In case you haven't heard, Winnipeg is kind of a big deal right now.
While we've always being the centre of North America on the map, 2018 saw an unprecedented amount of global exposure thanks to travel websites like Lonely Planet, Airbnb, Travel Lemming, and Zoomer that have helped our quirky, mid-sized city become the centre for so many traveller's attention.
For those of us lucky enough to live here, we know why: Winnipeg is gem that just does things a little bit differently. There's always something going on in our city, from new culinary experiences, to top-tier festivals, to seemingly out-there events that make perfect sense once you become part of them.
These are just some of the things that we highlighted in our new tourism video.
The star of this video – other than The Peg itself – is local design doyenne Zephyra Vun, an architect, artist, trainer and all round cool cat who is the executive director of Design Quarter Winnipeg.
We sat down with Zephyra to hear more about her passion for her hometown, some of the video highlights, and some of the can't-miss adventures you can find in Winnipeg.
This video has been a year in the making. Have you done anything like this before?
I can't say that I have. It was a really, really cool experience. I like the idea of starting in the winter and finishing in the fall and summer months. It gave me a really different perspective of the city that I was aware of, but had not experienced in this kind of capacity before.
The video takes a different theme than what you might expect. It shows that Winnipeg isn’t that grand city you see in other tourism ads – it's something else. It's got its own energy.
What we said in the video, which is totally poignant, is "Winnipeg is all about the unexpected." I was born and raised in Winnipeg, so I love this city and I think it really is kind of this hidden gem – although perhaps not so much anymore.
I think Winnipeg's becoming more and more 'on the map' and becoming recognized for a variety of things. It's really cool to hone in on that concept for a tourism video that's all about promoting the city and why it's great.
This video started in the winter, which we're using as a selling feature – turning something as a perceived negative into something that's really wonderful.
We should be celebrating winter! We are definitely a winter city. This is a huge part of our lives, so why shouldn’t we embrace and celebrate it? We have the warming huts international design competition, we have the longest skating river trail in the world, and these amazing things are world-renowned.
Sometimes Winnipeggers don't see it as something amazing, but people outside of the city do. I think a lot of the problem is that Winnipeggers aren't always aware of what's going on in our own city.
Do you think Winnipeg is a creative city?
Absolutely. One of the most creative, I think. And there's a lot of different hypothesis to why that is. Some people say that our cold winters force our creative community to buckle down, stay inside, and create. But I think the size of our city and population creates a perfect breeding ground for collaboration, and creates this really close-knit community of creative people. I like to call Winnipeg a breeding ground for creativity because it has that perfect size, populated with innovative minds.
The video promotes a lot of businesses in the Design Quarter, something that you are heavily involved with.
Absolutely. Design Quarter is a curated destination experience of local design culture in downtown Winnipeg. Our members include local businesses such as cafes, museums, galleries, and design shops. It’s a way to highlight all of the cool, local design culture Winnipeg has to offer that a lot of people don't really know about.
I think there is a resurgence of design culture, especially in Winnipeg. A lot of the places we went to in the video are members, and I love the fact that we can showcase all of these local gems that make our city so great.
The people that work in Design Quarter are putting themselves on the map. How do you see that raising the profile of the city for people who are coming in to experience Winnipeg?
Well, I think it's great for something like Design Quarter to be involved in. We're doing our best to promote Winnipeg as a true design city! You can pick up our accessible printed map at any member location, while our social media and website provide a go-to platform for locals and tourists alike.
And when I say tourists, that can mean both from outside of Winnipeg or even just people that don't come downtown very often. Often, people come to the Exchange saying, "I've heard a lot about this area. Where should I go for lunch? Where should I go check out a show?" We give them the map, with all the answers in one package.
When we were filming this tourism video, we explored many of these downtown locations, including some that are less well-known. What do you like promoting to entice people to the Design Quarter, or Winnipeg generally?
The localness is definitely a selling feature of Design Quarter, as well as the sheer number of attractions now in Winnipeg. When I'm recommending places to go check out in the Exchange or downtown on our map, one can see how close in proximity all these great places are to one another. Being able to visit all these spots within a walkable area is truly awesome.
You have grown up here, and it’s pretty evident you love this city. What do you like to do when you’re exploring Winnipeg?
I’ve lived and worked in the Exchange for about five years, and one of the reasons why I like this neighbourhood so much is that you can step outside the door and there's so much to do and see within a walkable area. I enjoy the journey of adventuring out and discovering new hidden gems. That’s why, when I take out travel media or bloggers who come to visit Winnipeg, I kind of like to show them the Design Quarter map, point out my recommendations, and then tell them to go and discover things on their own adventure through the city.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and formatting purposes.