50 Reasons You’ve Got Winnipeg All Wrong
It seems like everybody loves to make fun of Winnipeg—but the joke’s on them. The capital of Manitoba is an overlooked gem that sparkles with a lively arts scene, destination eateries, and some of the best people in the Great White North.
50 Things to See and Do in Winnipeg
There’s a reason “Friendly Manitoba” is emblazoned on every license plate in the province: You simply won’t find a place with nicer people. But the happy-go-lucky locals aren’t the only reason to visit Manitoba’s capital city of Winnipeg. Winnipeg, or “Winnie” as it’s affectionately known, is also full of first-class restaurants, cool art galleries and plenty of fun year-round. Be sure to book a car (it’s definitely not what you’d call a walking city) and check out these 50 must-see attractions in Winnipeg.
The Forks—which gets its name from its position at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red rivers—is known as Winnipeg’s meeting place. Here you’ll find the sprawling Forks Market, one of the best places in Winnipeg to browse for food and gifts (think coffee from Fools & Horses, beer from The Common and candles from Coal and Canary) in an indoor setting. It’s also within walking distance of most of Winnipeg’s major attractions, including the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Children’s Museum, the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, the Goldeyes baseball field and the atmospheric Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface.
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Red River Mutual Trail
The Red River Mutual Trail is one of the longest naturally-frozen skating trails in the world and is considered one of the top things to do in Winnipeg in the winter. Skate or walk it from January to March—weather permitting—and pop by the Warming Huts created by guest architects like Anish Kapoor and Frank Gehry.
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Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival
For 12 days in July, Winnipeg’s Exchange District doubles as a stage for the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival—the second largest event of its kind in North America. Tickets to performances are never more than $10, and the two dozen show venues are all within walking distance of each other. Not into live theatre? You can easily while away the day exploring the food carts and vendors clustered around the festival’s outdoor stage.
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Saint Boniface Cathedral
The “Mother Church of Western Canada” is one of Winnipeg’s most iconic structures. The hauntingly beautiful front facade is all that remains of the previous church, which burned down in 1968. The early 20th century ruin is now incorporated into the modern day cathedral—the sixth church to have occupied this plot since 1818.
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Hermetic Code Tour
For architecture, mystery and occult lovers alike, the Hermetic Code Tour at the Manitoba Legislative Building is one of the utterly unique things to do in Winnipeg. The 90-minute tour is led by Dr. Frank Albo, a charismatic architecture historian, and is a fascinating exploration of hidden hieroglyphic inscriptions, numerological codes and Freemasonic symbols.
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Royal Canadian Mint
Every nickel and dime in your pocket originated from this very building. A 45-minute guided tour of the Royal Canadian Mint’s Winnipeg facility offers a fascinating glimpse into the coin production process, and how it can inspire such passion for coin collectors.
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Located in the Exchange District, Clementine is a cozy nook that’s beloved by locals for its decadent brunch fare. Expect tasty morsels like waffles with roasted strawberry compote and lemon curd, smoked Arctic Char and fried potatoes with chickpea mayo. There are also plenty of morning cocktails on the menu to lift your spirits.
Manito Ahbee Festival
Every May, the Manito Ahbee Festival celebrates indigenous art, music and culture with a marketplace and trade show, the Indigenous Music Awards ceremony and the largest powwow in Canada.
This giant independent bookstore (yes, they still exist) is a literature lover’s dream. There’s a huge selection of books, cards and gifts, a ton of comfy chairs to curl up in, and even a sit-down restaurant.
Witness Winnipeg’s legendary love for hockey first-hand at the MTS Centre, where the Winnipeg Jets have been playing since their return to Winnie in 2011. (The team moved to Phoenix and were renamed the Coyotes in 1996.). Instagrammers take note: the hashtag is #GoJetsGo.
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Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Winnipeg’s other beloved pro sports team, the CFL’s Blue Bombers, moved to a brand new stadium next to the University of Manitoba in 2013. Grab an ice cold beer and root for the 11-time Grey Cup winners (or your fave visiting team—boo!) from the stands of this state-of-the-art facility.
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Canadian Museum of Human Rights
One of Winnipeg’s biggest (and newest) attractions, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights features 10 permanent galleries that tell the stories—and struggles—of people in Canada and around the world. The horrors endured by indigenous populations and those affected by the Holocaust are brought to life with unique interactive and multimedia exhibits.
Kum Koon Garden
Dig in to classic dim sum seven days a week at Kum Koon Garden. Although you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, the shrimp dumplings, crispy spring rolls and baked pineapple buns are particularly drool-worthy.
Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature
Sometimes you just have to treat yourself, and there’s no better place to do that in Winnipeg than Thermëa. The spa’s full-day packages ($46-$51) give you access to three baths and four saunas as well as indoor and outdoor relaxation areas. Tack on a massage, body treatment or meal at the restaurant for a little extra zen.
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Winnipeg Art Gallery
Founded in 1912, the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) has the distinction of being the first civic art gallery in Canada. Located in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, the gallery boasts a permanent collection of 25,000 pieces of art and an impressive lineup of seasonal exhibitions. There are currently plans to open an art centre adjacent to the gallery that’s entirely dedicated to Inuit art.
In the height of summer, it’s easy to lose an entire day at Assiniboine Park. Whether you’re riding bikes (they’re available for rent), strolling through the zoo, snapping pics in the Leo Mol sculpture garden or hitching a ride on the mini steam train, the sprawling park has something for everyone. Come sunset, head for the Lyric Theatre at the heart of the park, where you can catch live jazz, ballet and film screenings.
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Chaeban is an artisanal ice cream shop run by a Syrian family who makes everything in house with 100-percent natural ingredients. When you visit, order a flight of four flavours and be sure to try Abir Al Sham, a traditional Syrian recipe that blends rose, orange blossom water, ricotta and nuts.
Festival du Voyageur
Each February, Winnipeg’s French neighbourhood, Saint-Boniface, hosts the largest winter festival in Western Canada. The 10-day Festival du Voyageur showcases the histories of voyageurs, Métis and First Nations people, and includes traditional music performances, snow sculptures and oodles of maple taffy.
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An hour-and-a-half drive from Winnipeg, Victoria Beach is a picturesque cottage community with a year-round population of 400—and an estimated 10,000 more come summer. Soak up the sun on the beach, take a dip in Lake Winnipeg and hit the links before tucking into the notoriously addictive white Irish bread served up at the town’s bakery.
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Across the lake from Victoria Beach, you’ll find the municipality of Gimli, which has the distinction of being the largest Icelandic settlement outside of Iceland. In July, catch the Gimli Film Festival, followed by the Icelandic Festival the week after. After sunset, claim a table at one of the charming beachside restaurants and hope to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
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If you want to get a real taste of a Manitoba winter, there’s no place like Central Manitoba’s Elkhorn Resort. Although it’s a three-hour trek from Winnipeg, it’s well worth the drive, as the property opens up onto 3,000 square kilometres of pristine boreal forest that are the ideal setting for snowmobiling and dogsledding. Cap off your outdoor adventure with by toasting marshmallows on a roaring campfire—and a pampering session at the resort’s spa.
Public General Store
Love pretty things? Get thee to Public General Store, a shop that promotes high-quality goods and local artisans. Pick up candles, perfume, cloth totes and carefully selected vintage jewellery and—if you’ll be in town for a while—a fresh floral bouquet.
Winnipeg Folk Fest
Even if camping’s not normally your jam, the Winnipeg Folk Fest may make an outdoorsman (or outdoorswoman) out of you. For four days in July, you can pitch a tent at Bird’s Hill Park, a 45-minute drive outside Winnipeg while savouring the sweet sounds of folk, blues, bluegrass and world music.
Located on the tenth floor of the glamorous Fort Garry Hotel, Ten Spa offers a luxurious escape from life’s daily stresses. Spend time purifying in the authentic Turkish hamam, book a massage, or take a nap in the comfy guests-only lounge.
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Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre
As Canada’s first English-speaking regional theatre, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (also known as the Royal MTC) has a long history of delighting Winnipeg audiences. With performances at both a main stage and smaller warehouse venue, the productions showcase the talents of local actors and some truly top-notch sets.
“The Village” on Osborne is a walkable stretch of Winnipeg that boasts some spectacular opportunities for shopping and dining. Be sure to hit up Out of the Blue for clothes, Rooster for shoes, and Small Mercies and Silver Lotus for jewellery. Stop at Sous Sol for oysters (and Baked Expectations for dessert, if you’ve still got room).
Little Sister Coffee Maker
If you’re in need of a caffeine fix after spending the morning window shopping in Osborne Village, pop into Little Sister Coffee Maker. This eminently Instagrammable coffee shop oozes the young, hip vibe that’s on the rise in the ’peg.
Winnipeg Jewish Theatre
Winnipeg is known for its vibrant theatre scene, thanks in part to the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre (WJT). While the theatre’s mandate involves producing plays that explore the Jewish experience or are written by Jewish playwrights, it is truly a place where people of all faiths and cultures can learn what it means to be human. Put WJT at the top of your list of things to do in Winnipeg.
Segovia Tapas Bar
A Winnipeg favourite, this cozy restaurant offers small tapas–style plates that are perfect for sharing, although the Spanish cheese selection is so good, you might not feel very generous. It’s an unwritten rule that every meal at Segovia must be capped off with a stuffed date for dessert.
