Ten things you might not know about Winnipeg
(Last updated January 2019)
I previously published a post of ten interesting facts about my home city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada called Winnipeg Fun Facts. I think it is time to share more facts about my home city. Fun and serious facts.
1. Winnipeg has 316 days of sunshine a year
Winnipeg is sometimes referred to as “Winterpeg”because of its cold winters, but even during the winter most of the days are sunny and bright, although the hours of daylight per day are shorter than in the summer. In the winter, the sun often shines brightest on the coldest and bitterest days. In summer, heat accompanies the sunshine and days last well into the evening,
2. The unofficial first day of spring is the day the Bridge Drive-In opens for the season
The BDI, as it is known to locals, is a family-owned ice-cream establishment on Jubilee Avenue. It has been in business since 1957, offering many flavours of soft-serve ice-cream, sundaes, and other ice-cream creations. Recipes are much the same as they were sixty years ago, although now there are vegan-friendly options as well. Its signature dish is the Goog, an upside-down blueberry shake with a hot fudge sundae and bananas topped with whipped cream.
Part of the Bridge Drive-In tradition includes a walk across the Elm Park Bridge. The 16-foot wide bridge was built in 1912 to connect the St. Vital area to the rest of the city. It carried two-way vehicular traffic until 1974. It is now open for pedestrian and cycling traffic only.
3. Winnipeg’s Union Station was built by the same architects who designed New York’s Grand Central Terminal
Union Station was designed by Warren and Whetmore in the Beaux Arts style and built between 1908 and 1911. The station provided terminal facilities for the Canadian Northern Railway, the National Transcontinental Railway and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. The building was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1976. Today it houses the Via Rail terminal, a number of non-railway businesses, and the Winnipeg Railway Museum.
4. Winnipeg is on Treaty 1 Territory
Treaty 1 is a controversial agreement established in 1871 between Queen Victoria and First Nation band governments of southern Manitoba. It is the first of 11 numbered treaties signed between 1871 and 1921 as the Canadian government began to pursue settlement in the west and the north. First Nations wanted peace and to retain as much of their land as possible. When the government threatened to cut off negotiations, First Nation bands ceded more lands than they wanted to in exchange for farm animals and farm equipment. There were issues with administration of the treaty almost as soon as it was signed. The animals and equipment were “outside promises” not written into the main body of the treaty and became unfulfilled promises. The negotiation process was filled with misunderstanding. Other oral discussions did not make it into writing. Oral discussions used different wording than was written in English in the treaty. Issues with interpretation of all the numbered treaties continues to this day. The Supreme Court of Canada handed down a judgement in 1996, stating it is necessary to interpret the treaties “in the sense that they would naturally have been understood by the Indians at the time of signing.”
In recent years, it has become common for public events, performances, and even school days to begin with the acknowledgement that we are on Treaty 1 land. It is a protocol to show respect. Recognizing the treaty rights we still have today may be a first step in moving forward in collaboration and reconciliation with indigenous communities. Note similar acknowledgements happen across Canada on other treaty lands.
5. A “Nip” is a burger
Salisbury House is a local chain of diners referred to simply as “Sals”. The first Sals opened in Winnipeg in 1931. Founder Ralph Erwin named the new eatery after the Salisbury Steak and called his burger a “Nip”, referring to taking a nip or bite of Salisbury Steak. Today there are nine Salisbury House Restaurants and four Xpress locations within Winnipeg. Erwin sold his majority interest in the chain in 1979. The chain has had a couple of ownership changes since then. In addition to Nips and fries, the restaurant serves hearty breakfasts, sandwich platters, and a variety of dinner plates, including Salisbury Steak. A stop at Sals is a must-do for many former Winnipeggers on return visits to the city.
