10 gay escapes to explore in Canada now that it’s reopened its borders

GayCities encourages you to stay safe during the Covid 19 pandemic. If you choose to travel, we recommend that you follow all CDC Travel Guidelines and adhere closely to all local regulations regarding face coverings, social distancing and other safety measures.

Last week, Canada reopened its border to United States citizens who wish to visit. However, you must be fully vaccinated and show proof of a negative Covid test within three days of your planned trip.

Canada is always an amazing place to visit, full of stunning scenery and nature, and some awesome cities. Whether you’re looking to hang out in a gayborhood, gay beach, or discover some more rural attractions outdoors, here are a few suggestions to kick start your Canadian adventure.

Church & Wellesley, Toronto

The Church and Wellesley LGBTQ district in Toronto
The Church and Wellesley district in Toronto (Photo: Destination Toronto)

If you’ve never been, Ontario capital Toronto is a vast place to explore. It’s actually the fourth most populous city in North America – after Mexico City, Los Angeles and New York City. The gayborhood in Toronto can be found around Church & Wellesley Streets. It’s difficult to miss: not only do the street signs have rainbows on them but the borders of the neighborhood are marked by rainbow crossings.

A street mural in Toronto
A street mural in Toronto (Photo: David Hudson)

You’ll find a selection of restaurants, cafes, bars and bathhouses (at the time of writing, clubs were still closed due to pandemic restrictions). Names to look out for include Woody’s, The Garage, O’Grady’s. Do also check out community-oriented events at the519 community center and pop in for a coffee at the long-running Glad Day Book Shop, now the oldest LGBTQ bookstore in North America.

Related: Why Glad Day is North America’s oldest surviving–and thriving–gay bookstore

Hanlan’s Point, Toronto

Hanlan’s Point Beach (Photo: @pl_mtl/Instagram)

This public beach has picked up a sizeable gay following for one big reason: One-kilometre of it is clothing optional. You’ll find it on Hanlan’s Point in the Toronto Islands, on the shore of Lake Ontario. The beautiful Toronto skyline makes for the perfect backdrop, even if the water itself can be a little on the chilly side at any time other than peak summer.

Related: Travel virtually to Toronto and get to know these sexy Canadian guys

The Ridge Campground, Ontario

 

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On the banks of Ontario’s Grand River, The Ridge is an adult LGBTQ+ resort and campground located just over an hour’s drive from downtown Toronto. It offers accommodation to suit all tastes, from rooms, suites and cabins to campsites and space for RVs. It offers a heated pool and deck, a volleyball court, clothing-optional areas, and walking trails. Regular events include naked yoga, while nearby attractions include conservation areas in Orangeville, Elora, and Bellwood.

Cedar’s Campground, Ontario

Cedars Campground in Ontario
Cedars Campground (Photo: @billycaley/Instagram)

Another welcoming, inclusive campground for the whole LGBTQ spectrum. Cedars offers acres of camping ground for tents and RVs, along with cabins, along with a pool, tiki bar, on-site restaurant and nightlife. Located in Millgrove, Ontario, it’s just over an hour’s drive southwest of Toronto.

A long-running establishment, it has overwhelmingly positive reviews on TripAdvisor and GoogleMaps: “I’ve been going to this campground for a little over 10 years and it has always been a favorite spot!” said one regular, Sarah Mac. “The campground is always tidy, staff are friendly, and campers are kind and hilarious. Always recommend checking out this spot to my fellow queer friends!”

The Point camping resort, Ontario

The Point camping resort in Canada
The Point camping resort (Photo: @lancaric/Instagram)

The Point is a camping resort in forestry on Ontario’s south coast. It’s aimed at gay and bisexual men. Book one of its rustic cabins or reserve tent or RV space. Explore the private forest and hiking trails, relax by the pool, check out local brews and wines, or take a dip in the waters of Lake Erie. It’s a two-hour drive from Buffalo, NY, three hours from Detroit, MI, or just under two hours from Toronto.

