Unless you live in Canada, you couldn't imagine how big a deal the patio season is in the great white north. With winter aplenty, there is no better feeling than ditching your boots and basking in the first flickers of true sunshine. Cold Tea has a patio that is open in the evening to get those last bursts of Vitamin D, serving Korean-Mexican fusion and craft beers on tap, as well as a fine margarita. This is a dive-y place but it is hipster paradise. There are not a lot of seats, so as with most hopping places in Toronto, you may have to wait a little.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Neon lights, cool music and the Korean-Mexican food of your dreams.
Courtney's expert tip: Get the miso ice cream sandwich. Just do it.
Music is becoming more and more private. Earbuds are stuffed into our eardrums to create an internal symphony. However, remember the concert? The small venues where you felt like you had a relationship with the artist on stage, and there was nothing distracting you from the music? Hugh's Room provides just that. This nightspot is a cozy venue in the Roncesvalles area with small circular tables that harbour groups or couples. Dinner is available before the show, or you can be bar happy as you enjoy some great acts. Big names like Colin Hay, Richie Havens and Ron Sexsmith have played here. It is small enough to feel like they are playing just for you and your beloved if you choose to make a date night of it.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Amazing jazz from world-class musicians, and a small venue to boot.
Courtney's expert tip: If you want a shot at one of the tables close to the stage, you have to commit to a meal. Reserve in advance.
The Horseshoe has been entertaining Torontonians since 1947. Most people who have lived in Toronto for some time have a Horseshoe Tavern story. An innocuous-looking place on Queen Street West, it changes along with the times, providing everything from folk to reggae to rock and roll. It has become an accomplishment for a local musician to secure a gig and the Horseshoe is proudly dedicated to showcasing the best of the best of Canadian local talent. Throughout its formidable history, it has become a place for the famous to play intimate surprise concerts, from the Rolling Stones to Blue Rodeo to Etta James. It may be a little bit of a dive, but it's Toronto's favourite dive for 65 years and counting.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Grungy and rough on the outside, this local bar is all about the music on the inside and has a Toronto history that is unparalleled.
Courtney's expert tip: The size of the venue guarantees that you do not have to worry about acoustics, but the layout can make it hard to see the stage. As soon as the band gets close to starting, make sure you are near the front for the best view.
Located in the Thompson Hotel, The Wildflower is cooler than you. Even the website seems vaguely bored as if it no longer has time to do such monotonous activities as picking a daisy clean to get the answer to the question, "Does he love me?" Answer: lovesusnot (which happens to be their web address). This lounge is 3,500 square feet of modern art, indie music and fashion trends. It's the kind of place that you don't even need beer goggles to find fascinating and beautiful. Bottle service is in the hundreds of dollars if you decide to challenge that last statement.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Music, art and fashion converge in this seen-and-be-seen lounge in the Thompson Hotel.
Courtney's expert tip: This is not a place to rock your yoga pants. Pretty much everywhere else in Toronto is. This is your chance to wear something other than an elastic waistband. This includes you, gentlemen.
Lest you are convinced that you need to have "that talk" with your partner, let's start straight out of the gate by declaring that Bovine Sex Club is NOT a sex club. (That would just be too obvious, wouldn't it?). This local watering hole has been open since 1991 and has been a haven for everything rock and roll, funk and live music oriented. Just like 90s fashion has gone and come back, this place has managed to evolve with the times while keeping consistently cool. It's a little grimy, a little dive-y, and it has a rooftop Tiki bar. What more could you want?
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Junkyard decor, Christmas lights, great Canadian beers and live music.
Courtney's expert tip: Some nights are DJs, some nights are live music. Check the website if you have a preference.
For an "out of the box" night out, consider breaking out the board games. Snakes and Lattes has over 2500 board games with an alphabetical menu to help you to decide which game you want to use to stimulate healthy competition. Games range from retro classics like Battleship to modern favourites like Cards Against Humanity. This quirky cafe is open late most dates of the week in case you become invested in a long playing game like Monopoly. Wash it all down with their infamous Nutella Latte or a draft beer. Enjoy food like pub crawl vegan fries or parmesan chicken bites while you kick some serious board game butt.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Sometimes you don't need a thumping techno beat to have a good time.
Courtney's expert tip: 16 ounce pours of lager are just $5 on Wednesday.
There is that friend that is supremely hard to drag out. Heck, sometimes you ARE that friend. The Beaver is a good happy medium because it is a little of everything, like the tapas of nightlife. Take some art, throw in a splash of music and nights with drag queens re-enacting horror movies (yes really) and you might be able to get that friend off the couch. There is themed karaoke night, ample opportunity to get into costumes and mixed drinks that won't require you to spend your entire paycheque. Tacos on corn white tortillas are a must, piled high with pico de gallo.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The Beaver is an eclectic mix of everything that makes Toronto great.
Courtney's expert tip: Debit cards have a minimum of $25 but once you get a drink or two, it should be no problem to meet this.
Paris Paris is an all-day wine bar in Toronto because Toronto is fast becoming one of those cities that never sleeps...and in sleepless cities, wine is a must. Whenever people go to Paris they almost always gush about the bread and the wine and the cheese. Paris Paris (best understood when said twice so as not to confuse with the real deal) has what you might expect from the city of love: cheese and charcuterie boards, oyster shots and a whole ton of wine-by-the-glass and bottle. It's a fun place to drop your ambition at the door and while away hours with food, wine and good company.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Wine bars don't always have spectacular wine in Toronto but Paris Paris is looking to change that.
Courtney's expert tip: You can ask for half pours of bottles.
If you and your friends just want to hang out, Get Well is the perfect place to do that (besides your place, but Get Well has pizza that doesn't come from a freezer). The vibe is very low-key and casual. Brooklyn Pizza is heated at the back. While you wait, play the mostly free arcade games (including The Simpsons!) and imbibe in a great craft beer selection. You can park your butt and be as interesting or uninteresting as you so, please. Rescue the princess in Donkey Kong, stain your shirt with pizza grease and go home happy. There is no cover.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Arcade games and pizza might sound like a night out when you are 12, but don't knock a classic.
Courtney's expert tip: The kale and bacon pizza is a must, marrying the best of vegetables with the best of meat.
In some ways, Toronto is an underground labyrinth. With subways connected to condos connected to office buildings, there are many months of the year where Torontonians do not see the light of day. (A serious vitamin D deprived culture.) Why not celebrate this vampire quality with a music venue that is delightfully underground, settled into the Drake Hotel? Live indie shows range from a Daft Punk cover band to big names like Beck and M.I.A. The 250-person space provides an intimate mood at every concert. DJ dance parties, film screenings and comedy performances round out the offerings on other evenings. There is no cell phone service in the basement, so stay close to your fist-pumping friends.
Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Go below the surface for a taste of incredible nightlife. All the cool kids go to the Underground.
Courtney's expert tip: Come early if you want a place near the stage because you will be packed in once the music gets pumping.