25 Things I Absolutely Must Do This Summer

It is, at long last, warming up here in Toronto. I have been Googling “When will it get warm?!” for months, so I’m thrilled, obviously.

While Canadian weather leaves a lot to be desired, it does make me especially grateful for new seasons when they appear. I am always making dreamy lists in my journal of the adventures I hope to go on when the weather changes. Here are 25 activities I endeavor to embark on in the coming months…

Drink a mint julep on a patio. Mint juleps are my summertime boozy go-to. They are so refreshing and decadent when it’s balmy outside. Last I checked, you could get a good julep at Clinton’s during the warm months. I also keep hearing good things about Bar Isabel, and I love the classic cocktails and cozy vibe at Northwood. Here’s to lots of cold drinks on sunny patios this season!

Read lots of books. Speaking of patios: there are few leisures more pleasurable to me than sitting on a café patio with a big iced coffee (or mango smoothie) and a fascinating book. I’ve got plenty of good ones to work through this season: Love, Sex, and AwakeningThe Remedy, and I Love Dick, to name just a few!

Make out on a sunny hillside. Look, no summer in Toronto is complete without kissing a cutie in Riverdale Park at sunset. It’s one of the prettiest views in the whole city, and being there with someone I adore always fills me with a sense of renewed hope and optimism. (The Chester Hill lookout, pictured, is also a great spot for makeouts if a picturesque view is your idea of romance.)

Swim naked. I spent several evenings this past winter making out naked with cuties in the heated pool at a sex club. Being naked underwater just feels primally right somehow, when you’re in the right environment and headspace for it. Hopefully I’ll be invited to some lascivious pool parties or beach days this summer. Or maybe I’ll just invite a handsome suitor into my bathtub with me. Whatever works.

Buy a great new lipstick. Summer is traditionally when I rock my brightest pinks and weirdest purples. Having a new lipstick to wear can give you a whole new lease on life. I love going shopping with fellow femmes, trying out a zillion shades on the back of my hand, and buying the one that makes me happiest.

Go dancing. You can really do this year-round but there is something particularly hedonistic about summertime dancey nights: you can wear a short dress or tiny shorts, adorn your face with a healthy sprinkling of glitter, and boogie til you break a sweat. Clinton’s has frequent themed dance nights, and there’s also the Queer Slowdance and so many other spots. I want the unmatched exhilaration of moving my body to beats well into the wee hours!

Get a tattoo. I’ve gotten new tattoos two summers in a row, and maybe I’ll continue that streak this year… I have some ideas percolating but I’m not totally sure yet. Hmm!

Host a party. My get-togethers are usually simple affairs involving pizza, cider, sex gossip, and maybe a few rounds of Use Your Words or “Which Would You Rather Bang?” But low-key though they might be, they’re still nourishing to my soul. Laughing with good friends on the reg is so important that you should pre-schedule it if that’s what it takes to make it happen.

Go on vacation. My main trip of the summer will be for Woodhull, but I’m going to try to get away at least one other time as well. Maybe I’ll go visit friends in Hamilton, Kingston, or Montreal. Maybe I’ll trek down to New York to see Bex. Wherever I end up going, I think it’s critical to escape one’s home for at least a few days in the summer, just to shake things up.

Stay up all night. This is a habit I picked up during high school, when my loosey-goosey summertime schedule enabled me to fuck up my sleep patterns all summer with no repercussions. Now that I’m an adult with responsibilities (not to mention an aging body), this is less possible – but it’s still doable if I time it right. Here’s to watching sunrises from rooftops with babes I adore, and fuelling my jangling brain with coffee that makes my teeth chatter when I smile.

Go on first dates. You can spark new romances any time of year, of course, but they feel particularly salacious and fresh when it’s warm out, I find. I plan to hop on Tinder, OkCupid, or SwingTowns and find some new cuties to romance. Even if none of your rendezvous lead to anything beyond one date, you can still make the most of those dates and have a fun time. Getting to know someone new is an exercise in empathy and communication skills, at the very least.

