Diverse, exciting, buzzing and…best ass?
Yup, that's actually a thing in the Toronto gay scene! Over at Woody's gay bar, every Friday evening, they host the “best ass” competition!
Butts aside, the gay scene of Toronto truly has something for everyone. The city is home to Canada's largest LGBTQ community and welcomes visitors from all walks of life.
Just like the gay scene of Montreal, the gay village of Toronto is huge. It is located at the intersection of Church and Wellesley Streets, hence its nickname: the “Church and Wellesley Village”, or just “The Village”…or, “ya'll wanna go out in Church later?”. This is where the majority of the best gay bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes and clothing stores can be found.
Toronto's Gay Village is also ground zero for the annual Toronto Pride week every June, which is one of the largest Pride events in the world. Whether you come to the Toronto gay village in the deep winter or summer, there's always a buzz in the air, which is why we love it.
In this guide, we've put together our favourite gay bars and clubs in Toronto. Also, be sure to watch our vlog about the gay scene of Toronto above.
Woody's and Sailor's
467 Church Street
Woody's is an institution in Toronto's gay nightlife. From the outside, it looks like 2 separate bars: Woody’s and Sailor’s. On the inside, the two connect and merge into one massive factory of fun and fabulousness. Woody's is the go-to bar for most gay guys in Toronto, also the largest gay bar in town. It's become THE staple on the gay scene of Toronto, dating back to 1989 when it was the very first gay bar to open in the village. It's also famous, being the main gay hangout for the boys in the American version of Queer As Folk.
We love their drag shows here, which happen almost every evening on the week. You also need to check out their “best” competitions on the weekends…the “best chest”, “best legs” and “best ass” being the most popular! In case you're wondering, the contestants are judged on whatever asset is the subject of the competition is considered the, er, best! The drag queen hosting it will crown the contestant based on who she thinks receives the loudest applause from the audience and of course who first with her the most!
Woody's became the main bar that we ended up coming to at some stage every time we went out in the Toronto Gay Village. As we said, it's an institution here, and for good reason!
Woody's is open every day from 1pm till late and is located at 467 Church Street. When we last checked, their website was down, but you can find out more about them on Woody's Wikipedia page and also on their Facebook page.
Discover Toronto's gay scene with a drag queen
This has got to rank as one of THE best gay tour we've ever done! A local drag queen guides you through the most popular gay bars with drag performances for that evening. She'll also introduce you to each queen you see performing. The tour includes a visit to 5 bars, 4 drag shows and 4 free drinks. It's a must – kinda like paying homage to the awesome Toronto drag queen legend that is Mrs Brooke Lynn Hytes!
Crews & Tango
508 Church Street
Crews & Tangos is the best gay bar in Toronto for drag shows, with a hilarious performance taking place every night of the week. It's considered the hub of Toronto's drag culture, the place where local drag queens will have started their career at some stage. The most famous of them all – the Queen of the North, Mrs Brooke Lynn Hytes, who is from Toronto, started her career right here many years ago. She still performs here every so often.
On the subject of Ru Paul's Drag Race, this is where you'll want to head for the best viewing parties. Crews and Tangos even host their own Crews & Tangos Drag Race every summer as well as the Miss Crews & Tangos Pageant.
When we visited Crews and Tangos, it was on a Thursday evening at one of their karaoke parties. It's a ball – you ever been to a karaoke party with drag queens? A new bucket list item for you to try out! For clubbing, Friday and Saturday evenings are their biggest and busiest nights.
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL IN TORONTO
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457 Church Street
Black Eagle is one of the most famous fetish bars in Toronto – although the rules have recently been watered down a bit. To give you an idea, up until recently, you would only be allowed in if you were wearing leather, but now they'll let you in if you're wearing jeans and T-shirt. Oh but do note – they will especially let you in if you're just wearing a jock and/or boots!
