Winnipeg’s must do guide for Americans -
Winnipeg summer (photo by Kristhine Guerrero)

Winnipeg’s must do guide for Americans

Welcome to Winnipeg, you fun-loving Americans you.*

We’re the city that brought you––in one way or another––Winnie-The-Pooh, James Bond, Bugs Bunny, Pizza Pops, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and Neil Young. While all that might sound like the work of fabulists, we assure you it’s just a snapshot of our fabulous and  fantastical history.

On top of having such a unique past, when you visit you’ll find this city presents so many distinctly Winnipeg things that you simply must try when you’re in town.

Such as…

Unique Winnipeg culinary creations

To paraphrase Anthony Bourdain, you can learn a lot about a city by trying its locally famous foods. Here’s just a few staples from the Winnipeg pantry that you must try when visiting.

The thrill of honey dill – The boss of sauce around these parts is called honey dill, a mix of mayo, honey, dill… and secrets. According to Saveur, this king of condiments was said to have started at Mitzi’s Chicken Finger Restaurant (250 St Mary Ave.), which is a Chinese restaurant famous for its homemade chicken fingers and honey dill sauce. Nowadays, you’ll find honey dill on menus across the city, particularly everywhere chicken fingers and fries are sold. 

If you are looking for a souvenir jar, you’ll find  Greetalia Honey Dill Dipping Sauce at grocery stores throughout the city, plus most markets make their own version, with a personal favourite being the G.J. Andrews’ version. Given our local desire for dunking, Winnipeg restaurants take their house-made chicken fingers seriously, so you should never be getting something from a box.

Imperial cookies – This simple, dainty sandwich cookie is a mainstay at pastry counters across the city. In essence, it’s raspberry jam pressed between two elegant (and often sun-shaped) shortbread cookies that have been dipped in a vanilla icing. The internet tells us that they were called “empire cookies” during the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, but that’s not how the cookie crumbles around these parts where they’ve been known as Imperials as long as anyone remembers. You’ll find them everywhere––from old-school bakeries to coffee shops and convenience stores. Our top picks include High Tea Bakery (2103 Portage Ave.) where you can get a regal box of them, and Gunn’s Bakery (247 Selkirk Ave.) an old school Jewish bakery that’s been running since 1937. In fact, if you see some individually wrapped Imperials by a store’s cash register, they’re usually from Gunn’s. 

Delis (and super sandwiches) – Speaking of Jewish food, you’ll find quite a number of delicatessens throughout Winnipeg, most of which get their breads from the Gunn’s Bakery too. At a glance, classics include Bernstein’sOscar’sMeyer’sLuda’s, and Ira’s. Should you be looking for sandwiches that push the boundaries beyond pastrami, check out Hoagie BoyzAndy’s LunchKing + Bannatyne, and the whole West End, where numerous Vietnamese shops specialize in banh mi. To go full Winnipeg, you should also listen to Fred Penner’s rendition of “Sandwiches” as you eat, as he is from here too.

Farmer’s sausage – As celebrity chef turned actor/producer/culinary advisor Matty Matheson (from The Bear) will tell you, Winnipeg (and more so the surrounding farming towns of Manitoba) should be famed for its farmer’s sausage. This recipe for this cold-smoked pork-centric staple is said to have travelled with Eastern European Mennonite communities to Manitoba, where you'll now often find it as a side served with perogies. You can also buy it from shops across the city like Winnipeg Old Country Sausage LtdTenderloin Meats and Karpaty’s Meats and Deli, while Pioneer Meat in Altona, Manitoba is said to be “the original smoked farmers sausage.”

Find a fat boy (or a Nip) – This is the main type of burger you’ll find in Winnipeg, and it’s been this way since the 1950s when Greek burger shacks started to pop up all over the city. This icon features a smashed patty covered in cheese, beef chili spiced with cinnamon, pickle spears, shredded lettuce, raw white onion, a tomato slice and so much mayo and mustard. You’ll find fat boys at all the reputable (and often cash-only) burger stands, including Super Boys, Daly Burger, Dairi Wip, George’sJunior’s and our personal favourite, V.J.’s Drive Inn. As to Nips... ahem, that’s what  Salisbury House, a burger institution with locations throughout the city dating back to 1931, calls their little hamburgers. These are even flatter than a fat boy and made with 100 per cent Manitoban beef. Nips are served on Sal’s fresh baked buns with a smattering of grilled onions. 

Do a schmoo – This distinctive cake––the schmoo torte––is said to have been first made for a Bar Mitzvah in the mid-1900s and has since become a cake icon across the city. It’s composed of layers of angel food cake and whipped cream, all covered with crushed pecans and plenty of caramel sauce. You’ll see it at dessert counters across the city, with a particularly rave-worthy version found at Osborne Village’s Baked Expectations (161 Osborne St.), where a slice is served with a small jug of caramel sauce to really get you buzzing.

