A bustling and cultural city in the midst of the Manitoba prairies, Winnipeg is a great place to visit with a range of attractions and activities throughout the seasons, and excellent shopping.
In the heart of the city on the confluence between the Assiniboine and Red Rivers lies The Forks. Historically a meeting place, there is evidence of aboriginal campsites here from thousands of years ago. The Forks is still the hub of the town, after being a fur trading post, then a key part of the railroad development, as well as having an important role in immigration and the settlement of Western Canada. Spread over fifty beautiful acres, many original buildings such as the Johnson Railway Terminal now house shops, restaurants and a busy market. There are also many modern buildings such as the stunning Canadian Museum of Human Rights. The site is home to The Children’s Museum and the Manitoba Theatre for Young People and hosts many of the city’s best events at its amphitheatre and festival stage. During the winter months when the rivers freeze, The Forks also provides access to the world’s longest naturally frozen skating rink.
Winters here are very cold (and in fact locals often refer to the city as ‘Winterpeg’) but the snow season brings its own entertainment. As well as fantastic outdoor skating, there are snow-sculpting festivals, sledging hills, several ski areas just a short drive out of the city and a huge drive-through Christmas light display during December and January.
For those who come to relax there are many spas, including the Scandinavian-style Thermea which is open throughout the seasons. During the cold winter the saunas and warm baths are all the more inviting.
During the hot summer months the city blooms and there are many lovely parks to explore, including many green spaces and gardens downtown, and the larger Assiniboine and Kildonan Parks both just a short drive away. Assiniboine Park Zoo has a wide range of animals including a polar bear enclosure where you can watch the immense creatures swimming through an underwater viewing window. Cycling in the city is popular and there are several pretty trails, especially along the riverside, while the walking trail around the West End of town will reveal the city’s impressive murals.
Winnipeg has a great shopping scene with a variety of different neighbourhoods, from the upscale stores on Academy Road to the trendy boutiques of Osborne Village, as well as shopping centres and friendly markets. One of the oldest areas in the city is the Exchange District which is full of historic buildings, restaurants, galleries and charming independent shops.
The city also has a vibrant arts culture: home to the Winnipeg Art Gallery which boasts the world’s largest public collection of Inuit art; to the respected Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra; and to premier dance company The Royal Winnipeg Ballet which is the oldest in the country. Its many museums will help you uncover not only the history of the city but also of the province. There is also plenty of evening entertainment from lively bars and nightclubs to live music, sports events and casinos.
Winnipeg has all the amenities of a big city with the amiability of a small town. Whether it’s culture, shopping, relaxation or history you’re after for the perfect holiday, Winnipeg has it – with plenty of hidden treasures along the way.
Things to do
Top tips for visiting Winnipeg
Top Tip 1
• Winnipeg is a lovely city to explore on foot and there are many pretty riverside trails along both of its rivers. Be sure to visit the impressive Manitoba Legislative Building to find out about the hidden symbolism in its architecture and explore its spacious grounds stretching down to the banks of the Assiniboine.
Top Tip 2
• The city is known for its culture and a great place to discover some of this is on Corydon Avenue and Lilac Street, where you can browse several galleries and studios before refuelling at one of the tasty bistros.
Top Tip 3
• For a day of serious shopping, start with the stylish Polo Park Shopping Centre, catch a cab down to Academy Road for its designer stores or Osborne Village for its trendy boutiques, before heading to the historic Exchange District to browse its quirky independent shops. Enjoy a well-deserved cocktail in the charming Peasant Cookery Lounge at the end of the day.
Top Tip 4
• If you want to escape the busy city for a few hours, go to Assiniboine Park. Wander around the well-kept gardens and visit the excellent zoo, or stop by FortWhyte Alive, where you can stroll the forest trails, paddle a canoe on the lake or even take a bison safari tour.
Top Tip 5
• During the winter months, historic meeting place and heart of the city The Forks is transformed into a winter sports wonderland. Find ice rinks to hone your skills before you head out onto the icy river trails, sledging hills and a snowboard park all delightfully warmed by twinkling festive lights and plenty of hot drinks. Don’t miss taking a break on a sofa made entirely of snow in the Snow Lounge.
Tip Top 6
• If you have a sweet tooth you will want to drop by funky ‘50s-style diner Baked Expectations in Osborne Village to sample some of their mouth-watering cakes and desserts, as well as popping into the Winnipeg institution Morden’s for some delicious chocolates and treats.
Top Tip 7
• There are several great museums in the city, from the newest Museum of Human Rights, to the popular Air Force Heritage Museum and the fun-filled Children’s Museum. The Manitoba Museum is also definitely worth a visit, with many different sections including a planetarium, science gallery and a full-size replica 17th century ship.