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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The top 20 ways to meet new people in Toronto

meet people torontoWant to meet new people in Toronto? It's often a strange roll of the dice. As we flow around Toronto, from home to work to school, there's no predicting how the fates will carelessly mush us, their helpless playthings, together over the course of a day. Think about the strangest way you ever met a friend or an old flame: Jury duty? A CPR class? A single shy glance on the TTC? (Ah, shy glances on the TTC.)

Of course, by and large, we meet the people in our lives through pretty pedestrian channels: Classes, work, mutual friends. But sometimes, your social life needs a little bit of a jump-start. Let's say you've just moved to town, or, you're feeling stifled by your existing social group, and you lack a school/job/pre-established friends that can do all that heavy lifting for you.

Basically, there's a hole in your weekend schedule (and, possibly, in your soul) that needs filling, and it's not going to happen while you're sitting around, waiting for someone to invite you to lunch.

Fortunately, Toronto is a huge city, with lots of rec leagues to join, skills to learn, cultural events to check out, and people to meet. Start practicing your handshake now.

Here are my picks for the top 20 ways to meet new people in Toronto.

Take a fun class

Nothing like sparks a conversation like a bemused look that says "are we really learning to do parkour / throw a battle-axe / ride a unicycle right now?" Points for skills that involve teamwork. For a whole list of ideas, check out our summer-specific and year-round lists of new wacky skills you can learn.

Go to a networking event

If it's business contacts you're looking for, there are networking events happening every single day in Toronto (check out Eventbrite for proof), with all kinds of industries represented - mostly in the business and tech fields, though Six Degrees of Social Innovation at CSI Toronto is a popular draw for those in the social change sector. For lower-impact networking events, check out Here's My Card: Mixers For Awesome People, which features liberal amounts of colouring and decorating things with stickers, or Beerworking, which features beer. Lots of beer.

meet people torontoWork up a sweat

Some fitness classes are better for meeting folks than others - if you're busy huffing and puffing while someone barks orders at you, it might not leave a lot of room for chitchat. Martial arts classes are good, however, because you will inevitably have to divvy up into pairs and punch one another. Also worth a shot: Yoga, boxing, spinning classes, and specialty fitness classes.

Practice a language

This is a good one for shy types, because you are literally forced to speak to other people. Every Wednesday, Torontonians of all native tongues get together for the TorontoBabel meetup at the Rivoli to shoot the breeze (and maybe some pool). On any given night, over a dozen languages are represented, from French to Portugese to Farsi to Mandarin, with all skill levels welcome.

Stake out your local karaoke night

Weekly karaoke nights in Toronto tend to draw a lot of regulars, making for a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. The performative nature of karaoke makes everyone in the room a little more aware of one another, which helps bust down that everyone-keeps-to-themselves thing people like to bag on Torontonians for. Say hi to some new folks, wow the crowd with your favourite number. Eventually, someone is gonna need a duet partner for "Islands In The Stream".

Join a choir

Time to get that singing voice out of the shower. For indie snobs worried about having to sing Gershwin medleys: Choir!Choir!Choir!'s Soundcloud looks like the best mix CD ever created by man ("I'm On Fire" next to "Heart Shaped Box" next to "September Gurls"). They meet Tuesdays and Wednesdays - evidently, they got so popular they had to create two separate groups. Meanwhile, Singing Out! is currently seeking LGBT folks (and allies) to help them belt out everything from show tunes to pop songs to challenging contemporary and classical choral works. (There will be drag.)

Go to a drink tasting event

Want to meet people with taste as excellent as yours? Toronto's top whiskey bars often hold tasting events, wine classes are common - and don't even get us started on beer events. There are also tons of women-specific and woman-friendly drinking events - notably, the Society Of Beer Drinking Ladies - if that's an atmosphere you crave.

Best Summer Sports Leagues in Toronto TUC UltimateJoin a sports league

If you're the team-sports type, there's absolutely no shortage of relaxed rec leagues in the city. In the warmer months, there's a whole gamut of summer sports leagues - I can personally attest to the people-meeting joys of Toronto Kickball. There's also roller derby, and a ton of soccer leagues, and these wacky sports. (Unicycle hockey, anyone?) Toronto's YMCA locations also play host to scheduled pickup games.

Get some Internet friends

I realize I'm supposed to be getting you away from the computer and into the world, but the Internet is just as good a place to meet folks as any (the key here is to transition those friendships successfully into meatspace). Sometimes, those communities make it easy: The r/Toronto subreddit hosts monthly meetups for frequent posters, and a Toronto-based startup called Spot has created an app that makes it easy for university students to find folks on campus for study groups or pickup games. (On a personal note, can someone organize a blogTO commenters' meetup? I will attend in a fedora and trenchcoat.)

