Considering a trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba’s thoroughly modern capital city? Visit in summer for music and more at the annual folk festival. Or check out the world’s largest snow maze in winter. There are polar bears too at the city’s zoo. Here are the top things to do in Winnipeg.
The writer was hosted.
Great news! Canada is back open for visitors and we were excited to get back up north to explore! Heading to Manitoba’s capitol city, just south of Lake Winnipeg, will mean city sights and natural settings for delighting all types of travelers. Winter activities abound and summer is alive with action, too! Really, Winnipeg is a city for all seasons! Here is what to do, no matter when you visit!
Marvelous Winnipeg Museums
From art to interactive play and history, Winnipeg has a museum for everyone in your party! In fact, even in the four days we visited, we just could not pack in all the attractions (including fabulous museums) which will be left for a return trip.
The Manitoba Museum delivers for all ages. It covers everything in such detail — mammals of North America, with a special arctic ecosystem section which is lovely to tie in a trip to the Assiniboine park zoo and a visit with the resident polar bears, or, if you’re really in for an adventure, a journey to Churchill. Wonderfully depicted and displayed items from indigenous peoples who inhabited areas of Canada are also present for a deep dive into the area’s cultural history.
Explore Manitoba’s Origins
Additionally, near the grasslands hall, visitors can see Louis Riel’s walking stick. Known as the ”Father of Manitoba,” he helped to craft the legislation enabling the province to join Confederation and advocated for the rights of Métis people (fur traders from France and Scotland who then married indigenous peoples like the Ojibwa.) There are so many stories and a robust collection of history and artifacts! This could really be several hours if your family is big on history!
The planetarium offers several different films and presentations on rotation, but you’ll need to decide on a showing and get tickets, so look into showtimes to plan your visit efficiently! We opted for a kids’ dinosaur movie, and truth be told it was lovely but I fell asleep, more because the room was dark and warm than the content! There was one on the Northern Lights which looked fascinating.
This massive natural history museum has a life-size ship inside, called the Nonsuch, circa 1650. You can climb aboard and it’s really a neat exhibit, especially for families with little seafaring pirates in tow.
Museum Visit Advice
Leave at least 90 minutes to get through the exhibits and run time for any planetarium features you elect to attend. It’s really neat for kids to see constellations and the producer of the shows is very engaging.
SheBuysTravel Tip: If you have the time to do a tiny bit of research ahead of time for your visit and make a scavenger hunt for the kids to stay excited throughout all the halls of collections so that YOU can read signs and amble through more leisurely!
Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada
Perhaps the newest edition to whole family fun stops in Winnipeg, the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada opened in 2022. Being in my career, I am naturally interested in the aviation industry, so this was thrilling for me to serendipitously be visiting just days after the doors opened! This, one of Canada‘s largest collections of aircraft, is located in a new, beautiful building on the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport campus.
Aircraft, Familiar and Out of this World
Airplane enthusiasts can find timeless favorites, like a lofted Snowbird and the DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver–which is what I worked and commuted to work in while working in both Alaska and Minnesota on wildfires and wildlife crews for years, so they have a special place in my heart! There was also a small corner which paid homage to aerial firefighting water scoopers, the CL-215s which I also worked with on wildfires for the USDA Forest Service. The museum also showcases some some strange models, like the Canadair CL-84 Dynavert and a replica avrocar! (My kids thought it was a spaceship.)
There is a play area for the smaller set and a little café for hungry travelers. Another cool experience, and for those aviators and aviation gurus who want to leave their mark on the world of flight, you can pay to have your name set upon the seat apron of one of the seats in the Trans Canada Vickers Viscount VC2 passenger plane which is very retro! Walk through and experience an audio sound byte of what you might have heard settling into your seat and row as a passenger way back when.
Manitoba Children’s Museum
My kids are 7 and 11. They are (sadly) starting to age out of some of the children’s museums and the associated exhibits they feature. This is NOT the case with the Manitoba Children’s Museum! We were planning a lunch at The Forks Market and had a little time on a rainy morning, so being directly across the parking lot, we decided to stop by. We’d been to visit three years ago and everyone (really, all of us!) loved the experience. Then, a performer had enthralled a crowd and as we walked in, the kids recalled the prior visit happily. The slide is a multi-colored giant hole in the wall and is a great spot to snap photos of the kiddos.
The museum also has a real locomotive for kids to explore, a water play station, arts and crafts as an option with free creation and a suggested project, and a pasta maze and climbing feature, among other smaller sections. All ages are welcome. Birthdays are popular here. Parents can (and do) climb along and interact easily in the clean and open space. Parking can be tight in this neighborhood but they do validate.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Your admission is good all day. Start here in the morning, lunch and shop at The Forks, then, if you want to play more, head back and enjoy the afternoon.
Museums We Didn’t See (Yet!)
Some of these that you may want to look into if you have teens are: The Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the Winnipeg Art Gallery which connects to the new Qaumajuq museum, featuring contemporary Inuit art in an expansive collection.
