper bar Flash or Woody’s, always packed on weekends. If you walk along Church Street for the first time, it’s hard to make a decision at first, but the later the evening, the easier it will become for you to decide which bar is your favourite. And if you like to dance, it is best to go to the Fly Nightclub before midnight to avoid long queues. The Fly not only features internationally renowned DJs, but the club also once served as location for the American TV series “Queer As Folk”, there called Babylon.
If you go to Toronto for Pride Week, however, you might prefer not to visit the Fly, as it bursts at its seams during that period. But you have plenty of alternatives to choose from: there are great open air parties in Cawthra Square Park directly on Church Street and also the Prism Festival. It is not part of the official Pride programme but one of North America’s biggest circuit events and will take place for the tenth time in 2013. You should keep enough strength for Sunday anyway to at least watch Pride parade that can easily compete with the in New York one in numbers and diversity. Should you plan your summer vacation 2014 at this point, dont forget to mark in your calendar the dates of World Pride 2014, June 20th to 29th.
Offiicical homepage of Toronto Tourism Board, containing plenty of information and event calendar and also a large area for gay tourists.
Homepage of the gay city mag with latest news and information on the gay scene.
All information on World Pride 2014 in Toronto, June 20th to 29th.
HOW TO GET THERE
Lufthansa offers direct daily flights from Frankfurt and five flights a week from Dusseldorf during summer. Return flighs are available from 567 Euros in Economy Class. Keep your eyes peeled for special offers on the LH homepage.
Toronto can easily be explored on foot or by public transport Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) offers day and weekly passes (10.75 or. 38.50 CAD respectively), valid on buses, Underground and tram.
Hilton Toronto (145 Richmond Street West) Hotel with modern rooms, centrally located in Downtown Toronto, www.hilton.de/toronto
Marriott Bloor Yorkville (90 Bloor Street East) Good value for money hotel, near Gay Village and directly on the route of Pride Parade, www.marriottbloor.com
Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street West) Beautiful boutique hotel in trendy West Queen West neighbourhood, www.thedrakehotel.ca
Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West) Artists’ hotel in West Queen West with amazing atmosphere Atmosphäre and cosy bar, that is always good for a nightcap, www.gladstonehotel.com
Victoria’s Mansion (68 Gloucester Street) Homo-friendly guest house in Gay Village offering 21 rooms in total, www.victoriasmansion.com
All information on the gay scene can be found in SPARTACUS INTERNATIONAL GAY GUIDE or in Spartacus App
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