Joanna Poe / flickr
IntroductionSo you say Winnipeg is too cold. The better to keep your Slurpee from melting! For years the city, known for winters so long and harsh that it is sometimes affectionately called Winterpeg, has held the title of Slurpee Capital of the World for 15 years in a row. But if you’re not convinced that consuming the slushy drinks in frigid weather is a good time, you can find plenty of indoor diversions to make your trip worthwhile.
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Jimmy Emerson, DVM / flickr
In DepthThe real estate agent's cry of “Location!” could have been invented in Winnipeg; the position of Manitoba's capital has determined the city's past and present. Archeological evidence shows that Winnipeg has been an important place of settlement for more than 6,000 years.
The confluence of the Red River, which flows south to north, and the Assiniboine River, whose eastward flowing waters were a main route of Western exploration, led to the founding of fur-trading posts in the early 18th century near Winnipeg's present site. The fertile lands created by the rivers later drew farmers and other settlers.
Still later, the area's position south of the peaks of the Canadian Shield meant that roads and railroads were forced to converge at Winnipeg, making it the point through which the eastbound raw materials of the West and the westbound manufactured goods of the East passed. Profiting by the hydroelectric power generated from its rivers, the city emerged in the 20th century as a manufacturing center.
French Canadian explorer and trader Pierre Gaultier de la Vérendrye founded Fort Rouge at the confluence of the rivers in 1738. This fur-trading post was succeeded by Fort Gibraltar, built by the North West Co. in 1804, and Fort Garry, founded by the Hudson's Bay Co. in 1821. In the same year, Lord Selkirk brought Scottish settlers to these fertile lands; the resident trappers and voyageurs feared for their livelihoods.
The settlement managed to survive, shifting from trapping and hunting to agriculture. Because of aggressive Canadian advertising campaigns in Europe and a homestead policy similar to that being used to settle the plains of the United States, large numbers of immigrants began arriving in the 1860s.
In 1873 the village was incorporated and named for the Cree Nation words win (“muddy”) and nipee (“water”). The railroad aided Winnipeg's growth still further: In 1876 the city began to ship wheat east, and when the Canadian Pacific Railway connected the coasts in 1885, freight and passengers began to flow through the city in both directions.
Winnipeg's diversity mirrors the many nationalities of its settlers, drawn by agriculture, the railroad or industry. From countries throughout Great Britain and Europe they came, creating a cultural mix reflected in the city's skyline, which includes the neoclassical splendor of the Manitoba Legislative Building, the century-old buildings of Old Market Square and the rounded spires of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Cathedral.
Archeological digs have uncovered evidence that The Forks' current site was an aboriginal peoples' seasonal meeting place more than 6,000 years ago. Tools, bones, footprints and pottery have been unearthed at the site located at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. Still a meeting place, this site has modern amenities like shopping, dining and entertainment venues as well as a playground, garden, amphitheater and beautiful views. The Assiniboine Riverwalk, the Children's Museum and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights are three highlights.
The Golden Boy, sculpted by Georges Gardet of Paris, is a 5.25-metre-tall (17.2-ft.), 1,650-kilogram (3,638-lb.) statue sheathed in 24 karat gold leaf atop the Legislative Building dome. The statue was diverted on its journey from a French foundry during World War I, while the vessel carrying it transported troops for 2 years. After crossing the Atlantic many times, the golden immigrant was finally placed where he stands today, one hand holding aloft the torch of progress, the other cradling a symbolic sheaf of wheat.
By CarForming a circle around Winnipeg is a perimeter highway. To the north of the Trans-Canada Highway, the major approach from the east and west, this perimeter road is designated Hwy. 101. To the south of the Trans-Canada Highway it is numbered Hwy. 100.
There are three major approaches to the perimeter highway: the Trans-Canada Highway, which approaches from both the east and west, and Hwy. 75, which approaches from the south. To the west of the city the Trans-Canada Highway is posted Hwy. 1W; from the east, Hwy. 1E.
Within the perimeter highway all three major approaches change designation: Hwy. 1W becomes Metro Rte. 85, Hwy. 1E becomes Metro Rte. 135, and Hwy. 75 becomes Metro Rte. 42.
