LGBTQ visitors can take advantage of the warm hospitality, safe in the knowledge that tolerance is part of everyday life from coast to coast. And while every Canadian province takes pride in being LGBTQ-friendly, the following communities are especially enlightened and welcoming, due in part to their cosmopolitan vibe, arts-and-culture saturation and genuine geniality.
Top LGBTQ-Friendly Places in Canada
A relaxed vibe permeates Canada’s West Coast, particularly on Vancouver Island. British Columbia’s capital city has been welcoming the LGBTQ community for decades, drawn to the peaceful atmosphere, beautiful beaches, temperate climate, lush gardens and picturesque Victorian architecture. Outlying mountains and forest make for excellent exploration year-round.
While the oldest city in the Pacific Northwest is well-known for outdoor activities like whale-watching, kayaking, fishing and sailing, this very walkable town is equally noted for its relaxed British-style pubs, most of which have regular live music. Live acts also play a big part in the lineup at chic Upstairs Cabaret and at the iconic Hermann’s Jazz Club.
Where to stay in Victoria
Small, friendly, upscale and stylish, this independent hotel is big on personalized service, with a high ratio of staff to guests. The downtown location makes it accessible to everything, including the best of the city’s shopping and busy waterfront: The Harbour Air Seaplanes dock is a five-minute walk away.
The 64 spacious rooms have an Old-World feel, with modern touches elevating a traditional decor, rich with wood paneling, high ceilings and sumptuous furnishings. The Courtney Room is a destination in itself, a bistro-style watering hole and fine-dining room rolled into one.
Magnolia Hotel & Spa
Despite being small, this resort town 130 kilometers west of Calgary has an international flare and reputation, making it very comfortable for the LGBTQ traveler. Banff has been welcoming guests from all over the world since 1883, when its famous natural hot springs were discovered—instantly making the region one of the most romantic in the province.
Situated within Banff National Park (Canada’s first) surrounded by 6,500 square kilometers of parkland, Banff offers nature at it’s finest—pristine wilderness and breathtaking scenery, with forest, lakes, mountains and meadows opening you up for superlative outdoor adventure.
Follow your hot-springs soak with a canoodling canoe ride or a thrilling helicopter sight-see. It just doesn’t get more Canadian—or more romantic—than this.
Where to stay in Banff
If only the walls could talk. One of the grand hotels built across Canada at the same time as the national railway, this historic gem from 1888 is very much in step with the times when it comes to welcoming people of every stripe.
The chateau-style look and feel combined with the mountain setting make it one of the most romantic spots in Western Canada. Contemporary despite its age, the design of the hotel’s 764 rooms oozes heritage charm.
Culinary delights range from local homemade goodies to afternoon tea to the famous cuts of Alberta beef. With tennis and golf in the summer and tobogganing, skating and skiing in the winter—three big resorts are nearby—the Fairmont is a year-round thrill.
Hotel Fairmont Banff Springs
One of Canada’s fastest-growing cities, Saskatoon has been dubbed the Paris of the Prairies, due in part to the city’s ample base of artists, musicians, filmmakers and other creative entrepreneurs. A relaxed vibe well suits the LGBTQ crowd, as does the welcoming prairie spirit and the burgeoning bar and restaurant scene.
In the summer, theater, jazz and folk music festivals keep residents and visitors hopping, the Jazz Fest alone spread over 10 days. Saskatoon’s premier gay bar is Diva’s, open for more than 40 years, but Pink Lounge also draws a crowd into its busy, multi-level space. Even Saskatoon Pride gets bigger every year.
Where to stay in Saskatoon
This design-forward, upscale boutique hotel on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River is a hit with its business and leisure clientele. Independently owned by the same family since 1935, The James is 12 stories of chic comfort.
The 59 rooms and suites are sleek and soothing thanks to light wood and white furnishings, a taupe, grey and silver colour palette and gorgeous wood flooring in the suites. Comfortable work spaces and big bathrooms with soaker tubs round out the amenities.
Live music in the Lobby Bar draws a crowd and the hotel’s easy access to the Meewasin Valley Trail lets you cycle, jog or cross-country ski to your heart’s content.
The James Hotel
One million people turn out to celebrate Pride in Toronto every year—and you could be one of them. One of the most accepting and tolerant urban centers in the world just happens to also be great fun. With more than 140 languages spoken on the streets, Toronto is multicultural beyond words, a trait that makes for phenomenal variety, especially in its world-class culinary scene.
The tourist attractions aren’t just for families and children, but are fun for everyone. Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, the CN Tower EdgeWalk, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario hit all the Top 10 lists, as does the Toronto International Film Festival, which turns the town into Hollywood North each autumn.
Toronto is thick with cool places to hoist a few cocktails all across town, but make sure to spend at least one evening in the Gay Village on Church Street taking in the LGBTQ hangouts and egging on the city’s superlative drag queens.
Where to stay in Toronto
This sophisticated boutique hideaway on a quiet side street in the center of town is just a five-minute walk from Toronto’s Gay Village, plus easy walking distance to the excellent shopping along Toronto’s Mink Mile and the Yorkville area luxury retailers. The comfortable 113 rooms sport a polished, loft-style design with a quirky retro undertone.
