10. The Weather: It was absolutely gorgeous when I visited during the first week of July. The mercury hit 30C, there was a nice breeze and very low humidity. Rumour has it this might change at some point.
9. Transit Transfers: The city buses have an electronic systems to accept payment, scan passes, and issue transfers that are good for a full two hours. Unlike the system in Toronto, there’s no restriction on the direction you travel so you can run all the errands you can cram into 2 hours for one $2.55 fare.
8. Transit Signage: Electronic signage at major stops displays the current time, the next 6 buses with their arrival times and route numbers, etc. Route maps for all buses are also located at each stop. And if you’d rather keep your head in your phone, you can use the Winnipeg Transit app to find the closest bus stop, time of the next bus, etc. Or you can text “Help” to an advertised number and they’ll text you back with the pertinent info.
7. Hotel Royal Plaza: The name says “hotel” but obviously someone dropped the “s” as this is clearly a hostel. But at $30 for a bed in a 6-bed dorm, it was decent value. I found it to be very clean with lockers, towels, free wi-fi, bone-chilling AC, new linen, and a $12 all-you-can eat Indian Buffet that was well worth the money. And if all the dorm mates I meet in the next two years are half as cool as the four Aussie lads I stayed with here, I may never stop traveling.
6. Polite People: Winnipeggers hold doors open for each other, go out of their way to use garbage and recycling bins, and I noticed that many say “thank you” to the driver as they exit a bus.
5. Traffic. Or lack thereof. Downtown streets were very quiet on Saturday and virtually abandoned on Sunday, as a result street parking was easy to find, buses ran on time, and it was a breeze to get around.
4. Pedestrians: I’m sure Toronto pedestrians will look like angels once I get to India but for now they look pretty bad when compared to Winnipeggers who actually obey “don’t walk” signs and seldom jaywalk. Driving in the downtown core would be a joy.
3. The Forks: Located at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red rivers in downtown Winnipeg, The Forks is the city’s #1 tourist attraction. It’s much more than an urban park as there are several museums, restaurants, bars, a huge skateboard and BMX park, ball stadium, market, and of course the site has a 6,000 year history as a meeting place. According to their web site, “Early Aboriginal peoples traded at The Forks, followed by European fur traders, Métis buffalo hunters, Scottish settlers, riverboat workers, railway pioneers and tens of thousands of immigrants.”
2. The Exchange District: I took one of two walking tours offered by the local BIA and got a good feel for the turn-of-the-century architecture in this former warehouse neighbourood. The guide was good but the two women on my tour had some great insights as well. Both were born here, and while one still lives in The Peg and had some great restaurant suggestions, the other is a retired architect now living in Ann Arbour, MI. Taking an architecture tour with a chatty young guide and a seasoned architect was a bonus.
1. Friendly People: The motto on Manitoba license plates is “Friendly Manitoba” and they live up to it. Virtually everyone I met over 3-1/2 days was super friendly and very quick to answer questions, give directions, or simply ask “Where you from?”
“Even Winnipeggers who depart for Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver never assimilate or fully lose their regional identity. They remain stuck on their birthplace, in the middle of the flat, snowy, buggy, flood-prone and isolated prairie, where everyone seems to know everyone despite the impossibility of the arithmetic involved.” ― Bartley Kives, Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg