Not so long ago, Winnipeg was a place most international visitors passed through on the way to see the polar bears in Churchill. These days, especially since the opening of Winnipeg’s glittering Canadian Museum For Human Rights, the city has become the coolest small capital in Canada. Manitoba’s capital is packed with galleries, cafes, bars and breweries. You certainly won’t run out of places to go and things to do in Winnipeg.
Here are some 11 fun activities to tick off your list and 7 things to do in Winnipeg in winter.
- Things to do in Winnipeg
- 1- Explore the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
- 2- Journey to Churchill at Assiniboine Park Zoo
- 3- Wander the Forks National Historic Site
- 4- Hermetic Code Tour in the Manitoba Legislative Building
- 5- Explore Canada’s history at the Manitoba Museum
- 6- Awaken your creativity at Winnipeg Art Gallery
- 7- See the bison at Fortwhyte Alive
- 8- Meet local artists in the Exchange District
- 9- Hold the gold at the Royal Canadian Mint
- 10- Have fun on a Winnipeg craft beer tour
- 11- Explore Winnipeg’s French Quarter
- 7 things to do in Winnipeg in Winter
Things to do in Winnipeg
1- Explore the Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Designed by architect extraordinaire Antione Predock, Canada’s most eye-catching attraction glitters like a spaceship in the night.
The Canadian Museum For Human Rights an architectural marvel that dominates the Winnipeg skyline and the museum is as captivating inside as the building is from a distance.
It’s worth spending at least half a day (you could easily spend the entire day there if you have the time!) exploring the immersive journey through 11 powerful, interactive and awe-inspiring exhibits.
You wind your way to the CMHR’s pinnacle, the tower of hope for a stunning view of the city.
An ambitious museum meant to foster dialogue and promote change for a better world, the CMHR provides a stirring account of the human experience that is memorable and unique.
2- Journey to Churchill at Assiniboine Park Zoo
One of the things that makes Manitoba special is that this province is home to polar bears.
You can get up close to polar bears in the wild in Churchill, and even if you do it’s still worth spending time at the Journey to Churchill exhibit in Assiniboine Park Zoo.
Watching these majestic mammals dive, swim and frolic above you through the exhibit’s glass dome is mesmerising. You’ll be surprised at how quickly time flies past.
While the polar bears are the main attraction, the zoo also has a decent selection of animals like muskox, wolves, moose and seals.
There are other rare animals like red pandas and snow leopards, along with over 200 other species. Seeing the polar bears at Assiniboine Zoo is one of the things to do in Winnipeg not to be missed.
3- Wander the Forks National Historic Site
Rich with 6,000 years of history, the meeting of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers has long been a gathering place for First Nations tribes.
These days, wander around The Forks and you’ll be surprised at the diversity of shops in the bustling central market.
The market also houses eateries, pubs and the tree-lined paths along the river are a delightful place to go for a stroll.
There’s a children’s play area and water park.
In winter, head to the skating part, where you can rent skates and glide on the world’s longest skating rink.
4- Hermetic Code Tour in the Manitoba Legislative Building
Dan Brown fans will love trying to decipher the codes hidden in one of Canada’s finest provincial legislative building.
The grand interior of this ode to Olympus is studded with hieroglyphics, Freemason symbols and codes, all of which are unveiled during the Hermetic Code Tour.
The tour is an intriguing activity for anyone who loves mysteries.
On the top of the building is Winnipeg’s Golden Boy, crafted in Paris and holds a sheath of wheat.
5- Explore Canada’s history at the Manitoba Museum
From the towering dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period to across the cosmos through space and time to the buffalo laden prairie plains, Manitoba Museum’s galleries are packed with heritage and educational displays.
Whether you are catching a Planetarium show, which has a sophisticated projection system or ogling at Canada’s most important historical artefacts in the Hudson’s Bay Company Museum Collection, the Manitoba Museum has plenty of displays that will captivate your imagination.
