Updated: April 4th, 2022
Back in 2015, my wife and I moved to Winnipeg for the summer. We had been hired to lead a sales team for a company selling lawn care services. Although we had no intentions of moving to Winnipeg full-time, we took it as an opportunity to have an adventure and to really experience a new place like a local.
Winnipeg turned out to be awesome and we also got to experience some nearby destinations as well, such as Riding Mountain National Park and Gimli, Manitoba, both of which inspired us to continue sharing Canadian destinations through Must Do Canada.
If you’re looking for some cool small towns to explore, especially ones with a really interesting history, Gimli, Manitoba is a great spot to visit. In this guide, we’re going to fill you in on all the things to do in Gimli, Manitoba so that you can decide on whether or not to add it to your Manitoba bucket list.
Things to Do in Gimli, Manitoba
Just one hour north of Winnipeg on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, Gimli is an Icelandic settlement that is perfect for a relaxing weekend. It’s quite known for its Icelandic culture (talk about unique!), art, museums, watersports, and its beach. It’s most popular in the summer, although the winter can be a lot of fun as well, thanks to winter activities like their Ice Festival, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and more.
For a list of all the fun things to do in Gimli, Manitoba, continue scrolling down.
Icelandic Festival of Manitoba
Also known as Islendingadagurinn in the Icelandic language, this festival celebrates the history of Icelandic culture in Canada. Although this festival was inaugurated in Winnipeg way back in 1890, it was moved to Gimli in 1932, making it the second-oldest North American ethnic festival that has been continuously running.
Whether you’re running solo or bringing the entire family, it’s a great event for everyone, featuring things like Viking reenactments, traditional costumes, fireworks, Icelandic food and drinks, music, and more.
Gimli Film Festival
Held each year, the Gimli Film Festival is actually the largest film festival in Manitoba! Taking place in July, it’s an incredible time to explore Gimli as it’s not only a wonderful event in and of itself, it’s also the hottest time of the year to explore the town. The festival showcases films from around the world but has a special focus on Manitoba with film viewings, filmmaker Q&As, special events, workshops, and panels.
New Iceland Heritage Museum
If you’re interested in learning more about Gimli’s Icelandic heritage, you’ll want to make sure you visit the New Iceland Heritage Museum. Located in the Waterfront Centre, this museum contains permanent and temporary exhibits, workshops, programs, and special events, with a goal to educate the public on the natural history of the Interlake region, the settlement and the development of New Iceland, and the local fishing economy. Tours are available in English, French, and of course, Icelandic.
The Gimli Viking Statue
Known as the official mascot of Gimli, Manitoba, the Viking Statue is a 15-feet tall (4.6 metres) statue of a Viking that was erected in 1967. It was designed by Gissur Eliasson of the University of Manitoba and unveiled by Asegeir Asgeirsson, the then-President of Iceland. In 2017, the year we did our 150-day road trip across Canada, a Viking park was landscaped around the statue, giving it beautiful gardens, pathways, and inscriptions of notable local Icelandic people.
When it comes to lake beaches, Manitoba has some of the best in Canada. Well, Gimli Beach is one of the best beaches in Manitoba! During the summer months, the water is quite warm and the sand is nice and soft, making it a great way to escape the city and enjoy nature. It’s popular for swimming but is also known for a variety of other activities, including beach volleyball, and the chance to rent a jet ski and go for a rip around the lake.
The Harbour Wall
Another great place to go for a stroll is the Harbour Wall, which is an outdoor art gallery near the marina that features a collection of 72 painted murals. Created back in 1977, the seawall stands 6-feet high and 977-feet long, hosting murals that depict prairie life, seasonal scenes, modern Manitoba, and seafaring. The Harbour Wall was really made to protect the marina from the wind and sometimes big waves on the lake, but thanks to the artwork, it has become a popular place for photographers, art lovers, and really anyone else looking for a great thing to do in Gimli, Manitoba. It’s open from May to September.
