Natasha Negovanlis’s Guide to Toronto for Gay Women

Once you pass Yonge Street (I generally bypass King Street West and The Financial district on the weekends in an attempt to avoid bros and general club-district douche-baggery) you’ll find The St. Lawrence Market on Front Street East, which is one of Toronto’s oldest and largest food markets. Beside the market on Sundays, there is also a massive antique market that runs from 5am to 5pm. And if you’re feeling adventurous you can always hop on a ferry at the nearby Toronto Harbourfront to one of Toronto’s small islands or Hanlan’s Point—one of two nude beaches in all of Canada. (Though, be warned: You’ll see many-a-shrinky-dink!) Close to the market is also one of Toronto’s most historical areas, The Distillery District, which I personally only find fun when I’m feeling bougie.

IMG_4457The top of the St. Lawrence Market on a weekend afternoon.

If you choose to continue East however, there are many lovely neighborhoods to explore. The Village is located near Church Street & Wellesley street and is home to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Company on Alexander Street, which is a unique space that focuses on the creation and development of queer theatre. The Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives on Isabella Street also has some neat collections and exhibitions, and the remaining part of the East End has cute neighborhoods like Cabbagetown, Corktown, Riverdale, and Leslieville, where many queer families often purchases houses and settle down. You’ll usually find them eating ice cream together at one of the famous Ed’s Real Scoop locations, where I like to weep into a cup of house-made chili chocolate gelato as my ovaries explode over the adorableness.

A stone’s throw away from Leslieville, is also one of the lushest parts of Toronto’s waterfront, simply called “The Beaches” or “The Beach.” If you’re brave enough to take the 501 Queen Streetcar of Despair Eastbound towards the end of the line, it’s definitely worth checking it out. Especially if you travel with fur babies, because it is known for having some of the best off-leash dog parks in town. Or hit up Tori’s Bakeshop for gluten-free treats, and if you’re into ogling rich people’s houses or want to play some beach volleyball, take a long walk along the quaint boardwalk. You’ll be sure to feel like you’ve been transported to the ocean… or at least feel like you’ve been sucked into a Dawson’s Creek episode.

IMG_4609One of Toronto’s many beaches off the boardwalk, South of Kew Gardens.

From there, you can take a bus North on Woodbine Avenue or on Greenwood Avenue to The Upper Beaches and Little India for some late-night traditional Pakistani food, or to see the incredible lights if you’re visiting around Diwali. Eventually, if you keep heading North-West of there, you’ll make it to The Danforth area also known as Greektown. This is where one of my favorite queer-owned and queer-friendly cafés, Red Rocket Coffee, is located. (They have a second location in The Village as well, and some of the best scones in the city!) Greektown is also a super fun place for a date night. Grab some loukamades, hang around Carrot Common, scour the shelves of Re-Reading (a used bookstore) and end the evening with a concert at The Danforth Music Hall where artists like St. Vincent have played.

IMG_4491Colorful row houses (some converted into shops) in Kensington Market.

Just a little South/West of Greektown is the Chinatown/Kensington Market area near Dundas Street West & Spadina Avenue, which is another one of my favorite neighborhoods. Kensington is one of the most eclectic and safe spaces for hippy-dippy folks to be. Located near the Ontario College of Art and Design and The Art Gallery of Ontario, it’s full of shops that sell things like art supplies and costumes. I could spend hours in The Blue Banana Market on Augusta; an emporium for local crafts and jewelry. And although Kensington is always filled with stimulating sights, sounds, and smells, on the last Sunday of every month, it gets even better when the streets are shut down for a pedestrian-only festival where you can do things like play a giant game of Scrabble or watch fire-spinners. One of the most convenient things about Kensington is that it’s also tucked behind Chinatown which is an awesome place for shopping, trying new foods, or buying weird trinkets you probably don’t need, but will treasure forever.

IMG_4478Signs in one of Toronto’s several Chinatowns.

Just North and/or West of there, are tonnes of cool hoods like The Annex, Christie Pitts, Korea Town, and Little Italy. The Dundas West (or DuWest) area, around the Ossington Avenue strip (known for having an active night-life) is full of novelty bars like the The Get Well, where you can enjoy local craft beer while playing Dolly Parton pinball and vintage arcade games. And then there’s Bloor Street West or Bloordale, which is still developing, but also has a few gems. If you’re an omnivore with a vegan girlfriend, The Hogtown Vegan on Bloor has cruelty-free Southern comfort food that she’ll love, but will also satisfy your meat-loving soul. And just across the street from there, The Steady (a café and bar) hosts wicked queer events and some of the hottest dance parties in the city. Plus, there’s Ransack The Universe, a little further West on Bloor Street near Landsdowne, that offers great deals on records, antiques, and hosts crafting workshops.

IMG_4580A view of Bellwoods Brewery on Ossington Avenue at night.

After that, if you continue traveling West on Bloor, you’ll eventually hit Roncesvalles again, concluding the circle of Toronto through the eyes of this little lady. But again, Toronto is far too large for me to cover everything, and there is so much more to explore, so if you want to do some more research before you jet set, The Pink Pages and Queer West Toronto have great lists of different queer services and events around my beloved motherland. And of course, if you have any suggestions or favorite spots, please do leave them in the comments!