Change the World

Toronto Gay Family Summer Guide

Summer and WorldPride have arrived in Toronto! If you're bringing your family with you for WorldPride, be sure to check out our WorldPride Family Guide. Read this guide to learn about places and activities for you and your family outside of Pride events.


Toronto is consistently voted as one of the best and most livable cities in the world. It’s safe, clean, accepting, and welcoming. The entire world knows Toronto has a nincompoop as mayor, but did you know that the people of Ontario just elected premier Kathleen Wynne, an out-and-proud lesbian?

Gays With Kids has compiled a list of the area's most exciting attractions, beautiful neighborhoods, relaxing beaches, and kid-friendly restaurants with outdoor seating areas, among other things. More suggestions? Let us know in the comments below and we'll add to this list. We love feedback!

NEIGHBORHOODS TO EXPLORE

Chinatown (the area near the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West; subway to St. Patrick Station, then streetcar westbound) – exotic fruits and vegetables; fabrics, leather; Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese restaurants

Koreatown (Bloor Street West, between Bathurst Street and Christie Street; subway to Christie Street) – Korean food, fashion, acupuncture

The Gay Village (area near the intersection of Church Street and Wellesley Street; subway to Wellesley Station, then walk east) – gay neighborhood, with gay bars, bathhouses, gay-oriented stores. And lots of men!

Greektown (Danforth Avenue between Chester Avenue and Dewhurst Boulevard; subway to Pape station) – Greek food, strolling, people watching, and more Greek food

Cabbagetown (around the intersection of Parliament Street and Carlton Street; subway to Wellesley Station, then bus eastward) – gorgeous Victorian rowhouses, farmer’s market on Tuesdays, 3-7pm; Riverdale Farm; Allan Gardens; lots of gay dad families and lesbian mom families.

Kensington Market (between Dundas Street West and College Street; take subway to Queen’s Park Station, then streetcar westbound) – open-air market (11 am–7pm daily), flea market, foods from all over the world, vintage clothing stores

Entertainment District (area south of Queen Street, east of Spadina Avenue, west of Simcoe Street and north of Lakeshore Boulevard – subway to Union Station, St. Andrew Station or Osgoode Station) – theaters, performing arts centers, home venues of major league sports teams, home of the Toronto International Film Festival, The National Ballet of Canada, Canadian Opera Company, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

West Queen West (Queen Street West between Bathurst Street and Gladstone Avenue; subway to Queen Station, then streetcar westbound) – artists, fashion, galleries, antiques, patios, cafés and bars; très gay.

OUTDOOR FUN

Evergreen Brickworks (subway to Broadview Station; then shuttle bus every 30-45 min. from Erindale Avenue; or subway to Davisville Station, then bus 28A)

Evergreen Brickworks is a former brick factory that has been transformed into an environmental center, community farmer’s market, education center, park and conservation center all in one. The farmer’s market, open on Saturday mornings, contains an open-air covered market specializing in fair-trade or locally produced sustainable products. Delicious prepared foods can be enjoyed while soaking in the atmosphere that often includes live music. Kids will love climbing the paths behind the main buildings through the forests, around the ponds and up the sides of the ravine escarpment.

Riverdale Farm (subway to Wellesley Station, then bus 94 or streetcar 506 east)

Toronto continues to fund and operate a small farm right in the center of the city. Riverdale farm, located in über-gay Cabbagetown, houses an historic working farm with pigs, chickens, goats, turkeys, cows, horses, a donkey, and other farm animals. After visiting the farm, get lunch or snacks to cool off with a visit to the small children’s park with wading pool next door.

Toronto Islands

A 10-minute ferry ride south of Toronto lie a series of islands including Centre Island, Ward’s Island and Hanlan’s Point. Looking for a small amusement park, fast-food restaurants and petting zoo, look no further than Centre Island. Check out the small permanent community of country-style houses on Ward’s Island.