Celebrate Pride. There are certainly valid criticisms of Pride – its corporatization, its predominant focus on cis gay white men, its tumultuous relationship with police. I still love it, or at least the idea of it. It’s tradition. I love putting on a ridiculous outfit, slathering myself in sunscreen, and shimmying down the street with other rambunctious queers, shouting proud slogans and singing silly songs. I love taking up space as a queerdo and insisting on our importance in this world.

Get breakfast at a diner with someone cute. Grabbing an all-day breakfast after a night of bangin’ (or just platonic hangtimes) is one of my favorite simple joys. Eggs, toast, homefries, coffee, sausage, bacon, and good conversation. What’s not to love?! (My favorite spots for this are 7 West and the Detroit Eatery, but you knew that already.)

Go to an outdoor movie screening. Toronto always has plenty of these in the summer, at Yonge-Dundas Square and in Christie Pits Park and various other places. One of my fondest summer memories is laughing my ass off with a bunch of strangers at a public Anchorman screening years ago; I dressed up like it was the 1970s and we chorused our favorite lines at the screen. Communal movie-watching is so fun!

Try something new sexually. I first received oral sex one balmy July night in 2008, and I lost my PIV virginity on a sweaty evening in May of 2011, so I guess summers are entangled with sexual “firsts” in my mind. Maybe this’ll be the summer I finally get fisted, or go down on someone who has a vulva, or fuck on top of a grand piano, somehow…

Go on a long walk. I love exploring my city when it’s warm enough that I can do so without a coat. Podcasts or songs keep me company in my earbuds, and I go wherever my feet want to take me. Walks always calm my mind and sate my body – and I often have flashes of creative brilliance mid-walk that lead to fantastic blog posts, articles, or songs!

Visit a nude beach. I’ve never been to Toronto’s clothing-optional Hanlan’s Point Beach, and I can already hear my local friends groaning their dismay as I type that. Surely this is the summer when I finally make the trip! Being casually naked around other people is so good for your body image and self-acceptance.

Devour a TV show. In summers past, I’ve gorged on How I Met Your MotherThe OfficeThe L Word, and various others. It may sound trivial, but immersing myself in a fictional world always leaves me fulfilled and inspired. Each new lens through which you view your life gives you new tools and new ideas. I am always trying to broaden my horizons in any way I can, even if I do so by becoming temporarily obsessed with fictional romantic storylines!

Journal at sunrise. I don’t know why all my thoughts feel so much more poignant and important if I have them while the sun is coming up, but they do! I like sitting on a rooftop, café patio, or hillside as the day begins and meditating in my journal about whatever’s bothering me or whatever I’m grateful for. I always feel so cleansed and productive afterward.

Pose for gorgeous photos. Sometimes I think I hear the voice of Future Me whispering in my ear from decades ahead; she always tells me to appreciate what I have now. Part of that, I think, is appreciating what I look like now, because – shallow though this may sound – I’ll never look this young again! I’m lucky enough to have lots of photographer friends; maybe they’d like to indulge me in snapping some sunny glamor shots sometime this summer.

Go out for ice cream. This doesn’t have to be a date, but gosh, it’s cute when it is. You get to debate the best ice cream flavors and make fun of your date’s questionable tastes. You get to giggle at them when they get melted ice cream all over their lips, and then maybe kiss it off ’em. You get to banter wittily, or sit in comfortable silence, while crunching your cones. Like many food-related dates, it’s more about the ritualistic glee of it than the food itself – although, let’s be real, Baskin-Robbins’ peanut butter chocolate ice cream is a damn fine treat.

Wear high heels. I normally hate doing this, but hey, summer is the time for it. Even if I just end up gallivanting to the corner store or local café in my Sofft T-straps or Zara wedges, wearing heels in summer still feels crucial somehow.

Seek out new music. Spotify’s various music-discovery tools make this super easy, so I have no excuse! I love having specific soundtracks for particular times in my life, both because new music makes life feel more exciting and because it can act as a sensory time capsule when I listen to it again months or years later.

Get together with old friends. I have several pals who go to school in other cities but come back into town each summer, and I love catching up with them when I can. We go see improv shows or outdoor theatre productions, get dinner or drinks, and reminisce about old times. It always feels so necessary and uplifting!

Experiment with different identities. Summer is always the time when I try new perfumes or clothing silhouettes, push the limits of my personality, and consider launching bold new projects. The more relaxed climate lends itself better to identity shifts, somehow. I’m looking forward to seeing who I become this year.

