In popular culture, the extent to which people in America and around the world know about Winnipeg is often limited to a reference on the Simpsons. They go to Winnipeg to acquire prescription drugs that are affordable so that they can smuggle them back into the US for their geriatric (grand)father Abraham Simpson.
Upon entering the city, a sign deprecatingly states “Welcome to Winnipeg: we were born here, what’s your excuse?” It implies that there is nothing remotely interesting for the traveler to see in Winnipeg, playing on a common assumption that is not just assumed of this city, but other prairie burgs east of the Rocky Mountain front.
Of course, the wailing and moaning of those that are hard to please, and unwilling to look beneath the surface and challenge the commonly held beliefs of society leave a crack open for intrepid wanderers, as there are a number of attractions that will shock and surprise those willing to treat Winnipeg more than just a pit stop on the long lonely highway to Toronto or the Rockies.
All it takes is a little curiosity, and a willingness to explore…!
Up until the early 20th century, Winnipeg was a significant Canadian city that was growing rapidly as a gateway to settlers entering Western Canada in search of their piece of rich black farmland. The money that was flowing into the city was sickening, and much of it was getting poured into many fine buildings in the downtown core.
The Exchange District National Historic Site tells the story of this heady time, as 20 city blocks featuring 150 buildings built in architectural styles that mirrored what was going up in Chicago at the same time. Numerous museums, theatres, shopping, restaurants and nightlife can be found throughout this atmospheric part of the city, which has stood in for Chicago and New York City in many movies in the past.
Considering Manitoba’s role in opening up the west during the early days of Canada’s existence, there are a wealth of stories to tell, many of which can be found within the exhibits of the Manitoba Museum. The presence of the Native peoples that were there first are also well documented, and the natural heritage of the province is also addressed, from the geological past that saw a tropical sea deposit all the ingredients for the rich soil that exists today, to the rooms that document the multiple climate zones that can be found in Manitoba.
If the company is in town when you visit, try to attend a show put on by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, a dance troupe that has won global accolades for their delicate artistry. The team spends 20 weeks on the road yearly, but they find time to put on 4 shows per year at the Centennial Theatre, where they have constructed performances around the works of luminous artists such as Leonard Cohen and others … art lovers cannot afford to miss this display of beauty, should they have the chance to see it!
Being situated at the meeting of the Red and Assinboine Rivers, The Forks have been a choice meeting place for people, from the days when First Nations were the dominant civilization here, all through history to the present day, where a high quality public market has made this location an even more attractive place to be than ever before.
It functions like a farmer’s market, selling fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat and more, yet it is so much more, with other shops selling goods like art, wine, and even cigars. Parkland can be found around the market site, with a popular ice skating rink being a public focal point during the coldest, darkest point of the year.
Leave the Forks area to explore downtown by taking Esplanade Riel, a pedestrian bridge that is quite possibly one of the most stunning spans of its kind in Canada. Not only does its striking construction as a side spar cable stayed bridge attract the attention of photobugs from all around the area, but it has a restaurant at mid span, allowing you to enjoy some fine French cuisine over the muddy waters of the Red River.
Dream of being a millionaire? On the off chance that you miss out on amassing that amount of money, visiting the Royal Canadian Mint can at least allow you to dream, as this place generates the cash that gets circulated in Canada to banks, hour by hour, day by day. Be mesmerized as countless loonies and toonies (us Canadians are a funny bunch!) filter by on conveyors, along with the currency for several other nations, as this facility has the contract to produce coinage for other countries as well!