Winnipeg

Esplanade Riel facing Downtown

Winnipeg is the capital and largest city in Manitoba, and a major centre on the Canadian Prairies. About 660,000 people live in the city proper, with about 730,000 in the entire metropolitan area. "The Peg" is a city as diverse in and of itself as the whole of Canada.

It is a well rounded city with a stable economy. It is a destination for architecture, rivers, history, money (mint) arts, and museums. It has something for everyone-from boutiques to cheap value stores, Winnipeg has a great retail market, where a lot of new concepts are tried.

Understand

History

The name Winnipeg is a transcription of the western Cree word wi-nipe-k meaning "muddy waters"; the general area was populated for thousands of years by First Nations. Winnipeg lies at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, a location currently known as The Forks. This point was at the crossroads of canoe routes travelled by Aboriginal peoples prior to European contact. Given its central location, Winnipeg started out as a fur trading post Many trails converged on the city and later became streets (which is evident when you see the city's somewhat haphazard road layout).

In 1869–70, Winnipeg was the site of the Red River Rebellion, a conflict between the local provisional government of Métis, led by Louis Riel, and newcomers from Eastern Canada. This rebellion led to Manitoba's entry into the Canadian Confederation as Canada's fifth province in 1870. On 8 November 1873, Winnipeg was incorporated as a city.

After the construction of the CP railway across Canada, Winnipeg became a major transportation hub and "Gateway to the West." The city experienced a boom during the early 20th century and for while was Western Canada's major economic centre. Fortunately for the visitor, the economy slowed around the middle of the century, leaving intact a remarkable collection of period architecture, primarily in the city's downtown Exchange District.

Winnipeg is off the tourist trail for most visitors to Canada, but the visitor will experience an authentic and friendly Canadian Prairie city which leaves many pleasantly surprised.

People

Winnipeg is generally a very tolerant city and was the first large city in North America to elect an openly gay mayor. Winnipeg has several LGBT bars and a Pride festival every summer.

Winnipeg is a multicultural city. As of the 2011 census, visible minorities make up 21% of Winnipeg's population and Aboriginals 12%. Much of Winnipeg's population is of European descent, notably from England, Scotland, Germany, Ukraine, France, Ireland and Poland. More than a hundred languages are spoken in Winnipeg. In fact, Winnipeg is home to Canada's largest French-speaking population west of Ontario and the Filipino language Tagalog is the second most prevalent mother tongue in Winnipeg. Nevertheless, 99% of the population speaks English fluently. The city celebrates its diversity with the Folklorama festival, the longest running multicultural event of its kind.

