The Top 13 Places to Visit in Winnipeg, Manitoba
Perhaps like all Canadian children, in my youth I was a dedicated fan of Winnie the Pooh. Tigger was something of an inspiration to me, so I bounced off the walls, much to the chagrin of my parents and teachers. I learned early on that A.A Milne’s character, “Winnie,” was actually based on a real female black bear named “Winnipeg” (nicknamed “Winnie” for short) who was rescued by a cavalry veterinarian in the First World War.
I think that’s when my fascination with visiting Winnipeg began. I wasn’t necessarily concerned with all the fun things to do in Winnipeg or anything of that nature, but, somewhere in my innocent youthful heart, I thought I might find Tigger.
On a cross-country train trip around the age of 12, we stopped in Winnipeg just for a few hours. Winnie the Pooh was a bit of an afterthought at that point, but that trip was the moment I feel that my travel heart began beating in this life. I didn’t have time to experience all the Winnipeg attractions, or even wander too far away from The Forks, but I remember pulling out of the station and vowing that one day I’d return.
And, nearly twenty years later, that’s exactly what I did.
Winnipeg, as you might imagine, has changed a great deal in that time, as have I. Despite all the anticipation and build-up that I felt in returning after all these years, Winnipeg did not disappoint. I found a lot of pockets and places to visit in Winnipeg that I really jived with, and I thought I ought to share them with you, like any good travel blogger should.
What Are the Best Things to do in Winnipeg When You Visit?
Winnipeg is, in my opinion, regularly underestimated, but let’s not forget that in terms of Canadian cities, only six are bigger than Winnipeg (in order - Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa). It is, in a variety of ways, a quintessential cultural hub of the Prairies, central Canada, and the nation at large.
I’ve never been a writer who is comfortable painting an endlessly rosy picture without some counterbalance, so, sure, Winnipeg has had its difficulties in the past, and still has some difficulties in the present. But, too often, not unlike Cleveland, I’ve seen a tendency for people to form their opinions from afar without ever coming here to see for themselves what Winnipeg is all about.
So that’s what this post is about for me. Urging you to come see for yourself what kind of city Winnipeg is, and my gut feeling is that, ideally with the aid of this article, you might just like what you find. I know I did .
Alright, let’s talk about what to do in Winnipeg if you’re headed there!
NOTE: This post may contain some affiliate links. That means, simply, that I may get commissions from some of my recommendations. That being said, my opinions are fully my own.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the only museum in the world devoted solely to human rights, and you simply cannot visit Winnipeg without stopping here. There’s a reason that the government still gave this museum the designation as a national museum, despite it being the only museum with that status outside of the Ottawa area.
The museum opened in 2014, and it’s world class. I would take the time to plan your visit before arrival and think about what you feel you have to see, or what issues are close to your heart.
There are 10 core galleries at the museum, but you’ll likely spend the bulk of your time on the 2nd and 4th floor if you’re constrained for time. The galleries attempt to examine events that have occured in Canada and elsewhere through the lens of human rights, break down what human rights actually consist of, shed light on issues that must be remembered in the future as well pressing issues of the present, and a whole lot more.
I personally spent about 4.5 hours here as I started at the top (the 8th floor lookout), then made my way down to the Nelson Mandela exhibit on the main floor (note that exhibition has finished, but you can find out what is on while you’re there right here), but you could get a good feeling for the museum in 1.5-2 hours if you were pressed for time.
When you’re thinking about places to go in Winnipeg, this is a must. My visit here was both emotional and humbling, and I’m grateful for the perspective I gained.
The Exchange District
The Exchange District is what you can think of as the historic centre of Winnipeg. Within the Exchange District, you’ll find the bulk of the historic buildings, and that alone makes it one of the top Winnipeg attractions.
It seems there’s always something going on in the Exchange District, and, thankfully, there’s a helpful little event calendar so you can see what’s going on while you’re here.
The Exchange District is comprised of 20 city blocks, and is the ideal area to just wander around and see what you find. I’d head to Portage Avenue and Main Street, then start your exploration from there. What you’ll find is old warehouses, terracotta skyscrapers, and now, an influx of hip bars, cafes, and restaurants.
Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature
What I liked about Thermëa was the “escape factor” of it all. You arrive, throw on the robe, toss the phone in the locker and for once get to focus on relaxing without the potential for that being interrupted.
