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18 Must-see attractions and things to do in Winnipeg

18 Must-see attractions and things to do in Winnipeg

Winnipeg is known internationally as the home of the Winnipeg Jets, the city’s NHL team, but nationally it is also appreciated for its outstanding arts and culture scene. Residents, known informally as Peggers, enjoy a very active cultural life, with everything from theater and ballet to concerts and opera. More recently, the city has been recognized for the addition of its newest major attraction, the impressive Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Located equidistant from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, Winnipeg is the heart of central Canada. One of Winnipeg’s most popular attractions, The Forks, is located where these two rivers meet.

The city’s extreme climate, with hot summers and cold winters, means that the range of things to do in Winnipeg varies with the season. But there’s always plenty to enjoy here. To find out where to start your visit, check out our list of Winnipeg’s top attractions.

See also: Where to Stay in Winnipeg

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. The Forks

A year-round destination for locals and tourists alike, The Forks is the place to be in winter or summer, with indoor and outdoor activities. Located where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet, The Forks is a commercial and entertainment district housed in a number of historic buildings. The site was once a railway repair facility, and over the years the various buildings have been meticulously restored to house a mix of interesting stores, restaurants and museums.

The main building is The Forks Market, where fruit and vegetable vendors set up shop in the main hall, and food vendors prepare a variety of tasty dishes. The stores are located on two levels. You can also climb the lookout tower for a bird’s eye view of the river and the city. The Johnston Terminal Building is another historic building with a variety of stores.

In the summer, people come to The Forks to enjoy indoor and outdoor dining, or to play on the river. The Riverwalk is a pleasant walking path along the river, which will lead you to another of Winnipeg’s main attractions, the Legislative Building. One of the most popular things to do in the winter is to skate at the Forks Ice Rink or on the frozen river.

Official website: http://www.theforks.com

2. Canadian Museum for Human Rights

This recent addition to Winnipeg’s cultural scene has become the city’s leading landmark, reflecting human rights in Canada and around the world. The museum is known both for its spectacular building design and its unique concept of presenting human rights stories.

One enters the museum on the first floor and ascends six levels, visiting 11 galleries along the way. It has proven to be controversial in many ways, but it is undoubtedly an important Canadian cultural institution. In addition to the galleries, there is also the Israel Asper Tower of Hope, which offers magnificent views of the city.

Address: 85 Israel Asper Way, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Official website: https://humanrights.ca/

3. The Manitoba Museum

The Manitoba Museum is primarily devoted to the human and natural history of the province. The nine permanent galleries showcase the best the province has to offer, and the interactive Science Gallery and Planetarium displays the vastness of the night sky on its domed screen.

Highlights of the museum include a 95-million-year-old Pliosaur fossil, an exhibit that recreates the Northern Lights and a reconstructed Hudson Bay fur trading post. One of the most famous exhibits is the Nonsuch, a replica of a 17th century ketch sailboat. You can climb aboard and explore all parts of the ship to get a sense of the hardships faced by the brave men who crossed the Atlantic in those days. The museum is located downtown, not far from the Bourse district.

Address: 190 Rupert Ave, Winnipeg

Official website: http://www.manitobamuseum.ca

4. Assiniboine Park and Zoo

Winnipeg’s oldest park, Assiniboine encompasses 445 hectares of lawns, mature trees, cultural facilities and an English garden.

The Assiniboine Park Zoo is located within the grounds and is home to a wide variety of animals, flora and fauna. Special emphasis is placed on creatures from northern latitudes, including a significant number of polar bears, although there are also some exotic species such as Siberian tigers and red kangaroos.

Another attraction in the park is the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. Here you will find an extensive collection of his brass pieces created using the lost wax method of sculpture. His magnificent works of art are set in a beautiful, colorful garden complete with water features and mature trees.

Located in the same area is the Leo Mol Gallery, a restored schoolhouse where the artist created many of his works. The interior of the building has additional rooms as well as an exhibit showing how the lost wax method works.

If you are traveling with youngsters, a fun thing to do in Assiniboine Park is to ride the 4-8-2 miniature steam train. The train runs on a narrow gauge and starts from an area just west of the Pavilion building. The train runs daily throughout the summer and on weekends in September and October. The fare is very modest.

Looking for some nature? To the south, a large nature reserve adjoins the park, where sightings of deer and other animals are common.

Address: 55 Pavilion Crescent, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Official website: http://www.assiniboinepark.ca

5. Legislative Building

Constructed of local Tyndall stone and Italian marble, Winnipeg’s magnificent neoclassical legislative building was completed in 1919. Unique features of the building include hidden hieroglyphics, Freemason symbols and secret numerical codes. Tours are offered weekly and are led by an architectural historian.

The lavish grounds feature statues, monuments and manicured gardens. Topping the 72-meter dome is a statue known as Golden Boy, a four-meter-tall bronze weighing five tons and plated with 23.5-karat gold. A torch in his right hand and a sheaf of wheat on his left arm symbolize Manitoba’s enduring agricultural prosperity.