Neighbourhoods

Corydon Avenue (Little Italy)
Corydon Avenue and its surrounding neighbourhood is one of the city’s hot spots for shopping, dining or an afternoon of peoplewatching at one of the many sidewalk cafes and restaurants dotting the avenue. Corydon Avenue comes alive during warm summer evenings as crowds of people gather to meet, greet and to have some of the best food, gelati and sushi in the city.
Downtown
Downtown Winnipeg is centred around Portage & Main. Portage Ave is the city's busiest thoroughfare. Winnipeg Square, the MTS Centre, Portage Place and the flagship store of The Bay are all located on the downtown section of this street. On Main St are Winnipeg's City Hall, Union Station, the Manitoba Museum, the Planetarium, the Centennial Concert Hall and the Winnipeg Railway Museum.
Exchange District
The Exchange District is a National Historic Site in the downtown area of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The Exchange District today thrives as one of Winnipeg's commercial and cultural centers. Winnipeg's theatre district is also located in the Exchange District, home to the Manitoba Theatre Centre and Centennial Concert Hall. Old Market Square is also in the Exchange which hosts the Jazz Winnipeg Festival and the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.
The Forks
The Forks is a historic site and meeting place in downtown Winnipeg located at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, and has played an important role in the city's development. The Forks Market contains many specialty food shops, fresh fruit and vegetables, and many ethnic shops and restaurants. There are often buskers in and around the Forks. Attractions include the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, the International Children's Festival, one of the largest skateparks in Canada, the world's longest skating rink (winter only), a well-maintained expanse of riverside park, and the recently opened Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Osborne Village
Osborne Village has evolved into a neighborhood filled with character. It is Winnipeg's most densely populated neighbourhood and is home to one of Winnipeg's most vibrant collection of stores and restaurants with over 175 businesses calling Osborne Village home.
St. Boniface
Covering the southeast part of the city, it is home to the Franco-Manitoban community. It features such landmarks as the Cathédrale de Saint Boniface (St. Boniface Cathedral), boul Provencher, the Provencher Bridge, Esplanade Riel, St. Boniface Hospital and the Université de Saint-Boniface. Every February Le Festival du Voyageur takes place outdoors at Parc Whittier Park and Fort Gibraltar.
West End
A mostly residential area west of Downtown comprised of many small and unique neighbourhoods. The area is very ethnically diverse as is evidenced by the Portuguese, Greek, Vietnamese, Chinese, East Indian and Thai restaurants that line both Ellice Ave and Sargent Ave, making it is one of the best areas for real ethnic food. The West End Cultural Centre is a major music venue that is worth a visit. The West End varies widely in wealth, and contains some of the most affluent neighbourhoods, and some of the poorest in the city. Major revitalization and urban beautification projects have happened in recent decades.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) -13 -9 -1 10 19 23 26 25 19 11 -1 -10
Nightly lows (°C) -23 -19 -11 -2 5 11 13 12 6 0 -10 -19
Precipitation (mm) 20 15 22 32 59 90 71 75 52 36 25 19
Snowfall (cm) 23 14 16 10 1 0 0 0 0 5 21 20

See the Winnipeg 7 day forecast at Environment Canada

Winter must haves

A lovely Mercury Topaz with block heater cord and plug

Winnipeg is cold in the winter and if you plan on spending any time outside between November and April you should consider packing:

  • Toque (make sure it covers the ears) or earmuffs
  • Gloves or mittens (or garbage mitts)
  • Scarf (optional, but recommended)
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Sweaters
  • Winter jacket
  • Long underwear (optional)
  • Ski pants (snow pants)
  • Boots (depending what you will be doing)

If you are driving in Winnipeg during the winter, be sure your car is outfitted with a block heater and plug it in if leaving it overnight. Alternatively, ensure your CAA/AAA membership is up-to-date and have the phone number ready for when your car won't start.

Winnipeg has a humid continental climate with extremes of hot and cold. The longest day of the year lasts for over 16 hours, and the shortest day of the year lasts for 8 hours.

Winnipeg is ranked as Canada's second sunniest city year-round and second for clearest skies year-round. Summers are typically warm and often humid, particularly in July, with frequent night time thunderstorms. On average, Winnipeg has 45 days a year where the humidex (combined effect of heat and humidity) reaches above 30. Winnipeg is also known for its high mosquito population, particularly during early summer. Dusk and dawn are the most active time for mosquitoes. Late August and September tend to provide the most pleasant environment for summer visitors.

Spring and fall tend to be rather contracted seasons, each averaging a little over six weeks. In general the weather during these seasons is highly variable, and rapidly changing. It is typical for the day to start off quite cold in the morning, but heat up considerably in the afternoon. It can be difficult to judge how to dress during this time, so layers are the best option.

Winnipeg has the coldest winter temperatures of any city in North America with a population of over 100,000. Winters in Winnipeg are usually dry, and can feel colder due to the often windy conditions. The winters are long and overnight minima average below -15°C with rare extremes going down to near -40°C, though there is still much to enjoy during these months. Be sure to pay attention to the windchill (combined effect of cold and wind) which can drop below -40 (exposed skin freezes in less than 10 minutes). Snow cover can be expected from mid-November to late March. The city turns on what is arguably Canada's best display of Christmas lights from late November until well into January.

