Caring for Community

One way to feel less like a stranger in Vancouver is to plug into the rich network of the local LGBTQ community by patronizing gay-owned businesses and learning about the local people and politics.

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Vancouver has a handful of gay-owned accommodations including the charming Nelson House Bed & Breakfast housed in a three-story turn-of-the-century home near Davie Village. The rooms have fun themes like "Hollywood" or "Shangri-La," and are decorated accordingly, while owners Michael and David have thought of every detail to make your stay comfortable - from all-organic hot breakfasts to Jacuzzi tubs. Some rooms share bathrooms but there are also four bedrooms with private bathrooms and decks.

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Brunch should be spent at charming Cafe Deux Soleils where the mimosas are strong and the people-watching rewarding. This is a favorite haunt on Commercial Drive, and the outdoor seating is perfect for catching a glimpse of the neighborhood's diverse population. Run by an Indian-American family, the restaurant has a mixed clientele, but there's always a lesbian-friendly vibe. The majority of the brunch menu is worth trying, but don't miss the Eggs Florentine and waffles.

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After brunch it's time to meet some community leaders. Because the city is so liberal, the gay scene in Vancouver is well-integrated, but there are still a few key locations that community-minded visitors shouldn't miss. One of these is Qmunity in Davie Village, a non-profit organization that acts as a force for change and provides a safe space for LGBTQ locals - from free legal advice to a database of LGBTQ-friendly landlords, the resources are vast.
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If you feel like shopping, one of the most enjoyable ways to spend your money on a lesbian business in Vancouver is at Womyn's Ware, a kitschy sex store just for the ladies. Despite the bright colors and garish signage the interior of the store is clean and classy and the wares on offer are all top-of-the-line, from dildos to harnesses and lube to whips. Stock up on any toys that catch your fancy, and check the flyers posted on the wall for any lesbian events happening that week.

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When the sun starts to set, it's the perfect time to hit up hot spot Havana for an early dinner and drinks. This Cuban eatery is a firm favorite with the lesbian community, managing to be more than just a restaurant by hosting art shows, plays, poetry readings and many other community projects, many of which have a queer angle.

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After dinner, stop in at the Vancouver East Cultural Center - fondly called "The Cultch" - for an infusion of the arts. The Cultch has several venues in the city - including three performance spaces and an art gallery - but the main center is housed in a former Methodist Church on Venables Street, where the first performance ever was by the Anna Wyman Dance Company in 1971. The offerings here are rich and varied, and depending on the season you can catch a performance by the Gay and Lesbian Concert Band, an exhibit by queer photographer SD Holman, or Miriam Margolyes' one-woman show Dickens' Women.

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If you want to kick it up a notch, stop by brewpub St. Augustine's. Like many businesses on Commercial Drive, the clientele here skews more female, and it's a great place to kick back with a beer flight and plate of late-night poutine. The later it gets, the louder the music, but there's also outside seating and a small area for playing pool. The energy is always upbeat and positive, even if the service isn't the best, and it's close to the SkyTrain station so it's a snap to get back to your hotel.