Address: 450 Broadway, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Official website: https://www.gov.mb.ca/legislature/visiting/index.html

6. Experience the Festival du Voyageur

The Festival du Voyageur is Winnipeg’s most popular winter festival. Held in February, this event celebrates the traditions of the French Voyageurs – the fur traders of early Canada. The festival includes entertainment and events for children and adults, with activities in both French and English.

Large tents are set up outdoors at Voyageur Park and other sites around the city, where you can find live music, food, dancing, and more. Be sure not to miss the amazing ice and snow sculptures, one of the highlights of the festival. Another festival tradition is the beard growing contest. Participants have 10 weeks before the festival to grow their best beard in four categories.

Official website: https://www.heho.ca/en/

7. Winnipeg Art Gallery

Housed in a very modern building in the shape of a ship’s bow, the Winnipeg Art Gallery has 25,000 pieces in collections of classic and contemporary art by Canadian, American, European and Inuit artists.

New in 2021, the former Inuit art gallery has been renamed and is now known as Quamajuq. In this brand new 40,000 square foot architecturally stunning building are over 14,000 pieces of Inuit art. Inuit craftsmanship is displayed throughout the gallery, but the most impressive area is the visible three-story high vault, which features 7,500 pieces.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery is the oldest art gallery in Western Canada and frequently hosts events and a wide range of artists, from poets to jazz musicians. Be sure to check out the very unique triangular rooftop sculpture garden for a view of the city. The gallery is located downtown and is not far from The Forks.

Address: 300 Memorial Blvd, Winnipeg

8. Exchange District National Historic Site

Turn-of-the-century Victorian and Edwardian commercial architecture defines Winnipeg’s Exchange District, its name reflecting the many financial institutions that sprang up in Winnipeg between the 1880s and 1920s.

More recently, the Exchange District has been revitalized with former warehouses, a bank and commercial space converted to fashion boutiques, high-end stores, art galleries and restaurants. Old Market Square is the unofficial heart of the neighborhood and the site of various events and festivals during the summer months.

The Exchange District is also a hub of the city’s cultural life, with an impressive selection of performance venues including the Pantages Playhouse, the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre andthe Manitoba Centennial Centre.

Official website: http://www.exchangedistrict.org

9. Fort Whyte Alive

Covering 259 hectares, Fort Whyte Alive is known for its five lakes, grassy park and bog walks. The interpretive center houses an aquarium and nature exhibits, including burrowing owls. Outside, visitors can watch the bison herd, visit the bird feeding stations, see the sod house, or watch the prairie dog antics at Prairie Dog Town.

Fort Whyte Alive has seven miles of hiking and biking trails, and sailing and paddling lessons are given in the summer on the small lakes. In the winter, a giant skating rink, sledding hill and cross-country ski trails are available for those who want to get outside and enjoy the cooler temperatures.

Address: 1961 McCreary Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Official website: http://www.fortwhyte.org

10. Royal Canadian Mint

The Royal Canadian Mint produces coins not only for Canada, but also for a number of other countries. In fact, over 55 billion coins have been produced here. You can follow the entire minting process in the newly renovated tour area. Interactive displays show how coins are made from start to finish.

The on-site museum does an excellent job of showing visitors the early history of coins and coinage. The state-of-the-art, triangular-shaped building also contains a tropical garden and fountain. Reservations are recommended for 45-minute tours.

Official website: https://www.mint.ca/store/mint/visit-the-mint/winnipeg-location-8900024

11. Corydon Avenue

This lively tree-lined street is where locals come to relax, catch up on the latest trends and enjoy a quiet moment. Small, trendy stores with the latest unique fashions will pique your interest.

Restaurants, many with outdoor patios in the summer, offer a wide range of cuisines. Also of note is the street art – eight large metal figures on display each summer represent the countries of Spain, Greece, Argentina, Japan, Ukraine, Italy, France and Scotland.

Concerts are also held most Friday and Saturday nights and feature a diverse selection of musicians. The main area is along Corydon Avenue from Daly Street to Harrow Street, and parking can be a bit tricky.

12. St. Boniface Cathedral

St. Boniface Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in Western Canada, founded in 1818. The building was considered the best example of French Romanesque architecture in Manitoba, but was rebuilt several times due to fires – although the modern cathedral incorporates the historic façade.

Located in a pleasant park, the cemetery is the oldest Catholic cemetery in Western Canada. It has many ancient headstones of early settlers and key figures from earlier days, including the grave of Louis Riel.

The nearby St. Boniface Museum, Winnipeg’s oldest building, was built in 1846 for the Grey Nuns and was the first convent, hospital, girls’ school and orphanage in Western Canada. After its restoration in 1967, it became a museum documenting the history of the French minority in Manitoba.