Clothes not your thing? Head right over to Hanlan’s Point beach, a clothing-optional a.k.a. gay beach right in the center of Toronto!

Rental bikes and quads (bikes designed for three or four people) are available for rent. It takes about 20-30 minutes to bike the full length of the islands. For the more adventurous, try renting a canoe or kayak from Harbourfront rentals right in downtown Toronto and avoid the ferry lines to the island.

The ferry terminal is located about a ten-minute walk south of Union subway station, or a short LRT Streetcar ride away.

Downtown South of the Core

If you have more than a few hours to burn, and the kids are losing patience, wow them with a plethora of fun activities located a five-minute walk west of Union subway station.

Once the world’s tallest freestanding structure, but still the world’s tallest free-standing phallic symbol, there is something for everyone at the CN Tower.  From this tower of 1814 ft., visitors on a clear day can see Niagara, New York State, Hamilton, and the entire city of Toronto. The tower has an open-air observation deck, an outdoor edge-walk where participants are harnessed to the tower and defy gravity, a glass floor and an even higher space deck. The CN Tower will not disappoint.

Visitors can cool-off in the Ripley’s Aquarium located nearby. From northern ecosystems to tropical waters, the aquarium is fun and educational, and much larger than it seems. There is a children’s play area in the center of the aquarium where parents can sit and chat while watching their kids burn off pent-up energy.

Across the street from the aquarium is the Roundhouse and Steam Whistle Brewery. Formerly used to turn train cars around beside the train terminus at Union Station, the Roundhouse is now a museum and, yes, active brewery. Grab a cold one and watch your kids ride the miniature train outside the Roundhouse. What a treat!

If your timing is right, catch a Blue Jays baseball game at the Rogers Centre (formerly Skydome) located directly beside the CN Tower. The retractable roof covering a stadium that houses 55,000 of the world’s quietest fans will astound even the most experienced sports fans.

Toronto Zoo

Discover your inner animal at the Toronto Zoo. This massive zoo located in north eastern Toronto has every imaginable animal organized into pavilions and along beautiful walkways. Check out the panda bear exhibit; the cutest animals next to the koalas!

The Toronto Zoo is located on the Rouge River Urban Wilderness Park, the largest natural environment park in an urban area in North America. By car, 40 minutes from downtown Toronto at Sheppard Avenue East and Morningside Avenue.

High Park

Locals say you can walk a kilometer without seeing a soul in this massive urban park. We don’t know if that is true anymore, but High Park is still a great urban family retreat.  Toronto’s second, smaller zoo is located here, next to a massive wooden children’s fort. At the top of the park are tennis courts, playing fields and a restaurant. If your kids are a little older, Shakespeare in High Park is fun too.

Canada’s Wonderland

Located a short 30-minute drive north of Toronto, in the city of Vaughan, Canada’s Wonderland is Canada’s premiere amusement park with rides, games, food and an outdoor concert venue.  Check out Leviathan, a roller coaster that boasts speeds of 125 km/h with an 80-degree drop. Canada’s Wonderland is located at Highway 400 and Major Mackenzie Drive.

Eastern and Western Beaches

Even some Torontonians are unaware that Toronto sports some of the cleanest and unspoiled (read, not commercially developed) beaches and waterfront in the world. That’s right, you can swim Lake Ontario right in Toronto!

Be sure to bring drinking water, sun protection and snacks, as there are few restaurants near either set of beaches. For those looking for snacks such as ice cream, take the five-minute walk from the eastern beaches boardwalk north to Queen Street where there are many restaurants and grocery stores.

Eastern beaches run for several kilometers from Ashbridges Bay Park in the West to the water treatment plant at Victoria Park Avenue in the East. There is a boardwalk that runs the entire distance. An Olympic-sized pool is open to the public right on the beach at the corner of Woodbine Avenue and Lakeshore Boulevard East.

Feeling sporty? Your family can try a pickup game of volleyball in one of 125 beach volleyball nets right on the beach.