You can pop on the subway and be ordering martinis in one of the downtown bars and restaurants within 10 minutes, but the hotel itself has a stellar cocktail lounge fronting Constantine restaurant, its award-winning chef turning out Italian with a Mediterranean twist.
The Anndore House
Canada’s capital city never disappoints, regardless of what season you visit. Summertime is filled with festivals both local and national in scope, including Capital Pride. The annual Winterlude gets residents and visitors out of doors, into skates and onto the Rideau Canal, touted as the world’s biggest outdoor skating rink.
Ottawa is small enough to have a welcoming, home-town feel, yet big enough to offer world-class dining, attractions, international sports and cultural entertainment. Parliament Hill, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and the Diefenbunker Museum all need to be on your to-do list.
The most romantic and gay-forward spots tend to be the town’s cocktail bars; try Riviera on Sparks Street (and stay for dinner!) or duck into Zoe’s, the lobby lounge at the Fairmont Château Laurier.
Where to stay in Ottawa
Primarily a base for business creatives and the upscale leisure crowd, this trendy 200-room hotel is also a hit with the LGBTQ community for the location, the farm-to-table cuisine and the ultra-cool cocktail bar on the top floor offering a sweeping view of the city skyline.
Like other Andaz properties, its interior design is hooked to the local landscape, showcasing quintessential Canadiana: Oak cabinetry, wood furnishings, copper light fixtures and a nature-inspired palette.
At the east end of the city’s historic Byward Market area with its plethora of eateries and bars, the Andaz is walking distance from many of the downtown highlights, including the Rideau Canal, busy Sparks and Elgin Streets, and Parliament Hill.
Andaz Ottawa Byward Market
Montreal has always been a magnet for travelers lured by its unique multicultural heritage, laid-back character, decadent food and great shopping. The city’s elevated sense of style touches many arenas, including fashion, design, art and architecture. Both the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Montreal are definite must-dos.
For a romantic respite, heat things up at Bota Bota, a floating spa on the St. Lawrence River with various water features, outdoor pools and body treatments.
Montreal’s August Pride is a huge affair, with a large swath of the Gay Village’s main street closed to car traffic and injected with dozens of sidewalk patios fronting all the cafés and bars. And the steak frites? To die for.
Where to stay in Montreal
Although not situated near the Gay Village, Le Mount Stephen is an easy subway ride away. This 11-storey, 90-room luxury hotel is a mix of old and new, featuring a design-forward new building attached to a Renaissance Revival mansion built in 1883 in Montreal’s Golden Square Mile.
This heritage landmark is a well-preserved marvel filled with Cuban mahogany, Austrian stained glass and Italian marble, housing the main foyer and the Britain-inspired Bar George. The modern annex, which includes the guest rooms, is bright and airy, its old-style glamour infused with modern look.
Le Mount Stephen
Quebec City, QC
Like a little bit of Europe within Canada’s borders, Quebec City is the jewel of the province. Quaint, charming, beautiful, storied and welcoming, its hospitality has been honed from many years of entertaining cruise-ship passengers touring the St. Lawrence River. The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the only North American fortified city north of Mexico with its walls still in tact.
The food scene is in a perpetual state of evolution, the culinary community pushing boundaries and giving traditional foods a fresh spin. For date night, couples can linger over sumptuous meals or find a quiet corner in a neighbourhood wine bar for a tête-à-tête with a bottle of rosé.
Where to stay in Quebec City
The hospitality and service at this Relais & Château-associated, family-owned boutique hotel in the heart of the Old City is at a level that is presupposed by LGBTQ travelers.
A converted 1820s warehouse right on the St. Lawrence River, the 95-room Saint-Antoine is design-forward while maintaining heritage charm. Artifacts discovered through an archeological dig during the construction of the hotel are displayed throughout the building, integrated into the decor.
The restaurant Chez Muffy is sublime, tantalizing palates with farm-to-fork Quebec bistronomie using ingredients procured from local farmers and fishermen, as well as produce from the hotel’s farm on nearby l’île d’Orléans.
St. John’s, NL
With the runaway success of the musical Come From Away, Newfoundland & Labrador is enjoying a moment in the sun, with a welcome that mirrors the show’s depiction of the province’s warm hospitality.
A quaint maritime charm fills every nook and cranny, as architecture, crafts, music and storytelling are all celebrated with gusto via numerous festivals, bested only by the region’s extraordinary seafood.
National parks, an iceberg-laden coastline and a rugged interior all offer unspoiled room to romp with hiking, whale-watching, boating and fishing. The capital comes through with museums, historic sites, food and fun.
For nightlife, everyone congregates in the watering holes along Water Street for a bit of a “knees up.” You can also take a romantic stroll through Quidi Vidi Village, stopping to sample the delicious craft beers, of course.
Where to stay in St. John’s
A minimal feel of neutral tones, soft textures and clean lines yields a comfortable, open and airy environment at this 84-room modern boutique hotel in the downtown entertainment and business hub of St. John’s. Right at the base of the harbour, the hotel is easy walking distance from the colourful Water Street bars and restaurants, the Convention Centre and Mile One sports centre.
If plans hang on staying in, Exile Restaurant is a flavour adventure, the small and large plates a mix of surf and turf that include regional hits like seared steelhead trout and grilled moose sausage.