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Welcome to Winnipeg

Winnipeg is the heart of North America the geographic centre of the continent. Situated just 20 kilometres west of the longitudinal centre of Canada, the Manitoba capital lies 102 kilometres north of the Canada-U.S. border.

Located on the eastern edge of the Canadian prairies, Winnipeg is surrounded by fields of grain, forests, marshes and lakes. Lake Winnipeg, the 13th largest lake in the world, is less than an hour's drive away.

Situated in the Red River Valley, at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, Winnipeg is also one of Canada's greenest cities. Many of its older streets are lined with elms, whose branches create a leafy canopy. More formal gardens and wide-open expanses of green are found in the century-old Assiniboine Park, designed by Frederick Todd, considered the grandfather of Canadian landscape architecture.

With a population of 684,100 people (2010), Winnipeg is among Canada's Top 10 largest cities.

History

The name Winnipeg is believed to have its origins in the Cree word "Winnipee" or muddy water. The name was given to a tiny fur-trading post established in 1738 by Pierre Gaultier de Verennes de la Verendrye, whose arrival marked the first European in the area. In 1812, a group of Scottish crofters chose the fur-trading post as the area's first permanent settlement. However, long before the fur traders and farmers, the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers was an Aboriginal meeting place and today continues its tradition as a meeting place with the development of The Forks.

It was in 1873 that Winnipeg was officially incorporated as a city (population 1,869). Francis Evans Cornish was elected the city's first mayor. Construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 brought the arrival of a large number of immigrants. The flood of immigrants, high wheat prices and improved farming techniques made Winnipeg the wholesale, administrative and financial centre of Western Canada.

Economic base

Viewed as the historical financial centre of Western Canada, Winnipeg today is headquarters for Great-West Life Assurance Company, Canada's largest insurance company, and Investors Group, Canada's largest mutual fund company.

Winnipeg has one of the most diversified secondary manufacturing sectors. Agriculture, transportation, aerospace, biotechnology and information, communications and media are key economic sectors.

With its central location, one of Canada's only 24-hour airports and a major rail and road-way system that connects east, west, north and south, goods from Winnipeg can reach anywhere in the world within 48 hours.

Major attractions

Winnipeg loves to party, and it does it in style celebrating more than 130 days of festivals and other events each year, from Folkorama and Le Festival du Voyageur to the Fringe, Jazz and Folk festivals - to name just a few.

The Forks Market and National Historic Site has been a traditional gathering place for hundreds of years. Today, railway engine shops have been converted to specialty boutiques and restaurants. The Winnipeg Children's Museum, the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, the Inn at the Forks and CityTV, all call The Forks home.

From The Forks, the City's riverwalk leads west along the banks of the Assiniboine to the Manitoba Legislative Building, where the Golden Boy perches atop its dome. To the east, the riverwalk gives rise to a view of St. Boniface Cathedral on the opposite shore of the Red River, and leads to the Esplanade Riel, whose mast-like spire marks the entrance to the city's French Quarter.

Corydon Avenue is home to Winnipeg's Little Italy - its trendy, outdoor caf's are a place to sit and be seen or to simply watch the world go by. Winnipeg's reputation as Chicago of the North is fostered by the turn-of-the century architecture of the Exchange District, some of the best-preserved buildings on the North American continent.

Winnipeg also has a rich arts, entertainment and culinary scene. Sir Peter Ustinov once observed that Winnipeg is home to: a ballet company of world renown, a fine symphony and a superb art gallery. The quality of the food is - incomparably superior and rare wines appear in bewildering profusion."

With its more than 900 restaurants, Winnipeg boasts the most eateries per capita in Canada offering dishes from all corners of the globe. In addition to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, of which Ustinov eluded, Winnipeg is proud of its live theatre Prairie Theatre Exchange, Manitoba Theatre Centre and Manitoba Theatre for Young People as well as the Manitoba Opera and Manitoba Museum, one of the finest history museums in North America.

The city's world-class zoo is situated in Assiniboine Park, 115-hectares of what was once cow pasture, where today it's possible to watch a game of cricket, stroll through the English gardens, visit the Leo Mol sculpture garden or pitch a blanket in front of the Lyric Theatre's outdoor stage for an afternoon or evening of entertainment.

Two theme casinos, Club Regent and McPhillip's Street Station, provide an option for those wanting to gamble, play bingo or dine out.

For the sports enthusiast, there's any number of professional teams to follow, whether it's football and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, hockey and the Manitoba Moose or baseball and the Winnipeg Goldeyes. Or for those who'd prefer to be active themselves, there are more than 850 parks and 23 golf courses in the city and surrounding area.

Famous names

Perhaps because of its Prairie heritage, Winnipeg boasts of being home to many famous names: musicians Neil Young, Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman, cartoon characters Homer Simpson and Bugs Bunny, spymaster William Stephenson, ballerina Evelyn Hart, game show host Monty Hall, filmmaker Guy Maddin, author Carol Shields, comedian David Steinberg, Academy Award nominees Richard Condie and Cordell Barker, pro-wrestler Chris Jericho, former Canadian foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy, fashion mogul Peter Nygaard and businessman Gerald Schwartz.

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