They’ve got four outdoor baths, 4 distinct saunas, an exfoliation room, a restaurant, lounge, and plenty of places to just grab a seat in the sun or shade and take a deep breath. My personal favourite part of it all was hopping in the eucalyptus room, then rushing out to the ice cold water and feeling more awake and refreshed than any caffeine could ever hope to do for me.
If I lived in Winnipeg, this is one of those Winnipeg attractions that I’d be making time for on the regular. It’s honestly a breath of fresh air considering how busy and hectic life can get in the modern world. At the very least, I’d budget 2-3 hours here to experience it all. And, quite honestly, if you’ve got the time, you’re best to just bring a book, arrive early, and spend as much time as you’d like.
High Tea Bakery
If my inclusion of Thermëa just above piqued your interest, then my assumption is you’re looking for things to do in Winnipeg that constitute “treating yourself.” If that’s the case, then you need High Tea Bakery in your life.
Full disclosure, my pal Belinda owns the place, but, objectively, I’ve rarely if ever tasted baked goods like this. Get yourself a box like I did, and make sure you’ve got a few Imperial Cookies in there, along with some Lemon Poppyseed Shortbread, Cardamom Caramel cookies, a few Raspbery Coconut Thumbprints, and as many macaroons as you can have without passing out.
I know that she mixes things up a fair bit, so it’s possible some items may not be there when you visit, but I’m confident you can choose whatever you want, and you won’t be disappointed.
The place is also aesthetically appealing to the maximum, and the upstairs area is an ideal place to get a cup of coffee or espresso, and munch on some baked goods while working.
Beyond everything, Belinda is a friend and fellow entrepreneur that I love and respect, and she deserves every ounce of her continued success because I know personally just how hard she works.
It’s difficult to describe FortWhyte Alive in a sentence or two, but, essentially, it’s an environmental education centre (as well as area for recreation) located in southwest Winnipeg. The area is enormous (nearly 650 acres in size), and it includes everything from forest trails, to wetlands, and, perhaps most notably, the large field for the roaming bison.
When I visited, I took part in the three hour, extensive tour known as “A Prairie Legacy.” Connor was our guide for the tour, and his belief in the value of FortWhyte Alive was palpable.
While we were out on our “bison safari,” getting up close and personal with these magnificent beasts, he mentioned something that I really liked. He said he was proud to have the bison on the Manitoba flag because when there’s a storm, bison face the storm head on, and that’s emblematic of the people in the province. What a cool sentiment, right?
On the rest of the tour, we learned how to use an atlatl (basically an indigenous weapon that was a mixture of a spear and bow and arrow), made our own bannock bread, paddled around in a voyageur canoe, visited a model prairie house, and went on a forest walk to learn about the Manitoba flora and fauna.
It was a neat little tour and one of those fun places in Winnipeg where you’ll also learn a thing or two about the history of Winnipeg and Manitoba. Also, if you get Connor as your guide when you go, say hey to him for me, won’t ya?
Investors Group Field (IG Field) - Home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
As an avid sports fan, when I was thinking about what to do in Winnipeg, my mind immediately went to catching a Winnipeg Blue Bombers game. The only problem, however, is that when I was there, they weren’t playing. Well, it turns out there was an NFL preseason game going on while I was there, so I settled for that instead!
The first thing I’ll say is that I was seriously impressed by Investors Group Field. It was only built about 5 years ago and the price tag was over 200 million, so they didn’t skimp. It’s actually the largest canopied structure in Canada, and apparently it was designed to make sure that this spot is extra loud and rocking when the Bombers are playing.
The stadium seats about 35,000, so it’s sizeable, but it was designed in such a way that there’s really not a bad seat in the house. Despite not seeing the Bombers, it was still great to be able to visit and independently verify that a visit here needs to be on my top places to visit in Winnipeg list.
Assiniboine Park (and the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden)
Assiniboine Park, though not quite in the heart of the city, is an important part of what makes Winnipeg, well, Winnipeg. The park, believe it or not, covers over 1000 acres, so there’s a variety of spaces within the park itself. Notable spots would include the Assiniboine Forest, Assiniboine Park Zoo, Assiniboine Park Pavilion, and the Assiniboine Park Conservatory.
The two places that I wandered through, which I would strongly recommend (if the weather is right, naturally), are the English Garden as well as the Leo Mol Sculture Garden.
The English Garden contains thousands of flowers all arranged in an elegant English style. It is almost impossible to believe while you’re walking through that you’re technically still in an urban centre. In terms of things to see in Winnipeg, this is up there for me, especially if it’s date night (or date morning or afternoon, I suppose).