Goldeye – Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em is the motto when it comes to one of the province’s more famous fishes. Winnipeg is surrounded by thousands of lakes, particularly to the north where the almost inland sea of Lake Winnipeg once provided millions of pounds of goldeye a year for fish connoisseurs like King George and Woodrow Wilson. These days you can still find goldeye at classic city establishments where the smoked fish is made into a spread. You can also buy whole smoked goldeye at spots like Fergie’s Fish and Chips at The Forks Market, and you can catch the Winnipeg Goldeyes playing American Association baseball throughout the summer at Blue Cross Park downtown.

Go for a Goog – This specialty at our beloved seasonal ice cream shop BDI (766 Jubliee Ave.) is an “upside-down” blueberry milkshake topped with a hot fudge sundae, sliced bananas, whipped cream, peanuts and a cherry. It’s as crazy delicious as it is crazy (you have to see the upside-down bit for yourself), while other memorable BDI creations that are great for the Gram include the Sleeping Beauty: a half pineapple brimming with cherry and strawberry sundaes with bananas, pineapple, whip cream and all the trimmings.

New(ish) things you simply can’t miss – Speaking of ice cream, we’re also home to Canada’s Best Ice Cream, courtesy of Chaeban Ice Cream. The shop is owned by Lebanese dairy scientist and cheesemaker Joseph Chaeban and Zainab Ali, his Syrian wife who is the tastemaker. In addition to their award-winning Salty Carl flavour, the ever-changing menu will take you from the Middle East to the Manitoba prairies. Chaeban is about as artisan as it gets, with the milk being single-sourced locally and directly sent to the shop for processing. They’ve also recently started making incredible cheeses that you’ll find in fine food shops across the city.

Chips, cakes and rye bread – Another locally famous cake is the Jeannie’s Cake, which started at this namesake bakery back in 1936. It features a shortbread cookie bottom, signature Jeannie’s icing and chocolate swirls in a rectangular shape and is frequently brought to parties and socials. For potato chips, Old Dutch is the most legendary local brand, and this being Canada, you should get yourself a bag of ketchup chips (so tangy! But be warned, you’ll stain your fingers!). As to bread, rye bread is Winnipeg famous, particularly from City Bread Co., Natural Bakery and the aforementioned Gunn’s Bakery. The crust is crisp and golden, and the inside is fluffy and studded with coarse little rye grains, giving it a nice nutty flavour.

For doughnuts (that’s how we spell it), we’re amid a cruller craze. You’ll often see weekend lines in Osborne Village outside  Crumb Queen, a new bakery and pasta lunch spot that crushes it when it comes to crullers, sandwiches, sourdough and pastries––all of which are well worth the wait (or just go on a Thursday or Friday afternoon).

Another line worth joining is for brunch at  Clementine (123 Princess St.), which allows you to sit and watch cartoons when a table isn’t available at peak hours. The Mediterranean-inspired menu has something for everyone (including kids with their incredible waffles), with flavours that have seen it called not just Canada’s best brunch, but one of its best restaurants. 

Attractions and settings you’ll find only in The Peg

When it comes to attractions and tourism sites, Winnipeg has no trouble combining the world-class with the whacky. 

On the world-class side of things, may we suggest...

Seeing a polar bear taking a plunge over your head - This is something that regularly happens in the Sea Ice Passage at  Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Journey to Churchill. This massive exhibit is the world’s most comprehensive Arctic species exhibit of its kind, and it’s home to Arctic fox, snowy owls, muskoxen, wolves, harbour seals and so many polar bears. Throughout the day, the bears will often dive into their pool, which you can look into from below. Seeing a bear paw up close above your head is seriously so cool, and you can also get nearly nose-to-nose with these gigantic animals when they swim down the sides of the tunnel.

The world’s largest collection of Inuit Art –  WAG-Qaumajuq, Winnipeg’s cornerstone art gallery, has been celebrated in publications across the globe for its opening of Qaumajuq, the new Inuit art centre. This eye-catching addition is attached to the WAG, billowing out like snow drifts from the original angular building. Inside you’ll find expansive galleries that pay homage to the Arctic’s stark beauty.

Viewing an Escher-like labyrinth in an awe-inspiring setting – The entire  Canadian Museum for Human Rights works like metaphor, portraying humanity’s accent from darkness to light. You enter through the buildings dimly lit “roots” before following ever-climbing galleries that continue to let in more and more natural light. From near the building’s pinnacle, you’ll be afforded some incredible views of the glowing alabaster rampways that connect the galleries, which crisscross below, making an image that is hard to comprehend.

