All I knew about Winnipeg before my high school band tour could be summed up in two words: prairie flatlands. The capital of Manitoba is so much more, as I quickly learned during our student tour to the city.
It's a big, bustling city of 762,000 people with great shopping, tasty food, tons of festivals and lots of friendly people. I definitely want to come back for the Winnipeg Folk Festival and Fringe Festival –locals say Winnipeg is a great city for festivals.
I was really impressed with our group trip and how it came off without a hitch.
Our public band performance attracted a big crowd at The Forks.
That afternoon we played in the open air under the canopy at The Forks. The public market, shopping and dining area is located at the intersection of Winnipeg's two main rivers the Assiniboine and the Red Rivers. For the last 6,000 years, the site has been a meeting place for aboriginals and then, much later, for fur traders. We also explored nearby Oodena circle, a massive stone circle carved in the ground at the Forks. It is aligned to the annual summer and winter solstices and spring and fall equinoxes—our trip was also an educational tour too.
Afterwards, we all went inside to eat lunch from one of dozens of restaurant kiosks. I tried a Ukranian delicacy called perogies, doughy pockets filled with cheese and potatoes at Yudyta's. My friend had a chickpea roti from Bindy's Caribbean Delights. There was every kind of food from what felt like every country inside the market's diverse food court.
The next morning our group went to meet the conductor of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for a morning matinee performance at Winnipeg's Centennial Concert Hall. It was incredible to meet the musicians and hear them play. Before they played, conductor Alexander Mickelthwate talked a little bit about the composer and the story behind the music. He really opened my ears and taught me a lot about the music. Afterwards, he answered more questions.
In the afternoon, we got a backstage tour of the Centennial Concert Hall and saw the stage hands preparing for the evening concert. We also met the first violinist who told us about life as a professional musician. Then we listened to the entire rehearsal.
On a free day, we all went to Assiniboine Park to relax in the city park and walk around the duck pond. A few of us walked to the English Garden and then through the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. It was so beautiful; it felt like we were wandering in the garden of an English manor.
That night, we saw a musical theatre show at Celebrations Dinner Theatre. The actors sang throughout dinner and pulled some of my friends into the show. We couldn't stop laughing.
We had such a cool time in Winnipeg. Group travel has never been more fun. I can't wait to visit this great prairie city again. Our band also wants to go back and Tourism Winnipeg can help plan any kind of trip for any kind of school or professional group. Their website also has great information about shopping, dining and recreational activities in the city.