Winnipeg is located at the heart of North America, quite literally. This city in Canada with a population of under a million, has an impressive selection of famous exports. From childhood characters, to famous writers and cultural icons, this mid-size city offers visitors an endless things of to do and see.
Winnipeg straddles the mighty Red and Assiniboine Rivers and was recognized as the Culture Capital of Canada in 2010. Rich Aboriginal, French and European roots have created a unique collision of cosmopolitanism, modern art and history.
Want some great Winnipeg trivia to use at your next party? Did you know that the childhood character Winnie the Pooh was named after a bear at the Winnipeg Zoo? And if you love caviar, Winnipeg exports over 25,000 pounds of award winning caviar to some of the world’s top restaurants. And Winnipeg is home to the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, the world’s first national Aboriginal network. Have we piqued your interest? We’ve got the top 25 things to do in Winnipeg so you can go explore this fascinating city!
1. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights
For museum buffs, this should be your first stop. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights or (CMHR) is Canada’s first museum built for the sole purpose of illustrating the evolution, crisis and future of human rights around the globe. In the spirit of the human narrative, this museum is engaging, emotional and inspiring. Coming to terms with our own painful history, Canada’s human rights policies have been adopted and celebrated around the world, but progress is a journey and the CHMR is the story of the global struggle for equality.
2. Cheer on the Blue Bombers
Winnipeg is a city full of sports fanatics, and football is one of its most beloved games. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been entertaining die-hard fans for over 80 years. The Canadian Football League (CFL) runs over a 20 week season, starting in July and ending in early November, which gives you plenty of time to sweep into town and catch a game. This is no ordinary club, they’ve won the Grey Cup Championship 10 times, the third highest in the league.
3. The Assiniboine Park and Zoo
It can be difficult to find things to do in Winnipeg that are open all year round, but the Assiniboine Zoo is an activity that isn’t seasonal. First established in the West end of Assiniboine Park in 1904, the area blossomed into a 400 acre zoo, park and entertainment zone. Starting with just 116 animals from 19 species, the zoo has acquired some 1193 animals across 271 different species. You’ll find the usual lions, tigers and bears here, as well as a whole host of endangered and unique species including polar bears, lemurs and red pandas.
4. Watch a Ballet
You may be surprised to know that the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is one of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies! It is the first ballet company to receive a royal title under by Queen Elizabeth II and today stands as one of the most difficult schools to be accepted into. Dancers of note such as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Evelyn Hart were once students here. This historical company spends nearly half the year touring the globe, however, if you have the opportunity to see them perform in their home town, it is an experience you won’t forget.
5. The Forks National Historic Site
Once you understand that the city of Winnipeg was founded at a significant intersection of two mighty rivers, you realize the importance of togetherness, and can’t help but feel a sense of community. The Forks is a historic area located in the heart of the city, and is Winnipeg’s most visited attractions, seeing more than 4 million visitors a year. Why is it so popular? It represents 6,000 years of trading among Aboriginal nations, European fur traders, Scottish settlers, Métis buffalo hunters and anyone else looking to do business. Here you will find everything from museums about the site itself, to chic boutiques, to a marketplace to buy produce and rub shoulders with the locals.
6. Winnipeg Art Gallery
If you happen to be here for the colder months, consider indoor activities that will leave you entertained, mesmerized and inspired. The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) is as impressive on the outside, with its architectural brilliance, as the expansive indoor space housing some 24,000 objects. The WAG hosts installations from all major cities around the world, and is home to the world’s first and most substantial collection of contemporary Inuit art.
7. Visit the Royal Canadian Mint
Coin collectors and history buffs will love visiting the Royal Canadian Mint. Come experience this unique museum and manufacturing facility with a bilingual guide. Find out how this mint has cranked out more than 55 million coins for over 75 countries across the globe. Learn how 50-ton presses manage to pump out more than 1000 coins per second – how’s that for math?
8. Cool Your Heels at Raw Almond
No, we don’t all live in igloos and drive dog sleds, however, you’ll quickly learn that winter is the season where Canadians outshine the rest. Winnipeg has a whole host of incredible winter festivals that are sure to warm your heart and set your tastebuds ablaze. Raw Almond is an outdoor pop-up restaurant located directly on the frozen river at the Forks National Historic Site. Every year, top chefs submit their best menus and designs to festival organizers, but only one is bestowed the honor of serving the masses. The upcoming design concept is entitled the “immersive experience.” This festival occurs in late January into early February.