The Leo Mol Sculpture Garden has over 300 works from the late Dr. Leo Mol, a Ukranian Canadian sculptor and artist, who has received both the Order of Canada and Order of Manitoba for his works. The hour or so that I spent walking around the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden might be the fondest hour I spent in Winnipeg.
While I was sitting there, breathing it all in, a man sat down and began to play this extraordinary music on an instrument I’d never seen. I went and spoke to him, and he introduced himself as Leo, one of the foremost “Grand Stick Soloists” in the world. I was enamoured with his music, and we’ve kept in touch via email since, so here’s his Leo Gosselin’s website if you’d like to see what he’s all about or hear him play.
I should note before moving on that the Assiniboine Park Zoo is very high up there for a lot of people in terms of their own list of Winnipeg attractions and Winnipeg activities, but I’m just not a zoo person. But if you are, you may want to check it out.
Chaeaban Ice Cream
Joseph Chaeban and his wife, Zainab Ali, fled the Syrian war and promptly opened up the most popular ice-cream spot in the city. The community of Osborne Village rallied around them, and raised enough money to sponsor Zainab’s family of 13 to get to Canada. That’s a heartwarming story, no doubt, but their ice-cream also tells its own story - I’ve never had ice-cream in Canada like this.
All of their ice-cream is made from scratch, and it featured flavours which many WInnipeggers and Canadians probably aren’t used to. Take the flavour Abir Al Sham, for example, which is made with rose and orange blossom water and toasted pistachios (and it’s delicious, by the way). And yet, they also show love for Canada as well with flavours like Louis Lavender which features a rich offering of Purple Berry Orchard Saskatoon Berries.
They usually have 12 flavours on their menu. If you can, I’d share a “flight of ice-cream” for $9 and instantly get to try roughly a third of what they make. That’s what I did, along with my trusty friends Belinda and Ralph, and we had a ball.
The Forks Market
No place changed more since I was last in Winnipeg than the Forks Market. It went from a place to waste a little time to one of the top things to do in Winnipeg in a flash! Last time I was there, it was a bit of a confused space that sold produce and the like. Now, it’s the most vibrant food hall in the city with a emphasis on all that’s local. It’s the place to be!
There’s also plenty of retail options now as well, and the whole vibe of the spot is hip, hip, hip. I was a huge fan of The Common, which has 20 craft beers and 20 wines on tap to pair with your food choices, and you can enjoy your beverage indoors, or take it outside to the back patio area.
I ate as much as I could at The Forks Market, and I’d say it’s worth getting a burger at NuBurger, some baked goods at Tall Grass Prairie Bread Co., and if you’re looking for a classic Canadian breakfast, look towards Danny’s All Day Breakfast.
I got well acquainted with the area in Winnipeg known as The Forks, especially because I was staying at the Inn at the Forks.
I haven’t mentioned this elsewhere, but I was actually in Winnipeg as I was selected to come and stay at the Creator House, an initiative from Hecktic Media, Tourism Winnipeg, and Travel Manitoba. Basically, I came for 5 nights to explore and stay at the “Creator House,” a suite at the Inn at the Forks that was decked out to the nines with all things Winnipeg and Manitoba.
The best thing to do is check out my Winnipeg Instagram Stories on my profile to get the full tour and experience. You’ll see them saved as a highlight right when you get to my profile.
It was a great spot to be, and I’d strongly recommend staying there both for the hotel itself, the restaurant on the main floor, Smith, and the location!
Osborne Village is a neighbourhood for people who like nightlife, bars, interesting shops, and good restaurants. Funny enough, since legislation passed for the legalization of marijuana, this area also happens to be littered with pot shops nowadays as well, for better or worse depending on your preferences.
I talked to a lot of people while I was in Osborne Village, many of whom felt that the area’s best days might be in the past, but, as an objective outsider, I still liked a lot of what I found. I enjoyed perusing what they had on offer at Tharnzie Clothing, looking through the variety of teas at The Canister, and just generally pausing to people watch and get a feel for the area. I ended up buying a Chinese Rose Tea at the Canister that I brought home with me, and it’s still my favourite tea in my cupboard.
It’s a neighbourhood to walk around a bit and throw direction out the window. I’d budget an hour or so to do that, then pop into a bar or restaurant that catches your eye. I’m actually going to recommend a restaurant right below to answer where you might want to go.
