Taste of France Across the River: The Historic District of St. Boniface
Across the Red River from downtown in St. Boniface, a street becomes a rue and a hello becomes bonjour. Here, you'll find the largest French-speaking community in western Canada, dating from 1783, when Pierre Gaultier de Varennes established Fort Rouge at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. The junction became the center of a thriving fur trade for the North West Company, which rivaled and challenged the Hudson's Bay Company. A basilica built in 1819 was dedicated to Boniface, and in 1846, four Grey Nuns arrived and began their ministry by establishing the area's first hospital.
Parks & Gardens
Comprising 160 hectares (395 acres) for playing, picnicking, or biking, Assiniboine Park, at 2355 Corydon Ave., contains a miniature railway, duck pond, English garden (June to late September), and conservatory. In winter, you can go skating on the pond or tobogganing. The park also contains a zoo. Art lovers will also want to visit the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden (tel. 204/986-6531) to see around 300 works of this renowned Winnipeg sculptor. Assiniboine Park is open daily dawn to dusk. The elegant Terrace Fifty-Five (tel. 204/938-7275) is within a grand pavilion. Tuesday through Sunday, it offers lunch 11:30am to 2:30pm (C$9-C$16) and dinner 5 to 9:30pm (C$17-C$36). Reservations are suggested. In the same building, the Pavilion Gallery (tel. 204/888-5466) houses a permanent collection of works by Manitoba artists. And the outdoor Lyric Theatre (tel. 204/888-5466, ext. 5) provides free entertainment in summer with performances by the Winnipeg Symphony, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and local jazz combos, and it also hosts a Canada Day picnic.
Beside the Red River north of downtown, century-old Kildonan Park is quite delightful, with landscaped gardens, picnic spots, biking paths, outdoor swimming, and wading pools, as well as a golf course. Also look for the Witch's Hut from Hansel and Gretel in the park. In winter, the park is popular for its outdoor skating rink and toboggan hill.
Cruises & A Steam Train Excursion
During summer, the cruise boats MS River Rouge and MS Paddlewheel Queen depart from their dock at the east end of Alexander Avenue on a variety of cruises, including a sunset dinner-dance cruise beginning at 7pm and a moonlight version on weekends leaving at 10pm. Both cost C$19 adults, C$17 seniors. Two-hour sightseeing trips costing C$18 adults, C$16 seniors, and C$9.50 children 10 and under, depart at 1pm and provide fine views of the city from the Red and Assiniboine rivers. Fares cover the cruises only; drinks and meals are extra. For details, contact Paddlewheel River Boats (tel. 204/944-8000; www.paddlewheelcruises.com). The ticket office is 2 blocks from the dock at 78 George Ave.
A 1900 steam-era train, the Prairie Dog Central, takes you on a 2 1/2-hour, 58km (36-mile) round-trip from Winnipeg's Inkster Junction station north on the Oak Point line. En route, you get a feel for the prairie and what the late-19th-century immigrants might've seen when they arrived. The train operates every weekend from June to September, plus special days such as Canada Day, Mother's Day, and Halloween. Basic fares range from C$26 adults, C$18 children on the regular steam train schedule to C$28 adults, C$23 children for special events such as Halloween. For details, contact the Vintage Locomotive Society (tel. 866/751-2348 or 204/832-5259; www.pdcrailway.com); for tickets, call Ticketmaster (tel. 204/253-2787; www.ticketmaster.ca).
Especially for Kids
At the Forks, the Manitoba Children's Museum (45 Forks Market Rd.; tel. 204/924-4000; www.childrensmuseum.com) was scheduled to reopen in spring 2011 after major renovations. There are 12 themed galleries, including the water-themed Splash Lab; Tot Spot for toddlers; Lasagna Lookout, a food-oriented playroom; and Engine House, where children can explore the insides of a train. Admission is C$7.50 adults, C$6.50 seniors, C$7 children 2 to 17, and free for children under 2. The museum is open Sunday through Thursday from 9:30am to 4:30pm, Friday and Saturday 9:30am to 6pm. The museum is closed for major holidays.
Assiniboine Park (2355 Corydon Ave.) is a great place to picnic or play. Its top attraction, however, is the 40-hectare (99-acre) Assiniboine Park Zoo (tel. 204/927-6000; www.zoosociety.com), where 1,700 animals of 325 species -- including bears, lions, tigers, zebras, bison, and monkeys -- are kept in as natural an environment as possible. Some exotic species on display are snow leopards, ruffed lemurs, and Irkutsk lynx. Many spectacular birds live and breed in the Tropical House. A Discovery Centre with a barnful of young farm animals is fun. March through October, admission is C$4.60 adults, C$4.30 seniors, C$3 children 13 to 17, and C$2.45 children 2 to 12; November through February, it's C$4 adults, C$3.75 seniors, C$2.25 children 13 to 17, and C$1.80 children 2 to 12. The park is open daily dawn to dusk, with the zoo open daily 10am to dusk (July and Aug from 9am). To get there, take Portage Avenue west, exit onto Route 90 south, and then turn right onto Corydon.
The Manitoba Theatre for Young People (2 Forks Market Rd.; tel. 877/871-6897 or 204/942-8898; www.mtyp.ca) presents plays for children and teens. The season runs October through May, and tickets start at C$14 for both adults and children.
Winnipeg the Bear -- When Canadian Army lieutenant Harry Colebourn purchased an orphaned bear cub and took it with him to Europe during the First World War, little did he know that naming it after his home town of Winnipeg would lead its name to be immortalized as one of the world's best known fictional characters. By 1919, the bear had been donated to the London Zoo, where it became known as "Winnie" to hordes of admiring visitors. One frequent zoo visitor was Christopher Robin Milne, son of author A. A. Milne. Learning of his son's love of the bear, Milne was inspired to write a book of short fictional stories about Winnie, Christopher Robin, and their friends. First published in 1926, the stories of Winnie the Pooh are known throughout the world by young and old. The bear's link with Winnipeg is celebrated by a bronze statue of Colebourn and Winnie in Assiniboine Park.
Ten Spa (222 Broadway Ave.; [tel 204/946-6520; www.tenspa.ca) provides a world-class spa experience atop the Fort Gary Hotel. The C$3-million, 929-sq-m (10,000-sq.-ft.) facility is the result of 3 years of research at many of the world's foremost spas. Ten Spa offers a full range of aesthetic treatments and state-of-the-art steam rooms, with aroma- and light therapy, a variety of mud baths, scrubs, and massage and body treatments, as well as a hamam, a modern reinterpretation of the traditional Turkish bath. The full hamam treatment (C$219) is a 3-hour journey that includes a salt scrub, steam bath on a marble slab with foot and scalp massage, full body exfoliation, and olive-oil soap scrub-down, finished with a flexibility massage. The entire Ten Spa is beautifully designed, its tasteful modern aesthetic in distinction to the Victorian splendor found in the rest of the Fort Garry Hotel.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.