Seven Ways to Satisfy your Wanderlust
Story by Michelle McChristie, Photos by Darren McChristie
Walking along the streets of Winnipeg in winter is reminiscent of Randy Bachman’s song “Prairie Town”: Winter nights are long, summer days are gone / Portage and Main fifty below. Maybe it is the city’s infamous winters that have made its residents intrepid and keen on reinventing and reinvigorating their community. There are new experiences in every corner of the city, some within well-known and historic attractions and others completely shiny and new. Here are seven new experiences to satisfy your wanderlust.
The Leaf at Assiniboine park
If you’re looking for a reprieve from fifty below, The Leaf offers a fresh and sustainable take on a botanical conservatory. It opened in December 2022 as a reimagined and expanded attraction to replace the former conservatory that closed in 2018. The Leaf has two distinct biomes: one a tropical rainforest-like paradise, featuring an indoor waterfall and large koi pond, and the other a Mediterranean oasis. There is also a butterfly garden where you can see insects in each stage of their life cycle, and a hip restaurant that offers world cuisine using fresh, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients from The Leaf’s gardens.
The Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada
You don’t need to be an aviation buff to appreciate a tour of this museum, located in a spacious new building near the airport, that features one of Canada’s largest and most complete aviation heritage collections. The stories behind each impeccably restored aircraft and its role in advancing flight are engaging and inspiring. Don’t miss the Vickers Viscount—a passenger aircraft that was retired in the 1970s. If you’re of a certain vintage, climbing aboard will take you back to a time when flying was spacious and luxurious.
Qaumajug at the Winnipeg Art Gallery
Last fall, the Winnipeg Art Gallery opened Qaumajuq, a 40,000-square-foot Inuit art centre. The most striking attraction is a three-storey glass vault filled with thousands of carvings—the world’s largest collection—organized by the artists’ home community. The new space also features Qilak, an 8,000-square-foot gallery with enormous skylights and undulating walls. The inaugural exhibition, INUA, features the work of over 90 Inuit artists and runs until February 2023. It’s hard to pick a favourite in any exhibition, but Jesse Tungilik’s Seal Skin Spacesuit, which he says brought his childhood daydreams to life, is awesome.
Pineridge Hollow is a one-of-a-kind, bustling attraction next to Bird’s Hill Provincial Park. It features a retail shop, furniture showroom, petting farm, farmers market, forest trails, and more. Owned and operated by Jan Regehr and family, the business has grown immensely over the past 30 years since its humble beginnings as a gift shop in a 1920s log home. New additions include the village—a collection of local shops and eateries curated by Regehr—and forest rooms, which are geodesic domes outfitted with a woodstove and comfy furniture, a unique gathering space for a bonfire and snack (like raclette cheese and baguette, yum!). Don’t miss the restaurant (we recommend the highly addictive beet chips served with housemade goat cheese ranch dip).
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights
This museum opened in 2014 and is a must-see in Winnipeg. Every exhibit is engaging and relevant and the museum’s architecture is breathtaking. Visitors enter at ground level and walk up five floors on ramps clad in illuminated and translucent white alabaster, ending at the Israel Asper Tower of Hope. It’s a journey from darkness to light that reflects the hope for human rights education. Don’t miss Climate Justice, which explores the connections between human rights and climate change (runs to June 2024) and trace—a large ceramic blanket by Rebecca Belmore that honours the original inhabitants of the land upon which the museum is built. Belmore was born in Upsala and is a member of Obishikokaang (Lac Seul First Nation).
The Forks is a national historic site where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet—the area has been a meeting place for over 6,000 years. In the winter, a key attraction is the Nestaweya River Trail, where you can walk, fatbike, skate, or cross country ski. The length of the trail varies with ice conditions; five years ago it spanned 10 kilometres and it once held the Guinness World Record for the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world. Nestaweya is the Cree name for the site and area now known as Winnipeg, and means three points. It’s a reference to those who traveled to the site via the rivers: the Lakota-Dakota-Nakota came from the west on the Assiniboine River while the Cree came from the north and the Anishinaabe came from the south on the Red River. The Forks is also home to a new Treaty Knowledge Centre. The centre is warm and inviting and is intended to be a safe space for people to ask questions to better understand the numbered treaties from a First Nations perspective.
The Fort Garry Hotel
This year marks the Fort Garry Hotel’s 110th anniversary, and its owners are continuing their work to meticulously restore and rejuvenate this former Grand Trunk Pacific Railway hotel. In 2022, they reopened the Oval Room Brasserie with its château-inspired décor and artisanal yet unpretentious dishes and expansive wine list. If you want to treat yourself (and let’s face it, you do), check out the packages at Ten Spa—a sprawling world-class spa that features Canada’s only co-ed Turkish hammam (steam bath). Ten Spa also prides itself on its intensive skincare treatments and medical grade products, which are offered at affordable prices because, as spa director Elena Zinchenko says, “We wholeheartedly believe that skincare is not a luxury.”
Where to Stay
The Fort Garry is an ideal base camp for urban adventures because it is close to attractions like The Forks, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg Art Gallery, and Canada Life Centre (Jets headquarters). It’s also one-of-a-kind—you’ll get a bigger bathroom at a Marriott, but you might wake up and forget what city you are in.
The Wyndham Garden Winnipeg Airport opened in fall 2022 and is located on the Long Plain First Nation’s Madison Reserve—Winnipeg’s first urban reserve. It’s close to the CF Polo Park
Where to Watch Live Music
Times Change(d) High & Lonesome Club
Not new, but authentically Winnipeg. Character oozes from this downtown bar located in a 140-year-old building—we bet the dance floor is always packed
Where to Eat
Hargrave Street Market
Local faves, including Lake of the Woods Brewery, under one roof
James Avenue Pumphouse
Pub fare (perfect for picky eaters) in an early 1900s municipal water pumping station, located in the historic Exchange District
Modern Electric Lunch
All-day breakfast with excellent avocado toast and seasonal lattes
Eclectic small plates crafted by one of Canada’s top chefs