New Year’s Eve 2020: Toronto’s best celebrations

From live concerts to the opera, comedy clubs to salsa dances and all the parties in between, here's where to be on NYE


It’s been quite an exhausting year, hasn’t it? After all the energy spent on election fatigue, climate strikes and ever-encroaching gentrification, how sweet would it be to forget all those woes, at least temporarily, for one last big night out? Beckoning in a new year can feel like a heavy weight – the pressure to find the perfect party is very real. Here’s my advice: as long as you’re with people you genuinely like, you’ll have an unforgettable night. 

Whether you feel like testing your salsa skills, catching your favourite cover band or getting hot and sweaty on the dance floor, the city has an option for you and you, your friends and your chosen family to welcome the new decade in style. 

LIVE SHOWS

Night Owl Festival Annual NYE

If you’re looking for a psychedelic vision of the future, local festival Night Owl has you covered. Detroit space rockers Moonwalks are coming down to Earth for the night and they’re joined by Hamilton rock group the Crowleys and DJ WITH IT, who will be spinning a mix of R&B, rock, pop and 60s British Invasion classics all night. 

The Piston (937 Bloor West), 9 pm. $15. eventbrite.ca.

The 20th anniversary of The Sadies at the Horseshoe

The local mainstays celebrate playing 20 years of New Year’s Eve bashes at the ’Shoe. Sometimes knowing exactly what you’re gonna get makes for the best night – and the Sadies always deliver. Expect lots of country western flair with a psychedelic twist and assists from bluegrass country band Tommy Wade and the Country Rebels and opener the Minus 5.

Horseshoe (370 Queen West), 9 pm. $25. rotate.com, soundscapesmusic.comeventbrite.ca.

Tranzac NYE 2020

Tranzac has a diverse lineup of local acts to satisfy your whole crew. Expect rowdy, volatile and fun performances from kraut-psych band Hot Garbage, rapper/producer/DJ Myst Milano, genre-busting Mother Tongues, 80s pop from Rapport, plus the solo stylings of Char Aragoza and DJ Theta Keratine. 

Tranzac (292 Brunswick), doors 9:30 pm. $20, adv $17. tranzacnye.bpt.me.

CATL’s New Year’s Eve Bash

Gritty local blues duo and NYE lovers CATL plan to heat up the Dakota and to keep things twice as nice, they’ll play twice. This year’s special guests are Detroit-based All Seeing Eyes and lover of retro vinyl, DJ Swankenstein. This should keep you dancing all night. 

Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington), 10:30 pm. $25. thedakotatavern.com

Dwayne Gretzky’s 2020 Vision 

The 2010s have been quite the decade for this 10-piece cover band. They came together eight years ago and their covers of everyone from Destiny’s Child to Fleetwood Mac have given them a bigger -local following than anyone expected – especially on New Year’s. Exciting renditions of your favourite tunes of the past decade will help ease you into the next one. 

Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth), doors 9 pm. $40-$70. ticketmaster.ca

NYE Rager with The Mahones

The Mahones have been delivering raucous Irish punk for three decades, and they’re the perfect rowdy year-end choice. There’s nothing too fancy or fussy about this party, featuring special guests Filthy Radicals and Killroy A.D. and a midnight toast with a twist: they’re pouring shots of Jägermeister instead of champagne.

Bovine Sex Club (542 Queen West), 9 pm. $15, adv $13. showclix.com.

The Flatliners at Lee’s Palace 

A recipe for a high-energy night: long-running GTA pop-punk band the Flatliners. They’ll be accompanied by Toronto rock bands Little Junior and the Anti-Queens. And if you suddenly need a very drastic change of scenes, Dance Cave is just upstairs for indie dance throwbacks (though you’ll have to pay some more cover). 

Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), 8 pm. $25. rotate.com, soundscapesmusic.com, –eventbrite.ca.

DANCE PARTIES

Fit Primpin NYE

Lazers, a confetti cannon, bubbles: Fit and Big Primpin are pulling out all the stops for their NYE collab for members of the LGBTQ+ community and their guests. DJs Blackcat, Craig Dominic, Vanessa Kathleen, Kris Steeves and Phillippe bring the tunes and performances by queens Sasha Montenegro, Ravi and Dillon are sure to make this a kiki for the ages. (And it doesn’t hurt that last call is at 5 am.) 

One Loft (292 College), 9:30 pm. $40, adv $30. eventbrite.ca.

Chronologic NYE at The Garrison 

With all the end-of-decade retrospectives, this one takes things back a bit farther with music from the past century: all the hits from 1890 to 2020. Goin’ Steady DJs’ (Matt Cully and Louis Calabro) monthly party is a Dundas West institution. Expect swing, doo wop, calypso, disco, pop, hip-hop, R&B, chillwave and that random genre you don’t quite know the name of but love to dance to. And if you want to get chronological even earlier, they’ll also be spinning at the Harbourfront Centre’s DJ Skate Night from 5-9 pm before Get It Together takes over to take you to midnight. 

The Garrison (1197 Dundas West), doors 9:30pm. $30-$40. goinsteady.ca and Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West), 5 pm, all ages. Free. harbourfrontcentre.ca.

Raven’s Vision NYE 

Queer club music collective Raven’s Vision started 2019 in our Sound Of Toronto Right Now cover story, and now they’re ending it with a NYE blowout. Founders singer/composer Casey MQ, DJ/producer Bliptor and Myst Milano (on double duty before she plays Tranzac) bring trance, experimental club music and hard beat – nothing below 130 BPM. That should really get the blood pumping on Unit 2’s tiny dance-floor. The venue is accessible, the looks will be cute and the vibes will be welcoming. 

Unit 2 (163 Sterling), doors 9 pm. $10. facebook.com/ravensvision.

Future Glam 2020 at the Gladstone

The Gladstone is throwing a retro-futuristic party: an ode to what people in the 70s and 80s thought the future would look like. It will be opulent, kitschy and ridiculous, like something out of the 1976 utopian sci-fi flick Logan’s Run. Glam-robot drag queens will perform. Grace Jones’s influence will be palpable. Heavy disco, house and soul will abound in performances by Tush, Regina Gently, Les Femmes Fatales and DJ Kaelin Britton. 

Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West), 9 pm. Party $65-$75, with dinner $150. gladstonehotel.com/nye-2020.

The Last Drop at Milk Glass Co. 

Dundas West art space, party spot and sometimes live music venue Milk Glass Co is the latest casualty of unsustainable rising rents and will close its doors after one last party on New Year’s Eve – eight years to the day since its very first party. The Last Drop will be a sort of wake for the community that formed there, featuring DJs who’ve spun there throughout the years. A good chance to celebrate independent culture spaces while there still are some left to celebrate. 

Milk Glass Co (1247 Dundas West), 10 pm. PWYC. 

Pollen’s 2020 NYE House Party

Queer-friendly party collective Pollen is bringing new meaning to “house party.” For starters, there will be some house music. But also they also want you to feel as safe and comfortable as in your own house (or basement apartment, whatevs). The dress code is “whatever makes you feel good,” but if it’s at all like their other parties that means people will be bringing their looks. Nino Brown, Stacey Sexton, Ace Dillinger and Chanl Marshl will DJ. 

802 Ossington, 9 pm. $26.84-$47.84. universe.com.

Lula’s NYE Salsa Party

Flex your salsa skills all night if you’re a pro, or partake in the complimentary 9 pm beginner dance lesson. Either way, Lula’s annual New Year’s Eve party is the city’s best celebration of bachata and reggaeton. Live salsa band Havana Ventu will play two sets to ring in the new year. Splurge for the full dinner or just go to dance, but don’t forget to get tickets in advance. 

Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas West), doors 6:30 pm. $50-$150. lula.ca.

CITY CELEBRATIONS

City Of Toronto New Year’s Eve

This annual party at Nathan Phillips Square is a family-friendly (and sometimes freezing) way to ring in the new year. Just prepare for the crowds. Skate in the warming glow of Toronto sign while the strong lineup of cellist Cris Derksen, singer Zaki Ibrahim and DJ Nana Zen perform. Plus: fireworks!

Nathan Phillips Square (100 Queen West), 9 pm. Free. toronto.ca/newyearseve.

CN Tower NYE Party

Ring in the New Year feeling like you’re on top of the world. The CN Tower’s 2020 celebration includes getting tipsy on the glass dance floor and feasting on roast beef tenderloin, baos and more. Taking the ultimate New Year’s selfie comes with a pricey admission that doesn’t include drinks. So remember to set some loot aside for the cash bar.  

CN Tower (290 Bremner), doors 9 pm. $200. cntower.ca

Ripley’s Aquarium NYE Shell-ebration

Getting inebriated and staring at jellyfish is a vibe. The third annual New Year’s Eve shell-ebration at Ripley’s is an under the sea selfie opp combined with food stations and live entertainment from The Lonely Hearts and DJ Shamz.

Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada (288 Bremner), doors 9 pm. $80-$100. ripleysaquarium.com

ROM NYE Celebration

The Royal Ontario Museum is competing with its fellow tourist traps for New Year’s revelers with live music, DJs, a single drink ticket to use at the cash bar and snacks to munch on while you get special access to the Bloodsuckers: Legends to Leeches exhibition.

Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park), doors 9 pm. $90. rom.on.ca

COMEDY & PERFORMANCE

Buddies In Bad Times’ Midnight Makeout

Buddies promises a night of debauchery and drag performances by queens Katinka Kature, Imarra and Heaven Lee Hytes. At this best-of-both-worlds situation, you get a show and then DJs Mark Falco and Sofia Fly keep the party going into the early morning. 

Buddies In Bad Times (12 Alexander), 10 pm. $15, adv $12. buddiesinbadtimes.com/nye.

Mike Wilmot at Yuk Yuk’s

Award-winning comic and actor Wilmot (It’s All Gone Pete Tong, Corner Gas) is headlining Yuk Yuk’s New Year’s eve special, alongside Sex And The Single Parent’s Melissa Story and MC Andrew Barr. A dining option is also available for those who want to arrive early.

Yuk Yuk’s (224 Richmond West), 7:30 pm for dinner. 10 pm for the show. $50-$107.35. yukyuks.com.

Your Hood’s A Joke

Tamara Shevon will be repping Scarborough against Etobicoke’s Thomas Calnan in Your Hood’s New Year’s edition. The battle show, where comics roast each other’s territory, is doing it local and global with an India versus China match-up that should be all kinds of wrong.

CAA Theatre (651 Yonge), 8 pm. $25. ticketking.com.

NYE at Second City

Second City is closing out the year with music, drinks and its revue, If I Could #Throwback Time. The on-stage nostalgia trip pokes fun at our fondness for E.T., Power Rangers and the years past when identity politics would have been mistaken for a John Cusack movie.

Second City (51 Mercer), 7 and 10 pm. $55-$90. secondcity.com.

Bravissimo! Opera’s Greatest Hits at Roy Thomson Hall

The tux and ballroom gown crowd can begin their New Year’s eve at this glamorous evening at Roy Thomson Hall with opera stars Karine Babajanyan, Maria Kataeva, Luc Robert and Michele Kálmándy. The performance will be done by 10 pm leaving enough time for the next venture suitable to your attire.

Roy Thomson Hall (60 Simcoe), 8 pm. $55-$145. roythomsonhall.com.

@nowtoronto

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