Getting AroundGenerally, rush hour in Winnipeg is from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. As in most cities, stress can be alleviated if driving during rush hour is avoided. If driving during these times, be careful and be patient; the city's speed limit is 50 kilometres per hour (30 mph) unless otherwise posted.
Note the pedestrian crosswalks marked by pavement stripes and illuminated overhead signs. All vehicles must stop if the crosswalk is occupied by a pedestrian or if a pedestrian on the curb indicates an intention to cross. No vehicle may pass another that is stopped or slowing to yield to a pedestrian. Right turns on red are permitted after a stop, unless otherwise posted.
Street SystemWinnipeg's streets are laid out in a number of grids, but each is oriented to a different compass direction. Visitors will find it easiest to orient themselves to the major thoroughfares, which have signs carrying the word “Route” and a number. Routes ending in even numbers designate north-south thoroughfares, and those ending in odd numbers designate major east-west arteries.
The primary north-south routes that cross the downtown area are 42, 52 and 62. The major east-west highways include 105, 115, 57 and 85. A good street map will enable drivers to see how the various grids of named streets connect with the main numbered routes.
ParkingVisitors will do best to park in a commercial lot, where rates average $1-$3 per hour. Daily rates are about $10. Parking meters downtown cost $1-$2 per hour, but most carry a 2-hour limit. Free 2-hour parking in designated metered areas downtown is offered on Saturday while parking is free all day on Sunday.
Parking is strictly controlled along major downtown streets. Cars parked between signs reading “No Parking Between” from 7 to 9 a.m. and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. will be towed. Re-metering is not allowed. Once a vehicle has been parked at a meter for the maximum time for which a fee can be paid, it must be moved through an intersection before parking at a different meter.
About the City
Elevation229 m/763 ft.
Sales TaxManitoba's provincial sales tax is 8 percent. A 5 percent Goods and Services Tax (GST) is levied in Canada on most sales and services. There is a 5 percent accommodations tax on hotel/motel rooms where there are four or more letting rooms.
Whom To Call
Police (non-emergency)(204) 986-6222
HospitalsConcordia Hospital, (204) 667-1560; Grace Hospital, (204) 837-0111; Health Sciences Centre, (204) 787-3661; St. Boniface Hospital, (204) 233-8563; Seven Oaks General Hospital, (204) 632-7133; Victoria General Hospital, (204) 269-3570.
Where To Look and Listen
NewspapersWinnipeg has three daily newspapers, the Winnipeg Free Press, the Winnipeg Sun and Metro Winnipeg, all distributed in the morning.
RadioThe Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has both AM (990) and FM (89.3 and 98.3) stations in Winnipeg as well as an AM (1050) station broadcasting in French.
Visitor InformationTourism Winnipeg Suite 810, One Lombard Pl. WINNIPEG, MB R3B 0X3. Phone:(204)943-1970 or (855)734-2489
Travel Manitoba Visitor Information Centre at The Forks 21 Forks Market Rd. WINNIPEG, MB R3C 4T7. Phone:(204)927-7800 or (800)665-0040
Air TravelWinnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport (YWG) is about 8 kilometres (5 mi.) northwest of downtown off Metro Rte. 90. Daily bus service between the airport and downtown is provided by Winnipeg Transit routes 15 and 20 between 5:50 a.m. and 12:49 a.m. The one-way fare is $2.65; $2.15 (ages 6-16 and 65+); passengers must have exact change. Phone 311 or (877) 311-4974 for information. Taxis to downtown cost around $18 and a sedan costs around $32. Major hotels offer limousine service to and from the airport.
Rental CarsHertz, (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members. Winnipeg locations are at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport, phone (204) 925-6625, and 1577 Erin St., phone (204) 925-6629.
Rail ServiceThe VIA Rail Canada depot is downtown at Union Station, 123 Main St.; phone (888) 842-7245.
TaxisCab companies include Blueline, (204) 925-8888; Duffy's, (204) 925-0101; and Unicity, (204) 925-3131. Winnipeg rates start at $3.50 plus an average rate of $1.71 per kilometre or $2.02 per mile.