What do you hope to do this summer, my loves?

 

Heads up: this post was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own!

Pain, Punishment, & Pretty Girls at The Ritual Chamber

My inbox is a perpetual blur of unappealing offers, but there are some propositions you just don’t ignore. Like, for example: “Would you like to come try out our funky upscale queer-positive dungeon?”

It was an email from the Headmistress of The Ritual Chamber, and I practically started salivating as I read it. Yes, of course I wanted to play around in the dungeon. The only question was: with whom?

See, I’m between partners at the moment, and you can’t exactly jump on Tinder and ask a random fuckboy, “Wanna come beat me up in a dungeon?” Well, some people probably could, but I can’t. The very idea makes me hideously nervous. Plus I wouldn’t trust a Tinder bro to know my ass from my elbow if I put a flogger in his hand, know what I’m sayin’?

But then, of course, a perfect solution floated into view: my friend Suz volunteered to be my play partner for the day. I asked our friend Taylor J. Mace to come photograph the proceedings. And just like that, we became a trio on a mission: to trek to the dungeon, bruise Suz’s ass, and get some beautiful photos in the process.

The Ritual Chamber is a gorgeous space that you can rent for you and a partner (or up to 3 partners, if you please!). It’s set up to make a broad range of fantasies come true: there’s a medical clinic room, an elegant Victorian boudoir, an ageplay room for littles and caregivers, and a traditional dungeon space. But what interested me most, when I perused The Ritual Chamber’s website, was its “school detention room.”

I have a thing about teacher/student flirtation. It’s haunted my sex-brain since the days when I was a literal student, sitting at my hard, uncomfortable desk and staring dreamily at whatever babely instructor I currently had a crush on. Of course, I wouldn’t have wanted them to respond in kind, because that’d be gross IRL, but in fantasy, it was thrilling.

So when Suz asked me what she should wear to the dungeon, I told her to “dress like a subby good girl for me.” And when we arrived at the space, the detention room was our first stop.

I had brought some impact implements of my own to use, but ended up not needing them; the dungeon is extremely well-stocked with equipment. I bent Suz over this authentically vintage-looking schoolhouse desk and selected a paddle from the collection arranged in the corner. There were several frat-style paddles like this one, as well as a few wooden rulers for that legitimate mean-teacher aesthetic.

It was fun to make Suz write lines about what she’d done wrong, and then punish her accordingly. But I must admit I got a little distracted when I realized that those lockers behind us are actual, functional lockers. Oh, the school-bully roleplay possibilities!

(By the way, if you’re wondering, my dress is by Vesper and my flower hairclip is from H&M years ago. I don’t often dress in this “businesslady femme” style, but it seemed appropriate for the domme role I was playing!)

From there, we moved on to the ageplay room, which reeeeally appealed to my inner little girl. The toys and stuffed animals everywhere would be so great for comfort during and after scenes, and the impact toys laid out on the bed were perfect for punishment in an ageplay dynamic. One of them was painted to look like a lollipop. Aaaamazing.

I continued Suz’s spanking on the adorable little pink bed in this room, alternating between a wooden hairbrush and a paddle carved in the shape of a bear. Conveniently, there was even a pink footstool for her to rest her knees on. The creators of this space have truly thought of everything!

This room is super authentic-looking, not really a sexy, tarted-up version of a child’s room but more like an actual child’s room. I felt that way about the medical clinic room, too; every detail, from the scratchy paper on the exam table to the dingy fluorescent lighting, felt pitch-perfect. Those details are crucial when you’re trying to fulfill a fantasy – you don’t want to be taken out of the moment by a pervasive sense of artifice. So I really applaud the decorator(s) of The Ritual Chamber for taking so much care in the creation of this space – it looks fantastic, and every single room made me feel dirty in the best way.

The boudoir room is stunning. It reminds me of rich people’s parlours I’ve seen in films set in the Victorian era, like Hysteria. (Which, by the way, if you – like me – have a lot of sexual feelings about Victorian doctors and hysteria, the medical clinic room would be a perfect space in which to enact that fantasy…)

There’s an actual goddamn spanking bench in the boudoir, so obviously I had Suz “assume the position” on it and made her stare at her own face in the conveniently-placed mirror while I hit her with a crop.