Either take the Queen Streetcar to Woodbine and walk south 5 minutes to the lake, or take a car, but keep in mind that parking can be tough.

Western beaches run for several kilometers from about Jamieson Avenue to the Humber River. There is children’s play equipment along the boardwalk that runs the entire length of the beaches. Sunnyside Pool is open to the public right on the beach also. Bring your beach toys!

For those willing to walk to the western end of the beach, there is a pedestrian bridge spanning the Humber River. Just beyond the Humber River lies a low-tech but highly efficient water treatment nature reserve where butterflies abound. Kids will enjoy walking the elevated walkways around the reserve.

INDOOR FUN

Legoland Discovery Centre

Located in Vaughan Mills Centre, a massive shopping plaza about 30 minutes north of Toronto, Legoland is both fun and educational. Looking for a safe place to zone out while the kids entertain themselves? This is it. Located at 1 Bass Pro Mills Drive at Highway 400 and Bass Pro Mills Drive.

Skyzone

Skyzone is an enormous  place for indoor trampoline jumping. You can watch while they jump. Or, if your kids don’t need supervision, you can join in the fun. Make reservations online a few days ahead.

St. Lawrence market

Voted the number one food market in the world by National Geographic, the St. Lawrence. The south market located on the south side of Front Street East at Jarvis Street, is a permanent market with over 120 fresh fruit and vegetable, cheese, meat and fish vendors. There are a number of prepared food shops and restaurants as well.  Many famous chefs come to the market and their pictures adorn the walls of several establishments. The vendors in the south market are family friendly. Ask for samples, particularly from the cheese vendors. Your kids will think they are in heaven.

Shopping

If you or your kids like massive shopping malls, go to Eaton Centre, one of Canada’s largest, downtown on Yonge (pronounce as: young) Street with stores of practically every major retailer; but if you prefer to be outdoors, choose (expensive)Yorkville (around Yorkville Avenue; subway to Bay Station), where you can find high-end clothing stores such as Hugo Boss, Gucci, and Burberry; you’ll probably spot some celebrities as well.

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Change the World

4 Tips for Using Instagram to Connect with Gay Dads Offline

We asked gay dads who have successfully met up with other LGBTQ families offline for some of their tips

Last week, we ran a story about several gay dads who did the unthinkable: meet other gay dads IRL after connecting on Instagram! We get MANY questions from gay dads wondering how they can meet up with others in their area, so we decided to dig a bit deeper this week to get their advice. What can gay dads do to meet others off the 'gram?

1. Be kind — share others' excitement in parenting!


From @twinlifedads Ben and Andy:

"Be kind. That is absolutely it. Be kind to each other and don't be afraid to reach out. Respond to each other when you can. Share in excitement for each other. There is no reason to bring someone else down who might be excited about how they are parenting."

2. Drop a couple comments and likes before reaching out!

From @brisvegasdad Tim and Nic:

"I think drop comments now and then on their posts and instastories and see where things land. Chances are, if you're commenting on a post and it is a heartfelt response, they'll click through to your account, look at your photos and connect with you. And that's when the magic happens - you can introduce yourself, talk about your lives and how things are being a parent... and after a while, if you're in the same neighbourhood, you meet up and grow your friendship organically. That being said, I'm obsessed with Bobby Berk from Queer Eye and his husband Dewey Do - if they ever had kids, I'd probably be completely unsubtle and leave strange awkward comments on their instaposts saying, 'GAY DADS MEET UPSSSSS'."

3. Go in with no expectations

From @stevecsmith Steve and Ben:

"I always try to reach out without any expectations – mostly just to provide a positive comment. I like to leave it up to the other parents to comment or message back before suggesting meeting up or a playdate. Every family is different, so how each person is going to respond is different too."