Public TransportationWinnipeg Transit, the public bus system, serves downtown Winnipeg and its suburbs. Route maps and route information are available by phoning 311 (within Winnipeg) or visiting the Winnipeg Transit website. Bus fare is $2.65, $2.10 (ages 6-16, ages 65+ and students with ID); riders must have exact change. More than 500 of the buses have accessibility features including low floors, electric ramps and priority accessible seating.
Travel Manitoba / flickr
EssentialsRoam 7 kilometres of mulch and limestone trails and make your way across floating wetland boardwalks at FortWhyte Alive (1961 McCreary Rd.), where you can spot all sorts of critters—from bison to songbirds to prairie dogs—in their natural habitat.
Salute the province's beloved “Golden Boy” statue at the Manitoba Legislative Building (450 Broadway). The 5.25-metre-tall statue, gilded with 23.75-karat gold, stands atop the building's dome. A torch in one hand represents economic development and a sheaf of wheat in the other symbolizes agriculture. Take a guided Hermetic Code Tour to see if you can identify the hieroglyphic inscriptions and secret number codes hidden in the building's architecture.
Contemplate sculptures made of caribou antlers and dozens of handmade Inuit stone carvings at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (300 Memorial Blvd.), a strikingly designed Modernist building housing one of the world's largest collections of contemporary Inuit art. Browse European and Canadian collections and then head up to the rooftop sculpture garden, where you'll find the upscale Storm Bistro and live jazz music on select summer nights.
Try lifting a solid gold bar worth more than $600,000 at the interactive coin museum inside the Royal Canadian Mint (520 Lagimodiere Blvd.), where as many as 20 million Canadian coins roll off the assembly line each day.
Survey the city skyline and the spot where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet from a six-story-high viewing platform atop The Forks Market (201-1 Forks Market Rd.) at The Forks , one of the city's most popular gathering places. Wind your way through the eight-story-high Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) (85 Israel Asper Way) via crisscrossing ramps with glowing walls that culminate in a glass spire offering panoramic views of downtown. Explore the area on a narrated boat ride with Splash Dash Guided River Tours .
Hunt for eclectic treasures and cosmopolitan threads in the Exchange District (just north of Portage and Main), a historic neighborhood bursting with hip boutiques and eateries. For indoor shopping, you'll find more stores and restaurants off Main Street at The Forks Market and in Johnston Terminal (25 Forks Market Rd.).
Chant “GO Jets GO” like a true Jets fan at the MTS Centre (300 Portage Ave.), where you can cheer on the Peg City's home team during a fast-paced hockey game. Just don't forget to wear your blue and white.
Stroll on winding paths around flower beds in the English Gardens at Assiniboine Park (2355 Corydon Ave.), then explore the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden , where bronze statues and a year-round water feature are highlights. If wildlife viewing is more your style, visit Assiniboine Park Zoo for a peek at lions, tigers and bison. Snap a selfie with the statue of Winnie the Bear and his owner located by the Nature Playground; the lovable black bear cub was the inspiration for A.A. Milne's character Winnie the Pooh. The 10-acre Arctic species exhibit, Journey to Churchill, includes polar bears, musk ox, wolves, ringed seals and harbor seals.
Pack a picnic basket and head to Kildonan Park (2015 Main St.) for a stroll along the Red River on a tree-shaded path. Catch a Broadway-caliber musical on summer nights at the park's outdoor theater, Rainbow Stage, and don't miss the Witch's Hut (think “Hansel and Gretel”) at the park's northern end.
Cross the Esplanade Riel footbridge and step into St. Boniface, the French-speaking district where some of Winnipeg's oldest buildings lie. Visit Le Musée de Saint-Boniface Museum (494 Taché Ave.) for a history lesson on Louis Riel and other early Red River settlers and stop by Riel's gravesite marked by a red granite tombstone in the nearby St. Boniface Basilica (190 Cathedrale Ave.) churchyard.
Ann & Peter Macdonald / flickr
ShoppingThe intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street is a good starting point for a shopping excursion. Just one block north of the intersection is the Exchange District, a vibrant and historic area filled with more than 40 restaurants and 80 stores including clothing boutiques, vintage shops and toy stores. Portage Place connects the Hudson's Bay store to other department stores with an extensive system of skywalks.