6. Winnipeg has Canada’s longest-running outdoor theatre
Rainbow Stage, located in Kildonan Park, is Canada’s largest and longest running outdoor theatre. The open-air theatre seats up to 2,300 people, but is sometimes transformed into a smaller space for more intimate settings. The theatre came into being after the old bandstand in the park was damaged by the 1950 flood. Construction of a new structure suitable for open-air theatre began in 1951. The first performance was a concert in September 1953. Rainbow Stage airs two to three musicals each summer.
7. Honey dill sauce was an accident created in Winnipeg
I’ve read that honey dill dipping sauce is a Manitoba thing and not readily found elsewhere. I don’t know how true that is. I haven’t hunted for it in other places. I do know it is a popular chicken finger dipping sauce in Winnipeg. The sauce is made with mayonnaise, honey and dill. The late Peter Eng of Mitzi’s Chicken Finger Restaurant came up with the recipe when he attempted to duplicate a different sauce he’d tasted at another restaurant. He was unsuccessful in the duplication, but came up with a new favourite. Mitzi’s is still in operation and is still a favourite for chicken fingers and honey dill sauce. Other restaurants offer their own versions of the sauce.
8. Jeanne’s cakes
The cake boxes you see people carrying through Winnipeg airport likely hold Jeanne’s cakes. And the people holding them are likely former Winnipegers taking an old favourite with them to their current home. Jeanne’s Bakery began serving cakes and sweets in Winnipeg in the 1930s. Their traditional cakes, which come in rectangular shapes of varying length, have a shortbread cookie crust and come in flavours of white, chocolate, marble or banana. They have white icing and dark chocolate shavings on the side. Winnipeggers either love or hate Jeanne’s cakes. For many, a special occasion is just not special without a Jeanne cake.
9. The Winnipeg Art Gallery has the largest collection of Inuit art in the world
The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) has been collecting Inuit art since the 1950s. In 1999, when the map of Canada was redrawn and the northern territory of Nunavut was formed by dividing the Northwest Territories into two entities, collections of art in the territories was assessed. Ownership of pieces from the eastern Arctic was transferred to Nunavut, where Inuit people make up 80% of the population. In 2016, Nunavut and the Winnipeg Art Gallery reached an agreement in which 7,500 pieces were loaned to the WAG. A few are on display in the WAG’S permanent galleries and others are displayed via changing temporary exhibitions, but much of the collection remains in storage. Work has begun on a new Inuit Art Centre building next door to the WAG facility to be able to better showcase this art collection.
10.The West End is in the heart of the city
In 1972, the city of Winnipeg merged with 12 other cities and municipalities surrounding it to create a unified city (or unicity). Since 1960, these communities and the City of Winnipeg had been part of the Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg, a separate layer of government which provided transit and municipal services. The West End may have been the western end of original Winnipeg boundaries, but is now just next door to downtown and miles away from the western boundary of the city. Similarly, the North End is miles from the northern end of Winnipeg.
If you enjoyed this post, sign up for Destinations Detours and Dreams monthly e-newsletter. Get behind the scenes information and sneak peeks ahead in addition to a recap of the month’s posts.
Eva DueckJune 25, 2017 at 2:34 pm
Being a Winnipeger I was interested in reading what facts you had to share about our home town. Most of what you shared was familiar info, but I learned something new in #7 – the origin of the honey dill dipping sauce and it flooded back memories.
I used to work across the street from Mitzi’s restaurant and ate there often. I also knew Peter and his wife Shirley quite well … but I never knew that he created the honey dill dipping sauce, which by the way I love. Their chicken fingers were home made and very good, and Peter did a nice job on cooking liver and onions too (for those of us who like liver). Peter passed away in 2001. His wife Shirley continued to run the restaurant, and I assume she is still running it. I haven’t been there for a long time, so I should go there again one of these days.
As an add-on story about Mitzi’s restaurant, their sign originally was a yellow M which closely resembled the McDonald’s golden arches. One day they put up a new sign. If I recall correctly, it was a red, not arched M. Apparently they had been contacted by McDonald’s. I don’t have details on what had transpired to initiate the change. Today’s sign has the full name Mitzi’s.
