Winnipeg: an ideal LGBTQ travel destination that is always out there  - Mitchel Nicholas and Francis Lustestica on Forth's rooftop patio and bar (JJ Gill)

Mitchel Nicholas and Francis Lustestica on Forth's rooftop patio and bar (JJ Gill)

By: Only in the PegJuly 7, 2017 // LGBT

While Winnipeg’s Pride Festival takes place from late May to early June, it’s by no means the only time you should make your vacation plans for our inclusive, always-happening city. 

Winnipeg has the largest LGBT population between Toronto and Vancouver, and is a city noted for its LGBTTQ* history and advocacy.

We were the first city in North America to elect an openly gay mayor (mayor Glen Murray, who first came to office in 1998 and was re-elected in 2002), while we’ve been staging Pride parades since 1987. 

We’ve also had notable gay clubs that started operating in the 1970s, while today you can find an inviting atmosphere and a hopping dance floor at clubs like Fame, along with great places to hang and meet new people like Club 200 – which has been operating for over two decades. 

But don’t take our word for it, just check out what Winnipeg couple Mitchel Nicholas and Francis Lustestica got up to on a recent staycation in the city. 

The guys in the lobby of the Alt Hotel Winnipeg (JJ Gill)

Where to stay

It started with a stay at the Alt Hotel, which Mitchel notes “has such a modern-yet-trendy design [that] you can’t help but feel trendy yourself when staying there.” 

The Alt is just steps from the Bell MTS Place (home to our Winnipeg Jets and countless huge concerts throughout the year – including Bruno Mars on August 2), and has been lauded in publications including National Geographic Traveler, The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, who gushed:

“Is it a Winnipeg thing or an Alt thing? Either way, the young staff is genuinely friendly and helpful. You can’t help but pass the reception desk when you come and go and someone will always call out a greeting and, if you linger, chat you up about where you’re going and where you’ve been. Each month a different staff member gets to write an “In the Know” list for the elevator, listing favourite spots to eat, drink and visit.”

The Alt Hotel Winnipeg is one of several TAG Approved hotels in the city, meaning it gives back to the community, provides diversity and sensitivity training for employees, and employs staff who reflect the diversity of their community. 

Other TAG Approved hotels in Winnipeg include the Delta Hotels by Marriott Winnipeg, Fairmont Winnipeg, Hilton Winnipeg Airport Suites, and the Grand Winnipeg Airport Hotel by Lakeview. 

Right now, several of these properties are offering great deals throughout the summer, including the aforementioned Alt, where you can get packaged deals that include parking and admission to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) for $179, or parking with a $100 voucher to the Merchant Kitchen, the hotel’s awesome global street food restaurant, for $259. 

Dining in the Fairmont Winnipeg's VG Restaurant (JJ Gill)

The “LGBT Fairmont Escape” gets you two cocktails in the VG Lounge, parking, breakfast for two (either as room service, or in the VG restaurant) and tickets to the CMHR starting at just $204 per room. The Fairfield Inn & Suites Winnipeg is also offering a Rainbow Resource Rate this summer, where $5 from each night booking (which includes complimentary parking and breakfast) goes to the Rainbow Resource Centre – an important place for Winnipeg’s GBT2SQ+ community, providing community services, education, outreach & political awareness & activism.

All of these packages and deals can be found here

What to do

Considering that Winnipeg is a city ripe with arts and culture, is studded with verdant parks ideal for spending a sunny day, and has more festivals this year than seems plausible, it is hard to know where to begin.  

For starters, there are plenty of things for families to do in Winnipeg. Our friends at Travel Manitoba have created this  great article that covers places like Assiniboine Park Zoo, the Manitoba Children’s Museum, The Forks, The Manitoba Museum, and more, where writer Alex Krosney and her girlfriend and girlfriend’s daughter Lily recently explored on a trip to Winnipeg.   

To follow in Mitchel and Francis’ footsteps, a must first stop is Thermëa by Nordik Spa Nature, Winnipeg’s outdoor oasis of total tranquility where thermal pools, cold pools, steam rooms, Finnish saunas, hammocks, relaxation chambers and all manner of serenity await. 

As Mitchel said, “Thermëa is a must-go destination not only for couples visiting Winnipeg, but also those that live in the city. Feeling stressed? After a couple hours soaking, steaming, and soothing your senses your troubles will have evaporated.” 
In particular, the couple were enamoured with the fact that Thermëa also has an excellent restaurant, with a pitch-perfect patio for sipping wine while the sounds of the spa wash over you.

Relaxing at Thermëa by Nordik Spa Nature (JJ Gill) 

If you are a couple looking to get really romantic, you should look no further than our Romance Itinerary, which will introduce you to doing as the young-in-love locals do, like getting ice cream at BDI before sauntering over the Assiniboine River; taking a tour around the city’s waterways with Splash Dash Guided River Tours (whose guides always provide some insight and a good laugh), and picking up pastries from some of Winnipeg’s nationally acclaimed bakeries. 

A personal favourite of ours is seeing the city on a bicycle built for two #teamwork. Bee-2-Gether Cycles rents all manner of pedal powered vehicles, but the choice offering for couples is the tandem bike, which you can find at locations in Assiniboine Park – which is just the peachiest locale to ride through, and The Forks, where you can cruise all along the river banks and across the très chic Esplanade Riel into St. Boniface, Winnipeg’s French district. 

Meet the Neighbourhoods

And speaking of neighbourhoods, Winnipeg has lovely ones by the dozen, the majority of which are centrally located. While we don’t have an official “gay neighbourhood” per say, you will notice there is an inclusivity woven throughout our charming districts like the Exchange, St. Boniface, Osborne Village, Corydon, Wolseley, the West End, and River Heights. 

We’d recommend you first start with exploring the Historic Exchange District, where the handsome turn-of-the-20th century “stone skyscrapers” house some of our coolest shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries. One stop to surely not miss is Forth (171 McDermot Avenue) – which offers a bit of all of the above, including a rooftop cocktail bar with excellent vistas of the surrounding heritage buildings (all accompanied with some smashing craft cocktails). 

Another neighbourhood of note for casually strolling through is Corydon Avenue, Winnipeg’s little Italy turned patio mecca. If dining al fresco is your jam, then you’ll surely find this strip very berry, and one spot we’d like to turn your attention to is the Roost (651 Corydon Avenue), which is located on a second floor right above all the action. Small plates and craft cocktails are the mainstays here, and the charming little patio is perfectly perched for some people watching.   

Alex Krosney and her family at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Travel Manitoba)

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Last, but certainly not least, a must-visit in Winnipeg is our architectural marvel, the CMHR. Throughout the museum there are some really touching exhibits that tell the stories of the LGBTQ community’s struggles and triumphs from around the globe.

A can’t miss exhibit can be found in the Canadian Journeys gallery, where you’ll find the LGBTQ photo wedding cake, which displays images of same-sex marriages from across Canada that have been crowd-sourced from across Canada.