Looking for things to do in Winnipeg, Manitoba? These are the must-see attractions. Winnipeg will surprise you. If you ask most people about the city, they usually say something like, “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.
Canadians have often written the city of Winnipeg off as a place to fly over on their way to somewhere more exciting. But after spending a few days there, we discovered there are many things to do in Winnipeg that will completely change your mind.
Things to do in Winnipeg
Table of Contents
1. 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 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 one of the best things to do in Winnipeg.
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 We aren’t stuck with rigid laws that are outdated and centuries old.
There are other 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 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.
2. Winnipeg Art Gallery
The WAG as it is known was should we say, a bit dated. Its unassuming entrance is not something that beckons people to enter. But when meeting with Chief Curator, Andrew Kear, he showed us the plans to bring the art gallery into the 21st century. The gallery deserves more visitors as the museum houses the world’s largest collection of Inuit Art.
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.
4. Other Museums to visit in Winnipeg
- Railway Museum
- Manitoba Museum
- Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada
- Manitoba Children’s Museum
- Manitoba Planetarium
- Royal Canadian Mint
5. Assiniboine Park Zoo
If you have followed us for a while, you will also know that we don’t like visiting zoos. But the Assiniboine Park Zoo in 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’ve 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 don the snow pants and head out to the zoo in Winnipeg.
6. Journey to Churchill
We visited the Journey to Churchill display and it is one of the most mesmerizing animal displays we’ve ever seen. There are 10 polar bears in a large enclosure that have been rescued from Churchill and northern Manitoba. Many were brought as cubs when they were orphaned in the wild under a variety of circumstances.
The polar bears have access to swimming pools, shade, and air-conditioned areas in the summer to keep them cool, but 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.
A highlight of the zoo is definitely the underwater display. If you are looking for things to do in Winnipeg don’t miss this! Polar bears swim above a glass walkway and harbour steals and say hello to the crowd. 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.
Note: Polar bears can never go back in the wild. Once they are domesticated, there is no going back.
7. 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.
8. Hermetic Code Tour at the Manitoba Legislative Building
One of the most interesting tours we’ve taken in our lives was in Winnipeg! We met Frank Albo – Canada’s answer to Dan Brown on the steps of the Winnipeg legislative building. He took us on a walkthrough of Winnipeg’s very own Da Vinci 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 tour begins with Dr. Frank Albo leading the way stating “Everything I tell you will sound like a lie. Don’t believe anything I say unless I can prove it.” And prove it he did! We were then taken on a wild tour of intrigue, secret societies, and scandals as we walked through the halls of the historic building.
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.
It is so intriguing that Albo met with Prince Charles in the royal room when we visited. 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. This is definitely one of the most interesting things to do in Winnipeg. Book your Signature Experience Tour here.
Other Attractions in Winnipeg
9. The Forks National Historic Site
Winnipeg is an interesting destination for its history. Many cities have a history that dates a couple of hundred years, but Winnipeg dates back thousands. The Forks has been a meeting place for 6,000 years. Located where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet, 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.
Looking for something unique to do in Winnipeg? Explore the city year-round thanks to Kendrick’s Outdoor Adventures located in The Forks. They offer fat bikes, e-bikes, e-scooter rentals, and snowshoes (in the winter!).
It is the Winnipeg’s number one tourist attraction with four million visitors enjoying its markets, restaurants and food and beer halls each year. What we love about it 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.
10. The Red River Mutual Trail
If you are in Winnipeg in the winter, you must 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. 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.
During the summer, the area is busy with people enjoying the outdoors along the river, and in the winter, it continues with people skating, playing on the outdoor hockey rink and enjoying the warming huts designed by artists from around the world.
11. Thermea 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 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.
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. You can spend as long as you like at Thermea. There is a restaurant, water and tea stations.
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.
12. 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 favourite places to eat is located in the Terminal, we love the Old Spaghetti Factory. It is filled with nostalgia.
13. 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, galleries and restaurants. It’s worth spending an afternoon or evening exploring the stylish area.
14. 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.
15. Catch a Winnipeg Blue Bombers Game
Canada has its own football league and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have won the Grey Cup (Canada’s answer to the Super Bowl) 11 times most recently 2019. 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.
16. Royal Winnipeg Ballet
Who would have thought that one of the world’s premier dance companies would be in Winnipeg? But it’s true! It 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.
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.
The Exchange District
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.
Winnipeg Airport Hotels
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 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.
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.
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