I have been told my entire life that Winnipeg was just like Regina, but slightly larger. This gave the impression that there wasn't much to see in Winnipeg and that it, along with Regina, were more-or-less "fly over destinations". Since starting my blog, I've learned Regina is an absolutely incredible city so I imagined Winnipeg was the same. I then proceeded to contact Tourism Winnipeg and Travel Manitoba to find out the true Winnipeg, and ended up going on a multi-day excursion of their city.
Since a lot of my readers are from Regina and they almost all know somebody heading there for the Banjo Bowl in a couple of days, I thought I'd put this list together. There's a lot more to see there than just Investors Group Field, and the city's history is incredibly fascinating, so I hope you enjoy this list of 100 things about "Canada's Gateway to the West".
1. The city of Winnipeg is named after the nearby Lake Winnipeg.
2. "Winnipeg" is Cree for "Muddy Waters".
3. Winnipeg is the closest city to the longitudinal centre of North America.
4. As the area around Winnipeg is the meeting point of some of North America's largest rivers, it has been used by First Nations people for over 6,000 years. Shells, rocks, and ancient artifacts from as far as the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico have been found throughout this area.
5. Today, this area is known as The Forks National Historic Site, or just "The Forks".
6. The Forks' primary trading commodity was fur until the 1880s when Western Canada exports shifted towards grain.
7. Visitors to The Forks can expect a variety of festivals and happenings throughout the area. If they want to go shopping or eating, they can visit the Johnston Terminal Antique Mall, which contains over 30 restaurants and shopping venues. All of these venues are built around a century old warehouse that once a horse stable.
8. Over 4 million people visit The Forks every year so the area is considered one of Winnipeg's greatest tourist attractions.
9. Throughout history, The Red River frequently flooded the city. This changed following the 1950 flood and the construction of the Red River Floodway.
10. The 1950 flood was so severe it caused the largest evacuation in Canadian history, forcing between 70,000 to 100,000 people from their homes.
11. Following the 1950 flood, the Red River Floodway was created to help divert water around the city. At the time it was a very controversial and expensive project.
12. When created, the Red River Floodway was the second biggest earth-moving operation in history, paled only by the creation of the Panama Canal.
13. Bridges throughout Winnipeg have "ice breakers" on them to slice ice sheets and lift them up so that they collapse under their own weight. This was done to prevent ice from damming up the river and flooding the city.
14. In 1997 the Red River flooded again, and the floodway was opened. While this flood was labeled The Flood of the Century, it would have been catastrophically worse without the floodway. Since 1997 the floodway has been resized and used several times to prevent future floods.
15. Sieur de La Vérendrye built the first fur trading post on the site in 1738 and called it Fort Rouge.
16. The arrival of Europeans in this area led to marriages between European men and Aboriginal women. This intermingling of cultures created a new culture of people called "Metis". French Metis spoke "Michif" while English Metis spoke "Bungee". As time passed, the languages merged and today Michif is the primary language of the Metis.
17. The Red River Colony was established sometime in the early 1800s, the North West Company built Fort Gibraltar in 1809, and the Hudson's Bay Company built Fort Douglas in 1812. Both forts and the colony are in the same area that Winnipeg sits today.
18. The North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company were rival companies at the time, and their rivalry sparked a violent confrontation on June 19, 1816 called The Battle of Seven Oaks. Twenty-two people would die in this battle and the North West Company would claim victory.
19. In 1821 the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company merged. In 1922 Fort Gibraltar was renamed Fort Garry.
20. Fort Garry was destroyed by a flood in 1826 and was not rebuilt until 1835. A rebuilt section of this fort still exists in downtown Winnipeg.
21. Marie-Anne Gaboury is considered the first European woman to travel to the Canadian West. She would marry Jean-Baptiste Lagimodière. Together they were the first settlers at the Red River Colony. They are also Louis Riel's grandparents.
22. Louis Riel was born on October 22, 1844 to Louis Riel, Sr. and Julie Lagimodière, daughter of Marie-Anne and Jean-Baptiste, in what is now St. Boniface. He attended school at Ecole Provencher, which still exists today.
