Looking for the best things to do in Winnipeg, Manitoba? These are the must-see attractions in Canada’s most surprising city. Canadians have often written-off the city of Winnipeg as a place to fly over on their way to somewhere more exciting like Vancouver or Halifax, but after spending a few days there, we discovered there are many things to do in Winnipeg that will completely change your mind.
Winnipeg, Manitoba will surprise you. If you ask most people about the city, they usually say something like, “Do you mean Winterpeg?” But they are wrong! Time Magazine named it one of the World’s Greatest Places for 2021, so you know there is more to Winnipeg than being just a fly-over destination.
Top Things to do in Winnipeg, Manitoba
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Winnipeg is filled with art galleries and museums, fine dining, and shopping. Even when the weather is freezing, there are plenty of things to do both indoors and outdoors to keep you occupied. While summers are hot and make for a great time to visit Winnipeg, winter’s can be fun and interesting as well.
Winnipeg is an official Winter City, it is an accredited member-city of the World Winter Cities Association for Mayors (WWCAM), where 20 world northern world cities promote winter experiences and technologies.
If you happen to visit Winnipeg in the winter, just be sure to bundle up, put on your snow pants are get outside to enjoy the city. Read: 5 Winter Layering Tips to Dress for Extreme Cold Weather
1. Assiniboine Park Zoo
If you have followed us for a while, you’ll know that we don’t make a habit of visiting zoos, but the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba is different and special. Many of the animals in this zoo are rescues so we had no problem at all visiting the Assiniboine Park Zoo knowing that the animals were in good care. I was really surprised with how large the enclosures were mimicking their real-life habitat.
We have visited the zoo in both summer and winter, and I have to admit winter was far more fulfilling. A lot of the animals here are polar animals and they thrive in the cold weather.
Plus the crowds are quite low in the colder months. So pull up your snow pants and head out to the zoo in Winnipeg in winter. Polar bears, arctic foxes, and wolves were playing outdoors enjoying the snow. We loved our winter visit to Winnipeg. Visting the Assiniboine Park Zoo in the cold months meant that the arctic animals were in their element.
2. Journey to Churchill
Winnipeg is the jumping-off point to visit Churchill Manitoba, but not everyone can go and see a polar bear or other Hudson Bay wildlife in their natural habitat. The Journey to Churchill is one of the top attractions in Manitoba and is a close second to heading up to Churchill, Manitoba.
There are 10 polar bears in a large enclosure that have been rescued from the Hudson Bay and icy waters of northern Manitoba. Many were brought as cubs when they were orphaned in the wild. Sadly, rescued polar bears can never go back in the wild as they wouldn’t survive, but at least they have a wonderful home at this zoo.
When the polar bears are rescued, they are brought here and nursed back to health where they have access to swimming pools, shade, and air-conditioned areas in the summer to keep them cool.
When visiting in the winter, they are in their element. Winter is actually the best time to visit the zoo because that is when the animals are most active. Once they are domesticated, there is no going back so they live out their days frolicking in the Assiniboine Zoo.
3. Underwater Tunnel
A highlight of the zoo is definitely the underwater display. We had the privilege of watching a polar bear swim above a glass walkway. It was truly having the time of its life! Plus a cute little harbor seal stopped by to say hello to us as well. These seals are curious creatures and will come right up to the glass to have a look.
Several of the seals are rescues from the Vancouver Aquarium. The Aquarium rehabilitates and releases many animals, but these ones have injuries or visual problems that keep them from going back to the wild. If you are looking for one of the top things to do in Winnipeg don’t miss this!
4. The Forks National Historic Site
Winnipeg is an interesting destination for its history and the Forks is definitely one of the top attractions in Winnipeg for every visitor. The Forks National Historic Site has been a meeting place for 6,000 years. Many cities have a history that dates a couple of hundred years, but Winnipeg dates back thousands of years.
Located where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers converge, it was a meeting place for indigenous people to trade. It continued through the fur trade where aboriginal peoples met with European fur traders. The tradition continued through riverboat and railway development and today it is a place where tourists and locals meet up.
The Forks is Winnipeg’s number one tourist attraction with four million visitors enjoying the forks market, its art galleries, restaurants, and food and beer halls each year.
What we love about The Forks is how a large part of the food and shopping is indoors. Winnipeg is an “official winter city” so in the colder months it is nice to be able to escape the cold, but feel that you are still in a large open space.