Visitor information

Get in

By plane

There is one major airport serving the city:

Major airlines servicing Winnipeg include Air Canada, WestJet, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines, as well as many smaller regional carriers.

Flight schedules

There are daily non-stop flights from Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Hamilton, London (Ontario), Thunder Bay, Regina, Saskatoon, MinneapolisSt. Paul, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, numerous smaller destinations in Manitoba, Northern Ontario, and Nunavut, as well as non-stop charter and seasonal service to Phoenix, Palm Springs, Orlando, Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Flight times are three hours from Vancouver; two and three quarter hours from Montreal; two and a half hours from Toronto, Ottawa or Denver; two hours from Edmonton, Calgary or Chicago; one hour from Minneapolis, Regina, Saskatoon or Thunder Bay.

Public airport transportation

Public transport is offered by Winnipeg Transit's Route 15 & Route 20 buses which run every 10 to 25 minutes between about 6AM to 1AM weekdays (Saturdays, Sundays and holidays have their own schedule) and will take you downtown in about 30 minutes.

Private airport transportation

There are usually, but not always, taxi cabs and limo sedans-for-hire waiting at the airport.

By train

There is only one passenger train station in the city:

Via Rail routes serving Winnipeg:

By bus

By car

Winnipeg is on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Approximate driving times from nearby cities to Winnipeg are about 8 hours from Saskatoon, 6 hours from Regina, 2.75 hours from Kenora, 8 hours from Thunder Bay, 3.5 hours from Fargo, 6 hours from Bismarck and 7 hours from Sioux Falls or Minneapolis. It is 14 hours from Edmonton, Calgary or Chicago.

Get around

Winnipeg is a large, spread-out city and it can take a while to get around. Unlike most North American cities this size, there is no urban freeway network in the city. Public transportation service is adequate to good in the inner part of the city and on main suburban roads, but only fair to poor in outer suburban areas and some bus routes run only infrequently during the evening or on weekends. Traffic jams, particularly in the downtown area, are common during the rush hour periods which are generally from 7:30–9AM and 3:30–5:30PM Monday to Friday. Much of Winnipeg's downtown real estate is devoted to parking, with ubiquitous and cheap surface lots continuing for multi-block stretches. It is worth considering renting a car, especially if any excursions outside of the city are planned.

Highways: Winnipeg is one of the first Canadian cities of its size to have a ring road (the Perimeter Highway) which provides a by-pass for travellers on the Trans-Canada Highway. Within the city, the Trans-Canada Highway follows regular city streets.

Street names: All streets in Winnipeg have names. Major routes will have both names and route numbers, but will almost always be called by the name. A notable exception is Route 90, which is commonly called Kenaston in the southern half of the city and Route 90 in the northern half. Many streets change names as they wind through the city, which can be extremely confusing, even to locals. The most known example is Route 62, which starts as Salter in the north end of the city, but as it goes south becomes Isabel, Balmoral, Colony, Memorial, Osborne, Dunkirk, and finally Dakota in the south end, with no clear indication when it changes.

One-way streets: Many downtown streets are one-way, which can make navigating downtown quite confusing. One-way streets are rare outside of downtown, except around Polo Park.

No left turns: Many busy streets limit left hand turns, particularly during rush hour. This is especially prevalent downtown, but is common in the rest of the city as well.

Confusion corner: This intersection is mainly where Osborne St and Pembina Hwy (Routes 62 and 42) meet, but other streets connect as well, and there are bus-only lanes. There are many lanes going different directions, and it can be very confusing to know which lane you need to be in, which has given the intersection the name "confusion corner".

North End: The area of the city just north of downtown is known as the North End. This is the poorest part of the city and extra precautions should be taken when traveling through here, especially at night (though most crime is gang related rarely involving innocent bystanders). There is a very noticeable drop in the quality of infrastructure when you cross from downtown into the North End, but it is also a very sudden change so it is important to be mindful of your surroundings.

