This Prairie City Deserves Your Travel Dollars. Here’s Why. by Yulia Denisyuk

Canada, once again, does it better.

Not only is our neighbor to the north able to offer free healthcare and create a tolerant atmosphere towards diversity, but it also has tricks up its sleeves when it comes to its smaller cities.

I’ve had a chance to visit Winnipeg, Manitoba on a recent visit to Canada. This trip has reminded me that great discoveries and amazing experiences can be found anywhere—if only we are willing to look.

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in.” - Isaac Asimov
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Tucked away in the southeast corner of the vast Manitoba province, Winnipeg is an easy two and a half hour flight from Chicago.

Upon landing, a laid back, traffic jam-free version of Chicago awaits. Indeed, Winnipeg has been called “Chicago of the North” during its boom of the late nineteenth—early twentieth century. People have lived here for millennia, attracted to the favorable location on the intersection of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. The battle ground for the fierce fur trading battles of the Hudson Bay Company fame, Winnipeg became Canada’s third-largest city and a major railway transportation center by the turn of the century.

As railways slowly lost importance in the twentieth century, the glory of Winnipeg disappeared with them. Today, a quiet resurgence of a different kind is brewing. In the last year alone, half a dozen new breweries have opened in the city of seven hundred thousand residents. Indeed, Winnipeg is one of the latest places to undergo the craft beer revolution as its laws have turned in favor of craft producers in 2016. Now, it is entirely within reach to stop by a brewery such as Little Brown Jug while strolling through downtown Winnipeg. The open concept craft brewer welcomes customers to come in and enjoy a pint or two while observing the end-to-end beer making process.

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This creative upsurge is sweeping across the city.

A sure win for the Winnipeg’s creative community, recently launched Design Quarter is a curated destination experience and a collective of local businesses that aims to promote authentic retail and design focused culture. Created and led by Johanna Hurme, a Finnish-born architect who now calls Winnipeg home, the Design Quarter makes it easier for visitors to find unique food, design, and shopping opportunities that are sure to inspire the creative spirit in any of us.

One of the spots on the Design Quarter map is Forth. A cafe, a craft cocktail bar, a rooftop music venue, and a community meeting space, Forth is a great example of what Winnipeg’s creative spirit stands for: supporting each other is at the forefront of the city’s creative community.

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Another spot on the Design District map that shouldn’t be missed is the Lennard Taylor Design Studio, loved locally and recognized globally for its fashion-forward, detail-oriented pieces that don’t fit a particular mold. Pop in the open concept studio at any given moment and you’re sure to see the soccer-hopeful turned fashion designer and artist himself sitting behind his sewing machine or putting finishing touches on his latest painting, always with a smile.

Fashion designers, jewelry artists, coffee roasters, painters, book purveyors, fine leather craftsmen, and more—this is Winnipeg.

If a tight-knit community is one way to describe it, open concept would be another. As if borrowing from the vast swaths of prairies that surround the city, Winnipeggers exchange ideas as easily as they share food on their table, welcome people, and converge on a common goal of growing their city together.

Lennard Taylor painting one of his pieces in studio

Lennard Taylor painting one of his pieces in studio

Johanna Hurme, the creative force behind Winnipeg's Design Quarter

Johanna Hurme, the creative force behind Winnipeg's Design Quarter

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If encountering a passionate community of creative minds isn’t compelling enough,

there is an opportunity to experience Winnipeg—and with it, a glimpse of humanity—in a different way. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is a first museum of its kind dedicated to a concept, not artifacts. Thought-provoking exhibitions about the Holocaust, the plight of the First Nations, the Ukrainian Holodomor, and more educate and invite reflection on human nature and on what it means to have a shared future. It’s a delicate balance to present such difficult topics with dignity, poignancy and compassion. The museum maintains it expertly.

The thoughtful design of the museum was conceived by Antoine Predock. The New Mexico-based architect aims to show, through structures, how human beings can interact spiritually with a building, with technology, with the natural environment and with each other. The architecture with odd angles and contradicting lines continues to stun throughout the visit and represents the idea that the path to equal human rights is not straightforward.