We didn’t visit these, as they were more for my interests than my younger kids, so all I can do is save it for later and mention they are acclaimed spots in the city, if you can fit it in!
Animals and Ecotourism in Winnipeg
For such a large city in Manitoba, the capitol city of Winnipeg has vast and many green spaces to find a little bit of your wild side.
Assiniboine Park Zoo and Park
This zoo is the cornerstone of our entire trip! I planned as many polar bear adjacent adventures and exposures as I could for our family to learn about polar bear conservation. The Assiniboine Park Zoo has a wonderful polar bear exhibit and enclosure, with a lovely (and climate controlled) children’s play area inside the Park Café eatery building.
It was fun to visit the zoo in both the dead of winter and the heat of summer. We certainly hit both extremes, as it was below zero when we bundled up to see the bears in their authentic snowy backdrops and it was in the upper seventies (Fahrenheit) this year when we watched the bears plunge into the pool and delight guests in the viewing tunnel of the pool.
Another part of the zoo we thoroughly enjoyed was the farm and petting zoo. Llamas were running around extremely active and the goats were bounding up and down rainbow bridges, where we watched from a viewing tower as the entire farm seemed alive with spring fever!
The zoo has double and single strollers at the entrance for a nominal fee. There are also motorized scooter rentals for making the zoo more accessible.
Assiniboine Park and The Leaf
The giant property also has a Park (as the name would indicate) but we didn’t get to explore that area due to torrential rain and some of the main features of the park being under construction.
The Park includes Leo Mol Sculpture Garden and the Nature Playground which features popular hill slides. This area is a multi-season park and has a vision to become even more — The Leaf will be indoor and outdoor, to create a gathering and meeting place which intersects with the outdoors and nature in a beautiful way to enjoy the landscape.
Did you know there was a bison herd in the middle of Winnipeg? There sure is. At Fort Whyte Alive there is a LOT going on. In the winter you can borrow toboggans to sled down a giant chute onto the frozen ground below. In the summer, dip net for interesting invertebrates in the ponds and hike on trails and boardwalks. There are rentals including bicycles, fishing gear, snowshoes and more to explore the property.
Check Out The Forks
The Forks is a historic site, meeting place, and green space in downtown Winnipeg located at the confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboine River. In the wintertime you can find people ice skating down the river skating trail. Cross country skiing is another popular activity. We tried winter hula hooping in the open space between buildings near fires and ice sculptures.
This collective site also includes the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, Travel Manitoba Visitor Information Center and the Broadway Promenade and Riverwalk for strolling. The Fork is jam packed with museums, restaurants, trails and sites for locals and visitors to enjoy sightseeing. The Forks Market Tower allows you to see it all year round from six stories up!
Where to Eat in Winnipeg
We visited so many epic eateries in Winnipeg! One such place was Bluestone Cottage, where the smoked salmon and fresh-pressed juices are reward enough for a longish wait for a table on a busy morning.
Winnipeg is a foodie’s fantasy. We had so many noteworthy meals making my taste buds explode with flavor and diversity in cuisine in every neighborhood. You could plan an entire trip around eating and not be hungry for a moment.
Hargrave Street Market
This trendy spot is in the downtown area and includes several options for making the whole gang happy at meal time. Hargrave Street Market has it all under one roof in a two-level hotspot for gastro geeks.
Restaurants at Hargrave Street Market
We had bold street tacos at The Good Fight Taco. The kids had burgers from co-located Yard Burger which were insanely yummy (I might have required a mom food taste approval test…you know, for “safety.”) Other food spots we did not try this trip are: an Italian pizza place called Gusto North and a Japanese spot with ramen and donburi bowls. Next time! We purchased three cupcakes and three chocolate chip cookies at the lower level bakery that we crushed in glee for dessert. We’d have to hit the pool at the Clarion to work off some of these delicious calories!
Coffee, Cocktails and Craft Beers
We visited in the afternoon, so the coffee shop was closed. However, I could still smell the robust beans for brewing tickling my senses. I know they must serve a fine morning cup there. Rose Bar, another stall in the building reportedly has lovely craft cocktails. Lake of the Woods Brewing Company is on-site with many taps for tasting hops at this stop.
The Forks has a meal for every mouth. Nuburger is a personal fave. Photo credit: Amanda Williams
The Forks Market
Oh, how we adore The Forks! After you’re exhausted from all the activities in this vibrant neighborhood, you can feast all day and well into the night. We found NuBurger to be delicious. The kids were thrilled to see glass cups and water spouts for complimentary drinking water stations in the main halls. Very environmentally friendly compared to the dozens of water cups which would end up in the landfill otherwise!
Favorite Foodie Finds
Among some favorites outside of larger food halls and markets were the adorable and not fussy downtown Clementine Café for breakfast. The wait is about 15 minutes to be seated. It’s well worth it. Fluffy waffles, bold flavor pairings and crowd-pleaser menu staples reward patience. Our selections seemed so elegant and rich, but my only regret was not having the many stomachs of a cow to move through the menu top to bottom.
