Manitoba’s capital, Winnipeg, is more than just a quick pitstop on the way to see polar bears and northern lights. Once you get to know the city, you’ll realise Winnipeg punches way above its weight when it comes to the size and stature of its attractions. This small city, with a population of around 825,000, is home to impressive attractions. The two main things to do in Winnipeg are visiting the architecturally unique Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a contemporary temple of glass and steel, and the Journey to Churchill attraction in Assiniboine Zoo, where you’ll be amazed at the spectacular sight of polar bears floating overhead in the glass tunnel.
Once you’ve ticked those two attractions off your list, dig a little deeper and you’ll find an exciting array of historical attractions, galleries, gardens, museums and trendy precincts packed with excellent bars, breweries and restaurants. Winnipeg’s blend of old and new, contemporary and historical makes it feel like a young city with an old soul. Once you get to know it better, I’m sure you’ll agree that there are plenty of reasons to put Canada’s coolest capital at the top of your to-visit list. Here are the top things to do in Winnipeg:
- 25 Things To Do In Winnipeg
- What’s New
- What’s Cool
- Capital of Culture
- Winnipeg Museums
- Meet The Animals
- Family Fun
- Eat and Drink
25 Things To Do In Winnipeg
1- Qaumajuq at the Winnipeg Art Gallery
The Winnipeg Art Gallery is an architecturally striking building that houses an impressive display of 24,000 works and a range of exhibitions, from contemporary photography to works from Ancient Greece. Exhibits from this gallery have travelled the world and been on display in top art cities around the globe such as Tokyo and New York.
The gallery also owns the largest collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world and has this impressive collection on display in a new wing called Qaumajuq, which is developing a reputation as one of the top cultural landmarks in Manitoba. The Inuit art centre has galleries, spaces for academic research and educational programs, as well as displays a range of works by Inuit and Canadian First Nations artists.
Qaumajuq is at 300 Memorial Blvd, Winnipeg.
2- Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada
Scheduled to open in 2022, the new Royal Aviation Museum will be a significant attraction in Winnipeg, which was the operational headquarters for Canada’s first three national air services.
The museum will showcase aviation history through an extensive collection of items collected over 40 years, including over 90 historic aircraft, photographs and 70,000 artefacts.
The collection is the largest aviation heritage collection in Canada and one of only six ‘Royal’ museums in the country. The aircraft collection includes historic aircraft such as a Vickers Viscount VC2 (the world’s first turboprop airliner), a de Havilland Beaver DHC-2 (the world’s first aircraft designed specifically for short takeoff and landing) and a McDonnell F-101B Voodoo used by the Royal Canadian Airforce.
The Royal Aviation Museum is at 2088 Wellington Ave, next door to Winnipeg’s James Richardson International Airport.
3- The Manitoba Museum
Considerable work has gone into refreshing the Manitoba Museum’s galleries to provide education and entertainment for the whole family. The museum’s nine galleries display the rich cultural and natural history of Manitoba through millions of years. It’s an interpretive journey across the province’s vast landscapes, from the arctic coast to the prairies, and across time and space.
Highlights include the Hudson’s Bay Company Gallery, which has a collection of museum items showcasing the oldest continuously operating business in North America, and the Nonsuch Gallery, where the replica of the original 17th-century ship is displayed. The replica was built in England in 1970 to celebrate 300 years of the Hudson Bay Company.
The Science Gallery showcases technology and illusion, with hands-on exhibits that allow you to become the scientist as you explore the concepts of stop-action movies, pulleys and the Lake Winnipeg watershed. And the planetarium has a sophisticated projection system, with a schedule of fascinating constellation and light shows.
The Manitoba Museum is at 190 Rupert Ave, in Winnipeg’s Exchange District.
4- Canada’s Diversity Gardens – The Leaf
Canada’s Diversity Gardens discovers our connection with plants and nature through storytelling.
The Leaf is a creative attraction opening in 2022 that explores Canadian culture through the plant world. This exciting project has a connection to Australia through its Wollemi Pine exhibit, which will be featured inside The Leaf’s Tropical Biome. Experts thought the pine was extinct for two million years, until a small number were discovered in Wollemi National Park in NSW, Australia. Today, the Wollemi Pine is one of the most endangered plants on the planet. In 2020, forest fires in Australia threatened the only known population growing in the wild.
The Leaf’s outdoor gardens are spread out across six areas, including the Indigenous Peoples Garden, which was designed with input from Indigenous Elders. Other gardens are the Sensory Garden, Kitchen Garden, Performance Garden, Seasonal Garden and The Grove with its majestic trees.
When the project is completed, there will be four indoor plant biomes and a six-storey water feature that is on track to becoming Canada’s tallest indoor waterfall.
The Leaf is at 55 Pavilion Crescent, Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg.
5- Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Visiting the Canadian Museum For Human Rights is one of the most unique things to do in Winnipeg any time of the year. The museum is an architectural marvel that dominates the Winnipeg skyline and is one of the most impressive modern monuments in Canada. Designed by architect extraordinaire Antione Predock, it glitters like a spaceship in the night and is as captivating inside as it is from the outside.
It’s worth spending the day exploring the immersive journey through 10 interactive and thought-provoking galleries. You wind your way to the CMHR’s pinnacle, the tower of hope for a stunning view of the city. The museum’s aim is to encourage thought and dialogue about global human rights issues and to promote change for a better world.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is at 85 Israel Asper Way, Winnipeg.
6- Winnipeg Exchange District
The Winnipeg Exchange District is a 30-block district with a collection of North America’s most extensive turn-of-the-century buildings.
Winnipeg was once the third-richest city in Canada and a significant centre for grain, which brought the Canadian Pacific Railway and mass migration to the prairies. In recent years, the area has experienced a design renaissance, where historic stone warehouses have been converted into contemporary workshops, pop-up stores, restaurants, nightclubs and art galleries.
While walking the charming streets of the exchange district, you’ll discover the city’s trendiest spots including delightful restaurants and bistros, local art galleries, antique shops and some of the best the city has to offer in coffee and café culture.
Winnipeg Exchange District is at 492 Main St, Winnipeg.
7- Hermetic Code Tour in the Manitoba Legislative Building
One of the fun things to do in Winnipeg is to go on the intriguing Hermetic Code Tour, which is a tour that will appeal to Dan Brown fans or anyone who loves a good mystery.
Decipher the codes hidden in one of Canada’s finest provincial legislative buildings while admiring the grand interior studded with hieroglyphics, Freemason symbols and codes, all of which are unveiled during the Hermetic Code Tour.
On the top of the building is Winnipeg’s Golden Boy, crafted in Paris, holding a sheath of wheat.
The Manitoba Legislative Building is at 450 Broadway, Winnipeg.
Capital of Culture
8- Winnipeg’s French Quarter
St Boniface in Winnipeg is the centrepiece of Winnipeg’s French Quarter and the place to start your exploration of Franco-Manitoba culture. Founded in 1818 by Bishop Provencher, St Boniface is the heart of Manitoba’s French history as it was established for the colony’s French and Métis residents.
Take a walking tour to learn about the past 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, a winter celebration that brings to life the history and culture of the city’s Franco-Manitoban with live music, cultural performances, French-Canadian food and snow sculptures.
St Boniface Cathedral is at 180 Av. de la Cathedrale, Winnipeg.
9- Centennial Concert Hall
Centennial Concert Hall is Winnipeg’s main concert hall and where the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Manitoba Opera perform.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has a history that dates back to 1939 and is the oldest ballet company in Canada. It’s also a top-tier ballet company that received its royal title, granted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The ballet’s 82nd season includes a programme of contemporary and classics such as Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and A Cinderella Story performed in the Centennial Concert Hall.
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra has been entertaining audiences since 1948 with classical, pop and kids concerts. An annual highlight is the orchestra’s Winnipeg New Music Festival, which features full orchestral programs with guest performers from around the world.
Centennial Concert Hall is at 555 Main Street, Winnipeg.
10- Winnipeg’s Theatres
The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre was Canada’s first English-speaking regional theatre and has been operating since 1957. The Warehouse is the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s small stage that puts on alternative plays. Other theatre companies to check out are the Prairie Theatre Exchange, which is focused on showcasing Canadian playwrights, and the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, which is one of the largest fringe festivals in Canada.
Cercle Moliere, which is the longest-running theatre company in Canada, puts on a schedule of French-speaking productions in St Boniface focusing on plays written by Franco-Manitoban playwrights as well as new voices from the community. Shakespeare in the Ruins is dedicated to keeping alive the works of the Bard, with outdoor performances among the ruins at Trappist Monastery Provincial Heritage Park.
The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre is at 174 Market Avenue. The Prairie Theatre Exchange is on the third floor of Portage Place Shopping Centre, 393 Portage Avenue. Cercle Moliere is at 340 Provencher Blvd.
11- Royal Canadian Mint
One of Winnipeg’s most beautiful buildings, its reflective glassy exterior is eye-catching at sundown as it glows under an orange-pink 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!
The Royal Canadian Mint is at 520 Lagimodière Boulevard, Winnipeg.
12- Lower Fort Garry and Upper Fort Garry
Built in 1809, Fort Gibraltar was one of a string of forts owned by the North West Company, which was a competitor to the Hudson’s Bay Company in the race to capture the fur trade. After the North West Company was taken over by Hudson’s Bay Company, the fort’s name was changed to Fort Garry in 1822. What was once the original Red River Settlement is now a green space, with an illuminated steel interpretive wall and a section of the fort’s original wall.