As you can see, there was a lot of giggling. I am not exactly a serious domme.

Our last stop was the dungeon proper – a dimly-lit room in the middle of the space, where the walls are lined with floggers, whips, paddles, restraints, and pretty much everything you’d ever need for a kink scene. Even Taylor, a seasoned kinkster, found something in the collection he’d never seen before: a pair of gloves where each finger has flogger-esque falls attached to it, so you can hit someone by swinging your open paw like some kind of werewolf.

We cuffed Suz to the Saint Andrew’s cross in this room and then proceeded to beat her up in several different evil ways. Taylor hit her chest with the aforementioned flogger gloves, I flogged and whipped her with other implements from around the room, and then I scratched “BAD GIRL” onto her pale chest with some metal talons Taylor had brought along. Hey, when you’ve got a cute sub consensually chained to a cross, you make good use of that opportunity!

While this beating was going on, I noticed that the space felt blissfully private and safe. I couldn’t hear any noise from neighbouring houses or apartments, so I could rest assured they couldn’t hear us either. We could be as loud as we wanted or needed to be, and all our cavorting was safely contained in this tidy, well-appointed little dungeon. (And yeah, we got pretty loud at times.)

Our time at The Ritual Chamber was certainly an eye-opening experience! In the past, I’ve occasionally gotten into situations where I needed a private spot to have sex but there wasn’t one immediately available to me. We could’ve dropped by our local sex club in those situations, or tried to rent a hotel room or a last-minute Airbnb, but none of those are entirely ideal: the club might be crowded, an Airbnb might leak sound to its landlord, and a hotel room won’t come equipped with kink implements galore!

If you are in need of a sex-positive, queer-positive, kink-positive space to bring a scene to life, I can’t recommend The Ritual Chamber highly enough. It has just about everything you’ll need, all carefully arranged in a clean, comfortable, private space. It’s the perfect spot for a kinky getaway into your darkest fantasies!

 

Thank you so much to The Ritual Chamber for sponsoring this post, to Taylor for taking all the photos, and to Suz for being such a good girl for me!

Top Toronto Spots For… Sex Nerds

me wearing a "Sex Geek" T-shirt

It’s so much easier to be a sex-positive weirdo when your city is brimming with other sex-positive weirdos. And Toronto certainly fucking is! Here are some sex-nerdy spots you should check out, if you decide to visit Toronto for the porn festival in April or for any other occasion…

me dressed eclectically and looking apprehensive
On my way to an art party at Good For Her in 2009.

Sex shop: Good For HerWe used to have some other great feminist sex shops – like Come As You Are, which shuttered its brick-and-mortar location and converted to all-online this past year – but right now, Good For Her’s the only one still standing. It has a relaxed, low-pressure ambiance that’s super important when you’re shopping for something as sensitive as sex products. The staff always offer me water or tea when I walk in, which is just lovely. They carry a lot of different sex toys, kink items, sexual health supplies, sex books, and menstrual products. They also run workshops on various topics related to sex, dating, and sensuality. And I love that the hours from 12 to 2 PM every Sunday are only for customers who identify as women or trans folks – sometimes you just need to shop in an environment that is guaranteed to be free of cis dudes.

Leather/fetish gear: Northbound Leather. I was introduced to this shop by my friend Taylor J. Mace, who knows his shit when it comes to kink! I doubt I’ll ever be able to afford anything from this upscale leather store, but it’s sure fun to window-shop at. If you have a leather fetish or just want to breathe in the sweet, soothing scent of fancy-ass leather, put this shop on your itinerary.

Condoms and lube: the Condom Shack. This Queen West shop is exactly what it sounds like. Do your research before visiting, because they carry a bunch of cheap, shitty stuff alongside their higher-quality wares – but if you need a quick top-up of, say, Blossom Organics lube or Crown condoms, you can make a pitstop here.

my friend Dan and I drinking ciders
Drinking ciders with Dan at the Glad Day.