Black Eagle has retained its dark, industrial Berlin-esque grittiness, which is what we love about it. Downstairs at the Black Eagle is the almighty Dungeon space complete with slings, and a wet area for water play. They regularly host themed events like “OINK!” during the day and “Kink 101” on Thursday evenings. Others include their “Spanking Social” and the “Regal Beagle Bingo”.
The Black Eagle is also famous for its large outdoor patio area. Weather permitting, it's a great place to hang out, especially in the summer months when they have a Sunday afternoon BBQ here. Gamers will also love the Black Eagle – Tuesday evenings they have their “Gaystation Gaming Night” with 6 screens to geek out on.
Looking for the best things to do in Toronto?
There is so much to do in Toronto, a city full of excellent museums, the iconic CN Tower to climb, a fantastic aquarium…and that's before we've even talked about the Distillery District. Oh, and a day trip to Niagara Falls? We recommend checking out the range of tours offered by GetYourGuide for more inspiration.
Buddies in Bad Time
12 Alexander Street
Queer…Far…Wherever You Are... an apt Celine-inspired tagline for this super quirky queer gem! Buddies is a queer theatre space by day and on weekends transforms into one of Toronto's best gay nightclubs. And greatly needed, we might add! Each year, more and more queer spaces are being priced out of the Gay Village. The most recent victim was the excellent Fly 2.0 club which had to permanently shut down in 2019 after 20 years due.
The theatre itself is super impressive, dating back to 1979. It's famous for being the largest and longest-running queer theatre in the world. They feature some of the best queer musicals and plays with the aim of developing queer voices and stories for the stage. We cannot recommend seeing one of these plays highly enough, if anything, to support such an excellent institution!
And of course, there's the weekend parties with themed nights like “Lipsynched: Girl Groups”, “After Werk Star Twerk” and “F**k S**t Up: On The Dancefloor!” complete with hundreds of topless hunks, cabaret shows, live DJs, GoGo dancers and drag queens all mingling with the crowds.
Buddies in Bad Times is located at 12 Alexander Street. Check out their website for what's showing for details of the next weekend party.
459 Church Street
Squeezed in between Woody's and The Black Eagle is our favourite spot for Sunday brunch: The Drink! This is a super cool restobar where you can come for your late morning coffee, croissant and then cocktails later in the day.
The main reason why we love The Drink so much is because of the strong drag culture here – all day every day! Every evening there is a drag show or drag themed party here. For example, on Tuesday evenings they have the “Drag Battle” night and on Fridays its the “Drag & Social”. The most famous is the Sunday Drag Brunch which features a weekly rotation of queens.
Brunch and drag shows aside, The Drink turns into a dancing party space on Thursday to Sunday evenings with live DJs. These parties get quite raucous, going on until the early hours…the bonus: they never have a cover charge!
Church Street Garage Bar
477 Church Street
Garage is a family-run restobar by day and awesome gay bar by night. It's a relatively new bar on the Church gay scene, having opened in 2013. Every day they have a themed event. Some of our favourites include the $25 Steak Dinner on Mondays, Queeryoke Karaoke night on Wednesdays and the Finish Line Friday Drag Race viewing parties. On Sunday evenings they have the “Tension Release” party hosted by hilarious drag queens (like Heaven Lee Hytes) and includes “dirty games and even dirtier banter”!
Garage also hosts a drag show every evening from around 9pm. One of the best drag shows we saw here was “The Ivory and Priyanka Show” on a Thursday evening. Priyanka is a very popular local Toronto drag queen who always cracks us up – check out her music video sketch about what tucking feels like! Rumour has it that Mrs Brooke Lynn Hytes herself occasionally pops into Garage (both in and out of drag), but we've yet to spot her here…
Striker Sports Bar
31 St Joseph St
Striker Sports Bar is the only official gay sports bar in Toronto. Hockey geeks will love it here. We'll be honest, we had no idea hockey was a thing before we came to Canada (back in Europe it's all about soccer-football!) but we checked out Striker to ogle at the cute sporty gays. If there's a big match happening, you can be sure Strikers will be showing it.
