If there's one place you must visit in Manitoba its the Forks in Winnipeg, named…
Winnipeg is the butt of many a joke in Canada. In fact when I returned from a recent visit to the city, the first thing out of one fellow’s mouth I met up at Mount Engadine Lodge was – “You visited Winterpeg? How were the mosquitoes?” It does have a reputation for cold winters – albeit sunny ones. And in summer, the mosquito is “jokingly” called Manitoba’s provincial bird. But after I told him what I did he was actually eager to visit!
Winnipeg is changing and there’s a lot to love about the city. On a three day visit to Winnipeg I was actually blown away by what I experienced. These 6 things to do in Winnipeg will change your mind about a visit to Canada’s prairie city.
Things to Do in Winnipeg – visit the Assiniboine Park Zoo
You might wonder why a middle-aged woman would find a zoo so thrilling – and I mean that in every sense of the word.
It comes down to polar bears. Their land-based habitat looks beautiful and natural – reminiscent of what you’d see in the wilds of Churchill with native grasses and plants. But what makes the experience so special is the polar bear tunnel.
Its awe inspiring to watch the polar bears swim – and this is a zoo. I can only imagine how incredible it would be to see them in the wild. I could have spent the entire day in the tunnel.
Don’t bypass the zoo because of your age. It’s fun, educational and eye-opening with loads of cutting edge research happening onsite.
Check out Le Mol Sculpture Garden
Near the zoo check out the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. Loaded with bronze female nudes and beautiful flower beds, it’s a place for quiet contemplation.
Spend hours in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
The first national museum in Canada built outside of Ottawa opened in 2014. Not without controversy (and quite frankly what isn’t these days), the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is worth a visit for the architecture alone.
Built on four stone roots and boasting a 100 m Tower of Hope, the building grounds the space near the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.
Outside the museum, look for 15 species of Prairie grass while inside 800 m of luminous Spanish alabaster ramps guide you through darkness to light. Glass is everywhere – 1,300 panes of it. Reportedly it’s an eight minute ride for a raindrop to slide from top to bottom.
This is a tactile museum, loaded with interactive displays and mobile apps; it’s purposefully short on artifacts though some visitors feel unsettled by that. In theory, a blind person should get as much out of a visit here as a sighted person.
You need at least 90 minutes here, much more if you’re prepared to interact and hear the stories.
Relax at Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature
You may want to relax after being both wowed by the museum and numbed by the atrocities humans have committed.
There is no better place than a visit to Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature. I knew I was in for a treat before I visited. The reason – there is another spa in Chelsea, Quebec operated by the same company that I have been lucky to visit on a couple of occasions.
Divine is the only way to describe the experience. Imagine heating up in a sauna for 10-15 minutes and then plunging into a cold water pool. Invigorating.
Then relax perhaps by swinging in a hammock under the trees, or gently rocking in an aerial chair – whatever your pleasure. Repeat the process until both body and mind feel free. It may take a few hours – and in between, you can dine outside or in. I guarantee you will leave in a state of bliss.
Do the Hermetic Code Tour at the Manitoba Legislature Building
Another who-would-have-guessed-this-would-be-so-awesome experience is the Canadian Signature Experience Hermetic Code Tour of the Manitoba Legislature Building.
Before you stifle a yawn, consider that the mysteries of the building were hidden for close to a century. It wasn’t until Frank Albo, a local historian, spent 10 years getting into the mind of a dead architect that its secrets were unveiled.
On the tour, led by Don Finkbeiner, a man who seems to know everything about Winnipeg, we learned the roles that numerology, astrology, alchemy and geometry played in the design of the building.
Fascinating only begins to describe the secrets revealed through Freemason codes, hieroglyphic symbols, Egyptian sphinxes and even the Golden Boy.
Another highlight was a practical demonstration of what a voice could do standing on and off the centre of the star in the photo below. Your voice resonates down the halls if you stand on the centre but goes nowhere once you step aside. Fascinating stuff!
Explore Winnipeg’s happening neighbourhoods
Check out the Osborne neighbourhood, named the best in Canada by the Canadian Institute of Planners. Covering just a few blocks and filled with funky local stores and great little restaurants it’s just over the bridge from the Legislative Buildings.
Cooks will want to visit The Happy Cooker – The Hardware Store for Cooks at 464 Stradbrook Avenue.
Burger lovers can chow down at Nuburger – known for healthy, gourmet and awesome. I’m told there are line-ups starting most nights at about 5 PM. Here’s why – the coolest burger toppings including free-range, nitrate free bacon, Boursin cheese, Hot Damn Mushrooms, Omega-3 egg…the list goes on.
If you love cake then test your decision making ability at Baked Expectations at 161 Osborne Street.
Don’t miss a stop for a coffee and a baked good or pick up a jar of jam made with berries, sugar and love at Stella’s Café – a fixture for 15 years.
If you’re interested in spending a lot more time in Manitoba trying out experiences you won’t find anywhere else in Canada, read 15 Things to Do in Manitoba to Experience the Heart of Canada.
Where to stay in Winnipeg
One of my favourite places in the city to spend a night or two is the Inn at the Forks. It’s a beautifully appointed boutique hotel with views out to the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in one direction and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in the other.
Further reading on things to do in Manitoba
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