9. The Thrill of the Jets
Canada is hockey country, and it doesn’t matter what home city you have the pleasure of catching a game, you’ll never be disappointed. If you’re in town from October into the late spring, head down to the BEll MTS Place and cheer the Jets to victory with 15,000 of your newest friends.
10. Manyfest on Broadway
If you spend any time in Winnipeg in the late summer months, the street festival line-up is impressive. One of the most popular festivals is Manyfest, a family friendly street party that occurs annually on Broadway, between Osborne and Main Street. This three day festivals offers up wine and beer gardens, DJ’s, delectable food trucks and a pancake breakfast. Admission is free, and so too is the entertainment. It’s the perfect way to spend a weekend in Winnipeg.
11. Skate the Red River Mutual Trail
Skating outdoors in the winter is one of the most Canadian things you can do, and if you’re going to try it, why not do it on the longest naturally frozen skating trail on Earth! The Red River Mutual Trail is just over 6km, and home to a whole host of outdoor activities such as hockey, curling and sledding. Because the trail is weather dependent, you have to wait for the mercury to drop for the trail to open.
12. Stroll About the Legislature
Winnipeg, like all major Canadian cities, has a number of beautiful and historic neighborhoods, including the Osborne Village, voted one of ‘Canada’s Best Neighbourhoods’ for its tree-lined streets, historic homes and charming eateries. Take a wander over the bridge and stroll around the provincial Legislature. For history and government buffs, take a tour or just snap a few photos. The grounds make for fantastic people watching, and once you’re done, head back over to the Village and choose from any number of international restaurants.
13. Day Trip to Iceland
Ever wanted to take a day trip to Iceland without having to jump on a plane? Perched on Lake Winnipeg’s west shore lies Gimli, a small village first settled by Canadian Icelanders in 1875. Over the century, Gimli has managed to preserve the Icelandic language and culture. The railroad reached Gimli in 1906, and in the 1930’s the southern shore area of Gimli saw a number of cabins and cottages pop up, and an influx of tourists. Gimli is home to the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, Canadians descend on Gimli to enjoy Icelandic food, performances and art displays.
14. Visit the Manitoba Children’s Museum
When those winter months roll through, Winnipeggers bring their little ones indoors for some culture, exploration and fun. But regardless of what season you’re here, the Manitoba Children’s Museum is a great pit stop for the whole family. The museum sits in one of Winnipeg’s oldest buildings, dating back to 1889, which also happens to be the oldest surviving train repair shop west of Toronto. Home to a number of award winning permanent exhibits, like Pop m’Art where kids can “shop” for their art supplies in a grocery-inspired exhibit and the create! Kids can also learn about dairy farming at the “Milk Machine” exhibit, or throw on a lab-coat slicker and run around the Splash Lab.
15. Photo Ops Along the River Walk
Spring, summer and fall are Winnipeg’s most popular seasons for visitors, reading this awesome list makes it easy to see why! Winnipeg is one of Canada’s most walkable cities, with plenty of green spaces and fantastic walks. The Riverwalk shows the city off, and takes visitors from the Riel Esplanade all the way to the Winnipeg Legislature buildings. In the fall, blasts of reds, yellows and burnt oranges rustle in the trees along the way so don’t forget to bring your camera.
16. Canad Inns Winter Wonderland
Winter may be unforgiving around these parts, but it’s still beautiful. If you are brave enough to weather the cold, Winnipeg has plenty of ways to show you how to make winter fun. From the beginning of December to the beginning of January, visitors are invited to take a 2.5 km drive and enjoy 26 uniquely themed areas, with more than 1 million lights. If you’re feeling extra festive, take a pit stop along the way and enjoy some outdoor ice skating or go dashing through the snow, on a one-horse-open-sleigh!
17. Visit the Saint-Boniface Museum
The further east of the Rockies you travel, the richer Canada’s Metis and Francophone heritage becomes. Winnipeg is home to a sizable Metis community, and no place is it better documented than the Saint Boniface Museum. The Museum itself is the site of what once was Western Canada’s first hospital, dating back to 1847. It was later a school, attended by Louis Riel, and in 1995 received the Heritage Canada Foundation award for its contribution to Canadian history.
