Brad Pitt has already visited. So what are you waiting for? I’m talking about the Exchange District, located a stone’s throw from the famous downtown intersection of Portage and Main.
The Exchange District is Winnipeg’s original centre of business, but today, it’s the darling of the film industry thanks to the preserved collection of historic and drop-dead-gorgeous buildings. Don’t believe me? Look for them in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which stars Pitt himself.
But it’s not just the neighbourhood buildings that will wow you. There’s weekend entertainment on the Old Market Square stage, chic clothing boutiques, hoppin’ nightclubs and lots of great places to eat, including sushi served at an old hotel lunch counter.
The Exchange District is a ‘hood in transition, but in a good way. The old sewing factory buildings, complete with towering windows and hardwood floors, are being converted into condos. And at the east edge of the Exchange, where the Red River flows, new condos are rising along Waterfront Drive and attracting a fresh bunch of downtown dwellers. If you think it’s hip now, just wait.
But to experience the best of Winnipeg’s Exchange District today, check out these places:
Toad Hall Toys
Listen for the creaky wooden floorboards as you take your first steps into Toad Hall Toys. Have we boarded a time machine? It’s easy to believe that it’s 1948 here, thanks to the sky-high pressed tin ceilings and wooden shelves.
The selection of toys harkens to another era, but it’s in no way old fashioned. You’ll find train collections, paper dolls, snow globes, yo-yos and juggling sets. Set aside some time for the counter where the magic tricks are sold. You’ll be there for a while. Believe me.
The space is small but creativity is big in this new shop. Step into Cake-ology but take only one step. The showcase is just barely inside the doors—the rest of the space is dedicated to the working bakery. Today’s baked selections sit on cakestands and under glass domes.
If you’re lucky, red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting will be on display. If you’re more of a cookie person, pick from Imperials with apricot, raspberry or Saskatoon berry filling. The Cake-ettes, two-bite treats covered in icing, are a steal at $1 apiece.
Sorry for the pun, but The Fyxx is a fixture in The Exchange. On any given day, you’ll see movie-business types sorting out shooting schedule conundrums while sipping on a latte—dark chocolate shaving on top, please. Fresh pastries are delivered early for the breakfast lovers.
Sandwiches with colourful names such as Tandoori’s Box (roasted chicken, peach salsa, tandoori mayo on cornbread) satisfy the lunch crowd. Feeling a little sluggish in the afternoon? Have a Jack Hammer. It’s a shot of espresso topped off with dark roast coffee.
Old Market Square Stage
The best things in life are free and that includes an evening hanging out at Old Market Square. If you happen to be there during the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, count yourself lucky. The stage at Old Market Square hosts guys who eat fire, ladies who tell jokes and kids who can play the fiddle like nobody’s business. If you’re so inclined, you can drop a little something as they pass the hat.
There are always lots of food vendors nearby serving up a slew of goodies, including samosas, thick-crust pizza, pulled pork on buns and gelato.
If a film is off-beat, bizarre, obscure or critically acclaimed, chances are you’ll see it at this Exchange District movie theatre. The box office opens 30 minutes before showtime so you can grab popcorn and settle in to enjoy the likes of Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat Kill Kill on the big screen.
An adult ticket is $8, while students and seniors get in for $7. Note: Cinematheque is cash-only.