Visiting the museums is also a fun thing to do in Winnipeg for the whole family.
6- Awaken your creativity at Winnipeg Art Gallery
Architecturally striking and centrally located in the heart of downtown, the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) is home to an internationally acclaimed collection.
WAG has 24,000 works and a substantial display of Canadian and Manitoba-centric pieces, including the world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit art.
Some exhibits have been shown in top art cities around the world, such as New York, Barcelona and Tokyo.
There’s a rotating roster of world-class exhibitions, featuring works from the Renaissance to Dadaism, to Ancient Greece and the best in contemporary photography.
7- See the bison at Fortwhyte Alive
Fortwhyte Alive is a surprising 250ha of pristine prairie south of the city and a destination for all seasons.
In the summer, feel the wind in your hair canoeing or sailing on one of Fortwhyte’s several lakes.
In the autumn, sip a locally brewed beer on its restaurant patio while watching North America’s largest animal (the bison) roam in its natural habitat as migrating birds fill the sky.
When the snow falls, go cross-country skiing on its many trails, or take the kids out for a ridiculously fun day of sliding on the Richardson Run Toboggan slide.
8- Meet local artists in the Exchange District
One of Canada’s architectural marvels, this 30-block district is a collection of North America’s most extensive (and handsome!) turn-of-the-century buildings.
Winnipeg was once the third richest city in Canada and a significant centre for grain.
The grain trade brought the Canadian Pacific Railway and mass migration to the Prairies.
A great way to see the Canadian countryside is to board Via Rail’s The Canadian, the Trans-Canadian railway, which connects Toronto to Vancouver and stops in Winnipeg.
These days, Winnipeg’s Exchange District is experiencing a design renaissance, where historic stone warehouses are being filled with workshops, pop-up stores, restaurants, nightclubs and art galleries.
While walking its charming streets, you’ll discover the city’s trendiest and tastiest spots including delightful restaurants and bistros, galleries, antique shops and some of the best the city has to offer in coffee and café culture.
9- Hold the gold at the Royal Canadian Mint
One of Winnipeg’s most beautiful buildings, its reflective glassy exterior is a sight to behold at sundown, glowing under an orange prairie sky.
On the inside, you’ll find guided tours that will have you holding a $500 thousand gold bar (it’s really quite heavy), ogling over the Olympic gold medals that were made for Vancouver 2010, and watching coins being produced for more than 70 different countries.
A trip to the Mint is worth every penny!
10- Have fun on a Winnipeg craft beer tour
Trendy Winnipeg has a booming craft-beer scene. If you love beer, a tour of Winnipeg’s breweries is a fun way to see the city at night and meet some friendly locals.
Winnipeg Tasting Tours is a 41/2-hour tour of the city’s best microbreweries, where you’ll enjoy wood-fired pizza and tasting paddles with plenty of beer.
Part of the attraction of this tour is it offers a peek behind the scenes, where you’ll discover the secrets of making great beer.
11- Explore Winnipeg’s French Quarter
Founded in 1818 by Bishop Provencher, St Boniface is the heart of Manitoba’s French history. It was established as an area for the colony’s French and Métis residents.
Take a walking tour to learn about the history and see over 35 historical sites or wander along Boulevard Provencher to browse through boutiques and cafés.
The best time to visit Winnipeg’s French neighbourhood is during Festival du Voyageur in February, when the area comes to life.
See snow sculptures, dance to live music and fill up on delicious French Canadian fare.
The festival is a celebration of winter in Winnipeg that brings to life the history and culture of the Franco-Manitoban community.
The displays are educational, with fascinating demonstrations of traditional crafts, and fun activities.
Mark this winter festival on your calendar for next February.
