Isn’t it Romantic? Gay Niagara-on-the-Lake

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Recently I had a meeting in Toronto, Canada. Gay friendly, Toronto (as well as Canada, on the whole) welcomes the LGBT community very nicely. Naturally there are some “haters” everywhere but I feel that some people hate blacks, some whites, Jews, Catholics, men or women in general … I want “Gay” to be on that list too. I certainly would not want to be left out. The international conversation regarding our community in is very good right now. More than ever, we need to be ladies and gentlemen and interested in the world community as well as our own. I believe that as we are accepting, we will be accepted.

I had a block of time between my business in Toronto and another important meeting in St. Martin (the French side of the island). It would have been a poor use of time to come home to Philly first and I had heard about a “magical land” named Niagara-on-the-Lake, a charming Victorian village on Lake Ontario, Canada, just outside (15 minutes) one of the most magnificent natural wonders of the world.

Not a surprise that I discovered what I think it is a “Great-Gay-Getaway” destination! Romantic, sophisticated, picturesque, distinctive, and not so much just a “Boystown” as the ladies find this area worth flocking to as well. Currently there is a campaign billing Niagara-by-the-Lake as the perfect “Gay Wedding Destination”. While nothing is perfect, I do agree that it would be an outstanding place to make that important commitment. Personally, I would need a gun to my head, but that’s just me. If invited to a Niagara-on-the-Lake wedding … I am there!

Niagara-on-the-Lake is located in the heart of Canadian “Wine Country” and home to over half of the region’s 50 wineries. I used to drink “Lake Niagara” wines when I was in college. I recall very sweet wine tasting like green grapes. In 2013 some Lake Niagara wines are world renowned. Some wines, not so much. I think there is still a collegiate market out there and why not?

  The area is very well known for its “Ice Wine”, the sweet, dessert wine that gets its name from grapes frozen on the vine before harvest. Apparently this procedure concentrates the flavor of the grape to a greater degree. Ice Wine is celebrated here and while it is really not for me, I appreciate what it is and the process.  Ice Wine can actually be very expensive. It pairs well with tart fruits and very strong cheeses. Drunk alone or with dinner it would not my choice. Try it for yourself sometime and let me know what you thought.  

If Walt Disney came down (or possibly up … I heard he was a terrible “Homophobe”) and he wanted to work on a little project for the LGBT community, (penance perhaps?) he might have helped design the story-book-village of Niagara-on-the-Lake which bills itself as the “Prettiest town in Canada”. I believe this to be true.  I think of it like this: someone took the “straight honeymoon capital of the world” Niagara Falls and built something very gay-appealing and much, much more romantic just down the road. Niagara Falls, the international “Natural Wonder” is awesome, one of a kind and a very well organized “Tourist Machine”. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a sweet Victorian confection in the form of a quaint nineteenth-century Canadian village. It is picturesque and charming with a very old fashioned feeling. When strolling about, I had the feeling of walking through a much larger version of what should be under the Christmas tree with my Lionel train set.

There are adorable Victorian hotels, B&B’s, guesthouses, and so forth.  Restaurants run the gamut of simple to sublime. There are ridiculous amounts of casual shopping opportunities (not much to challenge the budget) and quite a bit of activity for the energetic or relaxing pursuits. Great jogging and bicycle paths and placid sailing on Lake Ontario.  In other words, it is enough for a couple of fun, stress free days.

If exercising your libido is on your “to-do-list”, there will actually be more variety than you might expect. I was surprised about the amount of outdoor “cruising” activity there was (Another “sweetly old fashioned” touch if you ask me). If you like parks, washrooms, trails and the like for your “adventure”, you have come to the right place. There are plenty of gay friendly/owned bars, restaurants and really great places to stay of very high quality, all of which are Gay owned, operated and welcoming. There is something for everyone and in almost every price range.

Niagara-on-the-Lake itself is too small to have a “Gayborhood” and too “Gay” not to simply be one, if you know what I mean. I would say that if it were truly a “Gayborhood” the shopping might be upgraded a bit. It’s sort of like The Washington Mall in Cape May but larger.

I stayed in an exquisite Victorian, Gay-run B&B and it was the definition of “charming”. They actually did a local wine tasting at the Inn one evening and I discovered that aside from the “Ice Wine”, some of the other bottles produced in the region were much more to my taste. I seldom go by “Award Winning Wine” any more than go the movies just because the film won an Oscar. I like what I like and it is that simple. Experts/authorities annoy me. I let my own taste be the authority.  Once again, I digress.

The LGBT “scene” itself is very comfortable. You will find lots of couples, mostly partnered, many on that “first sublime overnight date” I was speaking to a really nice, young couple who drove up from our area and they just loved the whole environment. It was late summer and (aside from all that hot/new/unexplored sex) neither of them had ever seen Niagara Falls. They explained that they were reserved for three nights and between being truly “together” for the first time, the town itself was very much to their liking (they were very masculine, professional and yet outdoorsy/ jockey types). They said that their first evening was chilly enough for their Inn to have a fire going and they just loved the Ice Wine! (Ha!) As I said, it is really popular.

They said that they were not really interested in the Falls (so they thought) but since they drove up from the US they wanted to check out this world Icon. They stayed and explored a lot longer than they had anticipated. Niagara Falls is quite spectacular but an hour or so is just fine for me (Including coffee). It is really something to be near all that incredible natural power. Even the sound of all that falling water is very distinctive and inspiring. It’s an experience not to be missed.

THE BOTTOM LINE: About seven hours of drive time from Philly takes you to a slightly different world, country and culture, not the “jolt” of arriving in Istanbul after a transatlantic flight but just enough difference for a comfortable experience. Travel nourishes the body and soul. Sometimes it is good to “rock your own world” and sometimes you just want some good quality relaxation with an edge. Niagara on the Lake is beautiful, sophisticated, and casual and is foreign without being too foreign. For me, it’s very romantic. I may have been imagining it, but I believe the Earth moved several times when last I was there.

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