Go gaming

Nobody is ever allowed to call geeks antisocial ever again. Gamers, you've got options: hang out at A&C World, join Toronto Area Gamers for board and tabletop games, check out the Bit Bazaar fair or Games With Friends gaming events at the Bento Miso co-working space, or join Toronto Gaymers to meet fellow queer gaming enthusiasts.

Get crafty

We tend to think of crafting as more of a solitary exercise, but when you're learning a new skill, you and your fellow newly-minted makers can bond over how difficult it is to thread a damn sewing machine - and boom, instant friendship. DIY spaces all over town host courses that range from knitting to metalwork, and The Workroom holds a weekly stitch 'n' bitch night once a month where crafters can bring a project, show off something they made, or just stop by.

CanzineBuy some comics and zines

Toronto has a vibrant indie publishing scene, and even if you can't draw, write, screenprint, or hand-bind books, you can still get in on the fun. Zine fairs like Canzine and Zine Dream can be a great place to meet new folks - odds are, someone will be exhibiting a zine or indie comic about your hometown/your favourite band/a shared wrenching life experience/pizza. If you've ever held one-tenth of a shred of interest in comics, block off the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) on your calendar - in addition to the tons of tables at the Reference Library, there's usually a slew of mixers and parties happening the same weekend. And if you're the fashion-loving type, WORN Fashion Journal's issue launch parties are always a great time.

Go to a costume party

Granted, you'll see more of these around Halloween than during the rest of the year. But costumes make for a fantastic instant icebreaker - I mean, you already know that person shares your affinity for Andy Warhol / David Bowie / Hal Johnson or Joanne McLeod, because they're freaking dressed up like them. Of particular note: Church St.'s legendary Halloween block party.

Go to a trivia night

You were king of the Reach For The Top team in high school, and by God, your knowledge of what that plastic thing on the end of a shoelace is called will bring you glory once again. Toronto has a number of popular recurring trivia nights: Faves include Simpsons Trivia, Trivia Nights at the Drake Hotel, and Brass Facts.

Become a volunteer

While volunteerism sees a big spike around the holidays, there are tons of organizations in need of your help year-round. Check out Volunteer Toronto for tons of short-term (like one-day events) or recurring opportunities. Some of the city's biggest volunteer draws include recurring cultural events like TIFF, Hot Docs, World MasterCard Fashion Week and NXNE.

Hire a matchmaker

If a romantic connection is what you're after, and you're among the literally zillions of people who have decided that online dating is lame, it might be time to hire someone to do the heavy lifting for you. Friend Of A Friend, a matchmaking enterprise launched by Toronto writer Sofi Papamarko, has set up over a dozen happy couples since its inception a year ago. (And look at it this way - even you don't find true love, you've at least met more people in the city, right?)

Slow dance like it's 1999

As nerve-wracking as middle-school slow dances were, there was something beautifully direct about them: You walked up to someone, asked them dance, and then the two of you spent the next three minutes rotating slowly on the spot. Easy. The Queer Slowdance, hosted by Chat Perdu Productions, aims to bring back that sweet-if-awkward magic in a low-pressure, queer-positive environment (no one is obligated to dance with anyone else). You can also volunteer to be a designated dancer and try to gently pry those wallflowers from the sidelines. Want more ideas? Balfolk and Contra dancing are good options too.

meet people torontoGet a local

Go for a walk. Find that weird dive bar near your house. You know, the one that's one smallish room, with the same 2.5 people always tending bar, and the flyers for cheap live shows, or dance nights, or projector-screen video game tournaments plastered an inch deep on the door. (Cafes also work.) Pop by a couple times a week (the drinks are cheap, so it ain't an expensive investment), trade names with the barkeeps, slide your way into a conversation. Before you know it, you'll be like Norm from Cheers up in there. Really, just get to know your neighbourhood. All it takes is a little patience.

Team up with a furry friend

I'm a cat person, and we are known to hate pretty much everyone. Those who prefer walks and playing fetch to long periods of staring can head down to Toronto's dog parks and let your four-legged friend do the ice-breaking for you. Another option: Check out Sniffr, an app that connects dog owners (perfect for setting up play dates), or head on down to Woofstock.

Go to an all-ages show

This one's for the kids whose love of music is as strong as their drivers' license is incriminating. No, you can't get into most of the rock bars in town, at least not without some subterfuge (disclaimer: we are not advocating stooping to subterfuge). But AA shows happen constantly in Toronto, whether at blockbuster venues like the Danforth Music Hall and Sound Academy or DIY spaces like Double Double Land and 918 Bathurst - and unlike the rest of us, you're not so crusty and jaded that you can't say hi to the kid next to you wearing your favourite band's T-shirt. Check out our comprehensive list of ways to find all-ages shows in Toronto.

Do you have any more ideas? Leave them in the comments below.

by Natalia Manzocco via blogTO

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