There are plenty of activities around the Forks outside too. Located on the river, there are walking trails and cycling trails. The Riverwalk weaves its way to the Legislative Building making for a lovely stroll. In the summer you can rent a canoe, go kayaking, or you can jump aboard the Splash Dash or River Spirit water bus for guided tours. There are five docks that you can hop on hop off as well taking you to different points of interest in the city as well.
You can explore the city year-round thanks to Kendrick’s Outdoor Adventures located in The Forks. They offer fat bikes for winter cycling, e-bikes, e-scooter rentals, and snowshoes (in the winter!).
6. The Red River Mutual Trail
If you are in Winnipeg in the winter, one of the best things to do is to skate along the Red River Mutual Trail. It is the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world! There are warming huts all along the trail designed by artists from around the world.
Each year, Winnipeg holds a competition to have artists design beautiful huts that are displayed along the trail. You can rent skates at The Forks and glide along the world’s longest skating rink, play ice hockey on the outdoor hockey rink, and hop into the warming huts when you need to escape the cold.
7. The Manitoba Legislative Building
The Manitoba Legislative Building was one of the best things we did in Winnipeg. It is also one of the most interesting tours we’ve taken in our lives! We met Frank Albo (Canada’s answer to Dan Brown) on the steps of the Winnipeg Legislative Building and he took us on a walkthrough of Winnipeg’s very own Da Vinci Code.
We were then taken on a wild tour of secret societies, and scandals as we walked through the halls of the historic building. It is so intriguing that Albo met with Prince Charles in the royal room when he visited.
The Story of the Hermetic Code
Once upon a time, Winnipeg was the fastest growing city in North America and they had award-winning designers from around the world compete to design the legislative buildings. The Manitoba Legislative building was completed in 1919 and throughout the years, its hidden messages, hieroglyphics, and symbols of the Freemasons have been decoded and discovered.
How did an architect 100 years ago create a building with such perfect precision? 13 lights line a hallway of 13 archways leading up 3 flights of 13 steps each to a room that is 66.6 feet all around. There are signs of the beast 666 and the unlucky number 13 everywhere. What is most astonishing is that everything is hidden in plain sight. To the trained eye, there are tributes to the Free Masons, ancient civilizations, alchemy, and numerology.
This is definitely one of the most interesting things to do in Winnipeg. Book your Signature Experience Tour here.
8. Thermea Nordik Spa
If you love a spa experience, the Thermea Nordik Spa-Nature is for you. Hop in a TappCar (Winnipeg’s Answer to Uber) and spend the afternoon and evening at Nordik Spa. It is a series of outdoor hot pools with saunas, steam rooms, and meditation stations. We absolutely loved our time there. Thermea follows the Nordic spa’s traditional thermal cycle of hot, cold rest.
The Thermal Cycle is based on a 2000 year tradition founded in the Nordic Countries of Scandinavia.
- 5-15 minutes of Heat
- 10 – 15 seconds of cold
- 20 minutes of rest
Going in winter is a truly special time as you sit in hot pools with snow falling outside. You also get to skip dipping in a cold pool because just standing outside for a few minutes gives you the cold section of your cycle.
9. Aufgaus Ritual
When you enter, be sure to not miss the Aufgaus Ritual that takes place in the Finlandia Sauna. Led by an Aufgaus Master, the 15-minute therapy takes you through music and dance as she places three giant snowballs infused with aromatherapy onto the hot stones.
Wafting the aroma through the room with a towel, she dances to the music creating a mesmerizing effect throughout the room. You feel as if you have gone into a trance as the head intensifies. Note: If you haven’t done one before, sit on the lowest platform. Heat rises and those sitting at the top had the hardest time dealing with the temperature.
You can spend as long as you like at Thermea. There is a restaurant, water and tea stations.
10. Canadian Museum for Human Rights
If you have followed Dave and me through the years, you will know that we don’t go gaga over many museums. But many people told us that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was special. I’m glad we listened to them and went because visiting the museum was a highlight of our time there and most certainly one of the best things to do in Winnipeg.
There are interesting exhibits such as an exhibit dedicated to Viola Desmond – the first black woman on our Canadian $10 bill. Not only are there exhibits about Canada, but the Canadian Museum for Human Rights also showcases human rights abuses and victories from around the world.
If you ever want to visit one museum in your life, this is the one. Read more about the Museum for Human Rights and check exhibits and information on their website.
