(Photo credit: winnipeglovehate.com)
Visiting Winnipeg? If thoughts of flat land doesn’t convince you, at least spend one early summer morning, when the sun is breaking, driving through Manitoba and let the pink skies do all the work. You won’t regret it!
A quickie about me, I was living in Toronto for 10 years before this and came across times when I didn’t take advantage of all the city had to offer. Where there is not a dull moment to be had, I would fall into a rut, and do nothing. Eventually, I made a pact with myself that I could never let myself be bored. Unless I wanted to be.
I made the same pact with myself moving to Winnipeg. Although in 2.5 years I became pregnant, found a job and went on maternity leave, then back to work and now we are moving again, I believe it is my duty to provide the Coles notes on this underrated city. F.Y.I… I aced highschool English class(es) with Coles notes so I promise this will be good.
I can’t force you to read my list, but if I give you one reason, it’s that I am a perpetual tourist. Discretion is all yours!
I explore to experience, so no checklists and stop watches here, just some favourites that I am going to dearly miss.
Best time: Weekends. Unless you are looking for some quiet, reflective time and weekday mornings are best.
What’s there: Markets, walking/biking trails, Children’s Museum (a place to let your child run wild – best from 0-12yrs), outdoor playground, outdoor concert stage, and buskers inside and out, who are really good! Also visit, http://www.theforks.com/events/calendar-of-events.
In the summer, you can catch a boat ride that tours the Red and Assiniboine. It goes slow, so great with kids and you get a history lesson with a an off the cuff tour guide for the adults.
Events almost every weekend and some during the week. Like I mentioned, check out the calendar link above!
Trails to walk or bike, playgrounds for kids, or just a great place for a picnic – almost anywhere. There is an ice-cream shop you can get from inside/outside, a grain shop with fresh baked goods, pies and homemade granola – you won’t regret it, all made right there. You can see the grain silo that they use right from inside the market – very cool!
In the winter, go for a walk/skate/ski on the river (after January/February). Bring along your favourite “beverage” and enjoy the scenery and wind burn. It’s inevitable in Winnipeg winters. The best temperatures would be between 2 and -8.
A skating rink is also available between the two markets that is open for free skate, away from the wind of the river.
All year, the market hosts a multitude of food which you can now pair with craft beer or wine. It was just renovated and turned out just like the renderings. Yours to experience for sure! Also, don’t miss out on the mini donut factory (just behind the bar) of course. A dozen warm, mini cinnamon sugared donuts – for $5 cash … drool.
There is one place that truly holds a special place in my heart, Birds Hill Park, about 20 minute drive from the city. Not only will you get an appreciation for the prairie landscape you might also see a prairie train in its element (take HWY 1).
Best time: Summer/Fall (Winter is not off limits)
What’s there: restaurant, home and kitchy shop, petting zoo, man made lake and beach, walking/biking trails (camping too, but don’t know a thing about it).
You want the full country bumpkin/prairie experience, with the photos to prove it? Go to Pineridge Hollow. Where barn board, green grass, a petting zoo and eclectic is all there to greet you. I’m serious, it’s the whole package, along with a restaurant, gift shop and home decor. Walking the path to get there from the parking lot places you in a movie, forgetting where you came from with lights hung on trees, picket fences and cobblestone path.
But that is one tiny section of the park, want to see a man-made beach with paved trails around it? Where you can picnic, kids have play structures, the sand is white, nature surrounds you. Oh did I mention you can see a Polo match there in the summer on Sundays (not at the beach of course). Bike trails galore and camping (which I can tell you zero about) I just biked past the campgrounds. I am sure there a lots of birds there too…
On your way to here as well, just five minutes (at most) past the turn, you can be in a really cool spot, that exists no where else in Canada. The middle. The Longitudinal Middle of Canada – sign and all!
Assiniboine park, is another fave. Most people would agree with the statement “what can’t you do here?”.
Best time: Spring/Summer/Fall
What’s there: Walking/biking trails, green space – massive amounts of it, coal fired train you can ride, concert stage, cricket field, massive kids park, restaurant you can get to through trails, massive english garden with an art gallery and it’s beside the zoo!
You can bike around on paved trails, see concerts, in the summer they have ballet in the park performed by the Winnipeg Ballet, movie night in the park. It is almost endless what you can do. Start your own game of anything, there is space to play!
If you have kids, this is the best park to play at! Not only does it have it’s own, quite fitting name ‘Nature’s Playground’ the entrance at the top of the hill is to die for. Parents are the one’s crouching to get in and perfect for our pint sized ones. Not only play structures, but the greenery and gardens feels like you are almost in Alice of Wonderland for a few short minutes, until the kids see a what a normal park would look like on …. well, you know – steroids? Yes. Steroids.
You can also have a picnic, bbq, watch a rugby match, take a coal powered train ride, go to the zoo and see the polar bears…. all in one park, its endless.
If it’s rainy or you want to get inside from the heat (yes, it gets hot here) tour the Parliament building for free. In the summer you can sit by the fountain surrounded by beautiful gardens or explore, check out golden boy and walk around the outside of the building. You can also walk right down to the river.
Downtown’s trendy area is called The Exchange District. If you are child-free, this is a great place to explore. If you’re stroller-pushin, you will need some help. Unfortunately, there are no ramps into stores – even the kid ones. You’re either lugging child and stroller up the steps, or you’re not going in. This is nothing against the area, just a heads up!
This is by no means a comprehensive list. If you have just moved to the city and starting to explore or here for a short time, this is a great start.
If you take my advice on anything take this: If you’re out in summer at dusk have bug spray. Farewell Winnipeg, it’s been a ride. Now off to the mountains!