'Sweet spot': Winnipeg has become 'a place that everyone wants to go'
Vogue magazine just the latest in list of publications to praise city's scene
Take a deep breath, Winnipeg, and try to get your head around this — you are trendy. Popular, even.
You are literally in Vogue.
The American fashion and lifestyle magazine, which cast a spotlight this week on the city as well as its Saskatchewan neighbour Saskatoon, said the Prairie cousins are "stealthily gathering cred among those in the know" and "an absolute must-visit destination."
So, you know the feeling that someone's staring at you? Winnipeg is sensing it right now for good reason. The Vogue article is only the latest in a list of publications to sing the city's praises.
In August, Elle Canada called Winnipeg "the new scene." And in November 2015, National Geographic named Winnipeg one of the best places to visit on earth.
And on more than a few occasions the New York Times has featured Winnipeg, most recently for its river skating trail and architecturally distinct warming huts and for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
It might be hard for some people to imagine our blue-collar city has become, gulp, fashionable and forward.
"We're a place to be. There's great things that are happening," said Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg. "The momentum has shifted and Winnipeg is becoming that place that everyone wants to go to."
When articles like the Vogue piece come out, Tourism Winnipeg (a department of Economic Development Winnipeg) sees traffic on its website spike. But it has also reaped rewards in terms of visits to the city, both by tourists and conventions.
"People want to understand what all the buzz is about and that's exciting for us," Spiring said, noting a report that came out on Wednesday saying the city's airport could end the year with numbers that show more travellers this year than ever before.
The newly expanded convention centre is a constant hub of activity. It's one of the new structures in the city, including the human rights museum, getting international attention for their architecture.
"I've been in convention centres across the country and across North America, and it's very difficult to name more than one or two that show that kind of light," Spiring said about the convention centre ballroom that spans York Avenue and has floor-to-ceiling windows.
"You can see the museum off one window and the Golden Boy out the other. How fantastic is that?"
Similarly, the view from the CMHR has been described as iconic and Vogue tagged it as "architecturally spectacular."
"When you walk in, it really does take your breath away," Spiring said, adding that when you showcase your city like that, even when people are in meetings, it means return trips.
"We see business people coming to Winnipeg and then they go home and tell family and friends about how great Winnipeg is and some of the great things they did and saw. All of that has momentum," she said.
Spiring also pointed out that, in addition to physical attractions such as the human rights museum and the Assiniboine Park Zoo's Journey to Churchill, which both get a lot of the tourist attention, the city boasts a sturdy economy. A Globe and Mail article in April "talked about Winnipeg being the sweet spot in the Canadian economy," she said.
That's part of the reason that in the past dozen years, the city has seen major construction projects such as the MTS Centre, Investors Group Field, the human rights museum and the $200-million revamp of the Assiniboine Park and Zoo.
The strong economy and the spike in tourism build off one another, and right now, Winnipeg is in a groove that will continue, Spiring said.
True North Square, a $400-million mixed-use development that will take up one million square feet downtown, is under construction. And another jewel for Assiniboine Park, the $70-million Diversity Gardens, is being described by park officials as something that will be known as "one of the most stunning attractions in the country."
Officials have said the project could start as early as 2017 and be completed in 2019.
Then there are the special events like the Canada Summer Games in 2017, Spiring noted.
"Everybody is working together and I think for the first time in a long time, we're all kicking in the same direction and Winnipeg is seeing the benefits of that," she said of all the city's upswing.
Spiring also likes to highlight Winnipeg's Top 7 placement in the Intelligent Community Forum's annual awards program in both 2014 and 2016.
"When we get attention like that, and from magazines like Vogue and Elle Canada or National Geographic, that's great," she said, adding it puts the old Winnipeg stereotypes of mosquitoes and potholes into the shadows.
"Another one that people often talk about is the cold. And we are, beginning this year, a designated winter city. We are going to do more to embrace it, and we're going to do more to celebrate it."
The City of Winnipeg's application for accreditation to the World Winter Cities Association for Mayors has been approved and takes effect Jan. 1, 2017, a city spokesperson said. The network of international cities meets to discuss ways to turn their winters into a major asset.
"There are a lot of people that love winter. Go down to The Forks in January or February on a weekend and you're going to see 100,000 people down there, skating on the river trails, getting hot chocolate, enjoying what winter has to offer," Spiring said.
"Sure, maybe you're not out there for eight hours because it's a little chilly, but you're seeing that excitement and you're seeing how we can start to build events and start to unite our community around winter."