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Winnipeg may have been called Chicago of the North in the past, but today the city is coming into its own. Because of places like the unassuming Clementine Cafe (you’ll discover a whole new world by trying its yogurt panna cotta with nectarines), Winnipeg easily competes with such culinary heavyweights  as Chicago and New York, while award-winning architects, musicians, artists, and fashion designers choose to create here, with passion.

This vibrancy is contagious.

Instagram-Worthy Spots in Riga, Latvia by Yulia Denisyuk

Ten locations to visit in Riga, Latvia for a great photo

If you are as active a member on the popular Instagram platform as I am, then you know this: finding Instagram-worthy locations for a great photo is an important part of trip planning. I spend quite a bit of time before each trip to scout possible locations for that one great photo! My primary sources include hunkering down on Google, asking my local friends, as well as mining the app itself. Many great spots, however, are found through the old-fashioned trial and error. 

Here are 10 spots I found to be Instagram-worthy from my recent trip to Riga, Latvia. I have deliberately stuck to the Old Town area, but let me know in the comments if I missed any spots there or in other parts of Riga!

1. House of Blackheads

Location: in the heart of Vecrīga (Riga Old Town), directly in front of the Akmens Bridge that connects the center of Riga with its suburb parts. Bring wide lens to fit in all the gorgeous buildings surrounding the square.

2. Rigas Doms

Location: Riga Old Town, a few blocks north from the House of Blackheads. The Riga Cathedral is the postcard symbol of the city, and the surrounding area is a perfect starting point of exploration of Riga's many tiny streets. This spot is also the most likely location for annual Christmas markets.  

3. Petera Baznica (St. Peter's Church)

Location: Riga Old Town, across the street from the House of Blackheads. The tallest peak in Riga offers the best views of town and the nearby Daugava river, in my opinion. If you visit in winter, come prepared: the air at the top of the 130 meter spire is freezing. If you can, bring telephoto lens for the up-close shots of the city below.  

4. Rozena ielā (street). 

Location: Riga Old Town, just behind Rigas Doms. Come here at dusk for tight shots of the narrow street and bring wide angle lens.

5. Riga Art Nouveau Museum

Location: North of the old town centre, on Alberta iela (street). About one third of buildings in Riga are built in the Art Nouveau style (called Jugendstil), but the Art Nouveau Museum's main draw (for me) was its stunning spiral staircase. Bring wide lens!

6. Akmens Bridge

Location: near Latvia National Library. The motor/pedestrian bridge is a great spot to capture multiple shots of the city. If you're facing north, the Old Town across Daugava river, with Rigas Doms and St. Peter's Church piercing through the cityscape, will be on your right. On the left: the ultra modern building of the Latvia National Library will be sure to delight you. Bring a tripod if possible to capture some long-exposure shots of the ongoing traffic at dusk. 

7. Tirgoņu ielā (street)

Location: Riga Old Town. The main street between the House of Blackheads and St. Peter's Church, Kungu iela, will eventually turn into the smaller Tirgonu iela. This street is one of the best examples of Art Nouveau in the Old Town, perfect for those umbrella jump shots!  

8. Jauniela

Location: Riga Old Town, near Riga Doms. One of the many tiny streets around the cathedral, Jauniela street is sure to get you into medieval spirit. Bring wide angle lens to fit in all the details into frame. 

9. Kaku Nams (The Cat's House)

Location: Riga Old Town, few blocks west of Rigas Doms on 10 Meistaru iela. An iconic building in the old part of Riga has an interesting legend associated with it. The building's owner, a rich and prominent Rigan, was trying to become a member of the venerated Blackheads traders society and they wouldn't take him. To annoy them, he turned the cat statue around so that its behind was directly facing the Blackheads Great Guild building... once they had accepted him into membership he turned the cat statue back around. Passions were running high in the medieval Riga!

10. Trīs brāļi (the Three Brothers)

Location: Riga Old Town, near Riga Castle on Maza Pils iela. The Three Brothers are a building complex of three houses dating back to the late 15th century. Bring wide angle lens for sure as the houses sit in a narrow street. If you do forget your wide angle lens (like I did), worry not - there are several nooks and cranny alleyways nearby to make up for the loss!