Oh, Canada! Montreal Prepares for an Epic Pride
Canada is basking in the global limelight this year. The New York Times ranked the country first in its annual "Places to Go" list, in part because it's the 150th anniversary of Canada's confederation.
Some of the fanfare also may have something to do with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose smart, liberal leadership has sparked the envy of politically depressed Americans.
LGBT travelers have even more reason to head north this year, with the first-ever Canada Pride happening in Montreal from August 11 to August 20.
The huge event will bring more than 150 events to a city already famous for its amazing food, arts and shopping scenes. Plus it's happening in an already eventful year for Quebec's biggest city, now marking its 375th year.
Fierte Montreal (Montreal Pride) is organizing the inaugural Canada Pride festival. The organization is still building its schedule of events, but mark your calendars for Community Day, slated to fill the Village's Catherine Street with kiosks and entertainment on Saturday, August 19. The huge Pride Parade on Sunday, August 20, will dazzle with flamboyant floats, proud community groups and prestigious grand marshals (who will be announced soon).
With the Montreal Tower at Olympic Park lit in rainbow colors all 10 days of Canada Pride, athletes and their fans may feel especially invigorated for the sports tournament. Volleyball, badminton, rugby and other sports will kick off the festival's opening days on August 12 and 13 in Ahuntsic's Claude-Robillard Sports Complex.
Community understanding is an inspiring Canadian quality, so from August 15 to August 17, Pride will also host the conference LGBTTIQA2S Lives: Our Struggles, Our Victories, Our Challenges (that inclusive acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgendered, Intersexual, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirited). Join panels, workshops and plenary sessions that examine global issues, diversity in the workplace, family and other topics from a variety of cultural and identity-based perspectives.
"Montreal will definitely be where it's at this summer," says Eric Pineault, founding president of Montréal Pride. He's thrilled to host the surge of visitors anticipated throughout 2017 who will enjoy the city's funky-chic character that's a "mix of French and English, of history and modernism."
Pineault names a few musts for locals and visitors around town. For a particularly healthful, delicious meal, he recommends Aux Vivres, a vegan outpost near the hip Mile End neighborhood. He also says the Village's new Bar Renard is killing it with a great happy hour and late-night food service (until 3 a.m.). For deep relaxation, head to Nuns' Island toward the south end of the city and luxuriate in the lush, natural setting of Strom Spa Nordique.
Montreal is famous as a gastronomic world capital, and imaginative restaurants like Hvor, Manitoba and Le Serpent deliver on the high expectations most visitors have. But the queer founders behind Spade & Palacio Tours invite a deeper, hyper-local perspective on their excellent "Beyond the Market" tour in the Little Italy and Mile-Ex neighborhoods, which includes a visit to shops inside the famous Jean-Talon Public Market. (Bonus tip: While you're in Mile-Ex, consider seeing what's on at the incomparable, queer-inclusive art-and-events organization Never Apart.
The historic Vieux-Montreal is as picturesque as the city gets, so a visit there is mandatory. All the more reason to book a room at the new Hotel William Gray, whose sexy design, excellent restaurant Maggie Oakes and prime location are rivaled only by the views from its rooftop bar. Or for truly uncommon accommodations, consider booking a boat or wooden cottage at the new Village by the Locks complex, opening in May 2017.