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Great things to do in Winnipeg, a Canadian city on the rise

Things are looking up in Winnipeg, with NHL hockey back in town and new hotels springing up around downtown. With the Canadian dollar still down, this year is a great time to visit the city and explore Manitoba while you’re at it.

I also read just today (April 7) that Porter Airlines is planning flights from southern Ontario to Winnipeg to test demand; a very positive step for the city.

THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN Postmedia and Sun Media newspapers and websites on March 30…

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has proven a great addition to the Winnipeg cultural scene. PHOTO COURTESY TOURISM WINNIPEG

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has proven a great addition to the Winnipeg cultural scene. PHOTO COURTESY TOURISM WINNIPEG


MUSEUMS The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the only national museum of Canada that’s located outside the Ottawa region, and it’s a beauty. You’ll find compelling stories of human struggles – and human foibles – from around the world, as well as Canadian stories. The building is an airy delight near the joining of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in The Forks area, with shimmering interior bridges lined with Spanish alabaster and LED lights that give the stone a glowing, opaque effect. At the top, the Tower of Hope provides awesome views of the city. The Manitoba Museum (https://manitobamuseum.ca/main/) has lovely galleries and displays on everything from native Canadians to massive, awe-inspiring dinosaurs. There’s also a planetarium and science gallery.

The Journey to Churchill exhibit at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park is a great way to get up and close and personal with polar bears. This might be my best-ever photo of a polar bear's butt.

The Journey to Churchill exhibit at Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park is a great way to get up and close and personal with polar bears. This might be my best-ever photo of a polar bear’s butt.

ASSINIBOINE PARK This is one of the top urban parks in North America, a sprawling complex of green space, gardens and attractions that was designed in 1904 by a student of legendary parks planner Frederik Law Olmsted (Central Park in New York and many others). Gardeners will take great delight in the floral displays and ponds, as well as the sculpture garden. Inside the Assiniboine Park Zoo, the Journey to Churchill might be the best place in the world to observe polar bears, as you can watch them play in the water from a glass tunnel below their enclosure and admire their grace and agility. The Journey to Churchill also features caribou, wolves, seals and woolly muskox. The zoo has a steam train, snow leopards, lions and lots more.

No trip to Winnipeg is complete unless you visit the Bridge Drive-In.

No trip to Winnipeg is complete unless you visit the Bridge Drive-In.

ICONIC FOOD Winnipeg is famous for several inexpensive but hugely fun food places. The Bridge Drive-In (known as The BDI) is a hugely popular spot on a warm day; an old-fashioned ice cream place that dishes out dozens of treats, including something called a Goog; more or less a blueberry milkshake with banana, chocolate fudge, peanuts and a cherry. Work off a sip or two by taking a walk over the Red River on the Elm Park Bridge. The Salisbury House has been selling something called “Nips” for 85 years. They’re really hamburgers, but the former owner didn’t like the sound of the word and came up with “nip.” It’s a fun place that is partly owned by Burton Cummings and features cool Guess Who paraphernalia. Need more dessert? Try a “shmoo” at Baked Expectations in Osborne Village; an angel food cake with pecans, whipped crème and caramel sauce.

The bustling Forks area is the heart of Winnipeg, with tons of things to do for the whole family.

The bustling Forks area is the heart of Winnipeg, with tons of things to do for the whole family.

NEIGHBOURHOODS The Forks in many ways is the heart of Winnipeg, a vast stretch of riverside real estate that’s filled with visitors and locals on a spring or summer’s day. You’ll find a lovely market with everything from organic baked goods to wine and gourmet cheese, as well as artisans selling crafts, cigars and more. There’s also a children’s museum, restaurants, a skateboard park, vintage rail cars, the nine-acre Forks National Historic Site park and more. Osborne Village is a wonderful neighbourhood south of downtown; a walkable area with fun and interesting shops such as Rockabetty (vintage-looking, rockabilly-influenced clothing) and the Happy Cooker with wonderful kitchen gear. Osborne Village was named Canada’s best neighbourhood in 2012 by a group of urban planners.

The Blue Bombers and the CFL will be back in action this summer. PHOTO COURTESY TOURISM WINNIPEG

The Blue Bombers and the CFL will be back in action this summer. PHOTO COURTESY TOURISM WINNIPEG

SPORTS Winnipeg somehow feels more complete now that the NHL is back in town. The Jets play in a lovely new arena in the heart of downtown, the MTS Centre, which is sparking new development and hope for the central business district. The AHL Manitoba Moose also play at the centre, which hosts not only sports but concerts by the likes of Metric and ZZ Top. The Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League play in the recently built Investors Group Field; another architectural delight. Minor league baseball is often more personal and up-close than a big league game. The Winnipeg Goldeyes play in an independent league not affiliated with Major League Baseball, but the stadium is in the heart of the city.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

From now to April 30, 2016, travellers who book with Insight Vacations on a selection of its 50 most popular itineraries from their Premium and Luxury Gold 2016 Europe and Britain collection will receive free airfare for their travelling partner. There are seven other itineraries where the second guest can fly for $399. For information, visit www.insightvacations.com/ca/special-offers/fly-free

Email: jim@jimbyerstravel.com. Twitter: @jimbyerstravel. Instagram: @jimbyerstravel1

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