Opened in 2014, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has been a major draw for tourists, which has led to wider recognition of Winnipeg’s vibrant cultural scene.
Winnipeg’s eclectic history, diverse population and relative isolation make it one of Canada’s best kept secrets.
Unassuming locals have known for years what more and more mainstream foodies, artists, musicians and culture mavens are starting to recognize: when it comes to sights, sounds, tastes and activities, Winnipeg is world-class.
In 2016, National Geographic magazine agreed, ranking obscure Winnipeg on par with iconic and far-flung travel destinations like Hawaii’s volcanic national parks, the Seychelles, Brazil, France’s Burgundy region, New York City, the Okavango Delta in southern Africa and the Himalayan Buddhist kingdom Bhutan as some of its must-see destinations.
One year later, Vogue magazine described Winnipeg as “peak Canadiana”, offering effusive praise for its architecture, boutiques, and “worldly sophistication fused with friendly Prairie sensibility.”
Beyond its extraordinary residents, below is a small sample of the things that make Winnipeg a special place to explore.
Winnipeg’s hallmark destination is The Forks – one of they city’s 26 designated National Historic Sites. Once a destitute railway site in the heart of the city, The Forks has since been transformed into a year-round recreational grounds full of boutique shops, eateries, walking paths, buskers, and art displays. Inside the main hall is The Common (pictured), a European-style beer hall with rotating selection of craft beers and fine wines from around the world.
Frozen walking and skating paths on the Assiniboine River (above) link up to the Red River Trail every year to create the world’s longest naturally frozen skating trail. From January to March the trail is filled with warming huts as part of an international design competition (below), as well as RAW:almond, a critically-acclaimed pop-up tasting restaurant located entirely on the frozen river.
Every year in July, theatre geeks descend on the city to go ‘Fringing’ at the annual Winnipeg Fringe Festival, which plays host to upwards of 170 independent theatre companies putting on short form, experimental live shows. Founded in 1988, the two-week event is the second largest independent theatre festival in North America.
A cake display at Baked Expectations, an iconic bakery and retro diner located in the city’s offbeat Osborne Village neighbourhood that has been serving delicious, oversize food and desserts for decades.
Fort Gibraltar, a former trading post set up by the North West company in 1809, and located in Winnipeg’s St. Boniface area – the largest Francophone community in Canada outside of Quebec – opens itself up frequently for special events. These include an annual craft beer festival in summer (above) and Winnipeg’s Festival du Voyageur, a yearly celebration of Francophone culture, complete with music tents and gigantic ice sculptures (below).
Winnipeg’s historical Exchange District in the city’s core has been labelled the largest and most well-preserved collection of early 20th century heritage buildings in North America. The district is comprised of some 20 blocks of mixed-use structures full of businesses, restaurants, bars, breweries, galleries, boutique stores, coffee shops, loft condos – and even a specialty toy store.
Tucked away in Winnipeg’s old West End neighborhood of Wolseley is the Back Alley Arctic art walk, in which residents offered up their garage doors and other pieces of property to local artist Kal Barteski to paint her signature style murals of Manitoban wildlife.
Looking for a caffeine fix? Sheepdog Coffee locally roasts small-batch organic bean varieties from all over the world, and has recently branched out into offering single serving cold brews and their own signature BBQ meat rub.
Speaking of local artisans, every year Third + Bird curated events bring together some 150 vendors, artists and small businesses in one space for their Spring and Christmas urban makers’ markets, complete with pop-up bars, food stalls and live music. In addition, raffle draws help raise money for special causes – in 2018, over $37,000 was raised for Nepali Women’s Co-op.
In November 2019 the Exchange District sandwich shop King + Bannatyne celebrated its fifth anniversary of serving up some of the city’s best breakfast and lunch fare, jammed full of house-cured meats and handmade condiments. Pictured: the River City Brisket.
If you happen to be in town during NHL playoffs, and the Winnipeg Jets are playing, good luck trying to navigate the hordes of some 20,000 hockey fans downtown. After the city lost its professional hockey team in 1996, the former Atlanta Thrashers franchise was relocated to Winnipeg in 2011, paving the way for some of the NHL’s craziest street viewing parties.
Winnipeg winters are notoriously brutal, with daily temperature ‘highs’ reaching minus 35 degrees celsius at times, and minus 50 degrees at night. However, this means that sun dogs are a regular sight.
Every year on the last Saturday in September, Winnipeg’s downtown area turns into a real-life adult playground thanks to Nuit Blanche, a free all-night celebration and exploration of pop-up contemporary art that takes place from dusk to dawn.
Looking for a showcase of contemporary Canadian cuisine? Look no further than Smith Restaurant at Inn at the Forks, which prides itself on celebrating “honest food created from the diversity of the lands and waters of our great country.”
Winnipeg’s visual cityscape is constantly changing, thanks to world-class street art gracing buildings in nearly every neighborhood – especially along North Main Street. Pictured: Oxford Hotel (above) and a retail building on Salter Street (below).
With the city being surrounded by some of the most fertile agricultural land in the world, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs are readily available in Winnipeg, providing residents with fresh local produce at affordable prices.
First built in 1905, The Burton Cummings Theatre (originally the Walker Theatre) has a long, colourful history as one of the best places to catch a concert or theatre show.
A hand-drawn mural inside a bathroom stall at the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans club in Osborne Village (ANAF 60), known by many as a safe bet for a cheap lunch, cheaper drinks, and lively karaoke on Saturdays.
The first snows every year are taken as a harbinger of months of frigid temperatures to come – but at least for a moment they make Winnipeg’s lush green neighbourhoods uniquely beautiful.
The Rain Room (above) and Umbrella Room (below) at Nonsuch Brewing Co., one of the city’s premier microbreweries and taprooms, with a focus on crafting Belgian-style ales and brasserie-style food with nuanced creativity.
The Fort Garry Hotel is one of the city’s most notable landmarks. Built in 1913 to cater to upscale clientele during the heyday of rail travel and the era of Winnipeg as the gateway to Western Canada, its Room 202 has also earned notoriety over the years for multiple claims of being haunted.
From May-June of 1919, Winnipeg was ground zero for the largest strike in Canadian history, better known as the Winnipeg General Strike. Over 30,000 workers took to the streets to demand better working conditions, an act that some historians credit as launching the modern organized labour movement. To commemorate the strike, in June 2019 a sculpture of an overturned street car (above) was unveiled in remembrance of Bloody Saturday when clashes between protestors and police killed two people. Meanwhile, local craft brewery Little Brown Jug has dubbed their signature Belgian pale ale ‘1919’ (below).
A mural on the front of the Garrick Centre, a well-known music venue that first opened as part of the historic Malborough Inn in 1921.
Not to be overlooked in this hockey-crazed city are Winnipeg’s other professional sports teams. The Winnipeg Goldeyes – named after a regional fish served smoked and historically seen as a delicacy – have been champions of the independent American Association baseball league in 2012 and back-to-back in 2016-2017. Meanwhile the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ended their 29-year championship drought in 2019 by winning the team’s eleventh Grey Cup.
Have any other favourite parts of Peg City? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to have them showcased.
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