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10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Manitoba

Located in central Canada, Manitoba is often overlooked as a tourist destination, but those who take the time to explore the province will find a wealth of unique experiences, from watching polar bears in the wild to enjoying a winter festival celebrating French Canadian history. The beaches around Lake Winnipeg and the numerous provincial parks offer great retreats from the hot summer days of this prairie province. For cultural attractions and city entertainment, it's hard to beat Winnipeg, the provincial capital.

1 The Forks

The ForksThe Forks Robert Linsdell

The Forks, located at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers near Winnipeg's downtown core, is the place to be in summer and equally fun in winter. Restored historical buildings now house a lovely market area with unique shops, restaurants, and casual food stalls. Some restaurants feature outdoor patios overlooking the river and walkways that run along the river. In winter, there is an outdoor skating rink that is particularly popular with families. Also located at the Forks are the Manitoba Children's Museum and the much anticipated Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

2 Polar Bears of Churchill

Polar Bears of ChurchillPolar Bears of Churchill

Churchill, popularly known as the "Polar Bear Capital of the World," lies on the harsh, rocky coast of Hudson Bay. In autumn, polar bears wander onto the ice-floes in the bay to hunt seals, and the town comes to life with visitors from around the world who come here to see these amazing animals. Tours in tundra buggies - giant large-wheeled vehicles with caged windows - allow visitors close up encounters with the bears.

Also of interest is the excellent Eskimo Museum with exhibits of Inuit works of art and tools dating from 1700 BC through the Dorset and Thule cultures to the present day. Fort Prince of Wales National Historic Site, built by the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1700s, can be visited during July and August, and is reached by boat. Depending on the night, visitors may also be lucky enough to experience a display of northern lights.

3 Canadian Museum of Human Rights

Canadian Museum of Human RightsCanadian Museum of Human Rights Jeffrey Beall

The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is Winnipeg's newest major attraction and an important addition to Canada's national museums. Many years in the making, the structure containing the museum is a unique, standout building with a design based on the Canadian landscape. The museum focuses on a variety of themes that tell the stories of human rights issues from different perspectives. Determining which stories would be told became the source of much tension and controversy during the planning stages; an indication of how important this museum is to so many people.

4 Grand Beach

Grand BeachGrand Beach AJ Batac

Grand Beach Provincial Park encompasses a huge stretch of soft sand beach on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. One of the nicest beaches in Canada, it is a hot spot for sun seekers and campers looking to get away from the city during the hot summer months. This is the full on beach experience in Manitoba.

The park is about a one-hour drive from Winnipeg, and there are a variety of accommodation options in the area such as motels and cottage rentals. There are also places offering casual dining and entertainment.

5 Riding Mountain National Park

Riding Mountain National ParkRiding Mountain National Park

Accessible throughout the year, this scenic park is a combination of recreation area and nature reserve, with a varied landscape of prairie, forest, and wonderfully clear lakes and streams. The park extends over part of the glacially-formed Manitoba Escarpment where a series of plateaus rising to heights of about 340 meters overlook the surrounding prairies of gentle hills, meadows, and lakes.

The cold deep lakes in Riding Mountain such as Clear Lake, Lake Katherine, and Deep Lake are popular fishing spots. Near Lake Audy, a herd of buffalo roam freely in a 552-hectare enclosure. There is a look-out from which the animals can be observed in their natural environment. Bears, wolves, elk, and deer also inhabit the park. Numerous walking and cycling trails can be found throughout the park. One trail leads to the log cabin formerly belonging to the English naturalist Grey Owl who, in the early 1920s, wrote books about the wildlife of the area.

6 Icelandic Festival of Manitoba in Gimli

Viking statue in GimliViking statue in Gimli

Gimli is a small town, approximately an hour's drive north of Winnipeg, on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. In the summer, Gimli comes to life as visitors and cottagers flock to this area to enjoy the beaches. One of the annual highlights is the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, known as Islendingadagurinn, which takes place over the long weekend at the start of August. The festival is a fun event for everyone with all kinds of activities and entertainment for children and adults.

7 Whiteshell Provincial Park

Whiteshell Provincial ParkWhiteshell Provincial Park Robert Linsdell

About a 1.5-hour drive east of Winnipeg is the Whiteshell Provincial Park. The landscape is typical of the Canadian Shield, with hills, lakes, valleys, forests, and rivers. Moose, deer, and black bear inhabit the park. Cottages dot the shorelines of many of the lakes, but much of the wilderness area is undisturbed. The resorts of Falcon Lake and West Hawk Lake further east offer fine beaches, sailing, and waterskiing. The Whiteshell is a popular summer destination for Winnipeggers looking to get away from the heat of city and spend some time by the lake.

8 Festival du Voyageur

Festival du VoyageurFestival du Voyageur Robert Linsdell

One of Manitoba's premier winter events is the Festival du Voyageur, celebrating the French Voyageurs who transported furs in birch bark canoes. The Festival takes place each year in February in St. Boniface, the French-speaking district of Winnipeg. There are all kinds of outdoor events, from games to snow sculpting competitions, as well as traditional French music and cuisine and other entertainment held in outdoor tents. Despite the cold weather at this time of year, the event draws large crowds.

9 Mennonite Village in Steinbach

Mennonite Village in SteinbachMennonite Village in Steinbach Robert Linsdell

The Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach recreates Mennonite life from the 16th century to the present day. There are more than 20 furnished buildings spread over 17 hectares showcasing a time when villages like this could be found all across Southern Manitoba. One of the most prominent structures on the site is the large windmill, which can be seen from the highway. There is a store on the site that sells a variety of items including locally made hand crafted items.

Address: 231 PTH 12N, Steinbach

10 Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site

Lower Fort Garry National Historic SiteLower Fort Garry National Historic Site Dan McKay

The Fort Garry National Historic Park outside Selkirk has as its centerpiece the only stone fort from the fur trading era to survive intact anywhere in North America. Lower Fort Garry was erected by the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1830s, becoming an important center for the fur trade and serving as a base for the exploration of the Northwest Territories. In later years, Lower Fort Garry was used successively as a training camp for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a prison, a mental institution, and a company headquarters.

The fort displays period furniture and household items painstakingly gathered together over a period of years from within Canada and also from Britain and the USA. Costumed Parks Canada employees act out the roles of the fort's earlier inhabitants. Visitors are able to talk to the "Governor" and his wife and to various employees and domestic staff. The result is a vivid impression of the complexities of life in a fur trading community.

Displayed in the building where the furs were stored are samples of pelts of every kind and a Hudson's Bay Company shop has been recreated, stocked with everything from clothing and household goods to beads, horse bells, traps, and blankets.

Address: 5925 Hwy 9, St. Andrews

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