If not in the exact geographical centre of Canada, Winnipeg is certainly in the centre of Canada in most Canadians’ minds. The capital of Manitoba, it is often referred to as The Gateway City, or simply the ‘Peg by locals. It has a long and varied history, starting from when it was called Fort Garry, an outpost of the Hudson Bay Company.
“Cosmopolitan community” is not an oxymoron when describing Winnipeg, it’s a fact. With its vibrant nightlife, world renowned arts scene, chic boutiques and dining experiences to suit every palate, Winnipeg is a trendsetter. Yet its neighbourhoods are steeped in cultural tradition.
This is a diverse but harmonious city with many continental flavors. Historic St. Boniface, the largest Francophone community in Western Canada, is only a short drive from Corydon Avenue’s Little Italy with it’s eclectic mix of shops and outdoor patios. From Ukrainian, to Aboriginal, to Filipino, other cultures have made their presence felt with businesses, stores and restaurants reflecting their heritages.
Speaking of restaurants, perhaps the diversity of Winnipeg is best evidenced in its cuisine; baked, stewed, sautéed or grilled to perfection in over 900 restaurants. From four-diamond rated restaurants to homestyle eateries, the visitor is sure to find whatever they are looking for.
Whether you’re interested in architecture, history or perhaps ghost hunting in one of the reputedly haunted locales, there are walking tours for every taste. Of course there are shops of all kinds, malls to prospect for sales and galleries and museums to explore.
Later, change your walking shoes for your party shoes. Have dinner at one of those 900 dining choices, go dancing, or take a gamble with Lady Luck at one of Winnipeg’s glittering, Vegas-style casinos with a new twist: whoever stays in Winnipeg, plays in Winnipeg!
Not to be overlooked is Winnipeg’s hosting of the arts. There is the globally renowned Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Winnipeg Art Gallery with over 23,000 paintings, sculptures and objets d’art in its collection. Largely due to the foregoing institutions, Winnipeg is a mecca for Canada’s finest writers, playwrights, actors and musicians.
Manitobans love a good party! And just to prove it, Winnipeg has more than 130 festivals and events every year. Folklorama is the largest and longest-running multicultural festival in the world, with over 50 pavilions showcasing the traditions and customs of Winnipeg’s ethnic communities. In fact, Folklorama has been rated as one of the top 100 best events in North America for group travel in the United States and Canada. Other festival highlights include North America’s second largest Fringe Festival. In the summer there is the internationally acclaimed Winnipeg Folk Festival, which draws top flight performers from around the world to Birds Hill Provincial Park for a lively gathering of folk musicians and appreciative audiences.
In the wintertime, it’s Le Festival du Voyageur in St. Boniface. Grab your toque and help celebrate the colorful history of the fur trade and the cultural heritage of the Francophone community.
Winnipeg is also home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League and the Manitoba Moose hockey team that plays in the AHL.
Other interests might be the sternwheelers, the River Rouge and the MS Paddlewheel Queen that sail through the heart of Winnipeg from mid-May to Mid-September. These offer sightseeing cruises during the day and dinner/dance cruises in the evenings. And then there’s the Prairie Dog Central, a turn-of-the-century vintage railway train, pulled by either an 1882-steam locomotive or a 1958 diesel. The train consists of fully restored wooden coaches built between 1901 and 1913 and runs most weekends during the summer months.
Winnipeg is a great place to start making Western Canadian memories. It has a rich heritage and a cosmopolitan lifestyle; the visitor can expect to be charmed by this unique city and its welcoming residents.