Thursday, July 7, 2016

Toronto: Best all-around Pride (for its size) - Part 1

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Marches in Toronto Pride

Note:  The following blog is part of a series of blogs about Toronto, made possible by ManAboutWorld Magazine and the Toronto Tourism Board, visit for a FREE 3 month subscription and download the app for your Phone or Tablet today, to keep up with all the best news in LGBT travel from global correspondents, like myself around the world.

Are you looking for a Pride that’s not overwhelming but includes a variety of parties and events for everyone – also still with the cred to attract top performers? Come to Toronto! From its relaxing outdoor opening at The 519 to the closing beats at the Treehouse, Toronto has the best organized, compact (and friendly!) event with some of the coolest venues for Pride anywhere. This year included Ru Paul, of course, Canada’s young (hot?) Prime Minister (the first national leader to march in Pride), and even Joe Jonas who closed the weekend with an hour-long free concert - if they're going, wouldn't you?

New York might have the biggest, San Francisco the coolest – but Toronto has the best all-around event, and it’s bite-sized!

Air arrival

Billed as Canada’s downtown, Toronto doesn’t disappoint – with awesome clubs, bars and restaurants – even a stadium with a retractable roof! Still, this is no concrete jungle – its beautiful parks and tree lined streets keep the skyline green. Architecturally it may not have as much variety to offer (they destroyed what would be a historic city center to make way for progress in the 1960s). But the shiny tall glass buildings with that eclectic CN Tower give this progressive city a futuristic look. My favorite transportation feature is one of the most modern, clean and efficient airport trains, the UP express (that takes you right downtown from Pearson Airport) – Toronto is only rivaled by European trains – and of course there’s wifi at the airport and in the train.
Rooftop pool at the Thompson Hotel

Also, you can fly even more conveniently via Porter into Billy Bishop Airport and simply ferry and walk to your hotel!


After daily events all of June – the final Pride weekend (now cleverly arranged for the first weekend in July, vice the previous busy Stonewall-anniversary weekend) begins with an open event called Starry Night – with a DJ set and performances by Drag Queens (led by Kim Chi) as well as a special kick-off with reps from all levels of government in a grassy outdoor area called the Green Space that surrounds The 519, Toronto’s diverse community center.

Ontario is currently being led by a lesbian Premier, Kathleen Wynne who took office in 2013 as both the first woman premier of Ontario and first openly gay premier in Canada. So she and her partner were both there, along with the Mayor and a federal minister (all levels of government are currently being run by the LGBT-friendly Liberal Party).

Also this evening was the perfect party for Canada – “Asian Express” or AX, which bills itself as the main monthly event for the Toronto Gaysian community (for the last 15 years!). Little is more beautiful to me than a (or being in a) mixed white and Asian couple – and all were present here (including the incredible guys who brought me). I didn't end up with take-out, but I definitely dined-in and enjoyed this high-energy party, with a number of performances.
AX (Asian Express) Party at Mercier Maison

Friday Church Street – the main LGBT street in “the Village” – starts to close down to traffic as vendors, promoters and non-profits set up to advertise to the masses. That evening after the always vocal Trans March (and various parties in houses, patios & rooftops) the main alternative party was a mixture of a hip-hop event called Big Pimpin’ and a jock party – so they called it Fit Primpin – held at the original Steam (no not Steamworks, which is also a standard staple, right on Church Street) Whistle Brewery. Also, the thumpa-thumpa Prism/Matinee Party was held at the incredible Sound Academy – with one of the best sound and light systems to titillate all your senses (especially when consuming illegal substances).

Saturday everyone is rainbow-clad, walking Church Street – picking up give-aways, winning prizes people watching and eating. At 2pm is the Dyke march – similar to the Trans March running the length of Yonge Street (pronounced simply “young”) - it runs parallel to Church. Also, there are all-day Drag performances at Drag On in Dundas Square – basically Toronto’s much smaller, and more intimate Times Square. At 6pm, over 70 Draq Queens gathered to break the record of most queens in a single performance (previously held by Columbus, Ohio).

CN Tower goes Rainbow
Later the biggest mixed event – attended by a great variety of people: GlitterBall at Church street’s only real club, Fly. Here, secretly adjacent to the men's bathroom, is one of the few dark-rooms I've seen in (puritan) North America! There was also a Brooklyn-y alternative-queer event called Hot Nuts, as well as a local-recommended PitBull for the fetish crowd.

Sunday the parade did not snake exhaustingly through the city, just from above the main Village to Dundas square. However, this year it ran far longer, since Black Lives Matter held up the parade.

Delayed for about 30 minutes, I simply hung around with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who just continually shouted “Happy Pride” waved a Canadian Rainbow flag and waved at the crowds. He took the time to snap pictures with a number of people while being delayed. His security detail was noticeably stressed – but the parade for Trudeau was without incident (except for a plethora of water pistols). Apparently, unmarked cars along side streets lined the route in case he needed to be quickly evacuated...

More about the Toronto Pride parade in part 2 and Ru Paul, Joe Jonas and more in part 3!

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