Queer books: Glad Day Bookshop. Did you know that we have the world’s oldest LGBT bookstore here in Toronto?! Glad Day is such a wonderful place, and I recommend supporting them whenever you get the chance. Their current space on Church Street is sprawling and beautiful, and you can get coffee and tea there in addition to books. It’s a lovely place to sit with your hot beverage for a few hours, reading or writing or hanging out with friends. They also host plenty of fun events for the local queer and sex-positive community – as does the 519, just up the street.

STI testing and contraception: Hassle-Free Clinic or Planned ParenthoodI have not accessed services at either of these places (I get my testing done through my family doctor), but they come highly recommended by friends of mine. You will be treated well at either clinic, and you can also grab a handful of free condoms at either one. The Hassle-Free may be of particular interest to you if you’re visiting from outside the country: their services are free, even if you don’t have a Canadian health card. Oh, Canada, how I adore thee.

Dane Joe and I smiling at each other
With Dane Joe at Oasis, about to get it on.

Sex club (with caveats): Oasis AqualoungeIt would be strange to write about sexy spots in Toronto without mentioning Oasis, our local water-themed sex club – but this recommendation isn’t a whole-hearted one. Oasis has some transphobic policies, is rumored (in my communities) to employ someone who has committed sexual assaults in the past, and even did a “Slave Princess Leia”-themed event mere days after Carrie Fisher’s death (YIKES). All of these issues are apparently being addressed but I’ll still have my reservations about Oasis until I see them take action to fix and apologize for these problems. However, there are few – if any – other spaces like Oasis in Toronto, unfortunately. They have a nice pool and hot tub, a well-stocked bar, and several rooms to get bizzy in. Go if you must… although I’m sure there are more ethical places where you could fuck.

a tag with the number 4 on it, pinned to my chest
My number tag at Crush.

Sex-positive socializin’: Crush and Puppy Love. These are fun dance-y parties designed to help you mix ‘n’ mingle with other sex-positive cuties. Crush is more introvert-friendly, with icebreaker games like Truth or Dare and Twister on offer, and a system of anonymous “crush notes” where you can tell someone you think they’re cute even if you’re shy. Meanwhile, Puppy Love has more of a clubby vibe, and is great if you want to dance the night away.

Queer-specific socializin’: Queer Slowdance and the Butch/Femme Salon. These are fun places to make new friends and/or get your flirt on if you’re a queerdo. I love that the Queer Slowdance has volunteer “designated dancers” whose entire job is to seek out nervous wallflowers, make them feel comfortable, and invite them to dance. I am the introvertiest introvert but I find this environment less anxiety-provoking than most parties.

Queer history: the Canadian Lesbian & Gay ArchivesI haven’t been here but I hear good things! Our LGBTQ foreparents did such important things for the cause, and they deserve to be celebrated for generations to come. Visiting the archives is a way you can honor and learn about those who came before you in the canon of queer history.

Smutty laughs: Bed PostThis variety show at the Social Capital Theatre mixes sex-centric storytelling and comedy with other art forms, like burlesque, music, and dance. It’s hosted by the ever-charming Erin Pim. There are always giveaways of sex products, too. It’s a real mixed bag of an evening!

my beautiful blonde friend Georgia animatedly telling a story in front of a crowd
Georgia telling a story at Tell Me Something Good.

Sexy storytelling: Tell Me Something GoodA highlight of my month every month, TMSG is where a bunch of super-supportive sex-positive cuties get together in a room and listen to some brave volunteers tell true sex stories from their lives. There’s a different theme each month, hilarious guest judges, and X-rated prizes to be won. Whether you decide to tell a story yourself or just opt to sit in the crowd and laugh the evening away, it’s always a supremely fun night out.

Fellow Toronto-dwellers: what are your favorite sex-nerdy spots in our city?

Top Toronto Spots For… Femmes

my friend Cadence's back with "queer femme" written on it

Gosh, I love when fellow femmes visit my city. I get to take them to all the cool places. We coo over sequinned fabrics together, weigh in one another’s dressing-room successes, and window-shop for pricey makeup we’ll never own. It’s always a rollicking good time.

Here are some of my absolute favorite femme haunts in this city o’ mine. You should check ’em out if you’re femme-inclined and are visiting T.O. for the Toronto International Porn Festival in April, or for any other reason!

me wearing a blue polka-dotted dress and sunglasses in a busy New York square
Rocking a Loveless dress in New York.