Address: 180 Cathedral Avenue, St. Boniface, Manitoba

Official website: http://www.cathedralestboniface.ca

13. Manitoba Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum of Manitoba is housed in a state-of-the-art facility located at The Forks. Inside this unique building, you will find 12 permanent interactive galleries that children of all ages will enjoy.

The galleries range from the Milk Machine, which features a giant cow cube that you can actually walk into, to the Engine House, where kids will find a multitude of gears and levers to pull. Also of interest is the Lasagna Lookout, where your kids are allowed to play with their food.

In addition to the permanent galleries, the museum also hosts traveling exhibits and special events around key dates like Halloween and Christmas.

Address: 45 Forks Market Rd, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Official website: http://childrensmuseum.com

14. Manitoba Centennial Centre

If you’re looking for nightlife in Winnipeg, especially during the winter months, check out what’s going on at the Manitoba Centennial Centre. Comprised of the Centennial Concert Hall, the Manitoba Museum and the Manitoba Theatre Centre, it is home to the city’s major arts organizations, including the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra andthe Manitoba Opera. Around the building, beautiful fountains and sculptures grace the terraced gardens.

Address: 555 Main Street, Winnipeg

Official website: http://centennialconcerthall.com

15. Riel House National Historic Site

Riel House belonged to the family of Louis Riel and has been restored to reflect the social, economic and cultural realities of the lives of the Lagimodière and Riel families in 1886. Louis Riel was the leader of the Métis and the founder of Manitoba.

He led several rebellions in 1869 and 1884. He was executed in 1885, and his body lay in state at Riel House for two days. The house, in the “Red River-frame” style, is typical of the early settlers’ houses in the Manitoba area. Riel’s descendants lived in this house until 1969.

Address: 330 River Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Official website: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/mb/riel/index.aspx

16. Kildonan Park

Some of the oldest trees in the province grow in the delightful Kildonan Park, along with beautiful flower gardens and a Hänsel and Gretel witch’s cottage. The park covers 99 acres and has 2.7 kilometers of recreational trails, much of which runs along the Red River.

It is a great place for bird watchers. Kildonan Park is also home to Canada’s oldest outdoor theater, Rainbow Stage. Other tourist attractions include an outdoor pool and a golf course.

Address: 2015 Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba

17. Prairie Dog Central Railway

The Prairie Dog Central is a fully restored steam locomotive that offers trips between Winnipeg and Grosse Isle. The train is made up of vintage cars, which carry visitors on the 60 to 75 minute trip, including a stopover before returning to Winnipeg. Various themed excursions are offered, including train robberies, Halloween events, and more.

Official website: http://www.pdcrailway.com

18. Living Prairie Museum & Interpretive Centre

The grounds of the Living Prairie Museum preserve one of the few remnants of the tallgrass prairie. It is home to 150 species of native grasses and wildflowers, and has an excellent interpretive center. A second-floor platform allows visitors to view the preserved prairie – a now much-diminished ecosystem that once covered a million square miles across North America.

The museum grounds cover 16.3 hectares, and a self-guided trail winds throughout the area. Pick up a brochure and stop along the way at numbered markers to learn more about the flora and fauna around you.

Address: 2795 Ness Ave, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Where to stay in Winnipeg for sightseeing

The best place to stay in Winnipeg for tourists is right downtown, close to many of the city’s main attractions. These include The Forks, the Legislative Building, the Exchange District and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, all of which are located in the downtown area. Below are some highly rated hotels in great locations.

Luxury Hotels:

  • The Fairmont Hotel is conveniently located at the corner of Portage and Main Streets in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. From here, you can easily access the underground shopping mall and walk to The Forks and the Exchange District, as well as several museums.
  • For a completely different experience, try Mariaggi’s Theme Suite Hotel & Spa. The uniquely designed rooms follow different themes, and the Caribbean and Indian rooms even have waterfalls. This hotel also offers easy access to the restaurants and entertainment of the Exchange District.

Mid-range hotels:

  • Located right in The Forks, the Inn at the Forks has one of the best locations for visitors, especially in the summer. This boutique hotel offers contemporary decor and sleek blown glass vanities, as well as the convenience of the on-site Riverstone Spa.
  • For a historic experience, be sure to check out the Fort Garry Hotel, which dates back to 1913. The rooms are a bit small due to the design style of the time, but the hotel offers the grandeur and sophistication of the era. The Fort Garry is ideally located across from the Forks.
  • Enjoying a prime riverside location, the boutique Mere Hotel is another quality mid-range option, just steps from the bustling Exchange District.

Budget hotels:

  • A good value option not far from downtown is the Humphry Inn & Suites.
  • If your primary destination is the Winnipeg Mint, or if you’re just looking for a good value, the Super 8 by Wyndham Winnipeg East is a great option.
  • The Holiday Inn & Suites Winnipeg Downtown is a bit further from the heart of the city, but is ideal for those who want to visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which is just a short walk away.

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