4. Keep trying!

From @theconways13 Ricky and Jeff:

"Reach out to other families, start a light friendly conversation. Get to know each other and let conversations happen organically. If they lead to a play date great! Our first experience in meeting another lgbt family (not through ig/gwk) was very awkward cause there wasn't a whole lot of conversation happening before hand. The conversations leading up to the play date will help make the first play date with the family go a lot smoother and fun. Don't be afraid of not connecting with the other families. If it isn't successful the first time, continue reaching out to to other families- don't let it deter you from reaching out to others."

Change the World

How Gay Dads Are Using Instagram to Connect

Meet the gay dads from around the world who are using our Gays With Kids Instagram account to connect with other gay dad families!

It can be easy to dismiss Instagram as nothing more than a place for us to pretend our lives our perfect — smiling families, exotic vacations, maybe a FaceTuned pic or two — but for gay dads, it's more than that. Sure, we share our perfect family pics, too. But for LGBTQ families, who still face discrimination all across the country and world, sharing a picture of two gay dads, smiling happily and proudly with their kids, is also a political act. And it provides us an opportunity to lift up and support one another, wherever our families are, in cities and towns big and small.

And we're proud to provide an avenue for these families to meet and connect via our Instagram page (which just reached over 100,000 followers!!)

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Change the World

Judge's Decision in NY 'Compassionate Surrogacy' Case Involving Gay Dad Overturned

Though compensated surrogacy remains illegal in New York State, "compassionate surrogacy" arrangements are remain legal

Last week, an unanimous four-judge panel, part of the New York Appellate Division in Brooklyn, New York, revived a gay dad's petition to adopt his son born via surrogacy. The dad, identified as "Joseph P." in court documents, had earlier been denied his petition to adopt by a Queens County Family Court Judge, John M. Hunt. The Queens judge denied the petition because compensated surrogacy contracts are illegal in New York. However, the child born to Joseph was born via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning his gestational surrogate was not compensated.

The Appellate court's decision, written by Justice Alan D. Scheinkmanm called Hunt's decision "clearly erroneous," and held that a new Family Court judge should re-hear the case.

Judge Hunt's decision is all the more confusing since Joseph had actually already become a father via surrogacy in New York—three times over. In each instance, he used donor eggs and a friend serving, voluntarily, as the gestational surrogate. He had his first child in 2012, and then twins the following year. In all three instances, a Family Court judge granted Joseph's adoption petition, given that each child was conceived via "compassionate surrogacy," meaning no money changes hands in the course of a surrogacy journey between carrier an intended parent. This type of surrogacy arrangement is not illegal under to New York law. The social worker in Joseph's latest attempt to adopt, Gay City News noted, also gave him a favorable review, calling him "a mature, stable, and caring person who intentionally created a family of himself, the twins, and John."

Gay City News notes: "Justice Scheinkman provided a careful description of the laws governing surrogacy in New York. The Legislature provided that surrogacy contracts are unenforceable and treated as void. However, the only surrogacy contracts actually outlawed are those where the surrogate is compensated. It was clear to the Appellate Division that the Legislature did not mean to outlaw voluntary surrogacy arrangements, merely to make them unenforceable in the courts. Those who enter into a compensated surrogacy agreement face a small monetary fine and people who act as brokers to arrange such agreements are liable for a larger penalty. There is no penalty for voluntary, uncompensated surrogacy arrangements."

Read the full article here.

Politics

Utah Court Rules Gay Couples Can't Be Excluded From Surrogacy Contracts

The Utah Supreme Court found in favor of a gay couple attempting to enter into a surrogacy contract.

DRAKE BUSATH/ UTCOURTS.GOV

Earlier this month, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that a same-sex couples can't be excluded from entering into enforceable surrogacy contracts, and sent a case concerning a gay male couple back to trial court to approve their petition for a surrogacy arrangement.

As reported in Gay City News, the case concerns Utah's 2005 law on surrogacy, which was enacted prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. As a result, the content of the law is gendered, saying that surrogacy contracts should only be enforceable if the "intended mother" is unable to bear a child. When a gay couple approached District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, he denied them, arguing that the state's law only concerned opposite sex couples.

