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.
1- 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.
2- 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.
3- 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.
4- 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.
5- 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.
6- 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!
7- 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.
3 Classic Spots in Winnipeg
What if you visit Winnipeg and there’s no snow? Or you might just need a break from the sub-zero winter winds. Here are three places to visit in Winnipeg no matter the season or the weather.
1- Assiniboine Zoo
Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Zoo has exotic animals like kangaroos and Bactrian camels. But most visitors come to see the hardy Canadian animals in the Journey to Churchill exhibit. These include muskoxen, wolves and Arctic foxes native to northern Manitoba.
The exhibit’s most spectacular enclosure is an enormous tank with a walk-through tunnel where polar bears swim over your head and check you out through the glass.
These huge furry guys and gals are like aqua ballerinas as they glide and somersault. It’s hard not to be riveted by these floating polar bears.
2- Canadian Museum For Human Rights
This massive glass museum changed Winnipeg’s skyline when it opened in 2014.
Designed by Antoine Predock, the Canadian Museum For Human Rights is worth visiting for both the architecture and the content. Admittedly, the content addresses a serious issue: human rights and violations thereof all over the world.
Predock built areas for escape and reflection into his design, such as long ramps bordered by lit-up alabaster walls that slowly lead visitors to the next floor, giving them a little break.
The Canadian Museum For Human Rights’ 12 galleries cover worldwide struggles, with a focus on Canada’s relations to human rights – both the wins and the losses.
3- Winnipeg’s Design Quarter
Winnipeg has its own feel and style, and its own talented designers. In 2017, a new non-profit called Design Quarter Winnipeg launched, making it easier for locals and visitors to navigate a walkable, shop-filled area called the Design Quarter. The focus is on shopping, restaurants, arts and culture.
Want more Winnipeg info? Tourism Winnipeg has more information on where to stay, play and eat.
Winnipeg is the gateway to Churchill, the polar bear capital of the world. Here’s why you should go and see the polar bears now. Manitoba is also a great province to see other wildlife, such as wolves, lynx, elk and deer at Riding Mountain National Park.