Manitoba’s capital has a lot going for it these days. The Jets are back, the world’s first-ever human rights museum is set to open there this fall, young chefs have elevated the city’s culinary scene to mouth-watering heights and the Inuit Art and Learning Centre will break ground in 2015 at the fabulous Winnipeg Art Gallery. The city also happens to be home to North America’s second-largest fringe theatre festival, a thriving live music scene and a number of trendy, hip neighbourhoods filled with community spirit.
Among these neighbourhoods is downtown’s Exchange District. Considered a National Historic Site, this architecturally stunning area—established in the early 20th century—was once the centre of business and commerce in Winnipeg.
Fast-forward to 2014 and the Exchange District is still buzzing—but the vibe now is decidedly artier. Wander around the 20-block area and you’ll find everything from funky boutiques and antique shops to art galleries and cutting-edge restaurants. At the heart of it all is Old Market Square, a great urban park that comes alive with musical performances and a variety of festivals (including the Winnipeg Fringe) in the summer months.
It’s always a little bit of a tease perusing home-design stores while travelling, but hutK is worth the torture. The two-level space is filled with carefully selected, ultra-modern furniture and accent pieces from a variety of innovative brands, including Blu Dot and Bensen.
There’s no shortage of restaurants around the Exchange, but Chef Mandel Hitzer at deer + almond offers up vibrant and creative cuisine that really stands out. Try the signature kale and kelp beignets with hemp aioli to start your meal—the umami amazingness will delight you.
Who doesn’t love a good toy shop? Kites, puzzles, board games and handcrafted planes, trains and automobiles are just some of the treasures you can find on the shelves here. Buy a couple of Balsa Gliders (those small wooden airplanes) to appease your inner child.
If you’ve ever wished you could get a slick haircut and pick out some new, trendy threads in one convenient spot, then Ordnry Clothing is the place for you. This streetwear-focused boutique sells an array of clothing and accessories, and boasts a cool barbershop on its second floor.
For coffee aficionados, this is the place to grab a well-crafted latte or Americano in the Exchange District. The arty, minimalist shop offers great brew, as well as a bright, white interior with floor-to-ceiling windows that face out onto bustling Main Street. Make sure to check out Parlour’s sister location, Little Sister Coffee Maker, in Osborne Village just across the river.
Canada’s oldest English-speaking regional theatre has no shortage of stage performances, offering more than 250 shows a year. This theatre also produces the city’s fringe festival (July 16 to 27), when the Exchange District is abuzz with live street acts.
A good veggie burger can be hard to find. And a good vegan burger? Near impossible. Unless you go to Boon Burger Café, Canada’s first vegan burger shop. The menu options are extensive, and the burgers themselves are well-constructed, filling and surprisingly tasty. Try the Vegan Cowboy Burger with barbecued black bean patty, sweet burger sauce and smokey “bacun.”
Getting There: WestJet flies to Winnipeg 27 times a day from one U.S. and 10 Canadian cities.