It was a hot summer’s eve my first night in Winnipeg. I found myself enjoying creative cocktails at one of the city’s finest eateries, Dear + Almond, while chatting with Jeff Myall, a vice-president on Pride Winnipeg’s board. I was visiting Manitoba’s capital for three days to explore all the city has to offer, keen to discover what’s new, trendy and trip-worthy for Canadian queers.
(Warm ambiance and stylish decor of Deer + Almond. Courtesy deerandalmond.com.)
(Lift your spirits with decadent cocktails at Deer + Almond. Credit Andrew Dobson.)
When I ask Myall why LGBT tourists should keep Winnipeg on their radar, he responds with a smile. “Because the city is so welcoming,” he says. “It was the first major city in Canada to elect an openly gay mayor and also hosts the largest Pride Festival between Toronto and Vancouver: the Pride of the Prairies!”
(Boisterous Pride celebrations in Winnipeg. Courtesy pridewinnipeg.com.)
Whether you’re in town for a business trip, enjoying a stop on your great Canadian road trip, or paying your first visit as a curious tourist, Winnipeg offers a “slew of new” — a hip boutique hotel, world class museum, fancy food, swoon-worthy spa and dance-tastic queer club.
The ALT Hotel is the city’s newest boutique property, conveniently located a stone’s throw away from Winnipeg’s two gay bars. Stroll through the decadent lobby and you’ll find yourself greeted by Altexpo, a gigantic photographic installation composed of over 2,500 photos of hidden gems and famous landmarks in Winnipeg, taken by local blogger and photographer Bryan Scott. Sleep tight with Egyptian cotton bedding and goose down comforters. Wake up to the world with a handy in-room Keurig coffee machine and a spa-style shower with beauty amenities by Montreal’s Bella Pella.
(Lobby of the ALT Winnipeg. Credit Andrew Dobson.)
(The gym at the ALT Winnpeg. Courtesy althotels.com.)
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is Canada’s newest federal museum; the only one located outside of Ottawa, and the world’s first museum solely dedicated to human rights education and awareness. A stunning architectural icon designed by Antoine Predock, the unique building sits at the forks of two mighty rivers on land that has been an aboriginal meeting place for thousands of years.
(Canadian Human Rights Museum gallery. Credit Andrew Dobson.)
Inside, multi-sensory exhibits explore human rights stories about Canada and across the world. I was amazed by the museums thoughtful design (it appears on the city skyline like a mighty fortress, with glass towers shooting toward the heavens), wheelchair accessibility (you’ll find no stairs here, just one kilometre of scenic, winding ramp and jaw-dropping video installations throughout which include sign language for the deaf) and world class interactive exhibits (each gallery includes motion sensor activated stories which allow you to explore human rights issues such as race, genocide, refugee status, gender inequality, indigenous rights, LGBT struggles, etc). One can’t help but feel emotional here, but a Canadian will undoubtedly walk out of the place having reflected on how lucky they are to be adventuring through a country that is so brave and free.
(Exhibit on the persecution of gays during the Holocaust. Credit Andrew Dobson.)
Thermea by Nordik Spa-Nature is an outdoor, Scandinavian-inspired spa which features a hot Finnish sauna, orange and eucalyptus–scented steam rooms, central log cabin with smoky fire pit, waterfall, trio of outdoor pools (hot, cold and just right), indoor relaxation rooms, a calm “beach” featuring hammocks and lounge chairs protected by breezy maple, and a cute café where juniper brined pork chop and rhubarb trifle offer a delicious end to a restful day.
(Invigorating pools at Thermea by Nordik Spa-Nature. Credit Andrew Dobson.)
(Scrumptious spa lunch. Credit Andrew Dobson.)
Eat and drink
Boho and artsy meet kitsch and cool in the community of Osborne Village, home to one of Winnipeg’s top restaurants. Segovial Tapas Bar is a perfect place to meet with friends for a creative cocktails (or two, or three) and feast on pretty little plates inspired by the flavours of Spain. Crispy pork belly with spicy lime and grapefruit is sublime, BBQ flank steak with shishito peppers and parmesan offers a spicy kick while halloumi à la plancha fulfills all your fried cheese dreams.
(Halloumi a La Plancha. Credit Andrew Dobson.)
(Sublime crispy Pork Belly. Credit Andrew Dobson.)
Fame Nightclub is Winnipeg’s top gay bar, an impressively large club offering queers (and their admirers) a series of spaces to kick back. After stepping down the stairs, I was greeted by a petite bar helmed by a Taylor Swift look-alike drag bartender. The main dance floor is surrounded by a cluster of tables, making it the perfect perch for people watching and a popular space for the city’s local drag community to sip cocktails.
(Fame is party central in Winnipeg and the city’s most popular gay nightclub. Credit Andrew Dobson.)
Late at night the dance floor is packed to the brim while sexy go-go dancers flank the DJ who stands overlooking the crowd among a series of lively lasers. If you’re looking to give your feet a rest, head out back where a separate lounge features comfy couches, booming fireplace and billiards. A massive, autographed poster of Sharon Needles (that Halloween-loving Drag Race star) hangs from the ceiling, a reminder that top queer talent have graced the place.