Growing up in Alberta, the only thing I was ever told about Winnipeg was that it was cold and boring. It was often included in various jokes, which made me think that there must be nothing to do there. Then, in the summer of 2015, both my wife and I had the opportunity to live in Winnipeg for the summer. I had been working a sales job in Calgary and had been promoted to manager. They wanted me to start a new sales team in Winnipeg and so we had to move there for five months, from mid-April to mid-September. We rented a furnished apartment right downtown, and got ready to experience as much of Winnipeg as possible. Turns out, Winnipeg is not boring at all. We loved it. Sure, the winter is very cold, but it’s quite cold all over the country. The summer, however, turned out to be incredible. There’s all sorts of festivals, a beautiful river, a variety of restaurants, delicious ice cream shops, and quite possibly the best museum in Canada. It’s also surrounded by many lakes, including massive Lake Winnipeg, which is home to a white sand beach!
We always look forward to going back, so if you do get a chance to go, here are some things you shouldn’t miss.
Top 10 things to do in Winnipeg
Walk the Historical Exchange District
Winnipeg’s Exchange District is one of the most iconic and vibrant neighbourhoods in Winnipeg and home to some of the coolest historical buildings in Canada, which make it great for Winnipeg sightseeing. This area will take you back 100 years, with beautiful brick facades and pillars. Nicknamed the “Chicago of the North”, the Exchange features over 150 heritage buildings that were built between 1880 and 1920. This is also Winnipeg’s cultural hub, with an array of restaurants, coffee shops, galleries, and lifestyle stores, making it one of the top things to do in downtown Winnipeg. Whether you’re looking to shop around, gaze up at the amazing architecture, or just looking for things to do in Winnipeg this weekend, this is a neighbourhood you don’t want to miss.
Visit the Forks
The Forks is an area where two rivers meet; the Red river and the Assiniboine river. This is basically the heart of Winnipeg, where people gather to shop the farmer’s market, eat at the various restaurants, enjoy buskers and live music, and spend time by the river. In fact, its history as a meeting place dates back over 6,000 years when it was used by the indigenous people. There’s even a water taxi service, which allows you to jump on a boat and be escorted along the river to other popular city points. This is a great place to feel the vibe of Winnipeg and is located close to many other popular attractions such as the Children’s Museum (one of the best things to do with kids in Winnipeg) and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. This is one of the great free things to do in Winnipeg and a wonderful place to see free Winnipeg entertainment.
Explore the Museum of Human Rights
Located right next to the Forks, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is one of the best museums in all of Canada and one of the top Winnipeg attractions. Housed inside the most stunning architecturally-beautiful building in the city, the museum takes visitors on a journey of inspiration. The building has been well thought-out, with the entrance going slightly underground into a place of relative darkness, all the way up until you reach the light-filled Tower of Hope with sweeping views of the city. The only museum in the world solely devoted to human rights awareness and education, it inspires people from across the globe. Multi-sensory exhibits explore human rights concepts with an international scope, but through a uniquely Canadian lens. While the focus is on Canada and our human rights challenges throughout the years, there’s also exhibits detailing some of the worst human rights atrocities committed around the globe as well as the inspirational people who’ve made a difference. This is one of the top things to see in Winnipeg.
Assiniboine Park and the Zoo
Located smack-dab inside Winnipeg’s most beautiful park, the Assiniboine Park Zoo provides visitors with the opportunity to interact with animals from all over the globe. Open year-round, with over 80 park-like acres to explore, the Zoo has become one of the top Winnipeg tourist attractions. One of the most popular animals to see actually comes from the same province. The award-winning Journey to Churchill exhibit is home to polar bears, muskoxen, Arctic fox, wolves and other northern species that can be found in Northern Manitoba. It is the most comprehensive northern species exhibit of its kind in the world. Watching a polar bear swim by you as you look through the glass has become an iconic symbol of Winnipeg’s Zoo. This is also one of the best Winnipeg attractions for families.
Fun Fact: The polar bear that is housed at the zoo actually came from Churchill after its mother was euthanized for attacking a person. Well, maybe it’s just a fact. Not fun.
Aside from exotic animals from all corners of the globe, there’s also the McFeetors Heavy Horse Centre, which covers 4.7 acres and includes a barn, pastures, paddocks, and a carriage shed. Visitors to the Zoo have the opportunity to experience barn tours and learn about the pioneer era of Manitoba’s history when heavy horse power was relied on in industries such as agriculture, forestry, mining, and road construction. There are even wagons rides for the young ones.
Bonus Tip: Right next to the park on Portage Avenue is an ice cream shop called Sargent Sundae. It’s one of the most popular ice cream shops in the city and is truly a must-visit if you’re in the area. Try the homemade maple walnut. You’re welcome.
Relax at Thermea Spa
It seems weird to recommend a spa as a top thing to do in a city but Thermëa is so unique. This Nordic-inspired spa brings a bit of Scandinavia to the heart of the Winnipeg. Sooth your soul in the various thermal pools, steam rooms, or hot sauna. Let the day go by in a hammock as you swing blissfully beneath the pines. Treat yourself to a massage, sip on some infused water, give yourself a scrub down with mint soap salts, and then do it all again. This is one place we never miss when we visit Winnipeg and we tend to spend the better part of an entire day there. We usually start off in the dry sauna before walking under a cold waterfall for a shock to the senses. Then we mellow out in the body temperature pool, before jumping into the orange-peel infused steam room. This is one of the most fun things to do in Winnipeg for adults and has become one of the most popular Winnipeg activities in general.