23. Following Confederation in 1867, the newly formed Canadian government bought Rupert's Land (the area that is now Western Canada) from the Hudson's Bay Company. The Canadian government appointed William McDougall to go west and begin marking territory and land for settlers. The Metis, led by Riel, prevented McDougall from entering their territory, claiming it to be their land.
24. This confrontation led the Metis to create their own provisional government of both English and French speaking representatives. They then began talks with Canadian government about becoming their own province.
25. Riel's men would capture several people from a pro-Canadian fraction that opposed the provisional government. One of these men was Thomas Scott, who was charged with treason for attempting to murder Riel. Some sources claim Riel was against ordering his execution as execution was not the way of the Metis, but he was forced to. Thomas Scott was executed via firing line, but according to some sources, he survived it and was buried alive. Other sources claim he was shot in the back of the head after the firing line muskets only wounded him. Regardless, Thomas Scott would die in Upper Fort Garry.
26. The death of Thomas Scott caused an uproar in Canada, and an expedition was sent out to solve the then called Red River Rebellion. This expedition was called the Wolseley Expedition, or Red River Expedition. The arrival of these troops into Fort Garry caused Riel to peacefully surrender, and eventually be exiled into the United States.
27. In 1870 Manitoba would be the fifth province to join Canadian Confederation.
28. On November 8, 1873, Winnipeg officially became a city.
29. Métis legislator and interpreter James McKay named the city.
30. In 1885 Riel would resurface in Saskatchewan during the North-West Rebellion. He would be captured following the Battle of Batoche, taken to Regina, tried for high treason, found guilty and executed. After three days he was secretly put on a midnight train back to St. Boniface and buried.
31. Louis Riel is unofficially considered the Father of Manitoba.
32. Saint Boniface is Winnipeg's French district, and was established in 1818.
33. Saint Boniface has the largest French-speaking community west of Quebec in Canada.
34. After a century of being established, Saint Boniface acquired its first fire hall in 1907.
35. During the mid-1910s, several buildings throughout Saint Boniface were burned down by the Ku Klux Klan before they proceeded west into Saskatchewan.
36. On January 1, 1972 Saint Boniface became part of Winnipeg.
37. The Saint Boniface Museum is the oldest building in Winnipeg, and the largest oak log structure in North America. It opened in 1847 as Western Canada's first hospital, and was operated by the Grey Nuns.
38. In 1968 the Saint Boniface Cathedral was terribly damaged by a fire and completely destroyed its iconic rose stained glass window. Urban legends claim the pressure from the fire was so extreme shards of glass from the window flew across the river and landed in The Forks. However, this is untrue.
39. Georges Forest received a $5 parking ticket in 1979 in Winnipeg, and effectively turned the province of Manitoba upside down. Forest refused to pay the parking ticket because it was in English, but according to the laws Louis Riel created during the formation of his provisional government, all legal documents in Manitoba should be in both English and French. This court-case caused a complete overhaul in the Manitoba government, nullifying all laws created from 1890 to 1979 and making them illegal. Since then, every government document needs to be in both English and French in Manitoba for it to be valid.
40. The arrival of The Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881 allowed for more immigration from Eastern Canada, and the city flourished.
42. The city's population grew from 25,000 in 1891 to more than 179,000 in 1921.
42. In 1911 Winnipeg was Canada's third largest city.
43. It was believed that Winnipeg would continue to grow at an extraordinary rate and would reach a population of five million people within a century.
44. The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 crushed this population dream, as Winnipeg was no longer the easiest route to get goods across the continent.
45. Today the population of Winnipeg is about 710,000 people.
46. The Manitoba Legislature was built in 1920, but during construction over one million dollars went missing. If you enter the building today, you can see where hallways turn from stone to plaster, simply because they ran out of money.
47. It was expected Winnipeg would become the largest city in the New World, so the Manitoba Legislature was built to resemble one of the most iconic buildings of the Old World: King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed 2,600 years ago.
48. There are wide variety of religious icons and motifs on the Manitoba Legislature, such as Egyptians sphinxes, Medusa's bust, buffalo skulls and various Greek goddesses.