Winnipeg has a historic area where shoppers can browse through merchandise of today amid structures of the past. The Forks Market is behind Union Station, off Main Street (near Portage and Main). The shops and restaurants are located in an indoor market with more than 80 vendors selling everything from fresh fish and baked goods to arts and crafts items. Johnston Terminal, across from the market, offers specialty boutiques and eateries.
Shopping for Western wear and accessories is possible at such factory outlet stores as Canada West Boots, 1250 Fife St., or MWG Factory Outlet, 1147 Notre Dame Ave.
More than 70 shops and restaurants can be found at Osborne Village, between River and Wardlaw avenues 2 blocks south of the Manitoba Legislative Building.
Travelers in search of a truly representative souvenir may want to examine the native arts and crafts and western wear available at Winnipeg Outfitters Inc. at 250 McPhillips St.
Visitors who like their shopping climate-controlled and under one roof can visit the malls at cityplace, 333 St. Mary Ave. at Hargrave Street; Garden City, 2305 McPhillips St., with Sears and Winners as its anchor stores; Grant Park, 1120 Grant Ave., with McNally Robinson Booksellers and Canadian Tire; Kildonan Place, 1555 Regent Ave. W., with Sears and Mountain Warehouse; Polo Park, 1485 Portage Ave., which has Hudson's Bay and Sears for anchors; Portage Place, 393 Portage Ave.; or St. Vital Centre, 1225 St. Mary's Rd., with Hudson's Bay and Sears as its anchor stores.
On Saturdays from 8 to 3 mid-May through October and Wednesdays from 11 to 3 mid-May through September, the St. Norbert Farmers' Market, 16 kilometres (10 mi.) south of downtown at 3514 Pembina Hwy., offers baked goods, fresh produce, flowers, furniture, jewelry and other locally made items from more than 70 vendors. It also hosts a bi-weekly indoor market on Saturdays from 10-1, November to Victoria Day.
AJ Batac / flickr
Performing ArtsCanada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Manitoba Opera perform in Centennial Concert Hall, 555 Main St., opposite City Hall. The oldest company in Canada and the second oldest in North America, Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet is known for its versatile style and performs an eclectic mix of classical and contemporary ballets. At-home performances are from October through May. For ticket information phone (204) 956-2792.
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra performs mid-September to May and offers classical, contemporary and popular orchestral music; for concert information phone (204) 949-3999. The Manitoba Opera performs October through May; phone (204) 942-7479, or (204) 944-8824 for tickets.
Modern dance is presented by Winnipeg's Contemporary Dancers from October through April at the Rachel Browne Theatre, 211 Bannatyne Ave.; for information phone (204) 452-0229.
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For both adults and young people, the Prairie Theatre Exchange, at Portage Place, 393 Portage Ave., (204) 942-5483 for ticket information, presents a season of modern Canadian plays from October to April. Rainbow Stage in Kildonan Park offers musicals in a covered outdoor theater from June through August; phone (204) 989-0888 or (888) 989-0888. Celebrations Dinner Theatre, 1824 Pembina Hwy. in the Canad Inns Destination Centre Fort Garry, combines an original, three-act musical comedy with a four-course dinner for a one-stop evening out; phone (204) 982-8282.
A variety of theatrical productions for children of all ages is presented at The Forks by the Manitoba Theatre for Young People; for information phone (204) 942-8898.
The Burton Cummings Theatre for the Performing Arts (The Burt), 364 Smith St., was constructed in 1906-07. Originally named Walker Theatre, it was designed to host ballets, Broadway shows and operas. The Burt now offers touring shows and concerts by top-name performers; phone (204) 987-7825.
The French Canadian heritage of St. Boniface, in the heart of the French district, is remembered through the support of the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain at 340 Provencher Blvd.; phone (204) 233-8972. The center is the home of such cultural groups as Le Cercle Molière theater company (North America's longest running theater company), phone (204) 233-8053; the dance group L'Ensemble Folklorique de la Rivière Rouge, phone (204) 233-7440; and the choral groups L'Alliance Chorale Manitoba and La Chorale des Intrépides; phone (204) 233-7423 for more information.
AJ Batac / flickr
SightseeingThe intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street, a few blocks from the juncture of Winnipeg's two rivers, has been the major crossroads since the city's earliest days and is a good place to start a sightseeing foray.