Coffee was bold but not bitter, a truly delicious cup. Braised Bacon Benedict is to die for. Chorizo Verde Tostada is a menu mainstay with slight variations to the recipe, according to a local who frequents the menu selections. The kids tried the Yogurt Panna Cotta, Lime Leaf Granita, Blood Oranges — after they realized it’s like a fancy shave ice, it was a grand slam. The Brussels Style Waffle was familiar to them but with an exotic twist, having hibiscus syrup and lemon curd.
Another notable restaurant you should absolutely include in your trip itinerary is Corrientes, a savory downtown pizzeria with a great breakfast pie. Make sure to try the desserts — they do not disappoint.
Winnipeg Festivals for All
Winnipeg is certainly a great town to listen to live music, gather and enjoy a festival! Again, the weather matters not. Here are two favorites among families and festival-goers from Manitoba and beyond.
Festival du Voyageur
Festival du Voyageur is located on the lands of the on the homeland of the Métis nation, held during each February in Winnipeg’s French quarter, Saint-Boniface. This gathering is western Canada’s largest winter festival. And believe me, it’s worth bundling up.
Find yourself some beaver tails and poutine, or roll up a maple candy sucker in the snow. Eat, drink some Cariboo from an ice glass and slide while hearing the jubilant live music from the tents. The Saint Boniface area itself is gorgeous and I’d love to stop by in the fair-weather months to see its splendor too!
Winnipeg Folk Festival
After a three-year hiatus, the Winnipeg Folk Festival is BACK!! Favorites like the Strumbellas, Tall Tall Trees and dozens more performers are set to hit the stages in July! The family-friendly event has programming for the littles, performers geared towards children, and camping available for families which promise a more tame atmosphere than other parts of the festival grounds. It’s entirely possible to listen to some great music AND hang with your kids in Manitoba’s lovely natural spaces.
Where to Stay in Winnipeg
The Clarion Hotel and Suites is a complete base camp for the family to eat, sleep, relax, steam and splash. The water slide is good for most all ages (and I tested it to make sure it wouldn’t break parents backs’ — you’re good to go!) However, a quick romp down the slide feels even better when you trot up to the 16 and older only spa and steam area of the natatorium.
The Insider Take on the Deluxe Suite at Clarion Hotel
Our Deluxe Suite featured two king size beds separated by sliding French glass doors, perfect for a little down time for mom and a place for the kids to sprawl out. We also had an electric fireplace, which was neat for ambience but unneeded in the warm weather. This suite type includes two complimentary adult passes to the therapeutic mineral pool. This perk alone is worth the upgrade! The pool can get busy on weekends and the “VIP” wristband is your ticket to more solitude and steam!
Convenience Really is Everything
The steam shower room is divine and overlooks the hotel’s pool area so you can sip champagne and watch the kids giggle and play below. The hotel also features a bar and restaurant and is connected to The Original Pancake house.
Making this the epicenter of the action, we’d visit a museum, take a swim break, plan our meal outings, enjoy more swim time and crash into the comfortable beds each night to rejuvenate for another day of fun. It’s the premier lodging in the city and also features a large conference center and Urban Oasis spa.
It’s YOUR Vacation, Too
The easy logistics of this hotel made maneuvering the city and our plans to do and see all we possibly could really easy for a solo adult. Being the only driver, strategist and planner can be exhausting and it’s mom’s vacation, too! So go ahead — book the spa experience. Drink the mimosa. Devour the cookie(s.) Your kids will remember YOU having fun, too. So staying at a place with all the amenities just makes sense.
Find Additional Places to Stay Near Winnipeg
There are lots of options for hotel stays near Winnipeg, including vacation rentals. Use this interactive map to help you find a place to stay in the area.
Too Much for Just One Trip
Winnipeg is home to SO much. It’s bursting at the seams with things to do. Did you know they host an NHL team, the Winnipeg Jets? The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a professional Canadian football team, is also based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Legends and Lasers
The Manitoba Legislative Building was designed by an architect who wanted the edifice in Winnipeg to be a jewel rooted in the beliefs of freemasons. This will be a perfect trip for teens in the future. It’s one we haven’t tackled yet. For thrills and whole family fun, U-Puttz is an indoor entertainment center featuring laser tag, mini golf and go-karts.
Breweries are on every street (it seems!) A beer lovers dream. Thermea spa features saunas, cold pools and icy waterfalls, and relaxing areas with hammocks and fires for a truly Zen experience.
Winter in Winnipeg
In the winter only, there is a snow maze — in fact, the World’s Largest Snow Maze according to the Guinness Book of World Records. We ventured out for this one and it was quite a wintry wonderland. If you you want details on each and every aspect and additional insider info on each stop, check out comprehensive trip details to plan further! Bottom line: plan on visiting Winnipeg multiple times throughout the year because it’s fun in every season!