If your kids are already climbing the walls, you might as well bring them to Vertical Adventures, Winnipeg’s largest indoor wall-climbing facility. Grown-ups are catered to as well, of course, with wall-climbing lessons suited to any skill level.
Vera Pizzeria e Bevande
Hit up this South Osborne pizza joint for a traditional Neapolitan pizza with hand-stretched dough. The best part? It only takes 90 seconds to bake, thanks to the intense heat of the 537-degree oven.
The perfect place to pick up a Winnipeg souvenir, lot.15 is an Exchange District studio filled with ceramics made by Lynne Mulvihill. Her minimalist dishware, planters and soap dispensers add a unique touch to any home. And if you’re looking for variety, she also shares the space with Made by Josephine (a women’s clothing brand) and Souvenir Handmade (a jewellery line).
Every August, Winnipeg plays host to Folklorama, the world’s largest and longest-running multicultural festival. The two-week celebration showcases the distinctive music, dance, food and art of dozens of countries around the world in pavilions scattered throughout the city.
Nonsuch Brewing Co.
Winnipeg’s craft beer scene has taken off in recent years with plenty of breweries opening their doors around the city. One of the newest is Nonsuch Brewing Co., an Exchange District destination known for its Belgian-style ales. Stop by the taproom—a space is filled with vintage furniture and shining gold umbrellas—and give the award-winning Belgian Strong a taste. Head brewer Mark Borowski uses mineral water from a well in Middlebro, MB, for all of his beers and sources many of his malts from Germany.
Forth is so much more than a coffee shop. It’s a gathering place for locals and visitors to chat, eat, work, shop, view art, listen to music and even sip cocktails. (And, yes, you can buy a perfectly brewed cup of local Dogwood Coffee while you’re there.)
High Tea Bakery
Craving a little something sweet? Stop in at High Tea Bakery on Portage Avenue and choose from a selection of fresh treats and dainties. Need something extra special? The bakery excels at elaborate custom cakes and cookies.
Riverstone Spa at the Inn at the Forks offers an impressive variety of spa treatments, including a Chakra Balancing Massage and a Luminosity Microcurrent Facial. Follow up your pampering session with a meal at the hotel’s restaurant, SMITH.
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More than just a park, FortWhyte Alive’s hiking trails, interpretive programs and bird-watching opportunities are a great way to reconnect with nature. If you have time (and plenty of sunshine), head to the lake for a stand-up paddleboard lesson, or take instruction on canoeing and kayaking. Come winter, it’s a popular spot for skating and snowshoeing.
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Feast Café Bistro
Visit Feast Café Bistro if you’re looking for a hearty meal made with local ingredients. You’ll also experience a little of Manitoba’s First Nations culture—a key goal of owner Christa Bruno-Guenther. Be sure to try the butternut squash pizza on bannock crust, the bison chili and the Manitoba pickerel sliders.
Mad About Style
Make sure there’s plenty of room on your credit card before you enter this airy Winnipeg shop. You’ll want one of everything—or at least a new bag, dress and pair of shoes…
If you find yourself in Winnipeg’s west side, look up DJay’s Restaurant—home to what’s arguably the city’s most delicious pizza sauce. Got a meat lover in your midst? Order the No. 2 pizza. They’ll be crowing about it for weeks.
Just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean your workout schedule has to go off the rails. Drop in to WPG Cycle for a $20 spin class or book two weeks of unlimited rides for $40 (first-timers only).
Thom Bargen Coffee & Tea
Jonesing for a stellar cup of coffee? Look no further than Thom Bargen’s two bright and airy locations in downtown Winnipeg.
For a touch of elegance and a perfectly-cooked steak, book yourself dinner at the refurbished riverside mansion at 529 Wellington. It’s not a cheap meal by any stretch of the imagination, but considering their steaks are the top one per cent cuts of beef in Canada, it’s a worthy splurge.
Just the thing for date night, this Asian-fusion restaurant boasts an inspired menu of small, shareable plates. Must-trys include the steam buns and Mongolian lamb with egg noodles.
First Fridays in the Exchange District
More of a night owl than an early bird? On the first Friday of every month, the Exchange District’s art galleries, studios and shops stay open late. For just $20, you can have dinner at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café, enjoy a talk from local art experts, then take a guided tour of this fascinating neighbourhood.
Deer + Almond
Chef Mandel Hitzer (who used to host “secret dinners” in Winnipeg to hone his skills) serves up sensational dishes at this always hopping eatery. His fried Brussels sprouts, watermelon and pork belly and braised lamb shank are all meant to be shared, family-style.