49. The famous "Golden Boy" that stands above the dome at the Manitoba Legislature is actually Hermes, the Olympian god of Greek mythology.
50. An Ark of the Covenant sits on the roof of the Manitoba Legislature. It is said the Ark of the Covenant contains the second set of 10 Commandments God gave to Moses, after he broke the first set.
51. Between 1909 and 1912, Winnipeg was considered one the final frontiers of the West to have any kind of "fun". This led to the city having a temporary Red Light District.
52. Some claim the streets in Winnipeg with feminine names were named after the "Madams" that ran the Red Light District. Others claim the streets are named after politician's wives.
53. Winnipeg started its first garbage collecting program in 1913 after a horse died in the middle of an intersection and laid there for three weeks because nobody was responsible to collect it.
54. In 1919 Winnipeg had the largest general strikes in Canadian history, known as the "Winnipeg General Strike". 35,000 workers walked off the job, paralyzing the city.
55. Worried about increased violence during the general strike, Mayor Charles Frederick Gray called in the North-West Mounted Police to control the strikers. They rode into the crowd and beat the protestors with clubs and weapons. Two protestors died and 35 to 45 people were injured. This event is now called "Bloody Sunday" and ended with the city under military occupation.
56. The Winnipeg Declaration was created and adopted by the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) party in Canada in 1956. It replaced the extremely anti-capitalist Regina Manifesto with more moderate social transformation recommendations.
57. Canadian Lieutenant Harry Colebourn purchased a black bear from a hunter on his way to England during World War I, and named it "Winnie" after his hometown of Winnipeg. He would leave the bear at the London Zoo during the war. While at the zoo, a young boy named Christopher Robin Milne purchased a black toy bear from the London Zoo and named it Winnie after the Lieutenant Colebourn's bear. It became his favorite toy and they went on countless adventures together. Christopher's father, A. A. Milne, saw this connection and turned it into a children's story. He would name the bear "Winnie-the-Pooh" and named his human companion "Christopher Robin" after his own son.
58. The Winnipeg Grenadiers were among the first Canadians to engage in combat against Japan in the Battle of Hong Kong during World War II.
59. In 1942, the Government of Canada's Victory Loan Campaign staged a mock Nazi invasion of Winnipeg. This included fake Nazi aircraft, troops and air sirens.
60. Sir William Samuel Stephenson, a World War II spymaster, was born in Winnipeg. He would go on to the inspiration behind James Bond.
61. Winnipeggers have a gathering event called a "social", in which people come together for a wedding and help raise money and provide goods. A "social" is often a massive get-together which often includes strangers. This is a strictly Manitoban custom.
62. Winnipeg is the coldest city in Canada, and a section on Mars is named after Winnipeg for this very reason.
63. Winnipeg was the first city in North America to use a central emergency – more commonly known as 9-1-1. At the time, however, the emergency number was 9-9-9.
64. The Winnipeg Art Gallery has the biggest collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world.
65. Winnipeg has the longest skating rink in the world.
66. Winnipeg is home to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which is the only national museum located in Western Canada.
67. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights' architecture is full of meaning. The building sits on four "roots", symbolizing the deep connection between humanity and the earth, rising into a limestone mountain surrounded by mythic glass cloud, topped by an icy tower that glows like a beacon of hope. It also recognizes that Indigenous Peoples have gathered at the site for thousands of years.
68. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has exhibits around five Canadian recognized genocides, but also acknowledges non-recognized genocidal atrocities such as the Indian Residential Schools in Canada.
69. Winnipeg's Exchange District is a 30-block marvel of turn of the 20th Century architecture. Here you can find a wide variety of shops, restaurants and parks.
70. Because of the architecture in the Exchange District, Winnipeg was nicknamed "The Chicago of the North".
71. The bridge that connects The Forks to Saint Boniface is called Provencher Bridge. Construction on this bridge began in 2001 and took two years.
