Thursday, August 14, 2008

Grand Forks and Fargo

Grand Forks has been the main choice for Winnipeg travel for many years. It solidified its position over Fargo with the construction of Columbia Mall in 1978. Prior to that, shopping was done downtown or at the already aging South Forks Plaza built in 1964.

West Acres Mall built in 1972 had been challenging Grand Forks for Winnipeg's affection ever since it was built with Sears and deLendrecies anchoring 50 stores.

Throughout the 1980s, Grand Forks was the hands down choice of cross border shoppers from Manitoba. In the 1990s, as the dollar started to drop, cross border shopping also started drop off.

Another reasons for people to stay in Winnipeg was the opening of Walmart in Winnipeg. In the early 1990s, it had been one of the reasons families travelled to Grand Forks. In addition to Walmart, some other U.S. based chains also started to open in Winnipeg. Some of the exclusiveness of Grand Forks disappeared in the 1990s.

In 1997, Grand Forks was deeply damaged by the Red River flood. While Columbia was untouched, some hotels were devastated. I stayed in Grand Forks a few months after the flood in what was supposed to be a cleaned up hotel and had to ask to be moved to a second floor that did not have have the smell of mildew. The heydays of the 1980s were pretty much over though and the flood only capitalized a major change in Winnipeg shopping getaways.

In 2001, Grand Forks capped off an amazing re-building program and gave Winnipeg a new reason to visit with with addition of the Alerus Center. For the next few years, Winnipeggers headed down on a regular basis to concerts that bypassed Winnipeg.

As the dollar started to rise, Winnipeggers started to head back down for weekend shopping attracted by the new Target across from Columbia as well as some new stores such as Best Buy. However, more discerning shoppers were going further afield to Fargo for Barnes and Noble and some stores in West Acres not found in Grand Forks such as Hollister.

Other shoppers were heading down all the way to Mall of America in Minneapolis and Factory outlet stores in Albertville, MN. Those that headed that far down usually did so on a long weekend rather than the two day splurges.

Grand Forks will always be more attractive for some Winnipeg travellers for the plain reason that it is just 2 hours away. Columbia Mall and the surrounding hotels offer supreme convenience for travellers.

Fargo is a little harder to commute to and West Acres doesn't have the hotel conglomeration that Grand Forks does. Still, for someone who wants a little bit of difference in their weekend travel, here are some of Fargo's highlights.

West Acres

It has double the amount of department stores. Macy's, JCPenney, Herberger's and Sears. Some stores not in Grand Forks are Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch. The mall is newly renovated and attractive.

Downtown Fargo

Rebuilt and appealing for the person looking for a new eatery, hotel or shopping experience.

Other Stores

Scheels super sport store is worth going to just for the Ferris wheel. Barnes and Noble is bigger and better in Fargo.


Bonanzaville is a historic village in West Fargo open from spring to fall.


Space Aliens

For people with nostalgia for old Winnipeg namesakes there is:

Mr. Steak
Country Kitchen

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