By bus

The city operates a bus service with routes running throughout the city:

As of January 1, 2015, adult bus fare is $2.60. There is a reduced fare of $2.10 for children 6–16, high school students and seniors (65+ years of age), for which identification is required. Children 5 and under are free with a fare-paying adult. Drivers will only accept exact change in cash. A transfer can be requested when you pay your fare, which entitles you to ride as many buses as you like within the following 60 minutes. You may also purchase tickets at reduced rate of $2.25, at almost any convenience store.

There are a variety of passes available, which can also be purchased at any convenience store. Of note to travellers is the Max 5 pass, which can be used Monday to Friday, and the Superpass, which can be used from Monday to Sunday. Please keep in mind that the Max 5 is only available for adults.

Special services

By taxi

Taxis are licensed in Winnipeg and every driver must have their identification visible. For security purposes, taxi drivers are protected by a shield and have video surveillance. By law, fares are non-negotiable and determined by a meter. Smoking and open alcohol are not allowed. The most common taxi model is the smaller Toyota Prius.

Winnipeg Taxicab Tariff: Starting fee: $3.50 with 72.5 m, then $0.10 for each additional 72.5 m + $0.10 for each 13.18 seconds of time. Whenever the taxi stops, there's a "waiting time charge" of $0.10 for each 13.18 seconds of metered waiting time. A 10 km ride works out to about $17.20 + any waiting times + tip (15–20%).

By car

Driving is the easiest way to get around Winnipeg. On-street parking, which ranges from $1–2/hr can usually be found in popular areas if you are willing to search. Keep in mind that during rush hour, most of these spaces will turn into no stopping zones in order to facilitate traffic flow. If these are unavailable, there are parkades or parking lots which will provide a variety of hourly rates. These are roughly twice as expensive as street parking, but they are convenient and located all over the downtown area. If visiting The Forks, keep in mind that there is a large parkade and two lots which provide free parking for visitors.

Auto theft is a serious problem in Winnipeg. Anti-theft devices are strongly recommended, especially immobilizers. Never leave your vehicle running and never leave any objects visible inside, especially aftermarket stereo equipment.

By bicycle

Cycling Rules

  • Cyclists must ride on and obey the laws of the road.
  • From ½ hour before sunset until ½ hour after sunrise, bicycles must have a white front light and a red or amber rear light or reflector.
  • Cyclists must use hand signals to indicate a turn.
  • Cyclists are prohibited from wearing earphones.
  • Cyclists are prohibited from riding while intoxicated.
  • Children riding in a bike-mounted baby seat must wear a helmet.
  • Helmets are mandatory for children under 18.

Bicycles are allowed on all Winnipeg roads, though drivers encountered may feel differently. The City of Winnipeg provides a cycling map which is available online or at one of many bicycle shops. Some roads have bicycle lanes (shared with buses) and sharrows. Suggested cycling routes are marked by road signs, but may venture into residential areas with many stop signs. Riding on sidewalks is illegal, but this law is rarely enforced. The most problematic areas are typically bridges where no bicycle infrastructure exists, such as the Midtown Bridge and the Louise Bridge. Cyclists may be better off walking their bikes on the sidewalk on these bridges during rush hours. Bicycle theft is common throughout all areas of the city. Seats and wheels should be secured with a sturdy lock.

Some dedicated active transportation paths exist. Many of these will follow along Winnipeg's rivers, making for a very scenic, but meandering, ride. Spring flooding may affect the conditions on routes near the rivers. The Forks makes an excellent starting/stopping point for scenic bike rides—many paths begin and end there, and there are many restaurants and patios to relax in before and after rides. Some suggested scenic routes are:

Many of the paths beside the river will also include "monkey trails"—unofficial trails that offer some challenge to mountain bikers. Due to frequent flooding and erosion, these may include muddy sections, fallen trees, and steep drop-offs into the river.