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
I was especially proud to be Canadian here. Our country has long been a champion of human rights. Something that really stuck with me was reading our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms created by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. As I understood it when explained to me, unlike America, our constitution is fluid. It is meant to change with the times as the human race evolves and learns more. We aren’t stuck with rigid laws that are outdated and centuries old.
11. Winnipeg Sign
Who doesn’t love an Instagrammable moment? We were thrilled to see the giant 3D Winnipeg sign standing at the Festival Stage when we looked out our hotel room window. The Winnipeg sign is located beside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Canada has a few of these signs around the country including Toronto, Ottawa, and Charlottetown.
Signs like this are a fun spot to grab a selfie and create a memory of your time in the city. At night make sure to look towards the museum and sign lit up recreating the colors of the Northern Lights.
Many people think you can see the northern lights from Winnipeg, but you are better to go north and away from light pollution. We saw northern lights in Manitoba in Churchill, but if you head north towards Prince Andrew and the Hudson Bay, you may be able to see them.
The best time to view the Aurora Borealis in Manitoba is between January and March. Although we saw them in Churchill in November as well.
12. Exchange District
Take a stroll through time at the Winnipeg Exchange District’s heritage buildings dating from 1880 to 1920. What was once a derelict part of the city has now become a vibrant neighbourhood filled with coffee shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. It’s worth spending an afternoon or evening exploring the stylish area.
The Exchange District is located in the heart of downtown Winnipeg and is considered the arts and cultural district of Winnipeg. Historic walking tours are offered in the Exchange District as well. Book one that suits your desires here.
13. Johnson Terminal
Johnson Terminal is located next door to the Forks and is another historic spot filled with shops and dining. Johnson Terminal was a former warehouse for CN Railway, but it has since been restored to help create the modern yet historic feel of The Forks area. There are remnants of the railway on display throughout.
One of our favorite places to eat is located in the Terminal is the Old Spaghetti Factory. Sure it’s cheesy and a bit of a Canadian chain, but it is filled with nostalgia.
When looking for places to visit in Winnipeg to learn about Indigenous culture the Quamujuq Gallery is a great place to start. Quamujuq houses the world’s largest collection of Inuit art dedicated to Inuit artists and craftsmanship.
Qaumajuq means “it is bright, it is lit” in Inuktitut. The design was inspired by the landscape of Northern Canada and its interior features 14,000 pieces of Inuit art. It is fitting as the gallery sits on the original land of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininiwak, Dakota, and Dene peoples. It was also the homeland of the Métis Nation. An entire wing is dedicated to Inuit Art which WAG has 10,730 works.
15. Winnipeg Art Gallery
The Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG as it is known) is a great choice. Located in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, the WAG deserves more visitors as the museum houses the world’s largest collection of Inuit Art.
Winnipeg is actually a very artsy city and there are plenty of museums and art galleries to explore in downtown Winnipeg. Let’s take a moment to break some of them down.
16. Manitoba Museum
One of the popular attractions in Winnipeg is the Manitoba Museum. It houses a collection of the natural history of Manitoba, its people, and nature. There is a planetarium to view the night sky and northern lights of Manitoba, a science gallery, and revolving exhibits. If it’s a rainy day or too cold for your comfort, The Manitoba Museum is a great place to visit in Winnipeg for the whole family.
17. Museums to visit in Winnipeg
- Railway Museum
- Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada
- Manitoba Children’s Museum
- Royal Canadian Mint
18. Royal Winnipeg Ballet
Winnipeg is home to one of the world’s premier dance companies. The Winnipeg Ballet was the first theatre granted the royal title under the reign of Queen Elizabeth and has attracted big-name artists such as Mikhail Baryshnikov. If you’ve always wanted to go to the ballet, this is the place to do it! Winnipeg is a very artsy city. Keanu Reeves once played Hamlet at the Manitoba Theatre Company after starring in Speed. You never know who you are going to see up on stage when catching a production in Winnipeg Canada.
19. Explore Winnipeg’s French Quarter
Winnipeg’s French Quarter, Saint Boniface, is a neighbourhood rich with history, outdoor spaces, top-notch dining and hidden gems. Make plans to spend a full day in this area offering a touch of European charm.
Saint-Boniface is made up of the The Riel District, Saint-Norbert and Saint-Vital. All three areas are a great way to experience the francophone culture and Métis history. There are boutique shops, cafes and a bilingual bar and music venue, le Patio 340. This is the place to go for a thriving culinary and cultural scene.
