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WorldPride Toronto

WorldPride Toronto

Set your sights north of the border for World Pride, the massive 10-day global queer celebration that will take over Toronto June 20–29. The city was selected to host this year’s LGBTTI2QQ-lovin’ affair (for the record, that’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Queer and Questioning), and June’s festivities are sure to have downtown costumed in more glitz and color than a RuPaul Drag Race binge watch. But the rainbow flags waving all over Toronto aren’t just lip service: Hundreds of events catered to newbies, veterans and even the Pride-curious are planned annually to make sure every one who loves to love gets into the groove. Celebrants can expect an assortment of extra-epic experiences packed into a single week.

Where to stay

For those who like to be near the center of the action (that would be Gay Village HQ—the streets of Church and Wellesley), but require a decent amount of serenity and service post-club, your best bet is the Four Seasons Toronto in nearbyYorkville. The modern decor, which is expertly curated by acclaimed firm Yabu Pushelberg—an internationally renowned, Toronto-based gay couple who adorned the place with more than 1,700 art works by fellow Canucks—makes this the city’s jewel-in-crown when it comes to accommodations. One bedroom suites start at $995 (the Royal Suite is $15,000 a night) but you do get what you pay for and having Daniel Boloud’s award winning restaurant (try the tasty, firework-looking grapefruit givré) and the famous dbar, all within elevator-distance, will immediately make it clear why this place is a favorite for Beyoncé, the Jolie-Pitts and even the ever-so-picky Elton John.

On the west side of town, where things are more Bo-Bo (bohemian bourgeois) than Beyoncé, the Gladstone Hotelmakes for a thoroughly intriguing stay with rooms that go as low as $189 a night. Part-gallery, part-speak-easy and part art bar, the Victorian property, built in 1889, holds a variety of queer-friendly exhibits all year (for Pride season it will present “That’s So Gay 2014: On the Edge” art show with work from LGBTTI2QQ Canadians). The hotel has also been known to throw off-the-wall fetes such as Night Of A Thousand Dollies, where most line-dancing attendees are dragged up as Dolly Parton. In terms of room ambiance, artist-driven and pop culture-themed decor abound, including in the “Faux Naturalle” room, which is described by the Gladstone crew as “a woodsy retreat where lesbian separatist commune meets Storybook Gardens,” Meanwhile, the “Teen Queen” suite has campy collages on the wall that glue together heartthrobs from the cast of The Outsiders movie with Tiger Beat magazine shoots high-glossin’ the likes of Tom Cruise and Corey Haim.

If you want tosituate yourself somewhere between east and west of the city, book one of the spacious 202 suites at The Shangri-La Toronto. The Asian-inspired rooms may be so well laid out (the smallest is 490 square feet) and comfortable that you’d be tempted to never leave, but its the extras that make the place sing. Aside from its much-pressed-about Momofuku bar (try the cookie-crusted crack pie and the local sake), the lounge of the hotel—which has been known to have local legend/R&B diva Divine Brown take residency—has a bar menu that is one of the best in the city, boasting a library of stiff, old school drinks inspired by the 1930s.

Where To Party 

After the event’s three top parades are over (Trans March is on Friday June 27, the Dyke March June 28, and the main parade is on the 29), be sure to quickly make your way toward the 519 community center for its annual Greenspace party on all three days (Friday night’s affair is dedicated to house music pioneer, Frankie Knuckles). Unlike many Pride-centric events, Greenspace boasts a very mixed affair so no matter what your preference or proclivity, the confines of this outdoor party’s easy, breezy beer gardens and happy, light house/disco sets are perfect for those who want a chilled out civilized ride through Pride. Of course it is just as fun to throw yourself into crowd of one of many PRIDE’s stages outside on the streets (see worldpridetoronto.com for schedule), where acts such as Carly Rae Jepson, Tegan and Sara, Deborah Cox and MarthaWash (of “It’s Raining Men” fame) will perform live.

Trust, it will be raining men at the biggest circuit party of the week, titled PRISM’s Main Event, where heavy bass and hot bodies will be turning it out on Saturday June 28 at The Sound Academy dance floor. This marathon of an event—which starts at 10pm and finishes at 7am—requires all the stamina you’ve got as it includes high energy DJs such as Tony Moran as headliner (whose claim to fame is remixing hits for Madonna, Whitney Houston, Rihanna and Cher) and a grandiose laser-light show featuring T.O.’s most opulent gender illusionist, Sofonda Cox.

Ladies who want some reprieve from all the shirtless men and big-wigged queens will surely want to head over to the MOD club to sample some of Denise Benson’s beats. This DJ is one of Toronto’s finest and her Pride party, CHERRY BOMB (also on June 28), is like Paradise Island for the lesbian community.

For those who prefer to be swept off their feet, Buddies and Bad Times Theatre is the place to be. The historic theater, which is the closest thing to a queer version of Chicago’s famed Steppenwolf that Canada has, hosts a month long schedule of drama, but the establishment’s “Homo Night In Canada” comedy show on June 28—hosted by a muppet-like drag trio called The B-Girls—fairs as one of the funniest of the season. Although it mixes a batch of old and new jokesters, the best of the bunch, Elvira Kurt, is filled with the kind of one-liners you’ll be re-reciting for years.

Where to eat 

Of course the countless street vendors placed all over Church and Wellesley(which will be blocked off during Pride Weekend) will have you hankering for some post-parade/post-club pizza, corn on the cob or chicken pita, but if you can resist the urge to eat and run, there are incredible options awaiting. Best local brunch in the village by far is SMITH, whose menu and ambiance is so good it could impress most fancy foodie-ists. Musts include: the resto’s famous Banana Bread French Toast, their version of a Croque Monsieur and a lovely Brisket Hash.

A couple blocks down from the fracas on the east side, Adelaide Street’s reliably delicious pizza/pasta dinner joint, Terroni—which is perfect for an easy, affordable fast meal before deciding what your next bash will be. If you want to keep it light, try the Fungi Assoluti salad (parmigiano, arugula and mushrooms) but the place’s pizzas (especially the Smendozzata pie—topped with tomato, mozzarella, onion, fresh Italian sausage and gorgonzola) and selection of wines are worth sticking around for.

For pub food that isn’t greasy or predictable, go to the Oxley Public House in Yorkville, which is a quick cab ride away and in the thick of the city’s finer shopping area (around the corner on Bloor Street lays a high end department store called Holt Renfrew as well as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Canada’s own Roots store). The Oxley’s best plates actually come from its Hor d’Oeurves menu—which includes a B.L.T. dish With Maple Braised Pork Belly, Smoked Salmon & Goat Cheese Scones and mouth watering Pheasant & Foie Gras Croquettes.

Tagged: Toronto

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Elio Iannacci

Elio Iannacci

Elio Iannacci is an award-winning, Toronto-based writer who reports on culture, travel and entertainment. He has written for The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Hollywood Reporter and more than 50 other titles. He is currently the features editor at FASHION magazine and a longstanding arts reporter for Maclean's. Follow him on Twitter and instagram: @ElioIannacci
Elio Iannacci

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