If you visiting Winnipeg in winter and coming from warmer place, this city can feel like the coldest place on earth. Though, it shouldn't stop you from having fun! Just bring the warm clothes, layer up and enjoy all this diverse city has to offer.
Visit Canadian Museum for Human Rights
I must confess, I was a little bit sceptical about visiting this museum that opened its doors in 2014 at a cost of $351 million. As you might already know, I am more into the nature stuff and I wasn't completely sure if I could enjoy this place. Oh, was I wrong! What a fabulous gem of reflection, inspiration and hope this museum is! I am neither an architecture admirer, but since I first saw the tall futuristic building from the window of my Fairmont hotel room, I was hooked and really curious what's inside.
There are three ways to visit the museum: completely independently, a guided tour or a self-guided tour via mobile app.
I chose the guided tour (it's only 5 CAD) and strongly recommending it. It gives you a brief idea about the whole building and you will be way more ready for the independent exploration. Consider comfortable walking shoes and at least 2-3 hours of time, but if you are a reader, you can easily spend there days and days.
Ideal time to visit would be anytime you can avoid crowds - try getting there as soon as it opens to avoid the crowds, or avoid summer and June school field trip season.
The galleries are very unique compared with most museums I've been at. This place is not full of historical artefacts. Plenty of hi-tech in use here, and a great deal of it is very interactive if the visitor wants. The architecture of the entire museum is absolutely stunning. From the significance of the land it is built upon, to the design of the walkways in the museum to the story behind the architecture; this museum is well thought out and beautifully designed to capture your attention! I felt a sense of awe and wonder while walking through this museum. I enjoyed especially the water gardens with basalt columns, backlit marble ramps connecting floors and views from 100m Tower of Hope that enables you to see whole Winnipeg.
I believe the intention is to provide information, create dialogue and hopefully through dialogue and understanding, human rights violations can be minimized in the future. Interesting thing that I noticed after the visit, is that in spite of museum's challenging topic, I felt uplifted and full of hope for human race.
We ate a late lunch/brunch in the ERA Bistro and it was excellent in every way, from the food to the prices to the service. Free coat check is really nice too, and the helpers were very gracious.
Is it child friendly? There are lots of computer interactive displays & videos which kids would find those interesting, and the coolest floor in one area. I'd say that if you really want to see the exhibits with some thoroughness, don't bring a child, but if you are happy helping the child learn and be exposed to human rights, then it's great for that. Just would be tough to do both at the same time. But as a parent, you already know this.
It's also good to know that admission to the museum is free on the first Wednesday of every month in the evening after 4 pm.
Have fun at the Forks National Historic Site
You shouldn't skip this place especially if you come to Winnipeg in winter. The Forks is the place where Assiniboine River meets Red River and where for thousands years Aboriginal bison hunters, fur traders, railway workers and tourists have been meeting. In winter both of rivers are cleared of snow and you can skate for over 10 kilometers (one way!). Bring your own skates or rent them at The Forks.
The Forks are great for souvenirs shopping or grabbing a snack as well
You shouldn't also miss the opportunity to check out Ice Castles of Winnipeg. You might have stumbled upon some of the pictures of ice castles before. There's only six locations in North America when you can visit these beauties, so make sure you reserve your tickets in advance. Then you are good to go to admire ice formations, slide the ice slide or warm out around the fireplace surrounded by crystal blue ice. It's truly a magical
Relax at Thermëa Spa
Thermëa Spa truly is like experiencing a little slice of heaven. So peaceful, serene and relaxing. So relaxing it's just hard to not spend there more than 6+ hours! It felt like I was transported to a place not in Winnipeg. And can you guess when is the best time to visit? Winter it is! That's when you most appreciate hot pools and saunas enjoying the snowflakes gently falling on your head.
I absolutely love love LOVE Thermëa! The whole bathing/sauna facility is outside in a nicely landscaped area with walkways and plants. There are fireplaces and sitting areas. The eucalyptus and orange steam rooms were my favourite! There are two mineral pools... one hot tub like temperature with jets and colour changing lights and one tepid temperature without jets but also nice colour changing lights. If you feel like a massage, you can choose from various kinds. There is also tea and water in every building for you to enjoy (I couldn't get enough of Sacred Blend tea!).
Thermëa also have a restaurant that serves very delicious spa like foods as well as wine and some cocktails. Their soups and sandwiches are heavenly! For convenience, anyone visiting the spa can load money onto the waterproof wristband (which doubles as your locker key) to spend at the restaurant. No need to scurry back to you locker for a credit card. The staff were amazingly professional and friendly.
All you need to bring is your swimsuit and flip flops (You can thank me later :)) You can rent robes for about $15 for the day, but you can bring your own.
See the polar bears at Assiniboine Park ZOO
Did you know that Churchill in northern Manitoba is known to be a polar bear capital of the world? But if you want to see polar bears, you don't have to fly all the way to Churchill (yet you can make it your weekend getaway). They have a few polar bears in the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg. You will also see wolves, Arctic foxes, muskoxen and other northern species.
Disclosure: I am not fan of zoos unless I do a detailed research and I am sure that all captured animals wouldn't survive in the wilderness otherwise. Therefore I can't share my experience with you.
Go for a walk or/and try snowshoeing at FortWhyte Alive
If you feel like getting out of the city and have fun in the nature, an afternoon trip to FortWhyte Alive is something what you might be looking for. It's only a short drive from the downtown of Winnipeg and you'll happen to end up in peaceful prairies.
