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As the capital city of Manitoba, Winnipeg boasts a lively urban scene, but the Canadian city does not forget its humble roots. Soaring grain elevators take their place alongside skyscrapers. Railroad depots and brick warehouses still hum with activity, and quarried stone banks give a nod toward the city's history. Once a major trading spot for furs and produce, Winnipeg now offers top cultural attractions that keep visitors coming into a town that honours its past but also conveys a bright future.

When searching for things to do in Winnipeg, kick off with a visit to the Manitoba Legislative Building, topped by one of the city's most famous sights, The Golden Boy. This five-ton bronze statue, created by French sculptor Charles Gardet during WWI, depicts a young man holding a sheaf of wheat in one hand and an eternally lit torch in the other. Created as a symbol of labour and progress, the golden figure is particularly striking at night, when it is lit by floodlights.

Inside the building, consider the Hermetic Code Tour, a popular Winnipeg attraction. A guide reveals all the hidden hieroglyphic inscriptions, Freemasonic symbols and numerological codes that suffuse the building with mystery. The codes were so well hidden that it took historians nearly a hundred years to begin noticing and studying them.

After taking in that major landmark, head into the western part of the city to Assiniboine Park, a luxurious stretch of green space that provides a natural contrast to the bustling metropolitan streets. The Assiniboine Park Zoo features animals from around the world, and the park's conservatory area is a horticultural showcase. Children will gravitate to the Nature and Adventure Playground, abundant with tree forts, mazes and swings shaped like birds' nests.

Heading into the city's main centre, visitors find The Forks, a recreational area perched along the Red River and a major waterway that bisects the city. This year-round destination is one of Winnipeg's main attractions, offering Canada's largest urban skate park, a children's museum, the Shaw Performing Arts Centre and an ice skating rink.

The Forks abounds with numerous dining and shopping choices as well, such as The Forks Market Plaza, known to locals as The Plaza. The area often boasts live music performances and has nearly 75 shops that specialise in fresh produce, cured meats, wine and flowers, as well as aboriginal art and toys. Dining options capture the diversity of Winnipeg, with restaurant fare that ranges from French-style crêpes to Caribbean grilled meats and Chilean seafood dishes.

Whether ducking into a tree fort in the city's major urban park or viewing the city from a six-storey platform at The Forks, travellers will find an array of things to do in Winnipeg. The city's historical buildings and still-active railroad give a glimpse into what made Winnipeg into a powerful trading centre, while family-friendly attractions and shopping choices suffuse the city with a must-see contemporary feel.