7 things to do in Winnipeg in Winter
By Teresa Bergen
When it comes to Canadian cities, Winnipeg tends to sit in the shadows of Canada’s larger cities like Montreal and Vancouver. However, during a February visit to Winnipeg, I found it a surprisingly hip and happening city to visit, with some unusual winter attractions. Unpretentious, uncrowded and affordable, Canada’s great prairie city is a cool place to be. Here are 7 fun activities to do on your Winnipeg winter holiday.
12- Ride a bike in snow to lunch
Bundle up in your parka and join Downtown Winnipeg Biz’ Moveable Feast dining tour.
The itinerary changes to showcase different restaurants but expect to ride a short distance through the snowy Winnipeg downtown, then stop, warm up inside a fabulous eatery and try something tasty.
During my visit, our progressive lunch included stops at a rotating restaurant Prairie 360, wood-fired pizza specialists Carbone and the international-flavoured Merchant Kitchen.
13- Climb an Ice Tower
Challenge yourself to climb a tower of ice, if you dare.
It’s a fun Winnipeg winter activity. The 20-meter tower is open on weekends.
Experienced people can climb it in five minutes, with the record being 25 seconds.
New to climbing? Well, it might take a little longer but it’s just as much fun.
Harness, helmet, crampons and alpine boots are required.
There’s a limited amount of equipment available to borrow on-site.
14- Skate The Red River Mutual Trail
Another Winnipeg winter gem is the five-kilometer Red River Mutual Trail, which is one of the world’s longest skating trails.
Dotting the route is a series of “warming huts,” which are art installations, not structures to warm you up.
These installations are world class, with artists from around the world competing to have their piece featured on the Red River Mutual Trail.
Famous artists like Bombay-born Anish Kapoor have shown their work here.
15- Raw:almond Winnipeg
Another only-in-Winnipeg experience, Raw:almond is a temporary restaurant built on the frozen Red River. Actually, it’s one of the top Winnipeg winter events to look forward to.
For three weeks in winter, all-star chefs cook innovative food for bundled up guests. Each chef cooks for two nights, doing three seatings each night.
To make the experience even more unique, Raw:almond has two chefs simultaneously cooking for two different long, communal tables. Each table eats an entirely different set menu.
When I visited, Vancouver chef and sustainable seafood guru Ned Bell made us a memorable dinner on a table decorated with shells and bull kelp.
16- Snowshoeing by Moonlight – Fort Whyte Alive
Nature preserve Fort Whyte Alive offers outdoor activities year-round. In winter, some of their outings are by guided moonlight snowshoe tours. Guests can bring their own snowshoes, or borrow simple pairs made out of recycled plastic bottles and tires.
The crowd splits into smaller groups for their journey through snowy fields.
The night I went, about 40 people showed up and we divided into beginner, moderate and adventurous groups. It was lots of fun, good exercise and plenty of moonlight to light our way.
17- Soak in a Spa at Thermea Winnipeg
The air temperature may be below zero, but it’s still hot in the hot tub.
At Thermea Nordic Spa, you can stroll between a hot pool, a tepid pool and a steam room in your bikini amidst a snowy landscape.
At Thermea Winnipeg, the extremely daring get the full hydrotherapy effects by alternating hot and cold cycles, which may mean plunging in the cold pool or standing underneath a chilly waterfall.
Don’t miss the exfoliation station, with house-made lavender scrub.
This blissful spa lets you eat in its upscale restaurant while wearing your robe. I could live here!
18- Winnipeg Winter Yoga
While I visited Winnipeg, Fort Whyte Alive hosted what organizers hoped was the first annual Fire and Ice Yoga Festival.
110 eager yogis showed up to downward dog on a frozen lake.
It turned out that doing yoga while wearing a parka and snow boots on slippery snow was both difficult and fun. And it involved a lot of laughing at ourselves.
After our exertions, we peacefully gazed up at stark, leafless trees and atmospheric Winnipeg winter sky during savasana. Afterwards, yogis drank wild-crafted sage-blend tea by the campfire.
Looking for more Canadian adventures? Here are our top 50 things to do in Canada