The view from here
It’s too easy to take your home for granted. Step outside of your summer routine and explore the ‘Peg like a foreign tourist.
After living and travelling abroad for the last decade or so, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the last couple of summers visiting family and friends at home in Winnipeg.
One of the wonderful side benefits of travel is being able to come back and see your city with fresh eyes. It suddenly becomes very obvious what makes it unique and how the people differ from elsewhere in Canada and the rest of the world.
You also realise how little you actually know about your home when people abroad start asking you questions about it!
What I really wanted to do that first summer - besides drink caesars, eat poutine and snack on ketchup chips every day - was find answers to those questions, and experience the unique attractions that draw in visitors from overseas.
You will often find one commonality among travellers - and that is that we have barely explored our own backyard before venturing off to see the world. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that most people take for granted what seems like will always be there.
So my plea today is for Winnipeggers to mix things up a bit this summer. Step outside of your usual routine and explore the city with the perspective of a total foreigner. I was so glad I did, and I know you will be, too!
Here are five buzzworthy attractions every hometown tourist must do.
Assiniboine Park Zoo
If you grew up in Winnipeg, you know that polar bears live up north in Churchill. Whether you’ve visited this town in Northern Manitoba or just learned about it in school, the general concept of polar bears is pretty standard in your mind.
But when you live somewhere else - say, on a small island at the bottom of the world in a part of the country where it doesn’t even snow - AKA Auckland, New Zealand - the idea of seeing a real live polar bear is mind-blowing! This is something so incredibly special and unique to this province - and should absolutely be experienced and celebrated.
The Journey to Churchill exhibit at the Assiniboine Park Zoo is spectacular and provides the opportunity to see these magnificent animals swim and play in the underwater tunnel! My heart swells just reliving the memory.
Whether you go with your significant other, take your kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews, or simply want a quiet afternoon to wander around solo and enjoy the exhibits, this is a well-run establishment that delivers every time.
Of course, there is much more to see than the Churchill exhibit, and every season brings a different experience, so you can go again and again and enjoy every minute.
Pro-tip: Check out the schedule of events prior to your visit to see if there are any coinciding fun activities for the timeframe you are looking at, or discounts for which you might be eligible. And if a quiet day is what you’re after, avoid school holidays.
Canadian Museum for Human Rights
You know, you know, you really should go check out the Human Rights Museum one of these days. You’ve been meaning to, and you’ll definitely get around to it, but it’s not going anywhere, and… [insert latest excuse here].
Don’t worry - you’re not alone. Many Winnipeggers have yet to visit this fantastic museum. My guess is it’s because - at least partly - it feels quite heavy - and with only so much spare time to go around, spending it on an educational outing that could potentially bum you out might not get you running out the door.
However, it is much more than that. There is good reason that it gets so much fanfare overseas. The venue lives up to the hype - and you don’t have to be an especially “museum-type” of person to get something out of it. It is a big-picture, thought-provoking experience that you can process in your own way.
There have been thousands of articles written about it already, so there’s not much more I can add to make the case. So just simply stop procrastinating! Pick a date, make a day of it, and tick it off the list.
Better yet, take a relative with you and have the benefit of two generations of perspective as you walk through the exhibits and take it all in. It will stick with you long after the tour is over. And I’m sure your uncle/niece/grandmother will love the gesture - and the memory.
Pro tip: If you go on a Wednesday evening, you might be able to secure free or discounted tickets.
Hermetic Code Tour
The word of mouth fanfare is pretty huge, so chances are you’ve already heard about Dr. Frank Albo’s tour of the Manitoba Legislative Building. If not, I will add my voice to the choir of satisfied attendees as this was truly one of the most fascinating tours I’ve ever been on.
I was given very little information about it beforehand, so I had no idea what to expect, and now I know why. It’s tough to describe the breadth of content without sounding a little ‘out there’ - but essentially you get to experience the unravelling of an architectural mystery that will blow your mind.
Dr. Albo takes you on his journey of piecing together hieroglyphic inscriptions, numerological codes, and Masonic symbols to unveil a spectacular secret hidden in plain view. If that all sounds a little cinematic, you’re absolutely right, because this is an interactive tale worthy of the big screen. I know - that is a big call, and I stand by it.
It is quite special to be able to hear about such a mesmerising discovery straight from the mouth of the researcher in question, so I urge you to put this tour on your summer to-do list right now. And book ahead - it has limited space and is in high demand.
Pro-tip: Have a wish prepared! Yes, you read that right - a wish! Have one in your mind when you head to the tour.
Winnipeg Trolley Tour
You can’t be a tourist in your own city without taking a proper city tour. But don’t worry! The Heart of a Nation trolley tour is one of the most laidback sightseeing experiences on offer, and you’ll end up with enough interesting tidbits to round out your “fun fact” file for years to come.
Beginning at the Forks Market, you simply board the trolley, sit back, and relax as you get transported through the most interesting parts of Winnipeg. Your guide will dazzle you with tales of history, intrigue, hockey - and of course, celebrity.
Don’t underestimate the ol ‘Peg - she has plenty of secrets to unveil, and you won’t be disappointed. After 95 minutes of colourful commentary, you’ll pull back up to the Forks Market and have the chance to explore another must-do attraction in Manitoba’s capital.
If you’ve not yet had the opportunity to sample the goods at The Common, zip on over after your tour and take your pick of 20 craft beers and 20 wines on tap. You can chat about all the crazy things you learned about Winnipeg as you sip on brews made locally, across Canada, and around the world.
Pro-tip: Wear sunglasses - the windows of those trolley buses don’t have shade. And take a few notes! You’ll thank yourself later.
Craft beer tour
Alright, after all that museum talk and tour going, it’s time to give your brain a break and let your taste buds take over. You deserve it. Now it’s time to discover what all the hubbub is about craft beer in Winnipeg.
Every time I come back to visit the city, the craft beer scene grows a little bit more, and I hope to see it explode just as it has elsewhere in other major destinations across Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, etc. etc. etc. The momentum has started to build and new breweries seem to be cropping up every few months.
Good ol’ Fort Garry Brewing Co. has been holding down the “fort” for ages (see what I did there?), while Little Brown Jug, Torque and One Great City have been doing well at laying down more groundwork, with some fresh fermenting coming from the likes of Barnhammer, Sookrum’s and a few others, rounding up the number of craft brands to about 15.
While you have likely encountered a few of these on the taps of your local pub, it’s worth doing a proper tour to learn a little about the industry, the brewers and of course the beers themselves.
I was introduced to the early brands at a wonderful craft beer sampling event a couple of years ago but would love the opportunity to take either The Ale Trail Craft Brewery Tour or the Brews Cruise to see what’s changed and what’s new to come.
Pro-tip: Stone Angel Brewing on Pembina has a spacious patio and a wide selection of taps to choose from. Plus it shares the space with Devil May Care Brewing and Kilter Brewing - so you can sample three brands in one go.
There you have it, Winnipeggers. Five awesome activities to make your Manitoba summer even better.
Which one will you be doing first?
Author - Meghan Advent
Meghan is a Canadian travel writer with residency in New Zealand. She's on a mission to see as much of the world as possible, but loves coming home.