Riding the Rails to Canada, Eh?
Here in North America, Amtrak, along with VIA Rail, make crossing the border between the United States and Canada a unique experience. In June of this year, the United States legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country, ten years after it was made legal nationally in Canada. What this means is that LGBT couples and families can now explore both countries with the same freedoms that straight couples and their offspring are accustomed to.
Amtrak Canadian Destinations
Canada’s urban centers offer an array of LGBT activities, such as film festivals, sporting events, theater, music and Pride celebrations. The climate is quite similar to the bordering states across the country from east to west, so unless you’re a winter sports enthusiast, optimal times to visit are in the spring, summer and fall. Here are three Amtrak routes that make their way up to Canada.
Montreal, Quebec, is where French and English are spoken interchangeably throughout the city. The laissez-faire attitude and old-world charm makes it a unique European-style destination to visit. The “gay village” area along St. Catherine Street becomes a festive party all summer long, with the road closed to vehicular traffic and sidewalk patios in front of every bar and restaurant. In August, the annual Fierté Pride festival takes places throughout the city, and this October the 25th anniversary of Black and Blue salutes the leather community.
Vancouver, British Columbia also has their Pride celebrations the first week of August. This beautiful west coast city is situated along the Pacific Ocean, and is home to Stanley Park, the largest metropolitan park in Canada. The temperate climate makes this a great year-round destination. Must visits include Granville Island, Gastown, Commercial Avenue, and Davie Street. The city is also home to Wreck Beach, Canada’s largest clothing option playground.
Toronto has been voted tops on many lists of most liveable cities in the world, as well as the most diverse for its acceptance of all cultures. The city is known for its enclaves of cultural hubs from around the world, making it a great foodie and festival destination. The largest city in Canada is also home to two thriving “gay villages”, the downtown Church-Wellesley area and the more alternative Queer West area. Pride Toronto is also one of the world’s largest, attracting upwards of a million attendees annually, and played host to WorldPride in 2014.
Border Crossing Requirements and Guidelines
Here are a few tips on how travelers can prepare for the journey before setting out on a path of discovery north of the border. There are a few guidelines, restrictions and legal documents required before going on vacation.
When making Amtrak travel reservations, passengers will be required to provide certain information requested by Customs and Immigration, such as date of birth, gender, citizenship and travel document details. A variety of documents can legally be used for land travel between the two countries, however a valid passport or NEXUS card are the most secure, reliable and trustworthy.
Documentation is also required when traveling with loved ones. Legal parents and guardians must have documentation for each individual traveling with them who are under the age of 18. If traveling as a single parent, additional documentation is required to reduce any unexpected delays.
Call ahead to inquire about excess baggage charges when traveling with any oversized items, such as a kayak, bike, skis or other large items. For outdoor adventurers who plan on hunting or fishing, there are specific guidelines and documents for anyone traveling with a firearm, or transporting wildlife across borders.
Finally, if you’re planning to shop till you drop, there are exemption limits and restrictions on the dollar amount of purchases that can be carried between the two countries without having to pay additional duty or taxes. Be prepared before traveling across the longest undefended international border in the world, and most importantly be prepared to have a lot of fun up in Canada!
Additional Travel Information
Additional information can be found on the Amtrak website, Canada Border Services Agency, Foreign Affairs Canada, Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, Government of Canada and U.S. Department of State.
What are you waiting for, eh? Plan a trip to Canada via Amtrak today and see everything that this progressive and open-minded country has to offer!