72. The current Provencher Bridge is the third bridge in this location. The first was built in 1882 and was called "The Broadway Bridge". It was dismantled in 1917 and the second bridge opened in 1918. This was too dismantled in 2001 for the current bridge, lasting an impressive 84 years.
73. While you can walk on the Provencher Bridge to cross the river, The Esplanade Riel was opened in 2003 as a pedestrian only walkway.
74. The Esplanade Riel is the only bridge with a restaurant on it in all of North America.
75. Winnipeg is the Slurpee Capital of Canada.
76. Winnipeg boasts it has the largest number of restaurants per capita in Canada, but some argue this title actually belongs to Montreal.
77. Winnipeg is home to the Royal Canadian Mint, one of the only two in Canada. The second one is in Ottawa, Ontario.
78. Asham Curling Supplies is the only company in Canada that manufactures curling shoes and delivers them worldwide. The company was founded in Winnipeg.
79. The Fairmont Winnipeg hotel was the first hotel in Winnipeg to have a bee farm on its roof.
80. The Winnipeg Folk Festival began in 1974 and today is one of the largest and longest running folk festivals in the world.
81. Winnipeg has the highest per capita population of Filipinos anywhere in Canada.
82. Winnipeg is a highly diverse city, with over 100 languages being spoken there.
83. The Guess Who – a 1970s rock band that once sold more records in a year than any band in the world – is from Winnipeg. Their most popular song is "American Woman".
84. Thomas Douglas, often considered the "Greatest Canadian of All Time" and "The Father of Medicare", was born in Scotland but raised in Winnipeg.
85. The Assiniboine Park Zoo's "Journey to Churchill" exhibit houses nine polar bears, with the majority of them having been orphaned in the Churchill, Manitoba area, a northern community in Canada's sub-Arctic. Had they not been brought to the zoo, they would not have survived.
86. The Assiniboine Park Zoo not only meets but exceeds the recommended space for polar bears to live. It can keep up to about 12 polar bears at the zoo, depending on their size, gender and individual characteristics.
87. Six Winnipeggers were lost in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.
88. The Harlequin Romance publishing empire was founded in Winnipeg in 1949.
89. The Winnipeg National Microbiology Laboratory is Canada's only Biological Safety Level 4 containment laboratory. Here they test and study the most dangerous diseases on the planet. In 2012 it was this laboratory that developed a vaccine that stopped the Ebola crisis.
90. In 1931 Ralph Ewin opened the first restaurant in Manitoba to sell hamburgers. Not liking the word "hamburger", he called them a "nip". In 1979 Ewin sold it the company to a group of investors, but in 2001 it was resold and brought back to Winnipeg. Today the restaurant is called "Salisbury House" or "Sals" for short.
91. Winnipeg has recently become home to the Outlet Collection Winnipeg, the only outlet mall between Calgary and Toronto. It houses over 90 unique shops, with many of them being Canadian or locally owned.
92. The Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg holds every part of Canadian culture, from dinosaur exhibits from the Cretaceous Period, through the lives of the Canadian First Nations, to the arrival of the Hudson's Bay Company. It includes a haunted ship, a Planetarium and nine permanent galleries.
93. Winnipeg is known for its many spas, with one of the most unique being the Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature.
94. In 2003 Homer Simpson from the TV show The Simpsons became an honorary citizen of Winnipeg. However, Matt Groening's father who inspired the character, is said to have been born in Main Centre, Saskatchewan.
95. Winnipeg's first football team was established in 1879, and was called the Winnipeg Rugby Football Club.
96. In 1930 their team amalgamated with all the other teams in the Manitoba Rugby Football Union to create the Winnipeg Winnipegs Rugby Football Club. Their team colours were green and white.
97. The Winnipeg ‘Peggers became the first Western Canadian team to win a Grey Cup in 1935. That same year they changed their team name from the "Winnipeg Winnipegs" to the "Winnipeg Blue Bombers".
98. Winnipeg's city hall used to look like this:
99. Now it looks like this:
100. In 2016 Vogue magazine listed Winnipeg as an "absolute must-see destination".
How many of these facts did you know? Do you know any other cool tibits about Winnipeg? Tell me all about them in the comments below!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.