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10 fun ways to geek out this summer in Toronto

Posted by Natalia Manzocco / June 23, 2014

Fan Expo torontoThe force of geek culture is strong in Toronto year-round, but the warmer months hold a special kind of magic. That's probably because summer vacation is what turned many of us into nerds in the first place: While the other kids were outside swimming and getting tans, the rest of us were lounging in air-conditioned comfort, sinking entire blissful, idyllic weeks into fantasy novels, video games and D&D campaigns. Now that we're older, and moderately more grown, we can recapture some of that magic with a summer's worth of conventions, performances and gaming (and we've finally got the disposable income to back all this stuff up).

Here are 10 fun ways to geek out this summer in Toronto.

Visit Fan Expo
Like a dead superhero, Toronto's biggest con returns right on schedule to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Aug. 28-31. Joining convention faves Stan Lee, William Shatner and Bruce Campbell on the roster of celebrity guests are Firefly's Nathan Fillion and a slew of Walking Dead cast members. Personal con-going advice: Don't get the balloon animal guy to make you a balloon Chthulu, or a couple dressed in Star Trek redshirt uniforms will give you the cut-eye after you poke them with the tentacles one too many times in the concessions line.

Party at Atomic Lollipop
Smaller, cuter, louder, sparklier: Atomic Lollipop is the Chibiusa of conventions. Set to take over the Ontario Science Centre on July 11-13, the con/carnival/party promises "massive battles, bouncy castles, geeky speed-dating, video gaming, nerdy burlesque, fire spinners, and crazy interactive events." If you'd like to walk away from the weekend with a new skill (in addition to some T-shirts and giant plushies), they're offering crafting activities, DJ lessons, and even an intro to aerial acrobatics. Brb, going right now to sign up for Hogwarts For Muggles class.

Discover a new TO-designed video game
Toronto is home to an impressive roster of indie game studios - and there's no better time to get acquainted with your friendly neighbourhood developers. Capybara Games' comedy-action shoot 'em up Super Time Force and Longbow's historical real-time strategy game Hegemony Rome: The Fall Of Caesar were both released for download just last month. Next up: Drinkbox Studios launches the "super turbo championship edition" of Guacamelee on July 2. (Want to check out more indie game studios all in one place? They'll be converging at the Stage Select gaming expo June 28.)

Watch some nerdy bands
On August 29 and 30 at the Horseshoe Tavern, it'll be out with the faded black T-shirts with band names on them, and in with the faded black T-shirts with binary code jokes on them, as Nerd Noise Night 2 presents two evenings of performances from Canada's nerdiest musicians. Expect raps about time travel and Snake Eyes from More or Les and Wordburglar, and exactly what's advertised from Nerds With Guitars. (While you're waiting for August to roll around, keep tabs on, a newly launched portal for Canadian purveyors of nerdcore/chiptune/ukelele songs about cranky vampires.)

Join a tabletop RPG game
Go back to those glory days in the garage with your Dungeon Master's Guide and your 12-sided die. If you're looking for like-minded folks to launch a game with, or if you're new to tabletop games and want someone to show you the ropes, the Toronto Area Gamers Meetup page is quite active, with new postings going up constantly for casual board game meetups and long-running campaigns. Meanwhile, Bloordale's Dueling Grounds has various games and meetups happening regularly in their game room; check their site for events. Don't forget the Mountain Dew.

Check out some nerd burlesque
Somehow, among a certain demographic, the appeal of a sexy C-3PO never, ever seems to wane. Nerd Girl Burlesque starts the summer off right with a performance at World Pride, before continuing their excellently-titled Tassels and Tabletop series with a Clue-themed show on July 18. Look out for Red Herring's annual sci-fi-inspired Babes In Space showcase to pop up at the end of August (they will be the droids you're looking for).

Visit a new board game cafe
The popularity of Toronto's breakout board game cafes - including Snakes and Lattes and its boozy cousin, Snakes and Lagers - has led to a wave of similar spots opening up in the city. The newest additions include Bampot Bohemian House of Tea and Board Games, a cozy Harbord St. spot that will serve you loose-leaf tea and light snacks while your friends get served at Catan, and Markham's Chit-Chat-Play, which offers great coffee and gelato (and, oh yeah, a selection of 300 games).

Take in some theatre and comedy
This year's most overtly nerdy pick at the Toronto Fringe Festival: Ask Lovecraft, which sees the legendary horror mastermind resurrected to answer audience queries, offer some advice, and read some light poetry (spoiler alert: it will probably not be light poetry). On the comedy side, see summer blockbuster flicks get skewered by improv troupe The 404s (yep, as in "file not found"), or watch Joss Whedon's Serenity get dismantled at Comedy Bar.

Get suited up
Dressing up as your favourite fantasy character: A time-honoured nerd tradition. (Were we not once all the kid on Halloween with the super-obscure costume nobody else recognized?) In addition to the aforementioned conventions, a perennial magnet for hardcore cosplayers, masked marauders in search of a good party can hit up Heroes and Villains on July 19 (start picking a side now). If you're looking for more opportunities to wear that hand-made Iron Man suit, check out this Facebook group for regular updates on cosplay-friendly events.

Play a Toronto-inspired board game
Gaming and civic issues: Two very different, very nerdy fields of interest. In the centre of that Venn diagram, you'll find a couple of brand-new GTA-friendly entries into the board game market. Defend a fantasy-world version of the TTC subway from killer snakes in Subways and Serpents, or make the already-delightful Cards Against Humanity even more regionally offensive with Cards About Toronto, featuring cards like "Signal problems at track level" and "CAMH" (ouch). (There's also Cards Against Toronto Real Estate, if you're really uncool.)

Growers CiderThanks to Growers Cider for sponsoring this post.

For more fun things to do this summer, check out our Toronto Fun Guide.



grey / June 23, 2014 at 02:47 pm
Guacamelee! is such a fantastic game. It didn't look like something I'd care for, but was sold on it when told it's "metroidvania"-style. It was so damn fun and engaging, and one of the very best of the genre.
Just this guy / June 23, 2014 at 02:51 pm
I'm most excited about the Mountain Dew link.
Errol / June 23, 2014 at 05:32 pm
Oooh! Awesome! was mentioned! Huzzah for nerd musicians! ^_^
Spike / June 23, 2014 at 05:42 pm
Some conventions that everybody should be aware of:

Polar Chill, July 4-6, Holiday Inn Airport Hotel (

Con Bravo July 18-20, Hamilton Convention Center, Hamilton, Ontario (
The Dandies / June 23, 2014 at 06:40 pm
Thanks for covering the geek scene, Natalie. We are no longer an invisible community!

Here is some of The Dandies upcoming show dates, as requested:

We are improvising at Stage Select Gaming Expo, Atomic Lollipop and Con Bravo this summer, and Unplugged Expo and Hamilton Comiccon in the Fall.

We produce a monthly improvised Star Trek variety show (next one on July 2nd) with many of the musicians.

We are also performing online at the third Tuesday each month.
Jeff / June 23, 2014 at 06:41 pm
Video gamers (specifically Dota players) should definitely check out the viewing event at the Regent Theatre for the International on July 21st. I can't wait for it :)
Elizabeth / June 23, 2014 at 08:58 pm
9th annual screening of Joss Whedon's film Serenity is on July 5th: for details.
Alex Nazarov / June 23, 2014 at 10:08 pm
You can come watch DOTA2's the International Tournament with prize pool of almost $10 mil dollars.
Olivia replying to a comment from Alex Nazarov / June 24, 2014 at 12:42 am
Danny / June 24, 2014 at 01:03 am
Haha no way! I do know the guy in the picture! I never realized how much he could look like Wolverine until now. Brando, when did you get such sweet hair?
Janey Gunning / June 24, 2014 at 03:31 pm
Great list... another geekfest = Brickfete LEGO Fan Festival, July 19 & 20
Brando / June 24, 2014 at 06:25 pm
Hahah hey Danny and Olivia! I got such sweet hair by spending an hour hair spraying and blow drying it before I left the house. I didn't feel very Wolverine like to primp like that hahahaha. I got stopped about every 20 seconds and several hundred pics with people, including on the street and on the streetcar! ahahah can't wait for fan expo this year!
Red Herring / June 26, 2014 at 11:23 pm
No Babes in Space this year, but returning 2015!
We DO have BABES IN SKIN CITY, a Frank Miller/Sin City themed show August 17th! Check it out:
Pete / May 24, 2015 at 03:40 am
Warp looter is another Toronto-designed video game. It's a pretty awesome mobile game. You can find it for free in the App Store:
Other Cities: Montreal