Tour Season is Here

Jen McDonald Blog

The warm weather is finally here and in the Exchange District that means even more festivals, events, and excitement in the area. It also means tour season!

Here in the Exchange District we are lucky to be home to over 100 turn-of-the-century heritage buildings within a 30-block radius. This makes the area a remarkably walkable one filled with inspired arts, culture, shops, restaurants, and pubs. But what gives our area such a special charm are its old buildings with their stunning architecture and the incredible stories. A walk through the Exchange is like a walk back in time and it can tell you so much about our city, from it’s very beginnings to what it is today.

This year we are offering 11 different tours, giving you a wealth of different ways to experience the district. Our main tours give you a broad and bustling history of the East and West Exchange, a new Art & Architecture tour focuses in on the craftsmanship of our remarkable buildings, and our theme tours offer everything from Death and Debauchery, Punks and Anarchists, to Winnipeg’s Wonder Women.

And with so many amazing restaurants, pubs, and cocktail bars we’ve also created three food tours that are sure to tickle your taste buds while you learn about the area!

We got the scoop on what you can look forward to this tour season and why the Exchange District tours are a must-see experience from our Research and Historical Initiatives Coordinator Sabrina Janke.

Janke says that tours of the Exchange District will make you look at the area in a whole new way.

“One of our former tour guides said it best when she said that this job actually made her look up for the first time,” says Janke. “Because you don’t always notice these little things and tours really encourage you look up and take notice of things you might not necessarily pay attention to in your day to day.”

And while you’re looking up you’ll notice stunning architecture that tells the stories of our past. All of our tours will touch on the architecture, but this year’s Art & Architecture tour will really focus in on this aspect of the history.

“It’s the history of architecture in the Exchange and how it reflects society’s changes as well. You can see how Winnipeg grew and developed in our architecture styles,” says Janke. “It shows you what the buildings are made of and what the style represents and how that evolves from the 1880s and 90s when you have these brick and mortar warehouses and as that shifts into these huge terracotta skyscrapers with steel frame construction work – which is a radical shift.”

If you’re looking for something a little unique Janke suggests trying one of our theme tours. This year she is particularly excited about the Punks and Anarchists tour, which focuses on the punk music scene in the Exchange District during the 80s and 90s. It tells the stories of radical thinkers throughout the Exchange District’s history. And Janke says these stories will have you seeing the buildings in a very different light.

“Often when you come to the Exchange you just see the buildings as what they are today, without really thinking about the history of these buildings. But they all have such a storied past. For example, the Woodbine is the oldest continuously operating bar in Western Canada from the 1870s, it’s insanely old. The tours are fun because they really let you see what Winnipeg was like, how fascinating and old some of these buildings are and what was there before we were.”

Our Winnipeg’s Wonder Women tour shows what a pivotal role women have had in shaping the history of the area. Janke says that women were the backbone of a lot of movements in Winnipeg and it was about time we gave them their own tour.

“The original tour scripts have been there since the 70s so the information has been there for awhile. But it can focus a lot on male politicians and male figures in Manitoba,” she says. “However, there’s a lot of women in Winnipeg who had some pretty pivotal roles. Nelly McClung is obviously the biggest one. But Ella Cora Hind worked at the Grain Exchange right here in the Exchange District where she was the first female reporter in Western Canada. And someone like Helen Armstrong, known as the ‘Wildwoman of the West’, helped fight to get a minimum wage for women in Manitoba. We were one of the first provinces to do so thanks to her efforts.”

On top of exciting theme tours we also offer three weekly food tours that let you learn about the areas incredible history while experiencing the inspired culinary creativity of our amazing local restaurants, pubs, distilleries, and cocktail bars. This year we have three tours that include Savour the Exchange – a fine dining experience with stops at Cordova Tapas & Wine, and the Saddlery on Market; Decadence in the District – offering locally crafted spirits, cocktails, and desert, with stops like Forth’s intimate cocktail bar and the new local distillery Patent 5; and Comfort Food – designed to warm your belly and heart with stops at Kevin’s Divine Comfort Food and brand new to the area, Alycia’s – with it’s classic Ukrainian delights.

Whether you want to combine the Exchange District’s incredible cuisine with your historical walk through our beautiful neighbourhood, try one of theme tours or main tours, or even have a tour customized just for you Janke says the tour guides will make it an unforgettable experience.

“Our tour guides are phenomenal, they are super engaging and dynamic and they’ll tell you stories you’re interested in rather than reciting a script word for word. So, if you like ghosts they can tell you some ghost stories, if you like labour history we’ve got that, we’re great at customizing it to what you’re interested in and making sure everyone is engaged and excited.”

And Janke says that our tours will really enlighten people about just how fascinating Winnipeg really is.

“Winnipeg is way cooler than people think it is. Often people don’t realize what a fascinating past their own city has. So, I think coming on these tours is a good way to recognize that Winnipeg was a pivotal city way back in the day and even today it still very much is.”

To find out more about our tours or to book on today visit tours@exchangedistrict.org