18 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Winnipeg
Winnipeg is known internationally as the home of the Winnipeg Jets, the city's NHL team, but nationally it has also long been appreciated for its outstanding arts and cultural scene. Residents, known informally as "Peggers," enjoy a very active cultural life, with everything from drama and ballet to concerts and opera on offer. Most recently, the city has gained recognition for the addition of its newest major attraction, the impressive Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Situated 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 of hot summers and cold winters means the range of things to do in Winnipeg varies by season. But there is always plenty to enjoy here. For ideas on where to start your visit, see our list of the top attractions in Winnipeg.
See also: Where to Stay in Winnipeg
1. The Forks
The Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers join, is a shopping and entertainment district set 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 shops, restaurants, and museums.
The main building is The Forks Market, where fruit and vegetable sellers set up in the main hall, and food vendors cook up a variety of tasty dishes. Stores are found on two levels. You can also walk up the lookout tower to get a bird's-eye view over the river and the city. The Johnston Terminal Building is another historic building with a variety of shops.
In summer, people come to The Forks to enjoy indoor and outdoor dining, or play on the river. The Riverwalk is a pleasant walking trail along the riverfront, which will take you over to another of Winnipeg's key attractions, the Legislative Building. One of the most popular things to do in winter is to skate at The Forks ice-skating rink or on the frozen river.
2. Canadian Museum for Human Rights
This recent addition to Winnipeg's cultural scene has become the city's state-of-the-art landmark, reflecting human rights in Canada and around the world. The museum is known both for its spectacular building design and its unique concept in presenting human rights stories.
You enter the museum at the ground floor and ascend over six levels, visiting 11 galleries along the way. It has proved controversial in many ways but is no doubt an important Canadian cultural institution. In addition to the galleries, there is also the Israel Asper Tower of Hope, which provides wonderful views out over the city.
Address: 85 Israel Asper Way, Winnipeg, Manitoba
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 of what the province has to offer, and the highly interactive Science Gallery and Planetarium introduces the vastness of the night sky on its domed screen.
Highlights of the museum include a 95-million-year-old Pliosaur fossil, a display that recreates the Northern Lights, and a recreated Hudson Bay fur trading post. One of the most famous exhibits is the Nonsuch, a 17th-century replica ketch sailing ship. You can climb on board and explore all areas of the ship to see the hardships of the brave souls that crossed the Atlantic way back when. The museum is located downtown, not far from the Exchange District.
Address: 190 Rupert Ave, Winnipeg
4. Assiniboine Park and Zoo
Winnipeg's oldest park, Assiniboine encompasses 445 hectares of grassy lawns, mature trees, cultural facilities, and an English garden. The Assiniboine Park Zoo is located within its grounds and is home to a wide variety of animals, flora, and fauna. Special emphasis is given to creatures of the northern latitudes, including a significant number of polar bears, though there are also some exotic species such as the Siberian tiger and red kangaroo. Other attractions in the park include the 4-8-2 steam train and the world famous Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. To the south, a nature reserve adjoins the park.
Address: 55 Pavilion Crescent, Winnipeg, Manitoba
5. Legislative Building
Built of local Tyndall stone and Italian marble, the magnificent Neoclassical Legislative Building in Winnipeg was completed in 1919. Unique features of the building include hidden hieroglyphics, Freemason symbols, and secret numerical codes. Tours are offered weekly and are lead by an architectural historian.
The lavish grounds feature statues, monuments, and manicured gardens. Surmounting the 72-meter dome is a statue known as the Golden Boy, a four-meter-high bronze weighing five tons and plated with 23.5 carat gold. A torch in his right hand and sheaf of wheat on his left arm symbolize Manitoba's enduring agricultural prosperity.
Address: 450 Broadway, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Official Site: https://www.gov.mb.ca/legislature/visiting/index.html
6. Festival du Voyageur
Festival du Voyageur is Winnipeg's most popular winter festival. Taking place 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 French and English. Large tents are set up outdoors at Voyageur Park and other sites in the city, where you can find live music, food, dancing, and more.
Make sure you don't miss the stunning ice and snow sculptures, one of the highlights of the festival. Another festival tradition is the beard-growing contest. Participants have 10 weeks prior to the festival to grow their best beard in four categories.
7. Winnipeg Art Gallery
Housed in a very modern building shaped like the bow of a ship, the Winnipeg Art Gallery possesses 25,000 pieces spread across collections of classic and contemporary art by Canadian, American, European, and Inuit artists. It is Western Canada's oldest art gallery 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 views over the city. The gallery is located downtown and is not far from The Forks.
Address: 300 Memorial Blvd, Winnipeg
8. The Exchange District National Historic Site
Turn-of-the-century Victorian and Edwardian commercial architecture defines Winnipeg's Exchange District, its name a reflection of the many financial institutions that sprung up in Winnipeg between the 1880s and 1920s. More recently, the Exchange District has seen a revival with old warehouses, bank, and business premises being converted into fashion boutiques, up-market shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
Old Market Square is the unofficial heart of the area and the site of various events and festivals in the summer months. The Exchange District is also a focus for the city's cultural life, with an impressive selection of venues including the Pantages Playhouse Theatre, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, and Manitoba Centennial Centre.
9. Fort Whyte Alive
Spread over 259 hectares, Fort Whyte Alive is known for its five lakes, grassy parkland, and bog boardwalks. The interpretive center is home to an aquarium and nature exhibits, including burrowing owls. Outdoors, visitors can watch the bison herd, visit the bird-feeding stations, see the sod house, or watch the antics of the prairie dogs at the prairie dog town.
