Manitoba is often overlooked as a tourist destination, although no one can quite say why, and frankly it shouldn’t be. This province is absolutely loaded with awesome things to see and do, including one of the top places to view the incredible Northern Lights. Along with outdoor adventures such as polar bear viewing and hiking through national parks, Manitoba offers its fair share of festivals, museums, markets and more. Discover the best 7 things to see and do in this highly underrated province.
7. Play at Whiteshell Provincial Park
Just an hour or so away from Winnipeg is the Whiteshell Provincial Park, loaded with hills, lakes, valleys, forests, and rivers. Inhabitants of the park include deer, moose and black bears with much of the wilderness here being undisturbed. In the summertime go swimming at one the beaches, scuba dive in the clear waters, or hike along one of the scenic trails, ranging from 3km-60km.
Wintertime brings ice-fishing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and skiing. There are 200 lakes here, a range of accommodations, a golf course, museums and even a goose sanctuary. Soak up the scenery here, doing whatever activity you desire, just make sure to take plenty of pictures.
6. Attend the Icelandic Festival
The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba is also known as Islendingadagurinn and takes place in the small town of Gimli. It is the largest Icelandic gathering outside of Iceland itself and the second oldest continuous ethnic festival in North America. The province itself has strong historical connections to Iceland and spends a weekend each summer celebrating the culture.
Over the weekend numerous events take place such as beach volleyball, pancake breakfast, music and poetry, midways rides and games and more. Daily demonstrations of Viking age warfare, tactics, skills, entertainment, and fashion take place, sure to enthrall people of all ages. Eat Icelandic food, join in on traditions, introduce the kids to culture and spend the weekend in one surreal Canadian landscape.
5. Visit the Forks
The Forks is Winnipeg’s meeting place, nestled in the heart of downtown and is one of the most beloved places in the city. For over 6,000 years The Forks has been a meeting place, from the time when Aboriginal peoples traded here to buffalo hunters to tens of thousands of immigrants. Today it is home to more than 4 million visitors annually, who come to discover the wide range of shopping, dining, entertainment, and attractions.
Many visitors flock to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights which is an awesome addition to the city of Winnipeg. The Forks is also home to the Manitoba’s Children Museum, Arctic Glacier Winter Park which features skating trails and toboggan runs, and the Boardwalk Promenade. Don’t miss out on The Forks Market with its impressive six storey tower with a viewing platform.
4. See the Polar Bears
Churchill is one of the few human settlements where polar bears can be observed in the wild and if you have ever dreamed of seeing these magnificent creatures in their homes, Manitoba is the perfect province to do so. October and November are the prime viewing times when the bears begin their move from their summer habitat on the tundra back to the ice that forms every winter over Hudson Bay. There are a few different ways to view the bears, and it is highly recommended joining a reputable tour guide, as they adhere to strict guidelines in order to protect the bears.
Tundra vehicles can take visitors over the snow and ice and protect visitors from curious bears or guided walks are available to areas where bears frequently stop by. Staying at a wilderness lodge along the bear’s migration route provides an exciting experience for visitors to watch for bears right from the lodge. The spectacular animals can reach up to 1,320lbs and have no natural enemies, making them both fearless and impressive.
3. Visit Riding Mountain National Park
This scenic park can be visited all year round and proves to be the perfect combination of recreation area, and nature reserve. The landscape is a combination of forest, prairie and super clear lakes and rivers. The park is home to a number of species of wildlife including moose, elk, wolves, bison and hundreds of bird species. Hikers will delight in the 400km of hiking trails throughout the park, ranging from easy patrol roads to grassy trails to steep cliffs.
The cold deep lakes here provide excellent fishing lakes and among the most popular are Clear Lake, Deep Lake, and Katherine Lake. Other activities include canoeing, camping, boating, swimming, scuba diving and snowshoeing, snowmobiling and skiing in the wintertime. The park is most easily accessed by Highway 10 which passes through the park and the south entrance is at the townsite of Wasagaming.
2. Explore the Mennonite Heritage Village
The Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach recreates Mennonite life from the 16th century to present day and features more than 20 furnished buildings spread over 40 acres. Wander through the street village, dine at the Livery Barn Restaurant where the traditional Mennonite fare is served, explore a classic Mennonite housebarn and visit the fully operational Dutch windmill during the summer season.
The galleries house historic and heirloom treasures from Poland to Russia to Canada and visitors can find souvenirs at the Visitors Centre which is open all year round. The site is full of volunteers who are descendants of early blacksmiths, millers, and shopkeepers, who love to chat with visitors and answer any questions about the site.
1. See the Northern Lights
To travel to Manitoba and not catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring, ever-changing phenomenon of the Northern Lights would be a travesty. This province is home to some of the world’s most luminous locales for gazing at the shimmering curtains of multi-colored lights that dance across the night sky. The best viewing times are from January to March and Churchill is one of the top three spots on the planet to witness them.
One of the best ways to see them is to book an overnight adventure that offers sky-gazing access from the deck of a heated tundra vehicle. Or head further south and stay in a lakeside lodge in Flin Fon where it is said they can be seen all year round. Grab your camera and ready for yourself for an absolutely mind-blowing visual experience.