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Winnipeg Free Press



Walking through history

Exchange District walking tours offer theatrical alternatives for fringe fans

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/7/2018 (827 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hordes of performers have already taken over downtown as part of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, and this year, the Exchange District BIZ has decided to get in on the action with a show — of sorts — of their own.

Touring around town

The Exchange District Biz isn’t the only company doing tours — here’s a few other Winnipeg tour companies and what they have on their schedule this summer:

The Exchange District Biz isn’t the only company doing tours — here’s a few other Winnipeg tour companies and what they have on their schedule this summer:

The Winnipeg Trolley Company
Offers two types of tours: city tours lasting about two hours and hit up all of Winnipeg’s biggest and best sites; tickets are $27.25 for adults. The “Ale Trail” is a brewery tour that stops at three locations and includes guided tours of the city’s breweries, a “crash course in expert beer evaluation” and tasting flights or one pint at each location. Tickets for this one are a bit pricier, at $64.95 per person (or $39.95 with no alcohol tastings). The Winnipeg Trolley Company is also about to introduce the Trolley of Terror, a haunted tour that will begin running this fall. For more information on times and routes, and to book tickets, visit winnipegtrolleycompany.ca.

Manitoba Legislature Building
The Manitoba legislature is open to visitors who would like to take a free guided or self-guided tours of both the interior and outdoor grounds. The tours are available all year and folks interested in a self-guided tour can come almost any time the building is open. Those who want guided tours are asked to reserve in advance. Registration forms, maps and other information is available at gov.mb.ca/legislature/visiting/tour.html.

SquarePeg Tours
Has the largest variety of Winnipeg tours with 11 different themes that range from ghost walks to exploring the boom and bust of Winnipeg to uncovering the secrets behind symbols at the Manitoba Legislature Building. All of their tours range in price from $12-$20 for adults, and last anywhere from 90 to 150 minutes. SquarePeg also has numerous tours specifically designed for students that are just one hour in length and are aligned with the Manitoba school curriculum, as well as tours built to accommodate seniors groups and organizations. All of their information can be found at squarepegtours.ca.

West End BIZ
The West End BIZ is getting into the neighbourhood tour game with a trio of options of that highlight all the area has to offer. First up, they have Around the World in a Few Blocks — a restaurant walking tour that allows participants to sample four dishes in the West End, all while hearing stories and history about the area; tickets for this tour are $47. Next, they have a mural tour during that guides will share the meaning and purpose of many of the murals that decorate West End walls. This tour is just $5 for adults. Finally, there is an artisan tour that visits several businesses and, for just $10, takes groups down some of the most scenic streets in the city. To book a spot in any of these tours, visit westendbiz.ca.

Running for a limited time during the fringe fest, the BIZ’s new theatrical walking tour, Rebels, Riots and Revolutionaries, tells the stories of Winnipeg’s politically charged past, including women earning the right to vote, the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike and the 1934 Nazi riots, through the use of newspaper headlines from the era.

The guides lead the tour in character and in costume; this is the first theatrical tour the BIZ has ever done, and tour director Sabrina Janke says the fringe festival seemed like the perfect opportunity to roll something like this out.

"It seemed like a good time to do a theatrical tour was during our theatre festival... so this year will be a bit of a test launch for us to see how it goes, but we definitely want to look into doing more of this in the future," says Janke.

Alexandra Chase, left, and Hannah McKenna, performing tour guides, lead tours through the Exchange District and its history. (John Woods photos / Winnipeg Free Press)

Alexandra Chase, left, and Hannah McKenna, performing tour guides, lead tours through the Exchange District and its history. (John Woods photos / Winnipeg Free Press)

In addition, Rebels, Riots and Revolutionaries tours running on July 28 are "pay what you can." Typically, this tour costs $10, while the others on offer from the BIZ are just $5 a pop for kids and students, and $8-$10 for adults.

Interest in walking tours is on the rise, and the BIZ has already expanded their offerings to include eight one-hour or 90-minute walking tours with various themes and routes, as well as three food tours, which are more expensive ($65-$85) and are two-and-a-half hours long. The response? Attendance numbers have dramatically increased; in June 2017, Janke says about 500 people had taken tours, and in June 2018, that number had risen to more than 1,000 people.

Of the eight tours on the roster, three are new this year, each of which took about a month for guides to develop and find interesting nuggets of Winnipeg history that won’t be found on any other tour.

Janke — who has been studying Winnipeg history for four years — digs deep in the city archives for content and it’s almost guaranteed that even life-long Winnipeggers will learn a thing or two about the often shocking (and sometime hilarious) history of the city.

On the new Punks & Anarchists tour, for example, Janke talks about rule-breakers and game-changers in Winnipeg from the late 1800s all the way up to the 1990s and 2000s punk music scene and reveals the area’s deep-seated propensity for protests and rebellions, both for noble and not-so-noble causes. Spoiler alert: Winnipeggers have really liked to solve all of their social and political problems with violent riots.

These types of historic walking tours are a draw for tourists who are just getting acquainted with the city, but for locals, the benefits can reach much deeper. These tours encourage a new kind of appreciation for Winnipeg and the cast of characters that made the city such a quirky and complicated place to live.

"I mean, Winnipeg’s history is way cooler than it tends to get credit for," Janke says.

"I know one of the things that a lot of locals tend to do is go, ‘Oh, Winnipeg is not that exciting,’ when we compare ourselves to other cities that have bigger and grander histories than Winnipeg might. We’re not a huge city... but our history impacts so much going forward that a lot of Winnipeg makes sense when you know what we come from and how Winnipeg developed."

For more information about tours and prices visit exchangedistrict.org. Tours can be customized for content or adjusted for mobility concerns.


Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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