Fort Whyte Alive has seven kilometers of walking and cycling trails, and sailing and paddling courses are taught in the summer on the small lakes. In the winter, a giant ice-skating rink, toboggan run, and cross-country ski trails are available for those keen to get outside and enjoy the cooler temperatures.
Address: 1961 McCreary Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba
10. Royal Canadian Mint
The Royal Canadian Mint produces coins not just for Canada, but for a number of other countries as well. In fact, over 55 billion coins have been produced here. You can follow the whole minting process in the recently renovated tour area. Interactive displays show how coins are manufactured from start to finish. The on-site museum does an excellent job of showing visitors the ancient history of how coins and currency first started. The ultra-modern, triangular-shaped building also contains a tropical garden and fountain. Reservations for the 45-minute tours are recommended.
11. Corydon Avenue
This bustling tree-lined street is where locals come to unwind, catch up on the latest trends, and enjoy some downtime. Small, trendy shops with the latest unique fashions will pique your interest. Restaurants, many of them with outdoor patios in 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 also take place 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 challenging.
12. St. Boniface Cathedral
St. Boniface Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in western Canada, founded in 1818. The building was considered Manitoba's best example of French Romanesque architecture, but it has been rebuilt on several occasions due to fire — though the modern cathedral incorporates the historic façade.
Set in a pleasant park, the cemetery is Western Canada's oldest Catholic burial ground. It has many old gravestones of the first settlers and key figures from days long past, including the grave of Louis Riel.
The nearby St. Boniface Museum, the oldest building in Winnipeg, was constructed in 1846 for the Grey Nuns and was the first convent, hospital, girls' school, and orphanage in the Canadian West. After restoration in 1967, it became a museum documenting the history of Manitoba's French minority.
Address: 180 Cathédrale Ave, Saint-Boniface, Manitoba
13. Manitoba Children's Museum
The Manitoba Children's Museum is housed in a state-of-the-art facility located at The Forks. Inside this unique building, you'll find 12 interactive permanent galleries, which will appeal to children of all ages. The galleries range from the Milk Machine, featuring a giant cow cube you can actually go inside, 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 has special events around key dates like Halloween and Christmas.
Address: 45 Forks Market Rd, Winnipeg, Manitoba
14. Manitoba Centennial Centre
If you are looking for things to do in the evening in Winnipeg, particularly during the winter months, have a look at what's happening at the Manitoba Centennial Centre. Consisting of the Centennial Concert Hall, the Manitoba Museum, and the Manitoba Theatre Centre, this is the home venue for the city's premier arts organizations, including the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and Manitoba Opera. Around the building, attractive fountains and sculptures embellish lovely terraced gardens.
Address: 555 Main Street, Winnipeg
15. Riel House National Historic Site
Riel House belonged to Louis Riel's family and has been restored to reflect the social, economic, and cultural realities of life for the Lagimodière and Riel families in 1886. Louis Riel was the leader of the Metis 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 early settler homes in the Manitoba region. Riel's descendants lived in this house until 1969.
Address: 330 River Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba
16. Kildonan Park
Some of the province's most ancient trees grow in the delightful Kildonan Park, along with splendid flower gardens and a Hänsel and Gretel Witch's Hut. The park is spread over 99 acres and has 2.7 kilometers of recreation trails, much of it running along the Red River. This is an ideal spot for birdwatchers. Kildonan Park is also home to Canada's longest running open-air theater, Rainbow Stage. Other tourist attractions include an outdoor swimming pool and golf course.
Address: 2015 Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba
17. Prairie Dog Central Railway
The Prairie Dog Central is a fully restored, steam-powered locomotive offering trips from Winnipeg to Grosse Isle. The train consists of vintage coaches, which carry visitors on this 60- to 75-minute journey, including a stopover before returning to Winnipeg. Various themed excursions are offered including train robberies, Halloween events, and more.
18. Living Prairie Museum & Interpretive Centre
The Living Prairie Museum is one of the few remaining vestiges of natural prairie land. It harbors 150 species of native grasses and wildflowers, and has an excellent interpretive center. A second-story platform allows visitors to gaze out at the preserved prairie — a now, greatly diminished ecosystem which once covered one million square kilometers throughout North America.
Address: 2795 Ness Ave, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Where to Stay in Winnipeg for Sightseeing
The best area for tourists to stay in Winnipeg is right downtown, close to many of the city's top 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 city center. Below are some highly rated hotels in good locations.
- Luxury Hotels: The Fairmont Hotel occupies a prime location at the junction of Portage & Main Streets, in the heart of downtown Winnipeg. From here, you can easily access the underground 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 various themes, and the Caribbean and India rooms even have waterfalls. This hotel also offers easy access to the dining and entertainment of the Exchange District.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Located right at The Forks, the Inn at the Forks has one of the best locations for visitors, especially in summer. This boutique hotel offers contemporary decor and sleek blown-glass vanities, along with the convenience of the on-site Riverstone Spa. For a historical experience, be sure to check out the Fort Garry Hotel dating from 1913. Rooms are a bit small due to the design style at the time, but the hotel offers the grandeur and sophistication of the era. The Fort Garry is conveniently located across the street from The Forks. Enjoying a prime riverfront location, the boutique Mere Hotel is another quality mid-range option, just steps from the vibrant Exchange District.
- Budget Hotels: A good-value option, not far from the city center is the Humphry Inn & Suites. Winnipeg's best restaurant for chicken fingers, Mitzi's is just down the street. If your main destination is the Winnipeg Mint, or you are just looking for good value, the Super 8 by Wyndham is a great option. The Holiday Inn & Suites Winnipeg Downtown is a bit farther out from the heart of the city but is ideal for those interested in visiting the Winnipeg Art Gallery, located a short stroll away.
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