Located at the geographic center of North America, at the edge of the prairie, Winnipeg has a population of only about 700,000 people, but it's home to 60% of all Manitoba residents. Vast lands with few roads stretch north from here to Hudson Bay. The first fort on the site was built by French traders in 1738, settlers arrived in 1812, and the city grew rapidly during the 19th and early 20th centuries, astride important railway connections to other parts of Canada, and to the USA.
In the performing arts the Centennial Concert Hall, the Manitoba Theatre Centre (MTC), the Pantages Playhouse, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and the Manitoba Opera are located downtown. St. Boniface is home to Le Cercle Molière. The Winnipeg Fringe Festival takes place in July. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra each has a full schedule of concerts each season. The city also has a large independent film community - see the Winnipeg Film Group for more info. The Reel Pride glbt film festival takes place in October.
Other local institutions "in the ’Peg" include the Manitoba Museum, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Each February the Festival du Voyageur honors pioneers of the fur trading era. In July/August the annual Folklorama celebrates the exotic cuisines, varied cultures and heritages of peoples who settled the city from dozens of countries around the world, in 40 to 45 pavilions. Filipinos make up one of the largest minority communities, constituting around 6% of the population. About 8% of Winnipeg residents are Aboriginal peoples, and 11% speak French -- most in addition to English.
To beat summertime heat, people head for beaches along Lake Winnipeg, about 55km (34 miles) north. This is the largest lake in southern Canada, surrounded by pristine boreal forests and rivers. Beaconia Beach is a clothing-optional stretch of sand that's popular with gay men.
Not the biggest gay scene in Canada, Winnipeg has only a handful of dedicated gay hangouts, but deep friendships and community ties more than make up for that. All kinds of folk, of all ages, and genders hang together more tightly, and mix more easily here than in most big cities. Gay Pride festivities early each June, that began with so few in 1987, have grown to include 30,000 or so participants these days; rites still meaningful, and celebrated with gusto by gay people, their friends, neighbors, and those of other queer/alternative communities.
The Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport is just to the west. City bus routes 15 and 20 cover flight schedules all day, to and from downtown and beyond, usually with about ten minutes between departures. A taxi to the center will cost around $20.
As a major rail hub Winnipeg is served by five companies connecting to most everywhere tracks go in North America. The US border at Emerson, Manitoba is 107 km (66 miles) to the south. Grand Forks, where North Dakota meets Minnesota, is the closest major US town from here, south down Interstate 29.
Winnipeg Transit bus service can get you to and from the airport, and around the city.
Should you want to see polar bears and the northern lights, a side trip on the Winnipeg to Churchill passenger train (Via Rail) departs Union Station, Winnipeg twice a week -- a journey of 1,700 km (1,100 miles), taking about 40 hours to reach the north Manitoba shores of Hudson Bay.
Media & resources
For general arts and entertainment listings, as well as local news, see the Winnepeg Free Press
The Rainbow Resource Centre (170 Scott St), glbt community center has services, books, magazines, journals, multimedia, public-access computer and art.
MenuManitoba has a good guide to restaurants and bakeries in Winnipeg and elsewhere in the province.
For a city map and website links to local businesses, museums and entertainment venues, see our gay Winnipeg listings pages.
West Gate Manor B&B (71 West Gate), gay-friendly guesthouse offering the relaxation of country life in the big city, with all modern facilities.
Adonis Spa (1060 Main St), very low profile men's sauna and steam playground, roomy hot tub.
Club 200 (190 Garry St), gay dance club and restaurant, drag cabaret shows, male strippers, men/women gay mix, karaoke.
Fame (279 Garry St), the famous come to Fame, a large capacity, modern 18-plus GLBTQ nightclub, men/women, dancing, cutting-edge DJs, go-go dancers.
G Martini Bar (454 River Ave), mixed cocktail lounge at Meiji Sushi Japanese Restaurant, 50 varieties of martini, young professionals; sushi, donburi, udon, tempura, teriyaki and more.
Mondragon Bookstore and Coffeehouse (91 Albert St), CLOSED JAN 2014 - political bookstore, workers' collective, coffeehouse, vegan cafe.
The Ozzy's (160 Osborne St), six times a year pansexual Fetish Ball at Osborne Village Motor Inn - on hold since April 2013.