18. Shop ‘Til You Drop at the Exchange
Winnipeg is comprised of a network of eclectic neighborhoods, each with their own flavor, style and story. If you have shopping on the brain, there is no better place to get your retail therapy than the Exchange District, a National Heritage Site. This collection of 150 heritage buildings date back to the 1800’s and house some of the swankiest boutiques in the city. Whether you’re here to bring back a one of a kind souvenir, or just want to learn more about Winnipeg’s humble beginnings, it’s all down at the Exchange.
19. Take a trip to Churchill
One of the number one destinations in the province of Manitoba is Churchill. Using Winnipeg as a jumping off point, visitors can have a once in a life time encounter with one of nature’s most majestic creatures, the polar bear. Located on the western shore of Hudsons Bay, 1000km from Winnipeg, lies the historic community of Churchill. The area was first peopled in 1000AD, and Europeans arrived in 1619 led by Danish explorer named Jens Munk. Of the 64 expeditions, only 3 survived the winter here! The area now has a significant settlement, and is affectionately known as ‘The Polar Bear Capital of The World’. There are a number of companies offering Polar Bear expeditions in giant rovers, as well as a number of nature tours to view whales, arctic foxes, caribou and wolves.
20. Routes Along the Red
One of the most unique things to do in Winnipeg is walk in the footsteps of all those who came before and visitors can do this by exploring life around the highly significant Red River valley. There are at least 20 self-directed tours to take, be it cycling along the shores of ancient Lake Agassiz, or packing up your canoe and paddle along the Red River. The routes are all family friendly and a great way to explore this historic part of Canada.
21. Go On a Dinosaur Dig
Did you know that Canada is home to the richest concentration and best preserved collection of dinosaur fossils anywhere on earth? Jurassic Park jumps to life at the Canada Fossil Discovery Centre just 90 minutes south of Winnipeg. Open 7 days a week, this impressive museum is home to a mind-blowing collection of fossils including ‘Bruce’, the famous Guinness Record holder for largest T-Rex at more than 13 meters (42 feet!) long. If being a passive bystander isn’t your thing, join an actual fossil recovery expedition, and earn your stripes as a paleontologist. You could easily spend a weekend here, so consider pitching a tent in the beautiful Morden Heritage area and getting the most out of your stay.
22. Watch the Northern Lights
Manitoba is considered one of the top 3 places on earth to see the Northern Lights, and while you may not be able to see them in Winnipeg because of light pollution, a short drive north offers infinite ideal viewing locales for one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular displays. The best viewing months are, you guessed it, the coldest ones – January to March!
23. Bird Watching
Winnipeg is not only located at the geographical heart of North America, but it’s also where western feathered friends meet their eastern cousins. Which means, the areas surrounding Winnipeg boasts bird diversity scarcely seen anywhere else in Canada. Manitoba’s environmental variety, from the Connecticut Warbler to the Baird’s Sparrow and Great Gray Owl, from the heart of the Boreal Forest, across prairie grasslands to endless wetlands, more than 390 species of birds all have called Manitoba home at one point or another.
24. Go Rock Climbing
Meandering through the rather flat streets of Winnipeg, you might wander just what mole hill you’re supposed to climb. Jump in the car and head east to Canadian Shield territory. Home to some of the oldest geological features on earth, Whiteshell Provincial Park has become one of the most popular granite cliff climbing destinations in Western Canada. For those less experienced, there are plenty of great top-lining and bouldering spots in nearby Wekusko Falls Provincial Park.
25. Head to the Beach
Yes, Winnipeg is a landlocked city, but did you know that if you take a 60 minute drive north of the city you’ll bump into one of the most beautiful beaches in the world! (Be advised that there can be a lot of traffic on Highway 59 during the summer months). Canada is full of surprises. Grand Beach along the shore of the vast Lake Winnipeg boasts crystalline waters, sugary white sand and the perfect launch pad for an afternoon on the lake. A vacation destination since the 1900’s, Lake Winnipeg is the perfect place to pack a picnic, soak up some rays and enjoy the ever fleeting summer months.