wild west toronto

10 ways to embrace the Wild West in Toronto

Yippee-ki-yay, buckaroos. Do you yearn for the open range? Walk in a Texas two-step? Love reading Louis L'amour or Cormac McCarthy. Memorized the dialogue of The Good, The Bad and the Coyote Ugly? Once upon a time in the West, did you party with the Wild Bunch, thinking yourselves a group of Young Guns, but have since settled for having True Grit? Well, cowpoke, this list is for you.

Here are 10 ways to embrace the Wild West in Toronto.

Hit up a country bar
Swing open the doors to the old watering hole and toss down a couple of drinks. If you prefer the plot line of Urban Cowboy, head to Boots 'N' Bourbon and Rock 'N' Horse Saloon. If you're more of a Crazy Heart or Tender Mercies fan The Dakota Tavern has a stellar lineup of honky-tonk crooners sure to drop tear in your beer.

Go horseback riding
If you want to feel a part of the old frontier why not do some trail riding with a trusted steed? You and your compadres can saddle up and hit the open road. There are several horseback riding options around Toronto, like Sunnybrook Stables, Claireville Ranch, Wildwood Manor and The Ranch. Yeehaw!

Attend a country-themed night
Before this recent wave of country bars, venues like the Horseshoe Tavern, the Cameron House and the Cadillac Lounge all had country showcases, and you can still step through those doors and find yourself transported to Nashville, but you'll have to check the listings. For a more regular event, head to Honkytonk Thursdays at The Unicorn Pub on Eglinton or mark your calendar for Steers and Queers' annual Night of a Thousand Dollys, one of the most fun queer country events in town.

Drink up at a whiskey/bourbon tasting or bar
Call it what you want: Gut Warmer, Bottled Courage, Prairie Dew, Nose Paint, Tongue Oil, Tarantula Juice or the Rebel Soldier, but whiskey and its sweeter friend bourbon are the official libations of the West. The premier event for whisky drinking in Toronto is Whisky Live in October, but there are several great spots you can always find a whiskey or a bourbon fix.

Take country and square dancing lessons
If Coyote Ugly, Footloose or Urban Cowboy got you inspired to shuffle your feet, why not take some lessons and really get shaking. The Toronto Wranglers offer free country line dancing lessons, as does Toronto's Country Music Line Dancing, which is hosted by Boots 'N' Bourbon. There's also contra dancing for those so inclined. Follow the Toronto Country Dancing group so you don't miss an upcoming dance event.

Get dressed up in your country best
If you love the West you've got to dress the part. Bootmaster on Yonge has long been this city's go-to for western wear, with their amazing selection of cowboy boots, shirts and hats. You can always try the city's many vintage stores, especially in Kensington Market, for boots you won't have to break in.

Visit an agricultural fair
Fancy yourself a farmhand, or wish you were? The Royal Winter Fair runs November 7-16 this year, and it should not be missed for anyone would loves a bit of country. If you can't wait that long, there is a farm pavilion, HorsePower Live!, at the CNE that starts August 15 and runs until Labor Day.

Eat and dance at a bluegrass brunch
Fry up some cackle berries and overland trout (that's cowboy slang for eggs and bacon) while you listen to some sweet fiddling and banjo playing. The Dakota Tavern may have started the bluegrass brunch but others were sure to follow. Book off your Sundays for brunch at Dominion on Queen, The Gladstone or Boots 'N' Bourbon.

Take your best shot at a shooting range
I may prefer to listen to Gun Club than go to one, but for others wanting to recreate that Young Guns Wild West vibe, a shooting range may be just the answer. Hit the bulls eye at either the Silverdale Gun Club or Target Sport Canada.

Eat a huge slab of meat
It's not exactly cowboy cooking, but Stock, the swanky Trump hotel restaurant, has a tomahawk steak at a mere $145, or dine at Jacobs and Co. or Morton's for their (more sophisticatedly named but same cut) bone-in ribeye. Often any steak will do when you're playing John Wayne (why not try cooking your own at home, home on the range), or head south and sink your teeth into some BBQ at one of Toronto's best BBQ restaurants.

Did I miss something? Add your favourite way to embrace the Wild West in Toronto in the comments.

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