To avoid seasonal flooding, the fort was relocated up the Red River to the present-day site of Lower Fort Garry, where treaties were made between the Crown and the area’s First Nations. It’s now a Parks Canada National Historic Site and a portal into the past that will give you a flavour of life in the Red River Settlement between 1815 and 1821. In summer, characters dressed in period costumes will step you through the lifestyles of the settlers, explorers and First Nations who lived in the fort.
Upper Fort Garry Heritage Provincial Park is the original site of Fort Garry and is on Main Street, near The Forks. Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site of Canada is on the west bank of the Red River, 30 km north of Winnipeg.
13- St Boniface Museum
Le Musée de Saint-Boniface is an impressive showcase of Manitoba’s French-Canadian and Metis history, with 30,000 historical, ethnological, archival and fine arts items, including Canada’s most extensive collection of Louis Riel artifacts. Louis Riel was one of the Fathers of Confederation and the founder of Manitoba.
The museum is in Winnipeg’s oldest building, an original Grey Nuns Convent that is also the largest oak log structure in North America.
Take a walk back into history to discover the lives of the people who played an important part in Manitoba’s history, from the fur trade and early French-Canadian settlers to the Grey Nuns and the Métis people.
St Boniface Museum is at 494 Taché Ave, Winnipeg.
14- Thermea Nordic Spa
The air temperature may be below zero, but it’s lovely and warm in the hot tub at Thermea Nordic Spa, where you can experience relaxing in a hot pool, a tepid pool and a steam room in your bikini while gazing at a snowy landscape.
If you dare, get the full hydrotherapy effects of alternating hot and cold cycles, which means plunging in the cold pool or standing underneath a chilly waterfall.
Don’t miss the exfoliation station, with a house-made lavender scrub and the luxurious experience of dining in the spa’s upscale restaurant while wearing your robe.
Thermea Nordic Spa is at 775 Crescent Drive, Winnipeg.
15- Leo Mol Sculpture Garden
The garden is a tranquil spot to wind down and enjoy the works of a master sculptor, Dr Leo Mol who was known for creating bronze sculptures using the Lost Wax Method.
It’s also home to the Leo Mol Gallery and the Leo Mol School House Studio, where the artist completed many of his works. The studio has moulds and plaster casts of his main works and offers insights into the process of creating a bronze sculpture.
The garden is in Assiniboine Park along Assiniboine Park Drive, Winnipeg.
16- On The River
In the past, Winnipeg relied heavily upon rivers as a means to transport goods. Some historical highlights are the first riverboat to arrive was in 1859, the Anson Northup from Minnesota; the steamer Minnesota transported the first shipment of wheat; and the Countess of Dufferin steam engine came to Winnipeg aboard the S.S. Selkirk in 1877.
Steam trains replaced riverboats and air travel replaced the steam trains but it’s still a wonder to ponder the role the river played while you cruise past the city. These days, there aren’t as many choices of Winnipeg boat tours but if you’re wandering around The Forks, it’s a lovely way to put your feet up and listen to the commentary.
Splash Dash offers 30-minute boat tours in summer from five docks including at the Forks.
Meet The Animals
17- FortWhyte Alive
One of the top attractions in Winnipeg is FortWhyte Alive, where you can get up close to a herd of bison right in the city. FortWhyte Alive is a surprising 250ha of pristine prairie south of the city and a destination for all seasons. It’s a nature preserve with year-round outdoor activities.
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 fun day of sliding on the Richardson Run Toboggan slide. In winter, some of their outings are by guided moonlight snowshoe tours. Bring your own snowshoes or borrow simple pairs made out of recycled plastic bottles and tires. The crowd splits into smaller groups for an outdoor adventure through snowy fields snowshoeing in the moonlight.
FortWhyte Alive is at 1961 McCreary Rd, Winnipeg.
18- Assiniboine Park Zoo
You can get up close to polar bears in the wild in Churchill but even if you have a trip to the polar bear capital of the world planned, it’s still worth spending time at the Journey to Churchill exhibit in Assiniboine Park Zoo. It’s one of the things to do in Winnipeg that is a “wow” moment as watching these majestic mammals dive, swim and frolic above you through the exhibit’s glass dome is mesmerising.
The zoo also has a decent selection of Arctic animals like muskox, wolves, moose and seals. There are other rare animals like red pandas and snow leopards, along with over 200 other species.
The newest attraction at the zoo is Aunt Sally’s Farm, which is a reinvention of the original farm built in 1959. The new version has playgrounds that reflects today’s standards of animal welfare while allowing children to play alongside the goats.
Assiniboine Park Zoo is at 2595 Roblin Boulevard, Winnipeg.