Donna JankeJune 28, 2017 at 7:04 pm
Eva, I didn’t know about the sign. I ate a Mitzi’s when I worked downtown too, but I remember having the chicken fingers more often during a lunch meeting when they still ran a catering service.
Ken DowellJune 26, 2017 at 9:12 pm
You’re right I didn’t know any of those things. Where I live a ‘nip’ suggests some sort of alcohol drink, as in “take a nip” from a bottle of whatever.
Donna JankeJune 28, 2017 at 7:05 pm
Ken, that use of the word nip applies here too.
JanJune 26, 2017 at 9:35 pm
As I read your post, I kept saying to myself, “I didn’t know that!” I’ve never tasted honey dill dipping sauce but now I’m intrigued as to what it is like. You’ve done Winnipeg a great service by highlighting so many features—-great timing for Canada Day!
Donna JankeJune 28, 2017 at 7:06 pm
Thanks Jan. It’s funny but we often don’t realize what is unique about our home cities until we look into it or have things pointed out by out-of-towners.
galanda23June 28, 2017 at 12:14 am
Great read, Donna! I don’t know anything about Winnipeg, so every piece of information you provided was quite new to me. The most surprising of all though was that you have 316 days of sunshine a year. I guess that even beats Los Angeles. As someone whose mood is very much dependent on the sun, I think I could live there. Cold doesn’t scare me, but dark, cloudy weather does. Winnipeg’s Union Station looks impressive. This architect certainly had a taste for grandeur.
Donna JankeJune 28, 2017 at 7:07 pm
Anda, Winnipeggers are so used to sunshine they collectively become somewhat crabby should we get a few grey days in a row.
Jeri Walker (@JeriWB)June 28, 2017 at 12:32 pm
I’ve definitely never heard of honey dill dipping sauce. I remember being bummed when I lived in NC because nowhere served fry sauce. When I came back to Idaho, I was ecstatic that my fry sauce drought was over. I’ve read how it’s mainly a Utah and Idaho thing, but it’s not like mixing mayo and ketchup is a trade secret. It is cool to be able to ask for it most anywhere I go in this neck of the woods though.
Donna JankeJune 28, 2017 at 7:08 pm
Jeri, I’ve never heard of fry sauce. I will look for it when I’m in Utah or Idaho.
Carole Terwilliger MeyersJuly 1, 2017 at 5:38 pm
The fact that most impresses me is that Winnipeg has 316 days of sunshine a year. I remember the city’s department stores for having a great selection of flannel nightgowns and lambswool slippers.
Donna JankeJuly 3, 2017 at 7:40 am
Carole, I do love the sunshine. Interesting that you should remember nightgowns and slippers!
StefiniaJuly 3, 2017 at 1:32 am
Nice photos, and really fun facts about Winnipeg. I really liked the BDI ice cream shop as it has vegan friendly ice creams as well, I think that’s really unique. I love sunny winters, it’s beautiful without the unglommy atmosphere outside that dim weather in winters can do.
Donna JankeJuly 3, 2017 at 7:44 am
Thanks Stefinia. The sunshine helps us deal with the cold.
RoseMary GriffithJuly 3, 2017 at 9:44 am
With all that sunshine, is solar power popular? With recent travel in the southwestern USA as well as across sunny South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, we’ve seen lots of wind power, but not as much solar as you would think/hope. Love the ice cream shop traditions.
Donna JankeJuly 5, 2017 at 3:45 pm
RoseMary, solar power is not that common here – it is expensive to install. But there are wind farms.
Doreen PendgracsJuly 3, 2017 at 11:49 am
Wonderful post, Donna. Thx so much for sharing so many great things about our city. I still love Jeanne’s Cakes — even though they may not be the healthiest thing around. 🙂
Donna JankeJuly 5, 2017 at 3:46 pm
Thanks Doreen. I am one of those who aren’t particularly partial to Jeanne’s Cakes, but there are others in the family who would travel miles for one.