In the winter, snow and ice on roads can make cycling treacherous. Major routes, especially downtown, will be cleared quickly and will have sand applied, which will help with safety but also make for a messy ride. These conditions will generally last from December to March. Bike paths and lanes may take much longer to be cleared, if they are cleared at all. The right hand lane is often the most icy, and frostbite is a reality for the poorly equipped rider.

In springtime (March and April), melting snow can create very large puddles and potholes and render off-road trails unusable.

Rentals

Woodcock Cycleworks, 433 St. Mary's Road,  +1 204-253-5896, toll-free: +1-866-211-5795. Mon-Fri 10-8; Sat 10-5; Sun 11-5. Rentals can be booked online or in-store. Mountain bikes, road bikes, fat bikes and hybrids available. $30-$50.

By foot

Winnipeg is generally not a walking-centric city. Because municipal law mandates that all new buildings must contain large amounts of parking between the sidewalk and the building itself, pedestrians will be confronted with a morass of cars in all directions. Winnipeg's main arteries all contain boulevards and are extremely wide by world standards, with Main St having ten lanes where it meets Portage Ave downtown. However, this pedestrian-unfriendliness is primarily perceived rather than real. Virtually all streets contain sidewalks on both sides running for the street's entire length and stoplight crossings are frequent even on highways.

One should note that walking across Portage & Main is prohibited and physically impeded by concrete barricades. Since the 1970s, and despite protests, pedestrians have been required to cross this famous intersection through an underground concourse, which has a variety of entry points in or near the office towers on all four corners.

Downtown from Esplanade Riel

Distance from Portage & Main to:

Interesting walks in central Winnipeg:

Winnipeg Skywalk

As it can get very cold during Winnipeg's winters, the downtown area has a network of tunnels and sky-walks. The Skywalk is a system of 14 skyways and 7 tunnels connecting 38 buildings and allowing for a maximum protected walk of 2 km. As far east as the Fairmont Hotel east of Main St all the way west to One Canada Centre on Portage Ave (across from The Bay), it connects you to all of the buildings around Portage & Main, Winnipeg Square, Cityplace and Portage Place malls, the Millennium Library (Winnipeg's central library branch) and the MTS Centre arena. It has many shops along the way, making travelling during the winter a lot easier.

See

Galleries

Museums

Parks

Located within Assiniboine Park:
  • Assiniboine Park Conservatory.
  • Assiniboine Park Zoo.
  • Leo Mol Sculpture Garden.
  • Lyric Theatre.
  • The Pavilion Gallery Museum.
  • Winnie the Bear statue.

Landmarks

Historical Buildings are common in Winnipeg
Royal Canadian Mint in East Winnipeg

Do

Activities

Public 18-hole golf courses

Sports

Casinos

Theatre

Film

Plays and Musicals

Opera and Ballet

Orchestra

Events

The city is home to several events.

Buy

Provincial Sales Tax (PST) in Manitoba is 8% and Federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Canada is 5%. Prices generally do not include tax, so expect your purchases to cost an additional 13%.

It is customary in Winnipeg that all prices are set by a price tag and it is uncommon for retailers to barter.

It is common for smaller shops to close at 6PM, while large stores and malls will close around 9PM on weekdays. Weekends have reduced shopping hours, especially Sundays. Stores are only allowed to open at 9AM on Sundays and must close by 6PM, with certain exceptions (such as convenience stores). There are a few large chains stores that are open 24 hours or until 12AM, such as Walmart, Shopper's Drug Mart and Superstore.

Markets

Shopping malls

Shopping streets and districts

20+ varieties of Santa suits (and prescription eye wear, apparently) on Osborne St at the onset of a blizzard
  •   Cityplace, 333 St. Mary Ave.
  •   Portage Place Shopping Centre, 393 Portage Ave,  +1 204-925-4630. Portage Place is the hub of downtown Winnipeg with over 100 services, restaurants and shops.
  •   Winnipeg Square, 360 Main St. Winnipeg’s largest underground mall offers over 45 shops, services and restaurants.

