A three-day summer itinerary for culture-rich Winnipeg
By: Travel Manitoba
Manitoba, Canada – Six-hundred and eighty-five thousand people call Winnipeg home. They work in its turn-of-the-century warehouses and play in its spacious casinos. They dress up to attend world-class ballet, theatre, symphony and opera, and dress down for hikes and picnics in its many parks and green spaces. They get serious at white-knuckle CFL Blue Bombers football games and applaud the antics of street performers at the city’s many festivals.
They are Winnipeggers. And they take pride in their city – from its urban beat and multicultural milieu to its fascinating roots and friendly people. There are many ways to spend three spectacular days under Winnipeg’s sunny skies. Here are some suggestions from the pros.
The Forks National Historic Site of Canada – Why not begin your travels at The Forks, a green riverside oasis where Winnipeg’s history began over 6000 years ago? Hear tales of its colourful past with entertaining one-hour walking tours. Attend an Aboriginal ceremony at the Oodena Celebration Circle. Shop for funky, one-of-a-kind items at Johnston Terminal and visit the Explore Manitoba Centre for a visual journey through Manitoba’s diverse terrain and countless attractions.
Then follow your nose to The Forks Market, where fresh seafood, meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables are yours for the buying. Time for lunch? Stay where you are and choose from the many specialties cooked up by at least a dozen ethnic and made-in-Manitoba food vendors. Walk off lunch with a 15-minute stroll across the stunning Esplanade Riel Pedestrian bridge or west along the Assiniboine riverwalk. Hop on a waterbus or rent a canoe. Destination? The Legislative Building.
The Manitoba Legislative Building is reputed to be one of the finest public buildings in North America. Stroll the elegant landscaping, admire the monuments and statues on the lush grounds and stare up, way up, at Manitoba’s famous symbol of the Golden Boy, perched high atop the imposing structure. Inside, join a professional tour of the Legislative Building.
Winnipeg Art Gallery – A five-minute walk north of the Legislative Building will land you on the steps of the world-class Winnipeg Art Gallery. You may want to take a photo of this uniquely designed building, constructed entirely from Manitoba Tyndall limestone. Not only is this gallery home to the world’s largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art, it contains over 22,000 works in its permanent collection and its walls are continually adorned with new exhibits from galleries across the globe. The gallery deserves two to three hours of your day – this can include lunch or coffee in its rooftop restaurant enjoying the smooth sounds of jazz.
Winnipeg Railway Museum – If you’re hankering for more history, take a half-hour walk east down Broadway, or jump in a cab, and spend an interesting hour or two at the Winnipeg Railway Museum, located on tracks one and two at Union Rail Station. Visit the “Countess of Dufferin,” the first steam locomotive to pull into Winnipeg in 1877, and journey through time and the changing technologies of train travel in this museum dedicated to preserving Manitoba’s rail history.
Winnipeg’s Exchange District derives its name from the Winnipeg Grain Exchange and the many other exchanges that went on in what was the centre of commerce and culture at the turn-of-the-century. The legacy of those early years is the area’s exceptional buildings, displaying some of the finest terra cotta and cut stone architecture in Canada.
Give yourself at least half-a-day here to spend visiting galleries and museums, and strolling the cobblestone sidewalks lined with antique shops, second-hand book and clothing stores, furniture retailers and merchandise wholesalers. Lunchtime brings a whole new set of delicious choices, from exotic or continental cuisine in the area’s fine restaurants to one of the funky diners that dot the district.
The Manitoba Museum – Don’t leave the Exchange without visiting the Manitoba Museum, where you can view award-winning galleries depicting Manitoba through the ages, climb aboard a 17th century wooden ketch, explore the universe in the science gallery and gaze up at the changing sky in the Planetarium. If the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is on (generally the second half of July), catch a few of the innovative, off-the-wall productions from Manitoba and around the world, performed at venues throughout the Exchange District.
St. Boniface – After lunch, it’s just a short drive to St. Boniface, the largest French quarter in in Western Canada. A rich tapestry of history and culture has spawned the passionate Francophone community you see here today. St. Boniface celebrates the proud legacy of Louis Riel, our province’s founder, and the rich contributions by Francophones and Metis to Manitoba history. You will quickly fall in love with the charming surroundings that include attractive streetscaping, road signs in French, restaurants serving French cuisine, and historic landmarks, statues and museums depicting Manitoba’s Francophone roots.
Assiniboine Park and Zoo – Enjoy the beautiful summer weather with a trip to Assiniboine Park, nearly 400 acres of spectacular parkland complete with lush picnic and barbecue areas, bike and walking trails, English garden, cricket and baseball fields, conservatory garden, pavilion, art gallery and fine dining restaurant. A highlight of the park is the Zoo, home to more than 300 different species, including Manitoba’s native polar bears, bison and elk, along with more exotic animals such as the Siberian tiger and snow leopard. (Try to go in the morning, when more of the animals are out and about.) Another must-see is the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden, unique to North America, and dedicated to the work of this world-famous sculptor, also a Winnipeg resident. The outdoor Lyric Theatre is another of the park’s popular spots, where you can catch live theatre, a music concert, or Ballet in the Park by the world-renowned Royal Winnipeg Ballet.
Osborne Village – You can easily spend a day in the park, but if you’ve got that get-up-and-go feeling, strolling and shopping the distinctive neighbourhoods of Osborne Village and Corydon Avenue should not be missed. Once an affluent suburb of early Winnipeg, the past several decades have witnessed Osborne Village’s transformation into the trendy, vibrant neighbourhood and shopping area it is today. The turn-of-the-century, character buildings now house an eclectic mix of restaurants, salons, services and boutiques featuring clothing, crafts, gifts, art, designer furniture and kitchenware, the products of some of Winnipeg’s most creative entrepreneurs. Enjoy a tasty lunch – grab some take-out sushi on the run or dine at one of the area’s many fine restaurants. Be sure to pick up some gourmet coffees and chocolates, popular stops in the Village.
Corydon Avenue – A short walk southwest of Osborne Village brings you to Corydon Avenue, dubbed Winnipeg’s Little Italy. Its distinct Mediterranean flair comes from the immigrants that settled in this neighbourhood and opened a unique mix of stores, services and restaurants. Some of the gems to be discovered on Corydon are designer clothing, curios and antiques, pottery, handmade jewellery and one-of-a-kind gift items. You should also experience Corydon Avenue in the evening, when the street comes alive with Winnipeggers of all ages strolling its sidewalks, filling its outdoor patios, eating Gelati (Italian ice cream) and enjoying the warm summer night.
Rainbow Stage or Winnipeg Folk Festival – Another great place to spend a summer night in Winnipeg, is Rainbow Stage, where you can enjoy a Broadway musical performed under the stars by local and international talent. As Canada’s longest running outdoor theatre, Rainbow Stage is a true Winnipeg summertime tradition.
As well, in early July, you can take in the Winnipeg Folk Festival, a celebration of people and music featuring over 300 national and international artists performing on seven daytime stages and an evening main stage. It’s a magical experience you won’t soon forget and just one of the many folk festivals, in western Canada.
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