Segovia Tapas Bar
If I was writing an article on the best restaurants in Canada, I’d include Segovia, plain and simple. This isn’t a Winnipeg attraction in the classic sense, I know, but my gosh you’d be mistaken to not have it on your list of places to go in Winnipeg.
Again, I’m not just talking about Segovia being notable on a scale of Osborne Village restaurants, or Winnipeg restaurants, I’m talking about about Canada and the world at large. It would, in short, be hard for me to love a restaurant much more.
I was very fortunate to get a spot right up front to chat with Chef Adam Donnelly while he made dishes for the restaurant. He was generous with his time and sharing his philosophy.
A woman came up to him as she was leaving and thanked him for sharing his sourdough recipe, and that’s what I think sums up this place. It’s a warm community feel, with a chic interior, and internationally recognized food. It comes from a head chef being comfortable sharing recipes, as the menu is ever changing, and he knows he’s got no shortage of creativity. I just felt like that moment said it all for me. Everything is out in the open at Segovia.
I had the Sourdough & Brown Butter with Boquerones + Anchovies. I then had the Shrimp Tostada with Avocado Mojo (as well as orange, radish, and sautéed garlic), and Shishito Peppers with Za’atar, and Manchego. Every single bite was something to savour.
Segovia can be a touch pricey, but honestly it’s not bad at all if you’re sharing, and remember it’s tapas style.
I legitimately feel like eating here has to be on the list of the best things to do in Winnipeg, and thus has to be on my places to visit in Winnipeg list.
Some Choice Winnipeg Breweries and Distilleries
I knew that I was going to be limited for time in my exploration of Winnipeg breweries and distilleries and, as such, I decided to do a Winnipeg Brewery Tour from the Winnipeg Trolley Company. I was on the Friday night tour, which means that we visited Little Brown Jug, Capital K Distillery, and One Great City Brewing Co.
Little Brown Jug was great in that they’re just growing, and focusing on making one great beer at a time. They’ve got lofty ambitions, but are comfortable in perfecting their 1919 Belgian Pale Ale before moving forward.
Capital K Distillery had some really interesting flavours going on, most notably their Tall Grass Dill Pickle Vodka, which is truly something to behold. The actually distillery isn’t anything too special in terms of interior, but they make good booze.
One Great City Brewing looked to me like it was more a brewpub at this point than anything else, but it’s a good spot to get some food, especially if you’re just come from another brewery, then followed that up with a distillery before arrival.
You can get more information about Winnipeg Trolley Company Brewery Tours by clicking the linked text.
Let’s just get right into it, the brunch at Clementine Cafe is off the charts. The one thing I would say that is that I’m not giving you a hidden gem here, everyone in Winnipeg knows this is one of the best places to go in Winnipeg for brunch.
They’re open Monday-Friday from 7am-3pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 8am-4pm. You’re best to go early on weekends, and you may still expect a bit of a wait, but you should be alright on weekdays, at least for the most part.
With Clementine - think a cozy, buzzing lower level brunch spot with a seriously creative drink and food menu. I personally had the fresh squeezed orange juice with Roasted Mushroom Toast (kale, tare, truffle cheese, black bean puree, and a poached egg), as well as the Fried Potatoes covered with chickpea mayo, maple, and BBQ spice. Both were a delight, but there was something about the black bean puree that stole my heart - it was immensely flavourful.
What Makes These the Places to Go in Winnipeg?
I’ve been thinking for a while about a unifying thread with these spots, and I’ve come down one thing. I think each and every one of these spots is deeply rooted and connected to the city, and that means to visit these places in Winnipeg is to experience Winnipeg itself, in all its variations.
Whether it’s showcasing prairie life at Fort Whyte, catching a Bombers game and seeing the true fanaticism for the home club, or sipping on tall grass dill pickle vodka, you’re going to get a taste for the city and province, especially in the last instance.
What I mostly want to convey is that I was only able to spend a few hours in Winnipeg all those years ago, and I could not possibly get a feel for the city, but all these years later I got to give the city a real shot, and I genuinely loved it.
Not enough people make time to come here and consciously build out an itinerary like they would for Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver or Montreal, but they should. And, now, with the help of this posts you’re off to the races, my friend.
Take your time, keep your eyes open, give yourself to the city, and you might just form a few unforgettable memories.
I want to humbly thank Travel Manitoba, Tourism Winnipeg, and HMI (Hecktic Media Inc.) for hosting me as media. All opinions are completely my own. Below, I’d love to know in the comments if you’ve visited Winnipeg or Manitoba before and your thoughts! I respond to each and every comment personally.