20. Outdoor Gardens at the Leaf
Nearly every major metropolis in the world had a botanical garden, but Winnipeg’s newest attraction, the Outdoor Gardens at the Leaf is the first and only garden in North America to tell Canadian cultural stories through the world of plants. Plus there is The Indigenous Peoples Garden that will be a gathering place that recognizes Canada’s strong Indigenous heritage.
21. Catch a Winnipeg Blue Bombers Game
Did you know that Canada has its own football league? The CFL is big here up north and Winnipeg is home to the very popular Winnipeg Blue Bombers. They have won the Grey Cup (Canada’s answer to the Super Bowl) 12 times most recently in 2021. If you have always wanted to watch professional football head out to IG Field at the University of Manitoba and see how it’s done in Canada.
21. Watch a Good Old Hockey Game with the Winnipeg Jets
No trip to a Canadian city would be complete without catching a hockey game. The Winnipeg Jets are the city’s NHL team and if you are there during the season, try to catch a home game at the Canada Life Centre.
If you aren’t there during a game, the Canada Life Centre is Winnipeg’s premier entertainment venue and concert arena that has seen the likes of Justin Beiber, Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran, and Elton John on its stage.
22. Stop for Ice Cream at Chaeban
If you want ice crea, Chaeban Ice Cream is the place to be! It was named the best ice cream in Canada at the Royal Winter Fair, Canada’s premier winter fair, world-renowned agricultural fair. The popular Winnipeg spot took first place in two of the categories, as well as the overall “Grand Champion” award for its Salty Carl flavour.
23. Grab a Beer at One Sixteen
Check out Winnipeg’s hottest two-in-one culinary destination, One Sixteen. The taproom is run by Winnipeg’s first all-female brewery, Good Neighbour. The dining menu is served up by Two Hands, with chefs boasting stacked resumes and charcoal-grilled eats
Where to Stay in Winnipeg
Inn at the Forks – We stayed at the Inn at the Forks, and I think it is the best location in the city. Located walking distance from the Museum for Human Rights, the Forks, and Johnson Terminal, you only steps away from great eats, nightlife and culture. There is a spa, dining and the rooms are modern and chic.
Delta Winnipeg Hotel – In the past, we have also stayed at the Delta Winnipeg Hotel and it is another great choice. It has two pools, a skywalk, pub, and dining. It’s used a lot for conferences and is easy to walk indoors to the adjoining convention centres. It is located downtown near restaurants and coffee shops.
Fairmont Winnipeg – We stayed at the Fairmont when on a media tour a few years ago, and you can never go wrong with a Fairmont Hotel. The Fairmont is centrally located close to the river. There is a swimming pool, health club and two restaurants.
We have had the opportunity to stay at two airport hotels in Winnipeg. Many people stay at the airport when going on safaris to Northern Alberta. Located directly at the airport they are good options if you are flying out early in the morning.
The Grand Winnipeg Hotel is located directly across the street from departures/arrivals and the Four Points by Sheraton is just a bit farther away, but there is a walkway through the Grand to the Sheraton. What we love is that you can take your trolleys from the airport right into your rooms. There are restaurants and bars right on the premises of both.
For more Winnipeg Accommodation click here
Where to Eat in Winnipeg
Passero & Corto – We ate at Passero and Corto inside the Forks Market. It’s the only eat in restaurant at the Forks and the Italian cuisine was to die for. Ask your server to help with food and wine pairings and be sure to share some plates to truly taste all the menu has to offer.
Clementine Cafe – Known as the best brunch in the city! Located in Winnipeg’s Exchange District
ERA Bistro – Great option for lunch located inside the Museum for Human Rights. Staying true to the essence of the museum, the restaurant uses locally sourced, sustainable ingredients, that are organic and free-trade.
How to Get Around Winnipeg
From the airport you can book a private driver to pick you up at arrivals with a name card and take you directly to your hotel. Book here.
You can walk to many places so you don’t need a car to get around Winnipeg. They also have ride-sharing like Uber. We downloaded the TappCar app and used that to get to places like Thermea and the Zoo.
That being said, if you want to travel around Manitoba, you really need a car. Compare these car rental prices to find the one right for you.
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If you are planning a trip to Churchill to see Canada’s great north, make sure to put Winnipeg Manitoba on our travel list. We hope this guide helps you with your visit in Winnipeg. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.
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