Taking a tour that’s always on the money –  The Royal Canadian Mint isn’t just for collectors, history buffs and people who love to see an impressive feat of engineering. During tours of the facility, you’ll see how billions of coins are produced for countries all around the world right here in the centre of North America. Plus, it has a fantastic gift shop should you be looking for souvenirs, memorabilia, collector coins and works of art.

For something a bit more off the beaten path...

Our rivers run through it – The city has three main rivers––the Assiniboine, the Red, and the Seine––all of which offer four seasons of fun. The Assiniboine and Red both come together to create the famed  Nestaweya River Trail in the winter, offering miles of ice for skating along with sweeping views of several neighbourhoods and attractions like the Manitoba Legislative Grounds. You can rent skates at The Forks, along with a number of fun things to traverse the trails like fat tire bikes and ice bikes. As you go you’ll pass (and often enter) all the strange and often exuberant “warming huts” that dot the trails. Come summer, you can take river boat tours from The Forks Harbour that showcase this scene in its finest greenery as zesty boat drivers tell tales of the city’s history. The Seine is an ideal canoeing and kayaking location in summer (rentals are available from these outfitters). Should you not want to be on the water, the river runs through the Bois-des-Esprit park in the south of the city, where you’ll find fascinating whimsical creatures carved into the trees on trails that take you through five different ecosystems.

Our worldly  West End – The city’s most multicultural neighbourhood is just west of downtown. The West End is brimming with murals that paint the area’s history, along with tons of restaurants, all packed into an easily walkable area. To get a behind-the-scenes take on what the murals mean, or to take your taste buds on a trip around the world, book a tour with the insightful, entertaining guides at West End Biz.

Hunny, you don’t want to miss this little gallery – Winnipeg's storied connection to Winnie-The-Pooh, the world’s most famous bear, is charmingly presented at the quaint Pooh Gallery in Assiniboine Park’s Pavilion. The Pavilion is also home to more galleries from the WAG, including a stunning selection of massive landscape paintings by Ivan Eyre.

For more obscure must-sees in Winnipeg, check out this guide from our friends at  Atlas Obscura.

Spectator sports

Winnipeggers are pretty crazy about our pro sports teams, and we’re sure you’ll become a fan too once you experience the atmosphere of our stadiums, arenas and ballparks.

For a unique Canadian experience, head to the Princess Auto Stadium throughout the summer and fall to see our  Winnipeg Blue Bombers play in the Canadian Football League (CFL). The Bombers have been in the last four Grey Cup finals, winning in 2019 and 2021, and losing on the last play of the last two cups. Not to brag, but they are verging on dynasty status, so now’s the time to see them play. If you’re used to watching NFL, the CFL is a bit different. There are three downs (which means plenty of throws out of the shotgun), our kicking game is all kinds of crazy with things like the one-point rouge, and the field itself is longer and wider with the goal posts placed right inside the massive end zones.

Princess Auto Stadium is also home to  Valour FC, our professional soccer team that competes in the Canadian Premier League. Valour is pretty new to the scene, but not as new as our Winnipeg Sea Bears basketball team, which you can watch throughout summer at Canada Life Centre, splashing it up and dunking it down in the Canadian Elite Basketball League. 

Also at Canada Life Centre are the NHL  Winnipeg Jets. Be warned, games here are loud, as this hockey-crazy city isn’t afraid to dispense with sassy chants toward other teams. The arena itself is pretty sweet too, with craft cocktail bars and local beer to add to your experience. Our American Hockey League (AHL) team, the Manitoba Moose, also play here offering affordable tickets, group passes and a fun atmosphere where dancing for the Jumbotron is pretty much mandatory.

Finally, there’s our beautiful little baseball stadium, Blue Cross Park, where you can catch the  Winnipeg Goldeyes all summer long. This gorgeous ballpark is located right downtown between The Forks and the East Exchange District, offering views of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights out in right field. The Goldeyes keep things fresh for fans with super fun theme nights like Bark at the Park, when the ballpark is filled with cute pups. Onsite you’ll only find local food vendors that include many of the above culinary creations, along with the excellent Craft Beer Corner out in left field, where you can sip from a great selection provided by our local breweries.

*Speaking of you, you’ll note there are many u’s in this article compared to American copy. That’s how we spell words like favourite, colour, humour, doughnuts etc… I guess you could say that your neighbour to the north is a tad bit British in that regard.

Visitor Information

21 Forks Market Road
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Canada R3C 4T7
1 855 PEG CITY (734-2489)

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