Retro clothing: Loveless BoutiqueThis splashy little shop on College Street is a rockabilly babe’s wet dream. They stock 1950s reproduction clothes in a blessedly wide range of sizes. I always stop by Loveless if I have a fancy event coming up that I want to look pretty for, because nothin’ makes me feel quite so foxy as a good fit-and-flare dress. The salespeople are also relentlessly nice and encouraging, in a way that feels closer to femme solidarity than ruthless salesmanship. So much love!

Vintage shopping: King of Kensington and Flash BackToronto’s Kensington Market is rife with terrific vintage shops, but these two are my faves. They stock plentiful vintage goods in categories that matter to me: pretty dresses, tough leather jackets, badass boots, gorgeous handbags, and a veritable rainbow of cashmere sweaters. Some of my most prized possessions from these places include a pair of red sparkly boxers, a periwinkle and lavender striped cashmere sweater, the most perfect red bag, and another cashmere that’s by Ralph Lauren and was in perfect condition when I bought it vintage for $40. Swooooon.

Alterations and repairs: JB Cleaner & TailorIf you need a button or zipper fixed, a piece of clothing taken in or let out, or any dry-cleaning done, this is the place I would loudly recommend! As far as I know, it’s owned and run by one lady, Tuyet, and she’s awesome. Every time I come in with a piece of clothing that needs fixin’ up, she has me try it on in her little changing room, and then she stands me in front of a mirror and whirlwinds around me, pinning and pinning until I somehow look hotter and shapelier than I did when I walked in. My alterations are typically done about a week later, and are always flawless. I don’t trust anyone else with my clothes, honestly.

me modeling some black patent leather Dr. Martens boots
I have had a lifelong love affair with Doc Martens.

Kickass boots: Dr. MartensWe are lucky, us Torontonians, to have an actual brick-and-mortar Dr. Martens shop on our Queen Street West. It’s a nifty little shop: the decor is colorful and punchy, there are comfy leather benches to sit on while trying on boots, and the sales counter is (inexplicably) an upright piano. Even if you don’t have a spare $120–250 to drop on a pair of nice boots, it’s worth dropping by the store just to screech at the tiny, adorable Doc Martens for toddlers. And a hint: if you’re ever in Toronto on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and you’re on the hunt for some new boots, come here; they always have terrific Boxing Day sales. (I got my knee-high black Docs and metallic blue ones for about $200 total on Boxing Day once…!)

Lingerie: Secrets From Your SisterThis cozy shop in the Annex is a “boutique” and has prices to match, but hey, good bras are always gonna be expensive. I once accompanied a friend to her fitting here and I was impressed with the process: she was assigned a salesperson to work with, who measured her, asked her about her aesthetic preferences for bras, and brought her a whole bunch of options. After several rounds of accepting and rejecting various bras for various reasons, my friend ended up with two high-quality bras she loved. The whole vibe was relaxed, fun, and low-pressure. I don’t really wear bras, but if I did, this is where I’d get ’em!

beautiful blonde blogger Mia Moore trying on some skull-shaped sunglasses
Mia trying on strange sunglasses for my amusement at the Black Market.

Weird finds: Black MarketNot just for femmes: I usually take Bex here when they’re in town, and they’re a mostly-masc nonbinary queerdo! The Black Market carries a strange mixture of vintage clothes, eccentric deadstock, novelty T-shirts, and quirky accessories. I have some glittery dancewear from there, and I also love to pick up handkerchiefs there for flagging purposes. If your wardrobe needs a dose of fresh eclecticism, the Black Market is the place to go.

Hair: Avalon Hair Design. I have been getting my hair done by Paul for at least a decade. He always, always makes me feel like a queen. He’s pricey, yeah, but holy moses, what a pro. Fun fact: when I was ~13, an unfortunate incident involving chlorine caused my super-curly, thick hair to get irretrievably tangled in one section at the back of my head. My mom made a literal emergency appointment with Paul and he soaked my hair in leave-in conditioner and went to work with a comb. Not too long later, my hair was not only detangled but also more gorgeous than before. Paul’s official title is “Master Stylist” and that shit is no joke!

one of my thigh tattoos: a pink bow with the word "girl" above it
My “good girl” tattoos were done at Adrenaline.