19- Ice Hockey, Football and Baseball
Ice hockey, football, baseball and soccer are popular sports played in Winnipeg. Winnipeg is the home city of several professional teams, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Winnipeg Jets and Winnipeg Goldeyes.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are a professional team that competes in the Canadian Football League and are Grey Cup champions, last winning the trophy in 2019.
Professional ice hockey team the Winnipeg Jets compete in the National Hockey League and their home ground is the Canada Life Centre, which is also the home arena of the Manitoba Moose team that competes in the American Hockey League. The centre hosts 45 games during NHL season, so if you happen to be in town book a seat at a game there.
Winnipeg’s professional baseball team, the Winnipeg Goldeyes compete in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball and plays at Shaw Park.
20- Manitoba Children’s Museum
Set in Western Canada’s oldest train repair workshop is a funky Children’s Museum that has 12 fun and educational galleries to stimulate young minds. The galleries are hands-on and provide excellent learning experiences for kids.
Galleries include the Engine House where kids can see the inside of a train engine, a crazy Illusion Tunnel and the Milk Machine, where kids can learn about cows in a fun and interactive way.
The museum also has a program of exhibitions, workshops and events for families.
The Manitoba Children’s Museum is at The Forks.
21- Winnipeg Theme Parks
Although theme parks may not be one of the top things you might plan to do, there’s a good collection of family parks to visit if you’re travelling with kids to keep everyone happy, such as Thunder Rapids Fun Park and Tinkertown Family Fun Park. Thunder Rapids has Go-Karts, bumper boats, softball batting cages and a jungle gym.
There are also a few indoor parks like Vertical Adventures, which has a cool indoor rock climbing attractions, Speedworld Indoor Kart Track, where you can race around the track at 50 kph. Fun Park Amusement Centre has an indoor trampoline area, climbing walls, a dodge ball zone and an enormous jungle-themed indoor playground.
Eat and Drink
22- Osborne Village
Osborne Village is an arty neighbourhood with an eclectic collection of shops, such as a vinyl record store, jewellery shops and pub-like watering holes that serve craft beer and where you can listen to live music. There’s also a small performing arts venue called the Gas Station Arts Centre that puts on comedy shows.
Get an energy hit at Baked Expectations with a sweet treat. The popular 50’s style dessert parlour has been baking cakes, tortes, pavlovas and other desserts for around 30 years. Then scour the shops for unique gifts. If you’re looking for something made in Winnipeg, you’re likely to find it at Out of the Blue, which is a popular social enterprise store that stocks vintage fashion, jewellery and homewares. The store sources most of their products from Winnipeg and Canadian designers.
The Osborne Bridge connects Osborne Village with Winnipeg’s Downtown and the bridge’s design matches the eclectic neighbourhood through its artistic design that uses the sidewalk to mirror the neighbourhood’s physical map and handrails decked out with lights and text.
Baked Expectations is at 161 Osborne Street. Out of the Blue is at 102 Osborne Street.
23- The Forks
Rich with 6,000 years of history, the meeting of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers has long been a gathering place for First Nations. But 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 food kiosks that are some of Winnipeg’s top kitchens and the tree-lined paths along the river are a delightful place to spend the day.
Head to The Common for beer and wine on tap, curated by a professional sommelier. You’ll be able to choose from a changing list of local brews as well as the best craft beer in Canada.
The Forks is popular with families as there’s a children’s play area and water spray pad.
24- Go On A Food and Drink Tour
Trendy Winnipeg has a booming craft beer scene and 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. The Winnipeg Trolley Company has an ‘Ale and Cocktail Trail’ tour of the city’s breweries and a distillery, with a guided tour of the distillery.
Another popular tour is a Hops and History Tour of Winnipeg’s Exchange District, where local guides help you understand Winnipeg’s history as you taste prairie gin cocktails and locally brewed beer on a bar and brewery crawl.
25- Winter Wonderland
The air may be chilly but there are enough fun things to do in Winnipeg in winter to make a worthwhile place to plan a visit. Here are a few:
- Festival du Voyageur – A 10-day winter festival celebrating Canada’s fur-trading past with a host of fun events.
- Canad Inns Winter Wonderland – A 2.5km drive-through light show to see at night.
- Winnipeg Foundation Centennial Trail – This ice skating trail on the frozen Red and Assiniboine Rivers varies in length based on how the ice freezes on the river. It can stretch up to 12 km and, depending on the year, it can be 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 pieces featured on the trail.
- Climb an Ice Tower – It’s a fun winter activity to climb the 20-m tower that overlooks Winnipeg’s downtown skyline. It’s open on weekends. Harness, helmet, crampons and alpine boots are required as there’s a limited amount of equipment available to borrow on-site.