Although now part of Winnipeg, the early settlement of St. Boniface has retained its French Canadian identity. A monument honoring the explorer Pierre Gaultier de la Vérendrye is on Taché Avenue opposite St. Boniface Hospital. Also in St. Boniface is the grave of Louis Riel, leader of the Métis and of the provisional government 1869-70. The grave is at Taché and Cathedral avenues in the churchyard of the St. Boniface Basilica.
Bus and Trolley ToursWinnipeg Trolley Company
Train ToursAntique rail cars pulled by a vintage locomotive take passengers on 3-hour trips departing from a 1910 station at Inkster Junction, 3 kilometres (1.9 mi.) west of Hwy. 90 off Inkster Boulevard. The Prairie Dog Central Railway makes a stop at a country market in Grosse Isle. The scenic ride operates weekends and holidays, May through September; phone (204) 832-5259.
Walking ToursTake a self-guiding tour of the city’s urban areas that begins and ends at The Forks Market . A guide with maps that highlights more than 50 cultural, historical and modern places of interest along the Downtown Winnipeg Loop and Old St. Boniface Loop is available at visitor centers at The Forks , Tourisme Riel (219 Provencher Blvd.), Tourism Winnipeg (259 Portage Ave.), Downtown Winnipeg BIZ (426 Portage Ave.) and The Exchange District BIZ (2, Old Market Square, 133 Albert St.). Other themed tours also are available; phone (204) 958-4640.
Guided walking tours of the 20-block Historic Winnipeg area near Portage Avenue and Main Street in the Exchange District are available June through Labour Day weekend. Departing from Old Market Square at the corner of King St. and Bannatyne Ave., these tours visit many of Manitoba's finest historical buildings; for schedule information phone (204) 942-6716.
Guided walking tours of the old St. Boniface area are available Victoria Day through Labour Day or on request; phone (204) 233-8343 or (866) 808-8338 for information and reservations.
EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
Winnipeg's calendar of events, with more than 170 days of festivals, reflects more than 43 nationalities that have made the city home. The joie de vivre spirit of the French voyageurs is revived each February during Festival du Voyageur , a 10-day-long celebration including winter sports, ice-sculpting contests, music and food. With the 18th-century fur trade as its theme, the event takes place in St. Boniface, Winnipeg's French quarter.
In early April, crowds yuk it up at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival featuring humor-industry headliners. In May, Manito Ahbee celebrates Aboriginal music, art and culture. The name, which means “where the creator sits,” honors a sacred site in Whiteshell Provincial Park where Aboriginal people gathered for hundreds of years to teach and share wisdom. Events include music awards, an indigenous market and an international powwow.
Fly the rainbow flag at the Pride Winnipeg Festival in late July. A week of sports tournaments, dance parties, coffeehouse performances and other events lead up to the annual Pride Parade through the streets of downtown. The city plays host to the 4-day Winnipeg International Children's Festival at The Forks in early June. Music, theater, dance and comedy performances are offered as well as hands-on workshops and evening shows.
The Winnipeg International Jazz Festival in mid-June features jazz performers on an outdoor stage in Old Market Square as well as at other indoor venues across the city. The Red River Exhibition , known locally as “The Ex” is held during mid- and late June. The Ex's many rides, midway activities and games of chance as well as nightly concerts take place at Red River Exhibition Park off Perimeter Highway behind Assiniboia Downs. The event also includes a petting zoo and agricultural displays.
Early July brings the 4-day Winnipeg Folk Festival to nearby Birds Hill Provincial Park, where more than 200 concerts, children's activities, music workshops and food are highlights. In mid- and late July is the Winnipeg Fringe Festival , with various independent theater performances in the Exchange District and other locations throughout the city.
Early August brings the 2-week Folklorama multicultural celebration, Winnipeg's largest event and reputedly the largest and longest-running multicultural festival of its kind. The costumes, dances and food of more than 40 cultures are showcased.
Celebrate the holidays from early December through early January in Red River Exhibition Park at Canad Inns Winter Wonderland , one of Manitoba's largest drive-through light displays. Illuminated by more than 1 million lights, the 2.25-kilometre route features 26 theme areas and a 75-foot-tall Christmas tree. Ice-skating and sleigh rides are offered on the weekends.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
Places in Vicinity