By Jade Johnston
If you do find yourself in my city, you will be pleasantly surprised with all the city has to offer. But make sure to read this guide first. As overheard at a Winnipeg couch surfing gathering, “When you arrive to Winnipeg’s bus depot, you have four directions to choose from. And three of those directions suck.” While not necessary true anymore (not because three of the directions don’t actually suck, but because they moved the location of the bus depot), it is a good idea to have a general idea of what Winnipeg has to offer.
Winnipeg is not typically on the regular tourist trail – but it is a necessary stop if you are driving the trans Canada highway. It is the only large city for hundreds of kilometres between Toronto and Regina. Poor Winnipeg is often overlooked by foreigners and Canadians alike, and for some legitimate reasons. We do not promote ourselves well, with most of us finding complaining about Winnipeg to be one of those things that bonds us together. Another reason is that Winnipeg is so far from all other centers that most people opt to just fly over top of it. And a final reason is the winters here. Our winters are famous.
Osborne Village – The small area that encompasses Osborne Village is just south of Winnipeg’s downtown and just over the Assiniboine river. It is a mecca for all things alternative, and is bustling at any time of the year. The main strip is packed with eccentric boutiques, interesting dining, and raucous nightlife. Within a city block of each other you can find a Japenese Crepe place (best bubble tea ever – try the avocado one!), a seedy biker bar, one of Winnipeg’s fanciest fusion restaurant, Fude, a second hand record shop, and the best Ethiopian food I have found outside Ethiopia.
Festivals – If you are coming to Winnipeg, try to come during one of our many festivals. In February you can marvel at ice sculptures, eat fresh maple toffee, and dance to the fiddle at Festival Du Voyageur. In June don’t forget to check out the Jazz fest, held at local venues around town. July is always a busy month with the Winnipeg Folk Festival – five days of folk music and general craziness – and the Winnipeg Fringe Festival – Canada’s longest running fringe. In August you can journey around the world with Folklarama. During Folkorama the many ethnic communities of the city rejoice in their own unique culture and put on cultural performances and feasts of local cuisine at various pavilions around the city.
Exchange District – The old warehouse and banking district has been the recent target of gentrification – and all sorts of unique ventures have taken over these heritage buildings. Local designers and artists have their studios here, and small boutiques and vintage stores are everywhere. This is also where you will find Winnipeg’s best cooperatively run vegan restaurant and bookstore – Mondragon. Try the southern fried tofu burger – even the most stuck in their way carnivore will love it. The exchange is also the home of market square. During the summer months the controversial new stage – the cube – plays host to various performances. This is also base camp for both the Jazz and the Fringe festival.
The Forks – The two rivers which are the reason for the entire’s cities existence meet here. What was once the main train yards has now been converted to a craft and farmers market space. All sorts of trinkets and foods can be bought here. The forks also hosts events throughout the summer such as weekly public salsa dancing lessons. The forks is connected to downtown Winnipeg and Osborne village via the river walkway which winds along the Assiniboine river.
Get Cultured – Although a small city of 700,000, Winnipeg has a vibrant art’s scene. One theory for this stems from its relative isolation. From small art galleries in the exchange district to the WAG (Winnipeg Art Gallery), to the Manitoba Museum, there is something for any type of culture vulture.
Have you been to Winnipeg? What are you must do things in this “one great city”?