Known as the "Gateway to the West," Winnipeg was the first major settlement in Western Canada. Established by French fur traders and Canadian and English trade companies in the 18th century, the city truly sprang to life upon the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Immigrants flooded the city, growing in population from fewer than 25,000 residents to over 179,000 in 30 years. Coming mainly from eastern and central Europe, newcomers joined the already resident Scots, English and French, resulting in the diverse cultural mosaic that exists today.
The 8th largest metropolitan area in Canada, Winnipeg's over 690,000 residents populate a variety of ethnic neighborhoods. Visitors can enjoy authentic Italian paninis and gelato at Corydon Avenue, known as Little Italy. Dim sum restaurants and specialty food shops lines the streets of Chinatown, marked by the multi-roofed traditional Dynasty Building that houses the Chinese Cultural and Community Centre. The grand St. Boniface Cathedral, Esplanade Riel, and bustling Boulevard Provencher characterize St. Boniface, Winnipeg's French quarter and the largest French-speaking community in Western Canada.
Though its culture reflects a range of global influences, Winnipeg boasts a number of Canada's own national historic sites as well. The 30-block Exchange District houses one of the most extensive collections of turn-of-the-century architecture in North America. Visitors can connect with the city's roots in fur trade at Lower Fort Garry, the oldest fur trading post still intact in North America. The popular Dalnavert Museum also offers a window into Winnipeg's past. Once home to former Manitoba Premier Sir Hugh John Macdonald and his family, the Queen Anne Revival-style museum houses Victorian antiques and Macdonald heirlooms.
Undoubtedly the city's most popular historical attraction is nine acres of land found at the meeting of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. Known as The Forks, this national historic site has served as a meeting place for early Aboriginal peoples, European fur traders, riverboat employees and railway pioneers for over 6,000 years. Today, guests celebrate this convening of cultures at the Wall Through Time exhibit and Odena Celebration Circle. Visitors can also explore over 50 unique shops, restaurants and a fresh vegetable market at The Forks.
Aside from its historic appeal, The Forks is one of many areas to enjoy the great outdoors in the city. With Winnipeg seeing more sun during its winter season than any other Canadian city, scenic sites such as FortWhyte Alive, King's Park and Grand Beach can be enjoyed year-round. Assiniboine Park is truly the jewel of the Winnipeg's green spaces, boasting a zoo, conservatory and gardens, and the largest mature elm tree urban forest in North America. The park's 368 acres also encompass baseball diamonds, a cricket pitch, volleyball courts, soccer fields, a hot air balloon field, inline skating and jogging tracks and, during the winter, cross-country skiing trails.
After an active day outside and about town, a filling meal is not hard to come by in Winnipeg. Enjoy a range of ethnic fare, from Ukranian to Jewish to Filipino, at the eclectic West End. Over 70 restaurants line this neighborhood's streets, from the Vietnamese Viva Restaurant to the Greek dining spot Homer's. For authentic regional cuisine, restaurants such as Fude prepare traditional delights such as fresh pickerel and Manitoba bison. For dessert, the chocolatier Mordens' of Winnipeg has been a city tradition for over 40 years. One of the shop's famed Russian mints is sure to be a sweet finish to a memorable visit.