It originally opened back in 2016 after owners Oliver Douglas and Vince Silva were trying to find a bar in the Gay Village to watch the Stanley cup final game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins. They realised there was a huge void in the Toronto gay scene for an LGBTQ sports bar, so voila…the Striker Sports Bar was born! The Striker team also take great pride in increasing awareness for gay sports by sponsoring local gay teams and hosting any gay sports events.
Strikers also has viewing parties for Star Trek, Ru Paul's Drag Race episodes and and and…the Eurovision Song Contest in May! If we ever return to Toronto in mid-May, you'll know exactly where to find us hanging out!
Happy travels are safe travels
Pegasus on Church
489B Chruch Street
Pegasus on Church is another staple on the Toronto Church gay scene going strong since 1993 (making it the second oldest after Woody's). It is spread over 2 floors with weekly events like drag queen bingo, trivia evenings and even the occasional league night for local LGBTQ sports leagues. Pegasus is perhaps most well known for its standup comedy nights on Sundays, featuring local LBGTQ breakout comedians.
For us, it felt like being a local neighbourhood bar – low key and a friendly crowd. We loved it! It's all about creating a community here with lots of activities like pool tables, pinball machines, Buzztime trivia ping pong, darts and even a shuffle board. This is the sort of place to come on Sunday afternoon with a group of friends and play cards over a good old catch up.
Christopher Hudspeth is the charismatic and super energetic owner of Pegasus who is the key to making it feel so friendly here. He is also active within the Church/Wellesley Business Improvement Area (BIA), proudly flying the rainbow high for the LGBTQ community in the area.
506 Church Street
Boutique Bar is one for date nights. It's a cosy, chic and stylish bar in the Toronto Gay Village. On sunny days, the outdoor patio area is one of our favourite hangouts – it's one of the best places to come for people watching (ie: “cruising”!). Boutique is all about making the perfect cocktail. It's their speciality – well they certainly know their target audience well! They have an extensive cocktail menu, which has a mix of classics along with some more creative creations like “Keeping up with the Cubans”.
The crowd here are mainly professional guys in their 30s and 40s – to give you an idea, we saw more blazers than tank tops. Other than weekends, Mondays is their busiest night when they have their Martini special offers to attract what is locally referred to as the “industry crowd”. They also have a live DJ later in the evening who plays a mix of ‘electro, funk house, techno and new wave' music, which creates a chilled ambience.
The Lodge at O'Grady's
518 Church Street
The Lodge is one of the best bear bars in Toronto – ie if you wanna just hang out but don't fancy being tied up in a swing and/or peed/spat on etc(!) then this is the ideal alternative to the Black Eagle. The Lodge is the upstairs bar to the O'Grady's Restaurant – another gay gem on the Church Street gay scene.
Friday is the best night to come here when they have one of the best Bear parties in the city. As a result, O'Grady's downstairs mainly attracts a fabulous bear crowd throughout the week, helped by the fact that it's located right in the middle of the Church Street gay scene. The outdoor patio is one of the best and definitely one of the largest we saw. On a sunny day, it gets packed here with a super friendly bear crowd. The owners are actively involved in the local community by providing sponsorship to local LGBTQ sports teams and other queer Toronto events.
The Lodge is located upstairs of the O'Grady's Restaurant at 518 Church Street. It is open daily from 5pm until 2am. To find out more, check out O'Grady's website as well as the Facebook page for The Lodge.
For more inspiration:
- Why we think Canada is one of the most gay friendly countries in the world
- Find out more in our 5 awesome gay events in Toronto
- Plan your trip to Montreal with our detailed gay guide
- If you're heading to Vancouver check our gay guide
- See what we think are the most gay friendly cities in the world
- Plan your next gay holiday by read about the best Pride events in the world
- Heading to Europe? Read what we think are the most gay friendly place to visit in Europe
- Plan your next Pride with our guide to the best gay Pride outfits and accessories
- If you're heading to NYC check out our guide to New York Pride.