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 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 things to do in Winnipeg.
Note: Due to possible disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, always check attractions’ websites for updates before heading out.
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 Manitoba Children’s Museum, the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, the Goldeyes baseball field and the atmospheric Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface.
A Manitoba heritage and science centre known for its wide-ranging offerings (there’s a planetarium and a full-sized replica of a 17th-century merchant ship called the Nonsuch), the Manitoba Museum recently completed more than $20-million in upgrades to its many galleries. The latest redesign showcases the vast terrain and natural history of the prairies—making it the perfect place to witness the flatlands if you can’t escape the city—and brings greater attention to Indigenous culture, including the devastation brought on by settlers and the residential school system.
Read the story of how one residential school survivor is exploring his dark past through colourful paintings.
The Centennial River Trail
The Centennial River Trail is one of the longest naturally-frozen skating trails in the world and is one of the essential things to do in Winnipeg each 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.
These spectacular shots showcase the beauty of the Canadian winter.
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.
From fog shrouded forests to creepy abandoned cottages, these striking shots celebrate the spooky side of Canada.
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.
Here are more must-see historical attractions across Canada.
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 Winnipeg’s 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.
Here are the 10 most iconic Canadian dishes—and the best places to find them.
Manito Ahbee Festival
Each 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.
Here are 10 Indigenous authors you should be reading.
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.
New to the good old hockey game? Consider this guide to Canadian hockey slang required reading.
Hargrave St. Market
Pop into this upscale food hall that brings local restaurants together under one roof. In just one visit, you can savour pizza from Gusto North, ramen from Saburo, craft cocktails from Rose Bar and beer from Lake of the Woods Brewing Company—and more. On the way back to your hotel, stop at Mottola Grocery on the first floor to stock up on fresh fruit and specialty snacks.
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 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.
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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 thermal experience is $74 and gives you access to four 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.
For more luxurious getaways, check out these Canadian hotels that have hosted royal guests.
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 28,000 pieces of art and an impressive lineup of seasonal exhibitions.
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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 make everything in house with 100 per cent 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.
Can’t get enough of the great outdoors? Here’s what it’s like hiking the Mantario Trail in Manitoba’s Whiteshell Provincial Park.
The Gardens at The Leaf
Assiniboine Park is already a destination for locals looking to enjoy green space in the heart of the city, and as of summer 2021, there are nearly 30 acres of new outdoor gardens to explore. Here, you’ll find the Indigenous Peoples Garden, which looks at the connection between Indigenous culture and the environment, as well as a performance garden with a stage. Opening soon is The Leaf, a stunning indoor plant oasis that promises to be one-of-a-kind.
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Attached to the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) in downtown Winnipeg, Qaumajuq houses the largest public collection of Inuit art in the world—nearly 14,000 pieces in 40,000 square feet. See carvings, drawings, prints and textiles in a striking stone-and-glass building that was inspired by the vastness of the snowy North.
Journey to Churchill at Assiniboine Park Zoo
Since 2014, Journey to Churchill has been a hit with kids and adults wanting to witness the majesty of polar bears up close. Learn about biodiversity, climate change and conservation, then stand in a viewing tunnel to watch seals and polar bears swim side by side (divided by an invisible barrier). The bears you’ll see were orphaned and unable to survive in the wilderness alone.
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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.
Check out these awe-inspiring photos of the Northern Lights in Canada.
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.
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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 and savour the sweet sounds of folk, blues, bluegrass and world music.
Third + Bird
With large events and small pop-ups scheduled throughout the spring and summer, plus an annual Christmas market, Third + Bird Urban Markets bring many of Winnipeg’s best artisans and food producers together in a one-stop shop. The vendors change every time, so you never know what you’ll come across, but expect goodies like polymer-clay jewellery, small-batch spirits, leather goods and more.
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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.
Looking for your next page-turner? Check out the latest Reader’s Digest Book Club pick.
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.
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Looking for a tiny trinket from your travels? Be sure to stop at the Exchange District shop of Hilary Druxman. Known for her simple, dainty accessories (and affordable price points), Druxman also creates custom jewelry with precious stones.
“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 (above) 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.
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. Prefer bouldering? Check out The Hive, Winnipeg’s first bouldering-only facility that relies on liquid chalk and safety mats instead of ropes and harnesses.
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.
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. Nonsuch Brewing Co. is one Exchange District destination known for its Belgian-style ales. Stop by the taproom—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, Manitoba, 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.)
Find out more great places to grab a cup of joe across Canada.
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. For something extra special, place an order for the bakery’s superb 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 an Urban Detox Facial to combat the effects of pollution on your skin. 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. Take a Wild Edibles guided walk to learn about foraging, rent a cruiser bike and pedal around the trails or rent a canoe and go for a paddle on the lake. Come winter, it’s a popular spot for skating and snowshoeing.
Check out the 10 best hikes in Canada.
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 D-Jay’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.
Thom Bargen Coffee Roasters
Jonesing for a stellar cup of coffee? Look no further than Thom Bargen Coffee Roasters’ three bright and airy locations in downtown Winnipeg.
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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.
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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. It’s the perfect opportunity to see the city’s latest exhibitions, listen to artist talks and browse local art, collectible records, vintage goods and more.
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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. Expect an ever-changing menu that’s as likely to include cod croquettes with chimichurri as it is to have grilled peaches with honey and ricotta.