Pride newbies, we've got you covered.
Pride can be a bit overwhelming your first time out. There’s the month-long, jam-packed official calendar, which starts with a flag-raising ceremony and stretches on for an entire month. Every major institution in the city, from TIFF to the TSO, is getting in on the action. All your friends are RSVPing to different events on Facebook, and on top of all that, every square inch of the Church-Wellesley Village is plastered with posters advertising themed club nights and circuit parties. We haven’t even got to the parade itself, with hundreds of thousands of revellers and multiple stages, each with their own series of performances.
How’s a newbie to make sense of it all? With the Pride festival officially kicking off today, Torontoist offers its best advice for navigating the celebrations to come.
1 Educate yourself
Despite appearances, Pride is not just one gigantic party. The entire affair is rooted in social justice, and whether you’re a first-timer or hardened vet, it’s important to respect that tradition. Make it your mission to have a good time and learn something about queer culture and history in the process: Join the AIDS candle vigil at Barbara Hall Park on June 28; connect with and learn more about Toronto’s transgender folks at the trans community fair on July 1; or listen closely to queer Black voices discuss daily experiences of oppression, even in LGBTQ spaces, in a seminar at the 519 on June 29.
2 Note the difference between march and parade, and go to both
Everybody knows the big Pride Parade, but in the days leading up to it, Trans* March (on July 1) and the Dyke March (on July 2) are sometimes overlooked. These events are dominated less by corporate sponsorship and are more community-oriented than the main show. The Dyke March, which began independent of the gay pride parade and only later merged with it, remains the most explicitly political part of the entire festival.
3 Flying solo or feeling shy?
Drop by the Welcome Centre, located across the street from Wellesley Station. Volunteers will be leading casual walking tours, which are a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the gaybourhood and meet other attendees who are new to the area. There will also be a quiet bar, for those looking to get a drink in a less raucous environment.
Alternatively, if you’re rolling with an entire squad, invite a friend who’s never been—perhaps someone in your life who just so happens to be at the cottage every year when Pride rolls around.
4 Venture beyond the boundaries of the Village
Though the locus of Pride remains the Church-Wellesley Village, this is a city-wide festival. Prism hosts Aqua, an electronic dance party at the iconic (and newly reopened) Sunnyside Pavilion ($35 advance tickets). If chiseled abs and skank-tanks are not your scene, the dykes will be descending on the Mod Club in Little Italy for Cherry Bomb, the city’s best dance party for queer women and company (advance tickets $15).
5 Remember, the best parties happen before the Parade
If you’re looking to go wild, don’t wait until the big finale Sunday night. Half the circuit queens and party monsters won’t even make it to the Parade; they’ll be too hungover from Saturday, when the partying reaches a frenzied pitch.
(Psst…Saturday is the busiest night of the year in the city’s bathhouses.)