Some neighbourhoods evoke a reaction among polite company when their names are spoken–usually because they offer up a lot of character, history and in some cases, even a little urban mythology. And the inner city neighbourhood of Wolseley in Winnipeg is certainly one of those spots.
It was once home to an amusement park that closed in 1922 and in the 1950s, the well-to-do families that called the area home left for the suburbs, leaving the neighbourhood to crumble for a few decades.
Thankfully, during the 70s and 80s, the great location, beautiful character homes and low real estate prices started to attract young people back to Wolseley. Over the past decades, the neighbourhood has evolved into a place where young families, millennials, artsy types, and an eclectic mix of other characters have gathered. Affectionately called ‘the granola belt’ of the city, it was once considered the spot where the hippies lived (and a walk down the deserted sidewalks during Folk Fest weekend certainly lends credence to that).
But Wolseley has evolved beyond its earth-loving moniker to embrace a modern culture where hipster coffee shops line up next to organic bakeries and dads with beards and slouchy knit hats bike their kids to school. There is an unmistakable vibe to the area, and visitors are always welcome to come experience it for themselves. Here are a few ways to embrace your own inner hippie or hipster in Wolseley:
1. Check out the houses
Wolseley boasts one of the city’s best preserved collection of historic character homes, most built in the early 1900s. The streets of the neighbourhood are characterized by covered porches where people gather throughout the year. It’s also notorious for having extremely small or non-existent backyards, so this is a place where people live out front. You’ll find swing sets and picnic benches and neighbours gathering for dinner on their front lawns, creating a spirit of community and togetherness not found in a lot of other places. Combine a stroll down the streets with a look at the turrets, bricks, pillars and details that make up these beautiful old homes. (And be sure to follow @housesofwolseley on Instagram.)
2. Grab some coffee
Wolseley is home to one of Winnipeg’s original hipster coffee spots. (Okay, technically it’s West Broadway, but it’s immediately adjacent so we’re counting it.) Thom Bargen oozes coffee aficionado charm with its blonde wood, chic clientele and top notch pour overs. In the warmer months, outdoor seating allows you to sip at the world passes you by.
3. Get crafty
Thanks to the upswing in craft shows, handmade goods and DIY culture, the fibre arts are hotter than ever and Wolseley boasts Winnipeg’s only yarn store–aptly named Wolseley Wool–where knitters, weavers and crocheters gather to pick out colourful yarn, hone their craft and compare notes. Pick out a pattern and a colourful skein of speckled merino (all the rage) and get in on the movement.
4. Hug some trees
Embrace your inner tree hugger at a variety of green spaces and playgrounds that grace the neighbourhood. Head to Vimy Ridge Memorial Park with its splash pad, playground, and spontaneous yoga and hula hoop classes. In the summer, local farmers often make this their meeting spot to distribute weekly CSA boxes to area residents. Hit the swings at Aubrey Park or the Tot Lot, where the neighbourhood’s smallest citizens are known to congregate. Then, tie on your runners or hop on your bike and enjoy the traffic-free Wolseley Avenue on Sundays in the summer as you make your way beneath the canopy of leaves and through Omand’s Creek Park for a spectacular view of the river from the rail bridge.
5. See and be seen
Come Saturday mornings, Tall Grass Prairie Bakery on Westminster Ave is the place to be. Here, Wolseley residents gather with their bikes, their kids, their dogs and everyone in between for an informal, yet practically mandatory community gathering. Of course, while there, they head inside the bakery for rustic loaves of bread made from locally sourced flour and grains and wait for the next tray of those Winnipeg-famous cinnamon rolls to come out of the oven.
6. Get walking
One of Winnipeg’s unknown fashion gems is The Shoe Doctor. While they’re known for repairing shoes, it’s their selection of trendy eco-conscious selection of footwear that will really draw you in. Shop for brands like El Naturalista, Padraigs and Blundstones–the leather pull on boots are basically hipster uniform issue. They also carry wool socks, perfect for keeping tootsies warm in winter.
7. Dig in
We couldn’t walk away from Wolseley without visiting the tastes of the area. Located on Sherbrook Street you’ll find Stella’s, famous for its breakfasts and convivial atmosphere; Sherbrook Street Deli where Winnipeg and New York City meet; The Tallest Poppy where menu items like chicken and waffles and decidedly eclectic interior attracts creative types; Boon Burger Cafe for vegan burgers served at family-style tables; Decadence Chocolates for sweet treats; and The Handsome Daughter for drinks and live music.