Highlights of Winnipeg

Manitoba is wild and breath-taking with 100,000 lakes and vast tracts of tundra, prairie and boreal forest. Adventurous experiences such as walking with polar bears or swimming with beluga whales take place along 400 kilometres of ocean coastline along the Hudson Bay. Meanwhile, Manitoba’s capital city of Winnipeg is experiencing a renaissance with a world-class museum, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights; an arctic exhibit that showcases orphaned polar bears swimming overhead in a see-through tunnel; a tempting culinary scene and festivals year-round. I visited in August this year, here are a few of my highlights.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights

The Canadian Museum for Human RightsThe Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the first museum solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. The museum opened on 20th September 2014. The building itself is a stunning architectural marvel and worth the visit alone. With 11 galleries, guided tours and interactive experiences, the museum allows people from around the world to engage in discussion and commit to taking action against hate and oppression. The museum has won numerous awards for accessibility and whilst I was there I loved the fact that a human rights photography exhibition included tactile sculpted versions of several photographs, allowing blind visitors to ‘see’ the art through their fingertips. 

Riding Mountain National Park

This year Canada is celebrating a special birthday, its 150th, 150 years since it officially became a country. Petra in an Adirondack chair in Riding Mountain National ParkTo celebrate this landmark occasion the Government of Canada announced free admission for all visitors to national parks and national historic sites, so it was a perfect time to visit. The red Adirondack chairs are ubiquitous throughout Canada’s national parks (although normally somewhat smaller!). Riding Mountain National Park is just 3 hours from Winnipeg and has 3,000 square kilometres of pristine wilderness along with an abundance of wildlife including deer, moose, elk, black bear and beaver with a small bison herd kept at Lake Audy. For active Silver Travellers this is the place to swim in crystal clear freshwater lakes, to hike, fish or effortlessly kayak on the millpond smooth water.

Assiniboine Park Zoo

Polar bear swimming in Assinboine Park ZooOne of the main reasons people visit Manitoba is to visit Churchill, the polar bear capital of the world, and get up close to polar bears. On a short visit though just as much fun can be had viewing the bears at Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg. Journey to Churchill, the zoo’s award-winning northern species exhibit, houses polar bears, harbour seals, snowy owls, muskoxen and more. Watching the polar bears dive, swim and frolic above me through the exhibit’s glass dome, their snowy white fur rippling backwards and forwards just inches away from my camera was a memorable way of experiencing Churchill’s wonders short of actually going there.

The Prairie Dog Central Railway

With limited time but wanting to get out into the prairies, I opted for a trip aboard Canada’s oldest regularly scheduled operating Vintage Steam Train, The Prairie Dog Central Railway. Cracker Jack Jodi staging a train robbery on The Prairie Dog Central RailwayWinnipeg is perhaps best known as a railway hub and gateway to the prairies and the short trip on the heritage railway takes you through vast never-ending flat fields of corn and sunflowers to the small village of Grosse Isle. Along the way there’s a staged train robbery by the likes of Cracker Jack Jodi, great fun was had by the eight and eighty year olds on board. In the village, there was also a traditional one room school, a prairie house and church to explore. What struck me most though was how many senior volunteers there were in all the museums and attractions I visited with no shortage of conversation and helpful advice for Silver Travellers from aboard. Manitoba’s licence plate slogan is ‘Friendly Manitoba’ and never was a tag line more apt. More reserved were the many Mennonites, also enjoying a day out to Grosse Isle. Young Mennonite girls at Grosse IsleToday, almost 200,000 Mennonites, a religious-cultural group established in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation call Canada home.

Finally, with Winnie the Pooh currently having a bit of a moment in the recently released film ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’. Did you know that the toy bear was named after Winnie, a Canadian black bear who Christopher Robin often saw at London Zoo? The bear was originally owned by Lt. Harry Colebourn, a vet with the Canadian Cavalry regiment from Fort Garry and named after the regiment’s home city – Winnipeg.

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Petra stayed at Lake House Boutique Hotel and Arrowhead Family Resort in Riding Mountain National Park.

For travel to Manitoba Silver Travel Advisor recommends Frontier Canada.

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Petra Shepherd

Editor of Silver Travel Book Club & Cook Club

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