Gay-Listers Guide is a series of destination glimpses through the personal experience of prominent LGBT personalities.
In this edition of Gay-Listers Guide, Canadian drag queen and self-professed “female delusionist” Miss Conception takes us through her beloved hometown, which she calls one of the most diverse cities in the world, Toronto.
How long have you been in Toronto?
I was born in Toronto! From birth to age 19 I lived just on the outskirts of the city in Mississauga, and I spent lots of time in the city all my life. When I was 19, I moved to Toronto to start a new life as a gay man. Twenty-one years later, it’s still my home sweet home.
What’s your best memory of the city?
Personally, a great memory was introducing my parents to the gay bars, and what’s really funny is that I found out that my father actually built the remodel of Woody’s (where I perform) in 1994, so when I introduced him to my boss, Dean, it was a reunion because Dean remembered him from many years ago! I also love all the time I spent with my family at The Canadian National Exhibition, held at the end of August every year. Rides, food, carnival games, haunted houses, deep-fried Mars bars, concerts, beer gardens, water slides . . . and so much more!
Your worst memory?
I think the worst memory I have of Toronto has to be March 2020, when the world shut down. Seeing my city suffer, with no bars or restaurants and people losing jobs and homes was just terrible. It was like living in a movie when this happened to Toronto and all around the world.
What do you love most about Toronto?
I always tell people it’s like a mini New York City or Chicago with theaters, nightlife, historic buildings and kind people. I love seeing the tall buildings and walking through the wind tunnels between them. I love the people hustling to work in the mornings and having beers on patios after work.
What do you not love?
The thing I don’t love about Toronto is that the traffic is out of this world. There are only two major roads to get into Toronto and when you have almost 3 million people trying to move about, not to mention so many commuters who work in the city, it becomes a nightmare on the roads.
Hanging out at Canada’s Wonderland, a popular day trip just outside of Toronto.
Where are your favorite places to eat?
We have food from all over the world in Downtown. From Chinatown, Greek on the Danforth, Little Italy, Koreatown and Little India to just a plain old burger, we have everything you can think of to eat. One of my favorite places is Thairoom on Carlton, where you can get the best green chicken curry with purple sticky rice you’ll ever taste. If you want a good old greasy spoon breakfast then head over to The Senator on Victoria street. The Senator is the oldest restaurant in Toronto and in this restaurant you’ll see pictures of famous celebrities who have eaten there dating as far back as 1836. If you’re not the fancy type then you’ll find a nice big dog all around the city at street vendors—nothing like street meat at 2 in the morning after having some pints.
And to drink?
My favorite pub is The Blake House. In the summer, The Blake House has a fabulous patio for drinking a nice pint of beer and eating delicious chicken wings. I have been going here for years, since it was called The Red Lion back in 2000.
What do you love to do here during the day?
During the day I love to head down to The Beaches, which is an area down on the water off Queen street in the East End. Walking the beach, where you can see people playing beach volleyball and biking the path that takes you all over the city, is truly blissful and a great thing to do in the summer. Also the winter, if you bundle up warm.
What are your favorite clubs or nighttime hangouts here?
The nightlife scene in Toronto is hopping from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., from small bars and huge clubs that provide all-ages events, as well. In my day, I used to go down to the club district and party at the Velvet Underground and Crocodile Rocks but sadly, due to Covid and other circumstances, these places don’t exist anymore. Now, in my 40s, I prefer a good old-fashion pub like Woodys, The Drink, The Well or Pegasus on Church Street. Or I head down to Polson Pier, formerly known as The Docks, for pop-up parties during special events like Pride or The Toronto Caribbean Carnival.
Do you have a favorite hotel in Toronto?
My favorite place for romantic nights is Shangri-La Hotel Toronto on University Avenue. It’s a luxury Asian-inspired hotel with a fabulous spa and indoor pool. I first found out about this hotel because I performed at an event there, and the rooms are the most comfortable and largest you’ll ever find. And the staff are just lovely! If you want to treat yourself to a beautiful, romantic night then I recommend this hotel. Have dinner in their incredible restaurant with two-story windows looking out to the city, too.
Describe the LGBT scene here, and what an LGBT visitor should be sure to check out.
The scene in Toronto isn’t as huge as it was before due to lots of bars closing down for condos, but it’s still strong. So many LGBT restaurants to choose from, local coffee shops, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the AIDS memorial at Cawthra Park, massage parlors, gay-owned clothing stores, Express Pizza (better known as “Gay Pizza”), Glad Day Bookshop and all the remaining bars and clubs. There are also some bathhouses you can enjoy, like Spa Excess and Steamworks.
What else should we know about this place?
It’s truly a magical city to visit. Trust me—with all these things I’ve listed, you won’t get bored and you’ll find other treasures like Kensington Market for the perfect vintage clothing, taking a walk down to Evergreen Brick Works or going to the Christmas markets in the Distillery District and sipping hot chocolate by an outdoor fire.
Anything new to plug?
Go to my website for more information on where I’ll be traveling next. In the summer, I’m usually in Provincetown, Massachusetts and in the winter it’s Puerto Vallarta, Mexico!
I’m a full-time globetrotter obsessed with experiencing everything the world has to offer (except shark diving . . . I don’t want to talk about it) and learning to be a