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How to spend 48 perfect hours in Winnipeg

You’re daydreaming about a summer getaway, but you’ve only got a weekend to make your escape: Winnipeg may just be the ideal destination. With incomparable sights, a unique cultural history, locally grown eats and countless hidden gems, the city has a host of incredible experiences to offer for those looking for an urban escape. Here, we’re highlighting the can’t miss stops, stays and restaurants, from the most popular destinations to the well-loved local spots.

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Where to stay in Winnipeg, from historic hotels to woodsy rooms at the Inn

If you’d like to stay in the heart of the city, try the elegant The Fort Garry Hotel & Spa, a historic, century-old building that will keep you feeling luxe all weekend long thanks to its spacious guest rooms and spa services. The hotel’s Oval Room Brasserie also makes for a sophisticated dinner spot, accompanied by live music – and for more evening entertainment, you can head downstairs to Yuk Yuk’s comedy club to catch a show. It’s just a short walk away from The Forks, an iconic area of the city that includes a market, art installations, shopping, restaurants and the Manitoba Children’s Museum. It’s located where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet in downtown Winnipeg and has been a traditional meeting place for Indigenous Peoples for centuries.  

If something a little cozier is more your vibe, book a room at Inn at the Forks. It’s steps away from prime dining, shopping and culture sites and offers a woodsy restaurant and rejuvenating spa services. Or, for something more boutique-style, opt for Mere Hotel, located on the river in the Exchange District. Simple and comfortable, it’s also near various cultural hotspots.

The rooms at Fort Garry Hotel & Spa are worth the splurge.

Visitors who want to be in the middle of the action should opt for the modern and trendy Mere Hotel.

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What to do in Winnipeg, including festivals, parks and galleries

With a number of festivals taking place throughout the year, there’s no bad time to visit the city – but spring and summer are particularly fun, especially if you love cultural festivals. From May 18-22, the Manito Ahbee Festival takes place in Winnipeg on Treaty 1 territory. The fest celebrates Indigenous arts, culture and music in hopes of unifying, educating and inspiring attendees. Or, plan a trip in July so you can catch the four-day Winnipeg Folk Festival (July 6-9) or the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival (July 19-30). The Folk Fest draws thousands of visitors each year from across North America and the world, and features local and international performers spanning genres like bluegrass, Celtic, roots, folk rock, you name it. Meanwhile, the Fringe is the second-largest event of its kind in Canada, welcoming 170 indie theatre companies from around the world to perform their vibrant, creative and boundary-pushing work. 

 

The Manito Ahbee Festival is one of the must-attend cultural festivals in Winnipeg.

The Journey to Churchill exhibit at Assiniboine Park Zoo offers guests a chance to watch polar bears swimming overhead thanks to viewing tunnels.

For an equally artistic afternoon, catch the city’s other popular summer tradition: the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Ballet in the Park, free to anyone, and set in the lush surroundings of Assiniboine Park. If you’ve got kids in tow, get there early to take advantage of pre-show activities, which include face-painting, pointe shoe decorating and a free creative movement class. There are always multiple food trucks nearby, so you can enjoy a bite while you catch the show; just be sure to bring a chair and blankets.  

Make it a day at the park! Beforehand, check out the 80-acre Assiniboine Park Zoo, especially its uber-popular Journey to Churchill exhibit, where families can spot swimming polar bears in the incredible underwater viewing tunnels, as well as view a film about the distinct seasons of Churchill from an Indigenous perspective in the 360-degree Aurora Borealis theatre. For an especially breathtaking view, take in The Leaf — Canada’s Diversity Gardens, also housed in the park.

A botanical sanctuary, it features a variety of trees and plants, a butterfly garden, and a six-storey waterfall. The Gardens themselves comprise nearly 30 acres of greenspace and on certain days, it hosts fascinating (and family-friendly) chats with garden experts and crafting workshops. And no trip to the city is complete without a visit to Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq, home of the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world. Upcoming exhibitions include “Inuit Sanaugangit,” a celebration of sanaugangit (“art by Inuit”) featuring almost 400 pieces by contemporary and historical Inuit artists from Canada, Siberia, Alaska and Greenland, as well as a retrospective of work by Blackfoot artist Faye HeavyShield.

Chase that with a little more history at the Saint Boniface Museum, which is dedicated to Franco-Manitoban and Métis culture, and is located in the city’s oldest building (a former convent!). Afterwards, wander through the charming Saint Boniface neighbourhood, which is also known as Winnipeg’s French neighbourhood. Expect to find some of the city’s best French bakeries, cafés, bars and restaurants, beautiful buildings (such as the Basilique-Cathedrale de Saint Boniface) and even French-language signage. 

The three-storey Visible Vault at the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq is filled with Inuit carvings.

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Brunch, bannock or beer: where to eat in Winnipeg

For lunch or dinner, Feast Café & Bistro is a must. It features a menu rooted in traditional Indigenous dishes with a modern twist, which includes everything from bison ribs to butternut squash bannock pizza to wild rice salad.

When you’re feeling a little thirsty, head to the award-winning Nonsuch Brewing Co., an Indigenous-owned and Manitoban proud brewery in the city’s Exchange District. Founded by four friends – Mark Borowski, Matthew Sabourin, Ben Myers and Ty Johnston – who grew up in the neighbourhood, the brewery offers satisfying sips, a lunch and dinner menu as well as activities, such as bannock-making experiences and guided beer journeys in the taproom. Don’t forget to set some time aside to explore the surrounding neighbourhood; the Exchange District is a national historic site that’s home to more than 150 heritage buildings, all located within 20 square blocks. Expect to find chic boutiques, hip cafés, artsy galleries and many, many must-try restaurants.  

Seats fill quickly at local favourite Feast Café.

The Hargrave St. Market food hall brings the best local cuisines under one roof.

And whether it’s for brunch, a snack, or a date, don’t leave the city without a stop at Hargrave Street Market, which offers up an endless array of cuisines, including Italian (Gusto North), Latin fusion (The Good Fight Taco), Japanese (Saburo Kitchen) and more. Those who love endless hallways of food should also check out The Forks Market, particularly if you have a sweet tooth: Don’t miss Neon Cone, Mini Donuts Factory and the iconic Tall Grass Prairie Bakery, which features bread and baked treats made from grain that’s ground on-site and sourced from local farmers. And make sure you stop by Harrisons Coffee Co. and Fools and Horses, two local cafés that offer standout coffee and great service.

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