Friday, 30 August 2013

Winnipeg Trolley Company

Interested in learning the history of Winnipeg's downtown and earliest neighbourhoods?  Want to know more about the architectural influences that came into play when Winnipeg's oldest buildings were being built?  Need to brush up on some local, and sometimes scandoulous, political history?  Then the Winnipeg Trolley Company is the tour for you.

The Trolley tours starts The Forks and makes its way over the Provencher Bridge into St. Boniface for the first leg, giving tourists a taste of how Winnipeg's French Quarter came to be.  Tour guide and company owner Ben Gillies informs tourists that St. Boniface was once a city all on its own.  Tourists will learn about St. B's rich cultural, political and educational history.  Did you know that its home to the oldest post-secodary institution in Western Canada?  Neither did I.

Gillies has a great deal of experience working in the tourism industry with a resume that includes working as a tour guide on Parliament Hilll in Ottawa and in Vimy Ridge, France.  His love for history and knowledge of how Winnipeg came to be the city that it is today is impressive.  Ben infuses just the right amount of humour to keep the 90 minute tour fun and upbeat.

Once finished in the Francophone section of the city, the Winnipeg Trolley loops back over to the Excange District for a lesson on some of the city's finest architecture and historical landmarks.  Expect to hear about Winnipeg's connection to New York City, some background of the Upper Fort Garry site and a drive down what was formerly known as Bankers' Row.

The tour also takes a ride down one of the city's most affluent streets, Wellington Crescent, before taking a cruise through Assiniboine Park.  There are some great tidbits about famous Winnipeggers and where they lived before their big breaks on this portion of the tour (think Neil Young and The Guess Who).

The tour runs this Friday, August 30 at 10:30am and Sunday, September 1 at 10:30am and 1:00pm, which will mark the end of the official summer tours.  However, the Winnipeg Trolley Company has been so successful in its inaugural season that they've extended and added tours into September.

Here are the September dates:
Friday September 6th at 10:30am
Sunday September 8th at 1:00pm
Sunday September 15th at 1:00pm
Sunday September 22nd at 1:00pm
Sunday September 28th at 1:00pm

Tours cost $26.25 for adults, students for25.20 and youth for $14.70.  You can buy tickets at Two Rivers at The Forks or order online at

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Prairie Garden at The Forks

Unnassumingly nestled into The Forks site between the Canopy Plaza and Oodena Celebration Circle is one of our city's loveliest horticultural gems, the Prairie Garden.

The tall grass prairie garden is home to 75 different native plants, and for many visitors to the site from outside Manitoba it will be their only experience encountering a prairie garden of this kind. Plants like the prairie crocus, switchgrass and western red lily are among what you will find in the garden. The Forks is indebted to Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) for all their efforts and expertise on ensuring that these plants, as well as many others, are authentic in their indigenous roots to the province.  It's not your typical well-manicured, tidy little garden that screams, "Hey!  Look at me and all my bright, pretty, symmetrically planted flowers!"  Rather its subtle, slightly wayward, and modest beauty invites passersby to take a closer look at the various grasses and flowers that just naturally fit into their surroundings.

Bridging the space between the historic pedestrian railbridge, Oodena Celebration Circle, and the Variety Heritage Adventure Playground along the Red River, the Prairie Garden is a reflection of Manitoba's history before there were markets, train tracks or stables.  The garden is another reminder of the rich history and topography of where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet.  The garden is filled with identification signage for plants, so even if you're not an expert in the horticultural department, you will know what it is you're looking at.

So, next time you're passing through the site on your way from The Market to the Railbridge or the Payground, why not stop for a moment to smell the flowers?

Friday, 16 August 2013

Splash Dash River Tour

It's going to be a beautiful weekend, Winnipeg!  And we deserve it.  Summer almost threatened to leave us as quickly as it came.  Thank goodness it's decided to return and grace our shoulders, cheeks and noses with its bright and sunny presence.

To celebrate the return of summer, I went for a Splash Dash River Tour at The Forks yesterday.  I'm embarassed to admit I had never previously been.  Working at The Forks, I see the boats launch and pass through the Historic Port all day long, but I'm always working and therefore never seem to get my behind onto said boats to take a little cruise myself.  So yesterday, when things slowed up a bit in the afternoon, I decided it was high time I hit the waterways of Winnipeg to see what these Splash Dash Tours are all about.

The tours leave every fifteen minutes from The Forks HIstoric Port and guides start by taking you down the Assiniboine River first.  The guides offer tourists a bit of a local history lesson where you can expect to hear about Duff Roblin's floodway, the Legislative Building's tie to the Masons and Louis Riel's resistance.  The stops along the tour aren't just for history lessons though, they're also an opportunity to get to know fellow tourists.  On my boat there were several out of towners including some folks from Calgary and Victoria.  They were snapping loads of photos and seemed very interested in our Manitoba history. It reminded me of how fun it is to be a tourist in your very own hometown.
Once at the Legislative, the boat does a 180 and heads back down the Assiniboine, passes by The Forks and turns onto the mighty Red River.  Coming off the Assiniboine and onto the Red really gives you a perspective of how much bigger the latter is to the former.  She's a big river and when you think of all the historical events that took place on and around this mighty waterway, you really get a sense of the incredible heritage that is embedded in our city's culture and history.

I highly recommend taking your sweetheart, your kids or your grandma down to The Forks this weekend and treating them to a Splash Dash River Tour.  It's definitely an activity that can be enjoyed by all ages.  If possible, ask to be on Ian's tour.  His relaxed and friendly style made everyone on the boat feel at ease, and his humour made the already interesting history lessons even more enjoyable.  

Tours leave the docks in the Historic Port every fifteen minutes from 10am until sunset and operate until about mid-October (weather permitting).  Cost is $11/adults and $9/seniors and youth.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Forks, Instagrammed

With all the social media outlets available to us these days, it's hard to keep up. Should an organization join them all?  Pick and choose?  And if so, which should they pick and which should they leave behind?

At The Forks we value the relationships we build through social media and the opportunity to connect with the public.  The Forks recently created an Instagram account, and we're starting to think this may be the most fun of ALL social media sites we're active in.  There's no shortage of breathtaking photos to take on site, with the epic architecture of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the rustic charm of The Market, the interesting and interactive exhibits that happen at various times throughout the year, the list could go on and on.

 Not only do we get to share all the beautiful images we snap ourselves, but we also love seeing what visitors to The Forks share on Instagram.  Some of the shots we've seen from you are unbelievably gorgeous, and we thank you so much for sharing your love for The Forks through photographs.  Keep it up!  Remember to hashtag your images #TheForks or tag us in it using @theforkswinnipeg.  And follow us as we continue to post our favourite pictures of one of Canada's oldest meeting place.

Wishing all of you a safe and happy August Long weekend!

p.s.  Don't forget!  You can follow along @theforkswinnipeg.