The Death & Debauchery tour looks at Winnipeg's seamy history of crime and punishment, harking back to a time when our burg was considered "the wickedest city in the Dominion."
—Alison Gillmor, CBC Arts Reviewer
I walk in the city all the time. But somehow taking walking tours helps me slow down, look around, and see the city in a new way. This week I tried out two tours in the downtown area, which involved a bit of legwork and a lot of learning.
The East Exchange District tour calls up our city's rich history as a grain and transport hub and onetime high-flying financial centre--Main Street north of Portage Avenue used to be called Bankers' Row because of the more than 20 banking institutions built there. (Interestingly, many of those structures, which were designed to look solid and stately so people would trust them with their money, are now hot nightclubs and bars.)
As we walk past 19th-century warehouses on Bannatyne Avenue and 21-st century luxury condos on Waterfront Drive, our well-informed guide, Erica, relates stories of wealthy hardware barons and poor immigrant workers. She also tells us about Winnipeg's key position on the North American vaudeville circuit, back when Pantages Playhouse welcomed everyone from Buster Keaton and Houdini to Felix the Mind-Reading Duck.
Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Andrea Ratuski/CBC)
Until now, tours by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights have focused mostly on that skyline-changing building. Rights Around Us
looks at what will be inside the building, with a historical introduction to the idea of human rights and responsibilities.
Tour guides Brigitte and Javier look specifically at the Manitoba experience, including the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike and the development of Canadian labour laws; treaty rights, including Treaty 1, which covers the land on which the museum is standing; Nellie McClung's spirited campaign for women's right to vote; and landmark cases in Francophone linguistic rights.
The tour involves an easy stroll around the Forks area, with a few stops for some interactive learning. (Be prepared to get involved - that's what civil society is all about!)
If you want to put on your walking shoes, there are lots of ways to explore the city: FoodDevour the District
provides an intro to Winnipeg's food culture along with a walkable feast. Your multi-course supper will be spread over some of the best restaurants in the Exchange, including Blufish, Deer + Almond, Peasant Cookery, Corrientes Argentine Pizzeria and Cake-ology. Crime
The Death & Debauchery
tour looks at Winnipeg's seamy history of crime and punishment, harking back to a time when our burg was considered "the wickedest city in the Dominion."
"Celebrate" mural in the West End (West End Biz)
The Winnipeg Architecture Foundation
organizes tours of our built environment. An upcoming August 11th walking tour, Broadway Modern
, examines how a once swanky residential neighbourhood became a booming modernist business district in the 1960s. Art
A tour of the West End's many murals
gives a rich sense of the history and culture of this diverse neighbourhood. Nature
Considering that it's located within the city limits, Fort Whyte Alive offers a whole lot of wilderness--640 acres, in fact, of grassland, woodland and wetland. Fort Whyte also offers guided nature walks, including a bison safari.
Manitoba Legislative Building (cbc.ca)
Frank Albo's tours of the Manitoba Legislature highlight not just the building's monumental neoclassical architecture but also the meanings he believes are hidden in its elaborate decorative scheme.
Albo suggests that symbols like the Golden Boy and bison reference Freemasonry and secret societies, making The Hermetic Code
tour our very own version of The Da Vinci Code
. (And it's true: Doesn't The Pool of the Black Star sound like the title of a conspiracy thriller?)
Related:Innovative gardens decorate downtown Winnipeg