Winnipeg’s world-famous Exchange District has more to offer than just great architecture. This vibrant, eclectic area is our hub of arts and culture, and it’s only a few blocks from your doorstep.
While the Exchange is known by Winnipeggers as one neighbourhood, it’s split down the middle by Main Street; and each side has its unique handful of interesting, artsy or tasty experiences.
The East Exchange is home to live theatre, the museum and the symphony, while the West Exchange is home to art galleries, shopping and movies you can’t see anywhere else in the city. Both have cozy cafes promising your favourite latte, and moody bars serving creative and delicious cocktails. This is just a small taste of what the Exchange has to offer. To get you started, I’ve put together my own list of great things to see and do on both sides of the Exchange.
Let the red neon light installation (it’s a Winnipeg landmark!) guide you to the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Royal MTC). The Royal MTC was Canada’s first English Language regional theatre. It was created in 1958 by (then) Artistic Director John Hirsch and General Manager Tom Hendry—the two guys immortalized in the statue out front.
Every season there are ten plays offered at either the Tom Hendry mainstage or the John Hirsch Warehouse.
While it’s true the Brutalist architectural style makes the Centennial Concert Hall a divisive landmark, there’s no denying the importance of this building. The decadent interior hosts not only the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, but the New Music Festival, concerts, and a variety of speakers.
Have you been to the museum lately? It’s changed since your elementary school field trip (though the bison diorama is still there to greet you). The Manitoba Museum offers a variety of exhibits and displays that appeal to kids and adults alike. The Science Gallery on the lower level invites hands-on experiments and race-car construction for kids. Take in a show at the Planetarium while you’re there. Even better, the museum now hosts after-hours events for adults. (Think tours with cocktails!)
Right next door from The Mitchell Block is Forth. This historic building was carefully renovated and has become one of the nicest spots in Winnipeg since it opened.
The main floor has a café offering a well-curated menu of small bites to complement the coffee and drink menu. The basement has one of the coziest/moodiest bars in the city and there’s even a rooftop bar open in the evenings (weather permitting). You’ll find a cocktail list that’s more creative than what you might be used to.
Waterfront Drive and Stephen Juba Park
Sometimes going for a walk is the best way to fall in love with an area. Waterfront Drive and Stephen Juba Park bookend the East Exchange and offer lush greenspace and a way to “get away” without really going anywhere.
This store has the notebook you didn’t know you needed. “Tiny Feast” is a phrase the owners coined; a metaphor that’s used to “describe a variety of things that feel celebratory, lavish, almost extravagant—yet are intrinsically simple and useful, and therefore justifiably attainable on a personal, everyday level.” Stationery, gifts and other interesting items, shopping here is a feast in which you should indulge.
Down the flight of stairs at 91 Albert Street you’ll find one of the best bike shops in the city. This worker co-op (the people who work there also own it) has been around for a long time—and they know bikes. Natural Cycleworks offers full bike service year-round, custom built bikes, and is committed to recycling and resource conservation. With all those fancy new bike lanes in our downtown, this is your place to get geared up for a ride.
Living downtown provides you quick access to Winnipeg’s vibrant arts and culture scene. The Exchange District, whether East or West, is brimming with new and fantastic things to taste, see and experience.
This is my list—what’s yours? Share your comments on your favourite spots in the Exchange.