Eat

Winnipeg loves food. There is an amazing array of restaurants catering to every taste and budget. Tipping is customary in Winnipeg and is not included in the price of the food. Some restaurants may automatically add a gratuity charge for large groups. Tips typically range from 10–20%

Local cuisine includes:

Budget

Mid-range


Splurge

Drink

The sale of alcohol is regulated by the Government of Manitoba through the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission (MLCC, or the "LC"). All alcohol is sold through the MLCC's Liquor Marts. Beer and wine can be sold through beer vendors or wine markets. Any establishment selling alcohol must be licensed and follow MLCC rules, such as minimum drink prices and last call at 2AM.

The legal drinking age in Manitoba is 18. Alcohol can only be consumed in residences or licensed establishments, not in public. The legal blood alcohol contact (BAC) limit for driving is 0.05. Taxis are common at popular night spots. Buses run infrequently at night and stop running before 2AM.

Winnipeg is home to three local breweries:

Nightspots

Parking will be difficult in the popular areas, especially Saturday nights.

Bars

Pubs and lounges

Dance clubs

Most clubs and bars will insist on seeing identification for every patron, partly for security purposes.

Gay & lesbian nightclubs

Sleep

All major chain hotels have properties in Winnipeg. As well as in the downtown area, there are numerous hotels near the airport, near Polo Park Shopping Centre, and on Pembina Hwy South. Cheap motels can be found throughout the city. The older hotels on Main St should be avoided at all costs.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Winnipeg has a moderately high crime rate by Canadian standards, but low violent crime by American or global standards. Much crime is gang or alcohol related and rarely involves tourists who exercise the same degree of caution they would in any other urban center. Areas where higher degree of caution is advised at night include areas north of City Hall on Main St and the area surrounding Central Park.

Panhandlers are less numerous in Winnipeg compared to cities like Vancouver and Victoria, BC and they are very seldom aggressive, however displays of obvious wealth such as jewelery and expensive digital cameras should be kept to a minimum. It is best to kindly refuse panhandlers and keep walking.

Winnipeg has a history of substantial auto theft and "smash and grab" problem, though the problem has been reduced in recent years. As in any city, common sense should prevail. Never leave a vehicle unlocked and under no circumstances should any object be left in the car interior where it can be seen, no matter what the value (includes CDs, gloves, clothing, tools, etc). Keep all items in the trunk. Most importantly, never leave any coins, no matter what the amount in your ashtray or console. An individual with drugs or alcohol dependency will not hesitate to smash a car window even for less than $1.

If you rent a vehicle, ensure with your rental agency that it is equipped with an immobilizer. If you drive your own vehicle here, Manitoba Public Insurance offers a most-at-risk vehicle assessment. While this is aimed at those intending to register vehicles in Manitoba, tourists may use this to consider if their vehicle is at an elevated risk for theft. Out of province tourists may also consult with their automobile insurance agent.

Cope

Consulates

Go next

Winnipeg Downtown

Winnipeg is a great starting point to begin exploring the province of Manitoba. Manitoba has many recreational opportunities, including canoeing, fishing, cycling, and cross-country skiing.

  • Winnipeg Folk Festival (Folk Fest), Birds Hill Provincial Park (20min north on Hwy 59),  +1 204-231-0096, fax: +1 204-231-0076, e-mail: . Jul. One of North America's premier outdoor music festivals. Features music performances, a folk school, programs for young performers and young visual artists, over 100 artisans, children’s programming, a visual art exhibition, and a food village that encourages the use of local, organic and fair trade ingredients. Day pass: $69.75, full pass: $214.75, full camping pass: $252.75 (discounts for youth, children and early bird available).
Routes through Winnipeg

Edmonton Portage la Prairie  W  E  Sudbury Toronto
Regina Portage la Prairie  W  E  becomes Kenora Thunder Bay
Grand Beach Provincial Park  N  S  Île-des-Chênes Thief River Falls
END  N  S  → becomes Pembina Grand Forks


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