Summer 2007 | Cool Canada

Vancouver


A green glass oasis glittering on the hem of the Pacific sheltered by the broad shoulders of the Coast Mountains, the City of Glass wins legions of admirers for its stunning geography, mild climate, and resulting bounty of outdoor opportunities.


Vancouver might be lacking in big-city bustle, but its no slouch when it comes to picking up the pace. In summer pine-scented mountain air and ocean breezes cool fit, active Vancouverites as they cast off their Gore-Tex and pelt along Stanley Parks trails, Rollerblade the Sea Wall, trek North Shore canyons, heli-hike nearby mountains, and skimboard Jericho Beach. When the sun is out its a city always on the go.


Founded as the sawmill settlement of Granville in the 1870s, archeological evidence traces the areas appeal back to at least 500 b.c., when coastal Indians made their home by the waters of the Georgia Strait. Today, gleaming towers have replaced towering trees, and Vancouvers popularity--along with housing prices--continues to skyrocket, accelerated by the city having won hosting duties for 2010s Winter Olympics.


Towers in Yaletown and in the West End are home to the largest contingent of Vancouvers gay population, although gays and lesbians are spread throughout the diverse and multicultural city of 2 million, where Cantonese is as prevalent as English. More concerned with top condition and top tables than sashaying in and out of bars and clubs, gay nightlife in Vancouver is concentrated on a three-block section of Davie Street, where around a dozen queer bars, clubs, and restaurants thrive.


Best known on lesbian screens for its role as the location for The L Word, Vancouver dons disguises effortlessly, sitting in for Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York City, or even Uruguay, but its as itself that it truly shines.


Winnipeg


Winnipeg was an early-20th-century boomtown, with 27 rail lines, 300 electric streetcars, and the largest commodities market on the continent. Stately banks, warehouses, and vintage skyscrapers sprouted proudly on the prairie, earning Manitobas capital the accolade "The Chicago of the North." Then came the fall: World War I withered Winnipegs remarkable bloom, and for decades the Exchange District sat neglected, making the city an architecturally outstanding ghost town.


The once shy, quirky loner of the prairies no longer skulks in the shadow of its glory days--or of faster-paced, more fashionable Canadian cities. This appealing city of over 700,000 flaunts its talent, and those blocks of faded nobility now buzz with a vital hum, making it the center of one of Canadas most vibrant arts scenes. Declared a National Historic Site in 1997, the Exchange, one of Winnipegs two gay-popular neighborhoods, along with Osborne Village, contains approximately 150 Chicago School-style buildings.


Writer Arnold Edinborough claims that "Canada has never been a melting pot; more like a tossed salad." Nowhere is this mix more apparent than in Winnipeg. Its distinct flavors emanate from its French-Canadian, Jewish, Ukrainian, Icelandic, Mennonite, and Filipino influences, and from being home to the largest native population of any city in Canada.


Although it only offers three gay-specific venues, the city carries some serious gay credentials. In 1998, Winnipeg became the first major North American city to elect an out gay mayor, Glen Murray. Local filmmaker Guy Maddins homoerotica-imbued epics and rising gay director Noam Gonick of Stryker and Hey, Happy! fame cause serious celluloid splashes. The Forks, a trading destination for 6,000 years and currently a shopping hot spot, is the future site of the Human Rights Museum, opening in 2010.


A prairie revival has taken place. Exuding quiet confidence, Winnipeg has slowly but surely stepped into the spotlight.


Montreal


Americans have been scampering across the border to Montreal for a good time since Prohibition days. No wonder: Montreal is a city passionate about enjoying itself. A seriously sultry character, the worlds second-largest French-speaking metropolis charms its way swiftly into visitors hearts.


Formerly the territory of the Hurons, Iroquois, and Algonquins, Montreal has been wanted, won, and lost by the English and the French over its nearly 500 years of European involvement. Its political history has given the Montreal of today its sexy bilingual ease.


The city has shaken off the economic malaise that followed the Quebec separatist upheavals of the 1970s and is newly buoyant with confidence. In the gay village, St. Catherine Street pulsates with joyful revelry. Five-, six-, and seven-story superclubs pack rainbow-decked blocks of St. Catherine where, during DiversCit?, Montreals pride celebration, an estimated 750,000 people converge.


