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Niagara Falls; best destination for a romantic retreat

Niagara Falls has long been considered a romantic location for straight couples — they don’t call it the honeymoon capital for nothing — but it’s become a popular retreat for love-struck homos too, taking the Xtra Best 2008 award for best destination for a romantic retreat.

Clint Wood, coowner of the Oasis Niagara (Oasisniagara.com), a clothing-optional guesthouse for men, says Niagara Falls offers queer lovebirds the perfect combination of picturesque scenery and sophisticated attractions.

“It’s a beautiful region first of all,” says Wood. “It’s probably the prettiest region in Ontario… and now we’re getting a revitalized downtown it’s becoming an arts community with a lot of new art galleries, cafes, restaurants that attract a gay and lesbian crowd as well.”

With the Shaw theatre festival and all the quaint charms of Niagara-on-the-Lake close by — not to mention hundreds of picturesque wineries and fruit orchards — Niagara Falls allows visitors to revel in rural adventures before returning to the downtown for city-style nightlife, including local gay bar The Breeze.

Although Wood says he doesn’t see a lot of public displays of affection among the city’s residents — “I don’t think anyone does that here… gays or straights” — he says the locals are very accepting of same-sex couples.

“It’s actually unbelievable,” he says. “We’ve never seen any kind of homophobia. I encountered more living in Toronto in fact.”

Wood chalks it up to a combination of all the queers living in the area and to the fact that the city is smack dab on the border with US.

“Border communities are strange,” he says. “They attract a strange crowd so they tend to be more accepting of different peoples.”

Niagara Falls Tourism’s Joyce Morocco, who isn’t sure whether or not there has been a campaign to attract queer tourists to the region, says Niagara Falls’ appeal is in the diversity of its attractions — which includes the spectacular waterfalls themselves, the casinos, the butterfly conservatory for those feeling whimsical and, of course, the shopping.

“I don’t like to stereotype but I think there’s something here for everyone,” she says. “We’re a warm and welcoming destination, known for being friendly.”