Body mods: AdrenalineI got my thigh tattoos done here, on the advice on several friends, and I’m so glad I did! The staff are polite and professional, the waiting area is sunny and comfy, and I felt well taken care of throughout the process. They do tattoos and piercings, take walk-ins, and are right on Queen West (one of the trendiest shopping areas in the city), so if you’re in the mood for an impulsive body mod, Adrenaline’s a great choice.

Makeup and perfume: Sephora Yorkville. Do not bother with the Sephora at the Eaton Centre; it’s always a crowded nightmare. I find that the salespeople at this location are nicer and the vibe is more relaxed, so I can take my time perusing lipsticks, sampling perfumes, and so on. When you’re done here, you can trot down the street to MAC or Holt Renfrew for even more cosmetic funtimes.

Fellow femmes ‘n’ fancypeople: what are your favorite Toronto spots for gettin’ yer pretty on?

Top Toronto Spots For… Dates

me gazing at you lovingly between two lit candles

Ah, Toronto. My birthplace, my favorite city, my home. I may have dalliances with New York or Portland or Montreal, but Toronto will always be my first-and-foremost geographical crush. So I’ve decided to write a little blog series about my favorite spots in T.O., in a few different categories, incase you decide to visit and have no idea where to go.

I have an ulterior motive here. The Toronto International Porn Festival is two months away, and I want you to come to it if you feasibly can. Book your flights (or bus rides, or rideshares), buy your tickets, and come see some fabulous porn and a fabulous city. (And ME!)

To kick off this series, today I’m going to tell you about some of my favorite Toronto spots for DATES! Here are some guaranteed-great places to take your adorable beau, your bestie-with-benefits, an OkCutie from OkCupid, or maybe-just-maybe a foxy babe you connect with at a porn festival event…!

The drinks date: Pour Boy on Manning. The Pour Boy is an intimate, dim little bar tucked away in Koreatown, and one of my all-time fave first-date spots. I like that it’s relatively quiet (earlyish on weeknights, anyway), and that the menu is well-stocked with cheap eats and good craft beers. The first floor and patio are coziest for romantic dates, while the second floor is packed with long tables and has ample room for bigger group hangouts (I had my last birthday get-together there!). If you’ve never been to Canada or Toronto before, I recommend trying a beer by our local Mill Street Brewery – the Organic Lager and Tankhouse Ale are my faves. If you want dessert after hanging out here for a while, walk a few blocks east to the Future Bistro and get some kind of fancy cheesecake or a nanaimo bar.

a slice of dulce de leche cheesecake and a plate of hummus and veggies
The first time I met my longest-term FWB in person, we shared a hummus plate and a slice of cheesecake at 7 West.

The late-night date: 7 West Café. 7 West is my absolute favorite restaurant in Toronto. Centrally located at Yonge and Bloor, it’s easy for anyone to navigate to, even folks who haven’t been to T.O. before. Its menu is widely varied, delicious, and not too expensive. And here’s what’s really special about 7 West: it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This makes it one of my favorite spots for sating those post-sex hunger rumbles. I’ve capped off two threesomes with celebratory 7 West trips, but it’s low-key enough for friend-hangz and even work lunches. The staff are also chill as hell and don’t seem to mind if you hang out for hours – say, munching an arugula salad while scrawling in your journal, or laughing with your buds over brewskies. My favorite dishes here are the pesto pollo pasta, the “all-the-time breakfast,” and the mac and cheese (which Bex insists on ordering at least once every time they visit Toronto) – and if you’re at all a fan of cheesecake, please get a slice of their dulce de leche cheesecake for dessert. Just trust me on this one.

The sushi date: Japango. I was introduced to this place by an ex-boyfriend and it’s still my favorite spot for romantic sushi excursions. Japango is super tiny – probably ten tables or fewer – so make a reservation! Despite the cramped space and sometimes-slow service, this spot still shines because their sushi is so damn good, and the ambiance is charming, in an urban hole-in-the-wall kind of way. My favorite maki rolls here are the spicy salmon and the yam tempura.

my adorable friend Bex smiling and drinking a milkshake
With Bex at the Detroit Eatery some sunny September morning.