When not celebrating summer in exuberant gay bars or splurging in luxe boutiques and tony bistros on St. Denis Street, Montreals fashion makers, breakers, and mavens flock east to hot neighborhood du jour Mile End, where a confident swath of cool lounges, avant-garde eateries, and intriguing boutiques flourish.


Its hard to resist tumbling headlong for this effervescent city of 3.6 million with its atmospheric caf?s and bistros, boutique-lined streets, cobbled old quarter, and body-packed parks and river beaches. The air is alive with the aromas of coffee, pastries, perfume, and summer city heat. Montreal holds nothing back in its exultant fling with this most sensual of seasons. After those long months of winter, the city casts off its layers and throws caution to the wind when summer finally scampers around.


After succumbing to its urgent pulse, Montreal is the city you dont get over. Other cities can only come close. Once under its allure, Montreal leaves its admirers happily powerless to resist its charms.


Edmonton


Its hard not to take a shine to Edmonton, the laid-back capital of oil-rich Alberta. A refreshing optimism permeates this city of one million--buoyed by its oil-boosted fortunes. Edmonton has struck it rich but hasnt changed its friendly down-to-earth charm.


With a federal designation as Cultural Capital of Canada for 2007 and the Alberta economy doing mini-somersaults, Edmonton pulses with newfound vitality. Cultural Capital components, including a yearlong poetry festival, performances, light displays, and the visual arts extravaganza Edmonton Explorations, all add to the already exhilarating array of celebrations on offer in this festive city. North Americas largest fringe festival, the River City Shakespeare Festival, and jazz, blues, and folk fests are big draws on Edmontons long summer evenings, when twilight lasts past 11 p.m.


After all those months of snow-imposed seclusion theres a whole lot of living to do on hot summer nights. The city throbs with youthful energy. Off-duty cowboys stampede in from cattle and horse ranches, and oil-field workers tear into town in top-of-the-range trucks. On weekends boisterous Whyte Avenue jolts to life with an influx of fresh-faced students, some of 35,000 who attend the University of Alberta. Residents barbecue under the stars outside lovingly restored homes in adjacent leafy neighborhoods.


A fresh crop of smoke-free gay and lesbian bars and clubs teems with life in the burgeoning gay village of Jasper Avenue, a two-block area with half a dozen gay businesses. Staff shirts in Prism proclaim "Good girls go to heaven; bad girls go to prism," although as its the only girl bar in town, it seems all girls go to Prism.


Those seemingly never-ending summer days are perfect for exploring the deep river valley of the North Saskatchewan River that divides Edmonton north and south. Time out on trails through ravines, gullies, gorges, and spruce trees makes it easy to forget youre in Canadas fifth-largest city.


Let the herds kick up a ruckus about Calgary; bold, assured Edmonton gallops way ahead, leaving the rest of Alberta in the dust.


Toronto


Known at the turn of the century as "Toronto the Good," a result of a righteous mayors morality reforms, Canadas largest city spent the next century brushing off this lackluster tag.
Today, this multicultural metropolis of 5 million sweeps visitors off their feet with its dazzling Broadway-quality theater scene, its gorgeous constellation of ?ber-chic hotels, and its splurge-inducing shopping opportunities. In the midst of a cultural renaissance, this powerful, assertive city polishes its gems and creates ever more stunning modern architecture. Debonair Toronto easily entices droves of admirers with its island beaches, striking club and cocktail scenes, and alluring warm-weather restaurant patios.


Canadas largest gay population congregates in the Church-Wellesley area, a gay village that traces its roots to 1826, when gay magistrate and merchant Alexander Wood bought the land, derogatorily called "Molly Woods Bush" after his purchase. By the 1970s the area had become home to an underground gay scene, and by the early 1980s it was Torontos gay epicenter. The area was a natural choice when producers sought a filming location for all five seasons of Queer as Folk. In recent years, however, the community has branched out, with new destinations popping up around the city. These days the Gay West Village in Parkdale and "Queer Street West," as a section of Queen Street is now dubbed, sizzle. Toronto proudly hosts one of the largest pride festivals on earth (this year June 15-24). More than 800,000 gallivant along Church Street during the festivities.


Unlike Vancouver or even Edmonton- cities with geography in their favor-pancake-flat Toronto wins admirers on sheer force of personality alone. From its proud vantage point, poised on the brink of enormous Lake Ontario, Toronto radiates a captivating confidence. Its Toronto the Good no longer; now its Toronto the Irresistible.

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