"This opinion is an important contribution to the growing body of cases adopting a broad construction of the precedent created by Obergefell v. Hodges and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision in Pavan v. Smith," according to GCN. "It's also worth noting that same-sex couples in Utah now enjoy a right denied them here in New York, where compensated gestational surrogacy contracts remain illegal for all couples."

Read the full article here.

Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Thoughts and Prayers Aren't Working:​ One Father's Plea for Gun Reform

One gay dad's plea to our leaders to enact sensible gun control

My articles on GaysWithKids aspire to be lighthearted, helpful and humorous. This one won't be any of those things. Because I'm feeling heavyhearted, helpless and sad. Last week I woke up to news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a family-friendly Garlic Festival in northern California. I don't know if it's because this one hit so close to home, or if it's because the headline included a picture of the innocent 6-year old who was among those killed, but I am overcome with emotion. But mostly I am angry. And I don't know what to do with my anger.

Then, just a few days later came two additional horrific mass shootings that stole the lives of at least 32 more innocent people, many of them children. And then there's the "everyday" gun violence that plagues American cities like Chicago, where guns injured another 46 people this past weekend alone… creating so much turmoil, a hospital had to briefly stop taking patients.

How does one verbalize the collective sadness felt around the world? One can't. And that's why I am asking everyone reading this article to commit to getting involved in some way, to help end this epidemic once and for all. Even though the solution is so obvious, we can't allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings. Because becoming numb isn't going to save anyone.

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Politics

Gay Russian Dads Forced to Flee Moscow

Fearing the Russian government might take their adopted kids into custody because of their sexual orientation, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev fled Moscow

A married couple in Russia, with two adopted children, were just forced the flee their home in Moscow for fear that the authorities would take their children away, according to German news site Deutsche Welle.

Trouble started last month after investigators in Russia opened a criminal inquiry into the proceedings that had allowed the gay couple, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, to legally adopt the two boys —adoption by LGBTQ people in Russia has typically not been recognized. The government became aware of the adoption proceedings after the gay couple brought their 12-year-old son to the hospital, who was complaining of a stomachache. The boy was fine, but after he mentioned offhand that he was adopted and lived with two fathers, the doctor called the police.

Andrei and Yevgeny granted an interview with Deutsche Welle after escaping Moscow, but on the advice of their lawyers have yet to disclose where they are currently located. Here is a quick recap of that conversation:

"In connection with the 'propaganda of non-traditional values,' the state representatives are accused of having neglected their duty of supervision," Andrei said, when asked to explain on what basis the Russian government might take his children into custody. "This means that lesbian couples could even have their biological children taken away because, through their lifestyle choices, they propagate "certain values."

Yevgeny also explained the events that led to the couple's harrowing escape "I was alone in Moscow at that time. A week after Andrei and the children had left the country, there was a knock on my door, but nobody called 'police, open up.' After half an hour the violent knocking stopped. My parents' home was searched. They were looking for the children and our Danish marriage certificate because we got married in Denmark in 2016. My friends then got me out of the country."

Read the full interview here.

Gay Dad Family Stories

This Couple is Using 'Wheel of Fortune' Winnings to Help Fund Their Adoption

Need to raise money for your adoption fund? Why not try your luck on Wheel of Fortune like these guys!

Doug and Nick Roberts connected three and a half years ago via a dating app, and on their first date, the two immediately felt a connection. Doug, a psychologist, and Nick, a neuroscientist, were married 18 months later. Today the couple live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, and they're ready to start their next exciting adventure together: fatherhood.

The husbands would like to have children, and Nick has always wanted to adopt. "We considered surrogacy, and may consider it in the future as we expand our family," said Doug, "but right now, it is cost-prohibitive. Adoption was easily the right choice for us as we begin to grow our family.

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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