Weekends events (such as Jocks In The Woods), regularly sell out weeks in advance, so don’t leave it to the last minute to make a booking.

Davie Street, Vancouver

Davie Street, Vancouver
Davie Street, Vancouver (Photo: Tourism Vancouver/Nelson Mouellic)

Vancouver’s gay village is largely based downtown around Davie Street. Look out for the rainbow banners and pink bus stops, or the more recently added Rainbow Crosswalk, at the junction of Bute and Davie Streets, and colorful LED strip lights.

Bars to check out include the long-running, manly Pumpjack, the Fountainhead and the Junction. The multi-floored Numbers Cabaret hosts karaoke and other entertainment, with late-night action being covered by Celebrities. There’s also plenty of cafes and restaurants, with many now offering more patio seating. Although in the downtown district, you’re still not far from some of Vancouver’s beaches and stunning scenery.

Wreck Beach, Vancouver

Wreck Beach in Vancouver
Wreck Beach (Photo: @ponytailboy2/Instagram)

You’ll find Wreck Beach at the foot of cliffs near the University of British Columbia, just west of Vancouver. The clothing-optional beach is a favorite with gays and lesbians, who usually follow Trail 7. Be aware that it’s around a 30-minute hike from the start of the trail, so take appropriate footwear. The views are stunning, although it’s definitely more popular during the warmer summer months.

Montreal’s gay village

The rainbow-colored subway pillars in Montreal's gay village (Photo: Tourisme Quebec, Linda Turgeon)
The rainbow-colored subway pillars in Montreal’s gay village (Photo: Tourisme Quebec, Linda Turgeon)

Montréal’s Village claims to be the biggest gay neighborhood in the whole of North America, and should definitely be on your bucket list if you’ve never been. Boasting its own unique atmosphere (in part due to this being in the heart of French-speaking Canada), you’ll find it along Sainte-Catherine Street. The Beaudry metro station, with its distinctive rainbow pillars, is at the center of the action, while a canopy of rainbow-colored balls hangs across part of the street.

(Photo: Tourisme Montreal – Alison Slattery)

You’ll find plenty of shops, cafés and bars to enjoy, as well as outdoor art installations (like the open-air Galerie blanc). Église Saint-Pierre-Apôtre is the only church in the world to have a chapel dedicated to victims of AIDS.

Jasper Avenue, Edmonton

Edmonton Pride in Canada
Edmonton Pride (Photo: Explore Edmonton)

Jasper Avenue is not quite as distinctive a gay village as those found in Vancouver or Toronto, but LGBTQ travelers will still find something to enjoy, with around half a dozen gay-owned businesses and a similar number of bars and clubs, plus a Pride Center.

(Photo: Exploring Edmonton)

Edmonton is the capital of Alberta, and attractions include its historic Old Strathcona district, 20 major parks, and plenty of mainstream festivals, such as the annual Edmonton International Fringe Festival. Explore local LGBTQ landmarks and facts using the Edmonton Queer History App while wandering the streets.

Winnipeg’s Osborne Village

Osborne Village, Winnipeg
Osborne Village, Winnipeg (Photo: Tourism Winnipeg)

Winnipeg’s Osborne Village is the closest the city gets to an LGBTQ neighborhood, although it’s more a hip district that happens to have a handful of gay businesses. Check out The Forks market; gourmet grocery store Black Market Provisions; The Good Will Social Club; Vantage Vintage Boutique; the Joe Black Coffee Bar, and restaurants The Tallest Poppy and Capital Grill and Bar.

The Winnipeg skyline, with the distinctive Canadian Museum of Human Rights on the right
The Winnipeg skyline, with the distinctive Canadian Museum for Human Rights on the right (Photo: Tourism Winnipeg)

There are only 3-4 gay venues and some remain closed at the time of writing because of Covid. The city (the first major one in North America to have an openly gay mayor back in 1998) is also home to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and prides itself on its inclusive welcome.