TCAF Like A Local: Party

This is the third installment of posts I’ve written for out of town TCAF visitors. Obviously you should attend all the TCAF parties, but if you’re in town for a little longer and love staying out late at small, sweaty, laid back spaces to dance your heart out, I have the list for you.

Cold Tea

Quirky little hovel in Kensington Market tucked in an innocuous indoor gallery. Infamous for being hard to find (see Yelp link above for directions). Low key, 20s-30s crowd.

Hen House [closed]

Ostensibly, this is a lezzie venue but men frequent the bar as well. And when it comes to the latter, it’s facial hair all the way. Cosy décor. Dress code is very laid back and casual. Crowd is friendly, late 20s to mid 30s. When I went last week, it was packed and everyone broke out into a drunkenly fuelled, impromptu Celine Dion sing along.


Wrongbar [closed]

My favourite DJs have all made pit stops at this banging little West Queen West bar. Think really sick EDM, Boiler Room acts. Good sound system. 20s to early 30s and queer friendly. Drinks are more expensive. Dress code is casual but you can get aggressively fierce here with your attire. WQW and Ossington are the two longest Toronto strips that try to outpace each other when it comes to night life. If I had to draw a distinction, I’d say WQW is unapologetically trendy while Ossington is just as trendy but, you know, they’re not trying to be. On a late night, you can wander down either strip in the evening and have no problem finding beautiful people, excellent food to eat and some trouble to get into after midnight.

Smiling Buddha

You better come out to dance as there’s not much in the way of seating. Despite renos, it’s still got a grungy, zinester vibe. No pretentiousness, no frills. Hipster casual crowd in their 20s-30s. Queer friendly. Cheap booze and PBR. I think a couple weeks back they screened a Miyazaki double feature.

ROM Friday Night Live

After firing about half their curatorial staff, the Royal Ontario Museum has basically devolved into a giant spectacle of like, really old stuff (although smaller exhibits can still be interesting). Having written that, it does throw massive Friday night parties where admission is cheaper than in the day. If you’re in town for awhile with a huge crowd and want to get warmed up before some TCAF partying (doors open at 7), it’s two blocks west of the Marriott. ROM books good DJs and there are live acts like jazz on other floors. Great little snacks you can munch on and booze are available too. Highly recommended you get your tickets online well in advance as they sell out fast and the lineups can go all the way down to Queen’s Park. (Side note: as for which museum to visit, I would recommend the Design Exchange, especially if you missed your GO train as it’s right by Union Station. Also, the Museum of Inuit Art which will take you beyond the typical cliches of dancing bear sculptures.)


  • Expect the dance floor to pick up earlier than some other cities. 23:00-02:30 is roughly the best time to go out. Parties tend to peak just past midnight with most people heading out after 2 which is last call at the bar (please don’t hate us). FYI, the subway shuts down at roughly 1:30-1:50 depending on the station, so bring cab fare  unless you are willing to brave the Blue Night Network. Actually, if you’re interested in seeing, how shall we say, some of the local colour, I’ll direct you to the Yonge bus after 2am, which is affectionately called the Vomit Comet.
  • If you’re new to nightlife, take note that headliners don’t come on stage when doors open. Don’t show up before 10pm unless you don’t mind if things are really slow; 11pm is a good time to arrive and will still give you some time to get warmed up.
  • Non-Canadians take note, you cannot drink alcohol on the streets in our fair city.
  • If you’re looking for swanky clubs, bottle service and someone to take home who’ll wear open toe heels in March or is doused in cologne, I’ll refer you to anything run by Charles Khabouth. (Fine dining tip, Mr. Khabouth also runs some of the top-reviewed restaurants in the city that are equally as scene-y and $$$. Knock yourself out!)
  • Sorry for the lack of pics and info about picking up people and drinks – it’s all about the dancing for me. Generally, none of the places I listed are particularly good for flooding your Instagram or getting blotto/laid

Next up: Win like a local