After you pay a little entrance fee at the main building of FortWhyte Alive (8 CAD in winter 2018), you can choose from a couple of trails and with a bit of luck to find bisons (they are in the fenced area). You can also rent a snowshoes, try a tobogganing (and scream like a little child as it's surprisingly fast and a looooooots of fun).
In the second building there are very interesting and educating expositions about fauna and flora of Manitoba. This place is also great for families with small children.
Shopping and eating in Exchange District
If you have shopping on the brain, there is no better place to get your retail therapy than the Exchange District, a National Heritage Site.
This collection of 150 heritage buildings date back to the 1800’s and house some of the swankiest boutiques in the city. Whether you’re here to bring back a one of a kind souvenir, or just want to learn more about Winnipeg’s humble beginnings, it’s all down at the Exchange.
If you want to try some of the most delicious meals in the city, you're in the right place. In this charming part of the city you'll find one of the most interesting restaurant and cozy coffee shops. We tried deer+almond and absolutely loved the concept of shared plates. The dish they served was so unique, and our taste buds were in heaven!
What other things to do in Winnipeg?
Other than activities and places I mentioned above, there is actually much more than that, but unfortunately I didn't have enough time to explore all of the places I wished to see. Some of those would be:
Feel like testing yourself in our brutal winter? Visit at the end of Janaury to see the Warming Huts design competition. Winning hut designs are installed along the frozen river. People can walk, skate or ski along river trails and visit the huts. (www.warminghuts.com) You can grab hot chocolate (or something stronger) at the Forks or in Osborne Village, when you’re done your tour. Make sure you dress for -30C (-22F).
In February, there is the Festival du Voyageur which celebrates the culture and history of the French fur-traders and the Metis. There are historical displays, great food, great local music, and theatre events within the Festival grounds as well as throughout St. Boniface, the French quarter of the city. They also have a snow sculpture competition and pulled Maple Syrup taffy! Yum :)
Our stay in Fairmont Winnipeg
For our visit of Winnipeg we chose to stay in Fairmont Winnipeg. This was my first stay at the Fairmont hotel and I was stoked for the opportunity to stay at their Gold Floor. Gold Floor is on the 18th floor and is their "hotel within a hotel". It has its own floor, with separate check in, a beautiful spacious lounge with snacks, tea time and free gourmet breakfast (probably the best breakfast I've ever had, and will mention that again later in the article :) ).
I can't talk highly enough about the Fairmont service and comfort we received. From the first moment we were blown away by the intentional, attentive hospitality and friendliness (I wonder no more why Manitoba is called Friendly Manitoba). Since the moment we arrived each staff member made us feel so welcome and comfortable. We stayed at the Fairmont Hotel shortly before Christmas and so the hotel was beautifully decorated with the lights and Christmas trees. And when you mixed it with the warm welcoming vibes, it felt sooo magical!
Our room was luxurious, yet cozy and had a gorgeous view of the downtown and the majestic building of Canadian Museum of Human Rights. It was big enough for two people staying for a few nights. In the room you could find all the amenities you'd need during your leisure or business stay in Winnipeg (iron, slippers, bathrobes, hairdryer, etc.). But let's be honest here, in case, that you'd be missing anything, I am sure that Fairmont staff would happily get it for you. That's - hands down - how awesome I think they are.
On our arrival, we were so so surprised to find in our room Birch & Bourbon cocktail and wonderfully looking chocolate/macarons plate with the map of Manitoba made of chocolate. One of the staff members also handmade for us a booklet with pictures of places he recommended us to visit in Winnipeg. My heart melted completely!
Now let's have a serious talk about the breakfast. Breakfast was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S and with no doubts the most amazing breakfast buffet I've had a chance to try in my life. Because we were staying at Gold Floor, breakfast was a complimentary. Each morning it was slightly different but each morning we were super overwhelmed by the amount of choices we had. The Fairmont Chef certainly deserves a Micheline star! We enjoyed especially smoked salmon, fresh berries and smoothies. Yumm! (It was never easier to get our sleepy butts out of the bed. That's how we were stoked each morning to get our plates full and try new things.)
What more, the Golden Lounge, the place where breakfast was served, was open whole day and we could enjoy complimentary tea/coffee and also home made cakes and cookies. No kidding here - we were always looking forward to come back to hotel in the afternoon. Because that would mean on thing - we could relax by the window while sipping green Sencha tea and eat more cakes, more dulce de leche and more cookies.
If you want to stay in shape during your visit or simply need some relax time (or burn all the delicious food you HAD to try), on one of the top floors you will find a swimming pool, jacuzzi and gym. With a great downtown views. You can also book a massage.
I would love to thank again all the Fairmont Winnipeg family for welcoming and treating us so generously. We can't think of any other place for our future stay in Winnipeg.
To book your room at Fairmont Winnipeg, visit their website http://www.fairmont.com.
Dreaming and Wandering explored Winnipeg in collaboration with Tourism Winnipeg and Fairmont Winnipeg. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.
Do you have any questions or recommendations on what to add to the article or beautiful places to see? I will be happy if you could share them with me, so I could add them into the article.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Oh hello! Welcome to my page where we all are allowed to Dream Big and we all are encouraged to Wander Far. My name is Martina and here you can read more about me. I am originally from Czech Republic and my story doesn't differ from many similar travellers - in 2011 I quit my well-paid job in film industry to travel the world which was always my dream. I visited 70+ countries and you can find me exploring deserted islands in South Pacific or diving with whale sharks in Philippines, prospecting for gold in New Zealand or building igloos above the Polar Circle. Let's join me on my journey around the globe!