Go for the hockey, stay for the fun!
My recent winter trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba, just happened to be the same weekend that my beloved Chicago Blackhawks hockey team was in town to play against the hometown Jets. Chicago Blackhawks’ fans are known to “travel well” – meaning, it’s not unusual for Blackhawks’ fans to outnumber the hometown team’s fans in their own arena. We have traveled to other cities (Nashville, Columbus, St. Louis) in the past specifically to attend Blackhawks’ away games, but that wasn’t the purpose of our Winnipeg trip. We were there for a relaxing couple’s getaway and to check out all there is to see and do in Manitoba’s largest city. We did attend the game between the Blackhawks and the Jets and there was a good number of Blackhawks’ fans in the crowd that night at MTS Centre. It was nice to see my hometown team represented so well on the road, and it got me thinking that more Chicago hockey fans should make it a point to go see a game in Winnipeg. Here’s why:
Winnipeg is a lot closer and a lot easier to get to than Chicagoans may think
United Airlines and Air Canada offer direct flights between Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. The flight time is slightly more than two hours, which is perfect for a long weekend. If you have more time to spare, the drive, at approximately 13 hours one way, is definitely doable.
“Chicago of the North”
Did you know Winnipeg is known as “Chicago of the North”? I certainly had no idea until right before we arrived in town. The comparison dates back to the turn of the 20th century when Winnipeg was one of the fastest growing cities in North America. During that time, dozens of skyscrapers, warehouses, and financial institutions were built, influenced heavily by the Chicago style of architecture. Many of the buildings remain today in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District, which is a National Historic Site of Canada, and is just one block north of downtown. In addition, Winnipeg weather is similar to Chicago’s. Hockey season (winter) is cold and snowy and it gets quite windy, but I hear the summers are glorious. To this lifelong Chicagoan, Winnipeg bestowed a very familiar feeling; I felt truly at-home.
All the locals we met, whether they were Winnipeggers or from elsewhere in Manitoba, were genuinely friendly. Even at the hockey game where we wore our Blackhawks jerseys in enemy territory, there was an overall warm and welcoming feeling. Not one person gave us a hard time for cheering on the visiting team. In fact, I was shocked to learn how many of the locals are actually Blackhawks’ fans! We definitely were among friends.
Fun for everyone
Go to Winnipeg for a hockey game, stay for the fun. Believe it or not, there is a ton more to do and see in Winnipeg during the winter that does not involve hockey. Whether you’re traveling with the whole family, with a group of friends, or with your significant other, entertainment and cultural options in Winnipeg are abundant. I’ll be writing a great deal more about specific sites and attractions, but highlights include Winnipeg’s historic center of trade and travel, The Forks; ice skating on the frozen Red River; a Nordic spa experience at Thermëa; and Journey To Churchill with polar bears at Assiniboine Park Zoo.
Our captain’s hometown
But back to hockey… Blackhawks’ fans everywhere share undying admiration for the team’s captain, Jonathan Toews, aka Captain Serious. The hard-working and mild-mannered Toews is a proven leader, is respectful, and is all business on the ice. With a visit to Winnipeg, fans can see where and how Toews spent his formative years and see the place that played a large role in molding Toews into the class act he is today.
Winnipeg gets big bonus points for having the Winnipeg Walkway System, a network of underground passageways and above-ground skyways that protects pedestrians from the elements. On game night, we walked almost a half mile from our hotel, The Fairmont Winnipeg, to MTS Centre without ever going outdoors. It was February, in Winnipeg, and WE DIDN’T EVEN WEAR OUR COATS.
Since we’ve returned home, I haven’t been able to stop talking and raving about Winnipeg. Even if you’re not a hockey fan and you’re not from Chicago, I can almost guarantee that you will be extended the same warm welcome we received.
The fact that we were guests of Travel Manitoba during our time in Winnipeg in no way swayed me to write positively about our experiences. All words and opinions, as always, are my own.