Eat Fish & Chips
While there’s a variety of delicious restaurants in Gimli, one of the most famous of them all is Kris’ Fish & Chips, which is located at 78 1st Ave. This is the place to go if you want tasty Pickerel caught right from the lake and served with chunky homemade fries. If that’s not your thing, they also serve burgers, salads, beer, and both hard and soft ice cream.
The Gimli Glider Exhibit
Did you know that on the evening of July 23rd, 1983, a big Air Canada Boeing 767 landed on the abandoned Gimli airport runway with no warning? It’s quite the story and the Gimli Glider Exhibit is the place to learn all about it, including eye-witness accounts, artifacts from the scene, and so much more.
Arnes Farmers Market
Everyone loves a good farmers’ market, and it’s hard to beat Arnes Farmers Market, which is located at Provincial Road 222 in Arnes, Manitoba. For those on a Canada road trip, it’s a great place to stop for homemade goods, fresh fruit, veggies, and crafts. It’s only 15-minutes north of Gimli, making it a great little side trip for those in the area.
Shop at H.P. Tergesen General Store
It’s not very often we recommend a General Store as a thing to do, but when it’s the oldest convenience store in Manitoba that’s still in operation, it makes the list. Opened in 1899 by Hans Pjetur Tergesen, this historic site of Manitoba is a great place to buy a souvenir and see what has basically become a small living museum, with many of its original features intact.
The Gimli Art Club
If you’re looking to create some art while in town, check out the Gimli Art Club. Located next to the marina, the Gimli Art Club features an indoor gallery, art for purchase, and classes and events. However, If you want to take an art class or workshop, you’ll have to book ahead on the club’s website as the events are based on interest.
Winter in Gimli Manitoba
The winter in Canada is cold and Manitoba is one of the coldest places to experience it. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Some of the most popular winter activities in Gimli, Manitoba, include the annual Ice Festival, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. The Ice Festival is especially fun to partake in, as it includes car races on the frozen lake, Viking battle demonstrations, fireside chats, and a frozen fish toss. For those who love driving, you may also want to look into the Mercedes-AMG Winter Sporting event in which people can sign up to learn how to drift on frozen Lake Winnipeg. Fun!
If you’re looking for another fun beach to explore, Winnipeg Beach is just a 15-minute drive south of Gimli and is equally beautiful. Besides going for a swim or splashing in the waves, it’s also popular for watersports, hiking, golf, and just enjoying nature.
Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park
While Gimli is certainly a unique and cool place to visit, another really interesting place to explore is Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park, which is just an hour’s drive away. This cluster of islands on Lake Winnipeg is home to an array of activities, including visiting the Hecla Lighthouse, exploring the boardwalks of Grassy Narrows Marsh, and taking a guided wolf tour.
Where to Stay in Gimli
Lakeview Resort: This is a large hotel located in downtown Gimli with 94 guest rooms, a restaurant, a pool, a business centre, and a fitness centre. During our visit, we were sponsored to stay at Lakeview Resort, which also offers apartment-style rooms right next to the beach. Our room was incredibly spacious. The massive bedroom had a king-sized bed and a flat-screen TV, the living room had a comfortable couch and another flat-screen TV, and the full kitchen had everything we needed. There was also a balcony off both the living room and the bedroom that offered views of the lake.
Inn On Centre: Another great place to stay and something more boutique than the large Lakeview Resort is the Inn On Centre, which is a lovely 2-room hotel offering a charming experience.
Aaron’s on the Lake Bed & Breakfast: For another boutique experience but right on the beach, check out Aaron’s on the Lake, a beachfront property located near Winnipeg Beach. They offer lake view rooms, garden view rooms, and pier view rooms at decent prices.
Looking For More Things to Do?
As awesome as Gimli is, there are so many other cool things to do in Manitoba and beyond. For more information on things to do nearby or in neighbouring provinces, check out these travel guides below: