Toronto makes a perfect destination for a summer getaway, especially since your U.S. dollar is worth $1.28 Canadian. I was recently there for the International Gay and Lesbian Tourism Association ( IGLTA ) meeting and found lots to do.
Getting there: Air Canada and United go to Pearson Airport and it is a quck 250minute ride downtown on the new commuter rail line, UP Pearson Express. You can also go into Billy Bishop Aiport on Toronto Island ( downtown ) and take the five-minute ferry to the city using Porter Airlines ( which flies out of Midway, in Chicago ).
Where to stay: I tried the Ramada Plaza at 300 Jarvis St., just steps to the Church Wellsley ( gay ) village. The room was big and quiet. I also stayed at the Comfort Inn on Jarvis Street. The room was nice and newly remodelled, the staff was very helpful, and you got a free breakfast. The IGLTA conference was at the Westin Harbour Castle downtown on Lake Ontario which also seemed nice. I also like the Courtyard by Marriott on Yonge. In the summer, the University of Toronto and Ryerson University both rent out their dorm rooms if you want a truly budget option ( which you might since Toronto hotels are on the expensive side ).
What to do: Make your first stop the Church Street Village ( near the College TTC subway station ). Itis full of shops and restaurants catering to the LGBTQ. The 519 Center ( at 519 College ) is the LGBTQ community center.
Allan Gardens, on Jarvis Street, is a must. It has an indoor greenhouse and is a beautiful park.
Don't miss the Ripley Aquarium, near Union Station. It's one of the nicest and you can walk under the shark tank. You can also walk along the Lake Ontario lakeshore path.
A walk around the University of Toronto campus and Queens Park ( home of Ontario's government ) makes a nice afternoon and is an escape from the bustle of the city.
If it is warm, take the ferry out to one of the beaches on Toronto's Islands. Bring towel and swim suit.
You can keep up your work out routine at the downtown YMCA which has a nice indoor pool.
Bring your bike helmet to take advantage of the bike sharing system.
Where to eat: Grab a bite at the indoor farmers' market known as The St. Lawrence Market. The fresh juice bar is downstairs and it has lots of places to eat. You can even get a Montreal smoked meat sandwich.
Budget-minded folk will like the food bar in the Loblaws Market at Maple Leaf Gardens on Church Street. Try the salmon.
Nightlife: Many of the bars are clustered on Church Street. I like Woody's, which is an institution. The leather-and-Levi's crowd can be found at The Black Eagle, which also features dancing.
Pride is coming up in Toronto, with the march set for June 24. It is one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world. Kehlani ( who recently came out as part of the LGBTQ spectrum ) is the featured singer, as is Brandy. Other events include a night at the "Aqueerium" on June 22 at Ripley's Aquarium as well as the Trans March on the same day. The Dyke March is set for June 23. The GirlPlay Toronto T Dance will be on June 24. Check out all the events at PrideToronto.com
For more information, check out NOW Weekly, TorontoNow.com or IN Magazine ( INMagazine.ca ). Another good website is SeeTorontoNow.com . Xtra.ca and GayCities.com also have travel ideas.
Getting around: The TTC or Rocket is the subway. There are also have streetcar lines and buses. The suburban trains are known as the GO Trains.
You can use your Presto card on all of them or pay $3.25 in cash to take the subway. ( The Presto card costs $6 dollars. ) If you stay downtown or in the Village, you can walk everywhere or even use the shared bike system.
Money: Your U.S. ATM card works in Canadian ATMs. You will need some Canadian money for your trip, although most places take credit cards.
You can't go wrong with a trip to Canada, especially with our dollar being so strong against the loonie ( a reference to the Canadian dollar coin that features a picture of a loon ). Toronto is an amazing city that rivals New Yorkplus you will enjoy being in a close by international destination.
Bill Malcolm is a syndicated LGBTQ travel writer based in Indianapolis. His columns have appeared in publications in Washington, D.C.,Indianapolis, Chicago, and Detroit. He also writes for All Aboard Indiana and The Broad Ripple Gazette. ( These are hobbies. )