The morning-after date: Detroit Eatery. There are few pleasures in life so sweet as waking up beside someone you adore, maybe getting in a little morning canoodlin’, and then trekking out to a greasy-spoon diner together for some hard-earned nourishment. The Detroit is my absolute fave spot for that particular type of adventure. The walls are covered in mystifying sports memorabilia and Kiss collectibles, the staff is a motley crew of well-meaning grumpy bros, and there’s always a game on the big TV – but the food is great and reasonably priced, and you can get a hearty breakfast any time of the day. If you can handle all the lactose, get a milkshake – they’re excellent.

The comedy date: Bad Dog Theatre or Comedy Bar. These two improv/sketch/stand-up venues are mere blocks from each other, so if you want, you can catch a show at one of them and then run down the street to catch a show at the other one. Toronto has a thriving comedy scene full of talented cuties; let ’em make you laugh, it’s good for ya. Y’all might particularly be interested in the Crimson Wave, a feminist stand-up show that happens at Comedy Bar every Sunday night and has a “no rape jokes” rule. If you and your date are hungry before or after a show, my favorite nearby restaurant is the Mexitaco Taqueria, a chill and unassuming spot that makes delicious Mexican food.

my handsome friend Brent looking very serious in big nerdy glasses
Friend-date with Brent at the Mill Street Brew Pub. He is wearing my glasses.

The pub date: House on Parliament or the Mill Street Brew Pub. I love both of these places so much. Both have an assortment of weird beers (try the citrusy Hacker-Pschorr Weisse at the HOP or the Vanilla Porter at Mill Street), great menus of traditional pub fare, and a raucously cozy ambiance. The HOP is usually more subdued while Mill Street is pretty much always loud as hell, but both have their charms. Mill Street’s also smack-dab in the middle of the beautiful Distillery District, so you and your date can shop for fancy chocolate at Soma or gawk at strange public art installations on the Distillery’s cobbled streets. Some of my happiest, giggliest dates have taken place at these pubs, knocking back locally-made pints and munching messy chicken club sandwiches.

The coffee date: Manic or the Rooster Coffee House. Toronto is chock full of fabulous coffee places, but these are two of my faves. Manic is as busy and bustling as its name implies, sells A+ coffee and yummy croissants, and is blissfully WiFi-free (great for dates; less great for getting work done, obviously). The Broadview location of the Rooster Coffee House, meanwhile, is perched at the top of sprawling Riverdale Park, giving it one of the best views in the city (sit on the patio, for god’s sake!!). Did you know that a scene in a Daniel Radcliffe movie was shot there?

The tea date: Tsaa. Fun fact: this is where I went on my first date with my first serious boyfriend! It’s still one of my favorite low-key date spots. They stock a zillion different varieties of tea, and also make stellar brunch and sandwiches. I like ordering a big pot of organic ginger tea with honey and some kind of avocado-heavy sandwich, and sitting in the sunny window seat with either a cute person or my journal to keep me company. Ah, bliss.

two lattes in mugs
Two lattes – but no snakes – at Snakes & Lattes.

The board games date: Snakes & Lattes. It’s a café that also has several hundred different board games on hand for you to play. Awesome, right?! The staff are well-versed in games and can recommend some selections based on your preferences, or you can just choose your own. The food’s pretty decent, there’s a variety of drinks available (including boozy ones, if you are so inclined), and the $6 cover charge lets you sit and play for as long as you want. Pro tip: I prefer the College Street location, as it’s much roomier so you’re more likely to get a table – without needing to worry about whether the next table’s Jenga game is gonna collapse into your beer glass.

The movie date: Carlton Cinema. I love this weird-ass theatre. There’s a piano in the lobby, and sometimes it is being played remarkably well by someone I’m unsure if the theatre has hired or not. In addition to all the regular movie snacks, they serve boozy drinks which you can take into the theatre with you. They also show smaller movies that most other theatres don’t play, and they do a monthly screening of The Room which Tommy Wiseau apparently sometimes attends. Amazing.

Toronto babes: what are your favorite date spots in our fair city?