Tip: If you’re looking for things for couples to do in Winnipeg, this would be one of our top recommendations.
Royal Canadian Mint
Whether it’s the reflective glassy building that attracts you or the fact that coins are produced here from 70 different countries, this makes a really cool tour and insight into currency production. Guides show visitors around the area while explaining all sorts of facts about money while also giving you the chance to hold a $600,000 gold bar or looking at the beautiful Olympic gold medals that were made for Vancouver 2010. It’s not like you’ll find the Royal Canadian Mint everywhere you go, so if you’re in Winnipeg, this is a cool place to check out.
If you’re looking for a big slice of nature within the city, look no further than FortWhyte Alive, which is home to 640-acres of prairie beauty, making it one of the best parks in Winnipeg. Here you can go sailing, kayaking, or canoeing on the various lakes, admire North America’s largest animal (the bison), or even sip on a locally brewed beer on the restaurant patio. Even in the winter, you can strap on the cross-country skies or snowshoes and get some exercise in a winter wonderland. Whether you’re looking for a quick escape into nature or an all-out fun adventure, FortWhyte Alive is a great place to visit. This is also one of the best free things to do in Winnipeg.
The Manitoba Museum
Whether you’re looking to catch a Planetarium show on one of the world’s most advanced projection systems or admire the nine permanent galleries, this Winnipeg Museum is a wonderful place to spend the day. You can learn about the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period, the mesmerizing cosmos, or the prairie plains that make up much of Western Canada, all under one roof, making this one of the best indoor activities in Winnipeg. If you want to continue learning about the history of Winnipeg and Canada in general, we suggest going to Lower Fort Garry Historical Site, which is about one hour outside of the city. This is one of the best historical sites in Winnipeg and is basically a living history museum with actors in period clothing demonstrating life back in the 1800’s.
Hermetic Code Tour in the Manitoba Legislative Building
This is the one thing in Winnipeg that we regret missing. We keep hearing about how amazing it is, but due to its select timing, we weren’t able to make it work. While beautiful in and of itself, it’s the grandiose interior, which is studded with hieroglyphics, freemasonic symbols and numeric codes that really draw the interest. The Hermetic Code Tour is a must for anyone with a sense of intrigue and curiosity, and will take you on an eye-opening tour through Canada’s finest provincial legislative building. This is one of the more unique Winnipeg attractions for adults as well and one of the cool things to do in Winnipeg.
Winnipeg Art Gallery
Located in the heart of downtown Winnipeg Canada, this WAG houses an internationally acclaimed collection of nearly 24,000 works, including the world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit art. Critically acclaimed touring shows are also brought in, featuring everything from the Renaissance to Dadaism, to Ancient Greece and the best in contemporary photography.
Bonus: Attend a Festival
If you time your visit right, you should definitely attend one of the amazing Winnipeg events that happen in or around Winnipeg during the summer months. During our time there, we attended both the Winnipeg Folk Fest and Folklorama. The Winnipeg Folk Festival is one of the most famous folk festivals on the continent, combining a variety of musical talent and camping, all inside a beautiful provincial park located just over an hour from the Winnipeg area. Then there’s Folklorama, one of the largest and longest-running multicultural festivals in the world. This two-week inner-city festival takes place in August and showcases unique cultures in venues throughout Winnipeg, lively entertainment, cultural displays, warm hospitality, and authentic ethnic cuisine. If you’ve ever wanted to travel the world without actually travelling the world, this is the festival to attend.
What To Do in Winnipeg
Winnipeg tourism is flourishing with things to do. Whether you’re looking for what to do in Winnipeg this weekend or what to do when you visit in the future, these ten things mentioned above should be high on your list. There are so many places to go in Winnipeg, whether it’s indoor amusement at the Winnipeg Museum or outdoor amusement at FortWhyte Alive, there’s something for everyone. Even if you’re a local looking for things to do in Winnipeg today, pick something from this list above and go have some fun.
Fun Facts: What is Winnipeg famous for? Check out where Winnie the Pooh comes from, as well as the inspiration for James Bond. We think you’ll be quite surprised.
Where is Winnipeg, Canada
Winnipeg is located right in the centre of Canada. In fact, the “Centre of Canada” sign is located just outside the city. It’s the capital of Manitoba, which is located between Ontario and Saskatchewan. The Winnipeg summer would be the best time to visit Winnipeg, with hot humid weather making for pleasant days and nights. As you can see from this article, there’s lot of stuff to do in Winnipeg, so as long as the weather is nice, you won’t be bored.
Restaurants are another great feature of Winnipeg. The city is so multicultural that you can find food from around the world. If you’re visiting Winnipeg in the summer and want to combine ethnic food with sport, which makes for fun date ideas in Winnipeg as well, check out Clay Oven at Shaw Park. This is one of the top Winnipeg restaurants for Indian food and you can watch a live baseball game right from the patio. This is definitely one of the unique restaurants in Winnipeg.
There are so many places to visit in Winnipeg but start with our advice above and you’ll get a really good taste of what Winnipeg has to offer.
Have you been? What would you add?
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