Interesting Cities to Visit in Canada
Toronto is the country’s largest city and home to one the world’s largest pride celebrations. Toronto Pride, held each year in June, attracts millions to the city and is a monthlong celebration of diversity and inclusion. Gay bars and restaurants are integrated throughout the city, but the Church Wellesley Gay Village is where you easily will find most of the city’s LGBTQ+ nightlife and restaurants. That is where you will also find Woody’s, the famed bar where they filmed the Canadian-American production of Queer As Folk, and Glad Day Bookshop, the world’s oldest LGBTQ+ bookstore. Toronto is unique because you can visit the world within the city. Each of its many neighborhoods reflects the diversity of its residents—everything from Chinatown and Little Italy to Little Portugal, Little India, Greektown and Koreatown. Toronto is also home to some of the country’s best museums and galleries, including the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). If you are looking for amazing shopping, look no further. There’s everything from the Eaton Centre, to high-end shopping in Yorkville, to one-of-a-kind boutique shops on Queen West. Queen West is also known as “Queer West” for its many LGBTQ+-friendly establishments.
Need more reasons to visit Toronto? Check out the “10 Things We Love About the City” on the IGLTA travel blog.
Montréal is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the predominately French-speaking region of the country. Montréal is Canada’s cultural hub with its rich history and old-world European charm. Stroll through the cobblestoned streets of Old Montréal and you will feel like you are in a small, quaint European city. The annual Fierté Montréal Pride Festival is one of the country’s most colorful. Fierté Montréal Pride is held in August and the whole city rallies to celebrate love. Most of the festivities happen in the Gay Village—one of the largest gay villages in the world—along Rue Sainte-Catherine, where the whole strip is transformed into a walking promenade during the summer months.
Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the North Shore Mountains, Vancouver is one of Canada’s most picturesque cities—and also one of its warmest, drawing tourists year-round. With quick and easy access to Whistler (the country’s top ski resort), the Canadian Rockies and Vancouver Island, it is one of the best places for outdoor adventures. Vancouver is also the home to not one, but two wonderful gay villages. Davie Village is the main gay village offering a variety of gay bars, clubs, restaurants and gay shops. Commercial Drive (The Drive) is home to Vancouver's thriving lesbian community. Vancouver Pride happens every August and is the largest celebration in Western Canada.
Interesting Attractions to Visit in Canada
Canada is huge and there are endless things to do! Here are the top five from across the country, west to east, to get you started:
Located just off the west coast of Canada, Vancouver Island is stunningly beautiful and showcases the nature that you think of when you think of Canada. Victoria, a quaint island town, is the main city and hosts the island’s biggest Pride celebration each year in July. Victoria is also home to many stately tearooms, loose leaf shops and cozy cafés where you can enjoy their famed Victorian afternoon tea. If you are looking for more of an adventure, head over to Tofino, the de facto surf capital of Canada.
BANFF AND JASPER NATIONAL PARKS
Banff is Canada's oldest national park and home to some of the world’s most breathtaking mountain scenery. Both parks are located in Alberta, in the Rocky Mountains, and are connected by the Icefields Parkway, which runs between Lake Louise in Banff National Park and Jasper. It’s one of the world’s most scenic drives, encompassing ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls and sweeping valley views. Lake Louise is one of the park’s most popular spots because of its striking emerald green glacial lake; it is also known for its hiking trails, teahouses in the summer and skiing in the winter. Banff is a nearby resort town nestled between mountains and is the gateway to the Canadian Rockies. Jasper, a small alpine town, hosts one of Canada’s most interesting Prides: celebrate diversity while skiing down a mountain in a national park!
The Niagara Region is just southwest of Toronto, Ontario, and is home to one of Canada’s most famous natural attractions: the Niagara Falls. The Falls bring in millions of visitors each year to see the force of 6 million cubic feet of water drop 180 feet every minute. The region is also home to the country’s biggest wine-production area, with nearly 100 wineries. Many wineries offer tours and wine tasting. Niagara-on-the-Lake and the surrounding region also have some of the best restaurants, so you can follow a day of wine tasting with a wonderful meal.
Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America and is the only fortified city north of Mexico. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it boasts charming architecture and adorable cafés and restaurants. The cityscape is dominated by the Château Frontenac, one of Canada's grand railway hotels—which more closely resembles a castle. The old city is filled with historic attractions like the Citadel and the Notre-Dame Basilica. And you can travel just outside the old city to check out Montmorency Falls.
Bay of Fundy
The Bay of Fundy is located between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, on the east coast. This is where you will find the world’s highest tides: 16 meters (5 stories). Twice each day, 160 billion tons of seawater (more than the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers) flows in and out of the bay. On the New Brunswick side, you will find Hopewell Rocks Park, where you can walk along the shores one hour and kayak in the same spot the next.
Experiencing Canadian Food
Canada is a melting pot of cultures and this is reflected in its food. Canadian cuisine is a fusion from around the world, from Aboriginal to English and French to Asia and other cultures.
Poutine (a combination of fries, cheese curds and gravy) is often the first thing people think of when they think of Canadian food. From Quebec, there is also Montreal-style smoked meat (cured beef brisket) and Montreal-style bagels (wood-fired and thinner, sweeter and denser than other bagels).
Canada is also popular for its game meat (such as venison, caribou and moose), peameal bacon (back bacon cured and rolled in cornmeal), maple syrup and ice wine. Also on the must-have list: the Caesars, an alcoholic drink that contains vodka, a tomato and clam juice mix, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce; butter tarts (sweet dessert tart); and Nanaimo bars (three-layered chocolate dessert).
Safety Consideration for LGBTQ+ Visitors to Canada
Travel to Canada is extremely safe for LGBTQ+ visitors, especially in the larger cities where there is a humming gay village, lively nightlife and lots of community associations and support groups. The three cities listed above are some of the world’s most LGBTQ+-friendly cities in the world. Attitudes remain a bit more conservative in the northern and rural regions but they are still welcoming and very safe to visit.
LGBTQ+ Travel Tips for Canada
Every year, Canada's LGBTQ+ community celebrates gay pride in all major cities and towns, from coast to coast. Plan your visits around Pride to see the cities come to life with a celebration around diversity and inclusion.
This article was written by Barry Joy (aka asianmapleleaf), an ambassador of all things travel. Barry was born and raised in Toronto and currently lives in New York City. He has written articles for several national and international travel magazines and blogs. Follow his adventures on asianmapleleaf.com or on Instagram @asianmapleleaf.