Go to Winnipeg. I dare you.
Admittedly, whenever I told someone I was going to Winnipeg, their first reaction was, ‘Really? …Why?’ but that’s not really fair to poor Winnipeg! The capital of Manitoba, almost the exact centre of the country – isn’t that reason enough?
To be clear: I did not fly from Halifax to Winnipeg for three nights and call that a vacation. Though you could! It really isn’t bad.
But I was in Vancouver for a conference, and in order to get from Vancouver to Halifax, the plane has to stop somewhere, so why not have a mini vacation in Winnipeg on the way home?
Flight-wise, this worked really well – about 3 ish hours from Vancouver to Winnipeg, and then another 3 ish hours from Winnipeg to Halifax makes for two, very civilized travel days rather than one fairly hellish day which is the alternative when you have to stop in Calgary/Edmonton/Toronto, etc.
We used Marriott Bonvoy points to stay at the Delta in downtown Winnipeg, quite close to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The location was fine – very close to the museums, and walkable to other neighbourhoods.
The other major attraction in Winnipeg, aside from being smack in the middle of Canada, is that the real Winnie the Pooh bear is named after the city – a town much loved by the military veterinarian who adopted the real Winnie before heading to England and taking the bear with him.
Really though, if you’re Canadian (in response to all my friends) you should go to Winnipeg because it’s there to be seen, and it’s in the news, and sh*t goes down and people die of overdoses and Indigenous women are drowned in the river and we should all have to go and witness where those things happen and think about what role an environment, a city, a leadership has in those actions. And then go home and do something about it.
Winnipeg has lots of challenges: drugs, poverty, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, high rates of immigration and a mass exodus from downtown. But go anyway.
Go to visit the Forks, the indoor market and food court that is lively and full of young people and single people and families spending time together. Have a donut and a coffee at Fools and Horses. Have an amazing meal at Passero and eat everything.
Spend the morning at The Leaf, Winnipeg’s relatively new botanical garden that includes stories of immigrants and the plants that are meaningful for them. Hang out with the butterflies and then walk to The Pavilion and visit with Winnie the Pooh.
Eat ice cream made by Syrian-Canadians at Chaeban Ice Cream Shop, and feel good about Canada’s willingness to welcome people fleeing their homes. Then go to the Human Rights Museum and confront all the other ways in which Canada has failed, and continues to fail, to do the right thing. Do both in the same day and feel all the things that go with that. We can be both welcoming and wrong at the same time. And in fact, we are.
Go confront the urban planning DISASTER that is Portage and Main, and then flee downtown and head to Osborne to get tacos at BMC Market.
Head to the Winnipeg Art Gallery for Canadian and Indigenous art, and then to the Royal Winnipeg or the Young People’s Theatre for arts and culture.
There’s lots to see and enjoy in this middle-of-the-country city, and it’s well worth it. So go anyway, just to be a good Canadian.