Visiting from out of town for the day, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Toronto is a buttoned-up kind of city. The throngs of suited workers, emerging from their offices in the Financial District, often keep their eyes down. TTC commuters idly mind their own business, and even the men sipping espressos outside a Greektown cafe seem like they have something serious on their minds.
But Toronto is not a buttoned-up, inhibited or reserved kind of city – not in any way. And there’s a simple way to prove it: Head out after 9 pm.
When the sun goes down, so too do the inhibitions. And throughout the Six, you’ll find thrumming dancefloors, laugh-a-minute comedy clubs, raucous music, stiff cocktails, seamy dives and sophisticated dinner spots. It’s all part of the Toronto package – and, as the top realtors in Toronto, we at Harvey Kalles are proud to show it off.
In this blog post, we present a peek under the hood – here’s what this amazing city looks like with the lights turned off.
Join the Club: Toronto’s Spots for All-Night Dancing
Is there anything more hedonistic than a packed dance floor? Humid from all the shuffling bodies, lit with lasers and crisscrossing spotlights, a hundred hands holding up their vodka sodas as they jump to a primal, four-on-the-floor beat? It’s not everyone’s idea of fun. But if you like it, you like it a lot. For an exemplary experience, check out well-known Toronto nightclubs like El Convento Rico in Little Italy or the sprawling Rebel nightclub south of the Distillery District in the Lower Don Lands. Just be prepared to wait in line.
While those venues skew young, dancing the night away isn’t just a young person’s game. Several clubs in the Six cater to your over 30, over 40, even over 60 crowd. Check out Lula Lounge on the hip strip of Dundas West just west of Dufferin; they specialize in salsa, jazz and world music. Or head right across from the Gooderham Building to Reservoir Lounge to dance swing into the early hours.
That’s Entertainment: Music and Comedy in the Six
Not in a dancing mood? You’d prefer to sit back and let the entertainment wash over you? You have plenty of options in Toronto.
You have live music venues in Toronto like The Rex or Poetry Jazz Cafe (both conveniently located on Queen West, if you’re in a bar-hopping mood) that pump out intricate, soulful live jazz. The historic Danforth Music Hall in the east end always features an interesting show on its marquee. And the heavily graffitied Lee’s Palace in The Annex (seriously, you can’t miss it) boasts alt-rock, punk and indie acts both local and global.
But enough about music. If Friday night rolls around, and the only way you can forget about the work week is with a hearty laugh or two, reach for one of the city’s fantastic comedy clubs. Our top pick has to be Comedy Bar, located underground on the stretch of Bloor between Dovercourt and Ossington; like its physical location, the bar features underground indie comedy acts and up-and-comers, but you’ll sometimes find a high-profile comedian grace the bar for an impromptu set. For an interactive night of laughs, check out the sketch comedy at Second City, nestled on Harbour Street between the Harbourfront area and Scotiabank arena.
Work Hard, Play Hard: Game Bars, Activities and Karaoke
We often associate “games night” with a quiet night in. But there’s a few bars and lounges in Toronto working to change that reputation. Bars like Track and Field feature bocce and shuffleboard lanes alongside a dance floor. Spots like BATL let you work through your pent-up workweek aggression by throwing axes and drinking craft beers. By night, Snakes and Lattes turns its mild-mannered board game cafe into a boozy board game bar. And the uber-popular Rec Room on Bremner Boulevard (near the CN Tower) transplants a 90s-style arcade into massive bar space.
Then, of course, there’s Koreatown. One of Toronto’s gem neighbourhoods, Koreatown is home to all-night eateries with beer-bucket specials and sojus galore. It’s also the premier destination in the city for private room karaoke.
Small Plates and Strong Cocktails: Eating and Drinking Your Way Through a Night in Toronto
Call this the “minimalist night out.” No flashy games or flashing lights – just good food and good drinks. For cocktails, we can recommend the ever-popular Civil Liberties in the Christie Pits area of Bloor, which Canada’s 100 Best recently named the best bar in the country. Likewise, options like Jen Agg’s The Cocktail Bar (part of the Black Hoof family of restaurants/bars) or the up-and-coming Grey Tiger both satisfy a craving for creative, sophisticated drinks.
If you’re exploring Toronto’s nightlife with your stomach, try the fantastic tapas at Bar Raval, Grant van Gameron’s sister restaurant to Bar Isabel that serves until 1 AM. Or blend high-end cocktails with creative bites at Pinkerton’s in Leslieville – a popular neighbourhood for young families buying a home in Toronto.
The Quintessential Dive Bar: Toronto’s (Sort of) Seedy Side
The term “dive bar” conjures up images of gruff patrons, rundown facilities, shady dealings and watered-down drinks. Toronto’s dive bars aren’t quite that seedy – after all, bars in the city need to observe strict laws, regulations and credentials. But the spirit of the dive bar is alive and well in Toronto.
In the West End, you’ll find institutions like Parkdale’s The Rhino or Dundas’ Black Dice (the latter is a Japanese rockabilly bar that bucks the typical dive bar trend). For a divey atmosphere with great live music, Torontonians head to Grossman’s Tavern on Spadina, which attracts an eclectic crowd. And as you move further east, you’ll find U of T mainstays like The Imperial Pub, Red Room and the regrettably named Prenup Pub. They might not be romantic date night ideas, but if you prefer your nightlife with an edge (albeit a safe one), these are your spots.
Whether you’re Toronto born-and-bred, or a recent transplant adapting to the Toronto lifestyle, the nightlife scene here is a great way to get to know “the real Toronto” – in all its loud, hungry, flashy and fancy glory. To be closer to the action, contact our experienced realtors about buying and selling your home.