The view from here
"Most people either haven’t visited Canada and therefore have no idea where that is, or they’ve been to Canada but only touched down in British Columbia and/or urban Ontario. It is rare to meet anyone that visits the prairies by choice..."
“What part of Canada are you from?”
I get this question all of the time and normally when I say Winnipeg, I am met with a blank stare and I then start rambling on about how it’s in the middle of the continent.
“You’ve got Vancouver on the west see, Toronto on the east, and then there in the middle, that’s where we are.” *Big hand motions to accompany presentation*
Most people either haven’t visited Canada and therefore have no idea where that is, or they’ve been to Canada but only touched down in British Columbia and/or urban Ontario.
It is rare to meet anyone that visits the prairies by choice and I find that to be such a bummer, one, because I think they are missing out on a true Canadian experience and two, because it’s always a huge let down when you want to reminisce a little or bond over some sort of common reference.
Me: “Have you heard of the Winnipeg Jets?”
Stranger I’ve just met: *Blank stare, regret*
The conversations usually degrade from there to, “yup, it is cold there, that is for sure.”
Having also experienced this phenomenon, fellow travel blogger Ashlyn George who hails from Saskatchewan, and I decided to put together a list of reasons not to skip over the flat section of Canada that we call home.
Also, for the record - if we make fun of these places at any time, it is affectionate and it is our god-given right after growing up there. (ie. If you bash it without knowing it, you are dead to me.)
So without further adieu, here are your reasons to put the prairies back on your Canadian bucket list:
5 reasons not to miss Manitoba - Meghan
1. Observe Polar Bears in their natural habitat.
The advantage of living in a cold and flat province is being host to one of the most majestic and beautiful animals on the planet, Polar Bears. If you make your way to Churchill up north, you can get up close and personal to these beauties. Seasonally, you might also get a glimpse of the Beluga whale and all year long you can learn more about way of life in the Great White North.
2. Embrace hockey fever and see a Winnipeg Jets game.
As you may have heard, Canadians live and breathe hockey and there’s no greater place to take in a game than in Manitoba’s capital city, Winnipeg. Jets fandom is off the charts - ask anyone to tell you about the history of the team and you will get a wistful account in return. It’s pure passion for the Jets and there’s no better way to spend a winter’s evening than cheering along with a stadium packed full of fans reputed to be the best in the league. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the fervor of this game in downtown Winnipeg.
3. Get close to nature in one of Manitoba’s many provincial parks.
Winnipeg residents often head out to “The Whiteshell” on the weekends to escape the city, with cottages lining the lakes in the area, but there are many protected parks dotting the entire province with stunning opportunities to enjoy the region’s multitude of forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife. Outdoor enthusiasts can head out for camping, fishing, hiking, swimming and boating during the summer, and snow worshippers can enjoy ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, skating and all of the other winter wonderful sports during the colder months. And those colours during autumn… incredible.
4. Get wild during the Summer Festivals.
Manitoba summers may be short but being up north and continental, the days are hot (reaching temps approaching 40 degrees at times) and wonderfully long (sunset is later and later the farther north you go). To make the most of it, those two months are jampacked with activities and attractions. There is Countryfest in Dauphin, Icelandic Fest in Gimli, Fringe Festival and Folklorama in Winnipeg, just to name a few. Bars are open later and everyone is up for a good time. Nothing beats those hot summer days and humid nights in Manitoba.
5. Take in the beauty of the prairie skies.
You don’t have to go to the arctic to experience the Northern Lights. Manitoba has some of the most spectacular natural light shows, particularly up in Churchill but you can see them as far south as Winnipeg and beyond. Prairie sunrises and sunsets are also not to be missed, so pull up a blanket and get cozy.
5 reasons not to miss Saskatchewan - Ashlyn
There is a lot more to Saskatchewan than the flat fields everyone thinks of when they hear my province’s name. We’re a vibrant destination with a population passionate about all the hidden gems to discover.
As a global travel writer who was hired to spend more than a year travelling my own province, these are five of my favourite activities I recommend to those who have never visited Saskatchewan.
1. Join in on the green pride of Saskatchewan Roughrider fans.
Win or lose, Saskatchewan bleeds green when it comes to the heart of Rider Nation. You can hit up a CFL game in most major cities in Canada, but they just don’t compare to the melee of watermelon-helmeted-pilsner-cape-wearing fans from Saskatchewan that flock to Regina for every game.
2. Spend a weekend at the lake and fish.
Ask any local Saskatchewanian what they’re doing on the weekend in the summer and their top answer will be “heading to the lake.” And it’s easy to see why. With more than 100,000 lakes and several fishing world records, Saskatchewan is a prime location to reel in a big one while relaxing on the water.
3. Get lost in space in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.
Take a quiet moment to reflect on your life and its purpose while lying on a blanket gazing in awe at the billions of stars sparkling in the Milky Way in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. The size of 197 football fields and one of Canada’s few dark sky preserves, it’s easy to get caught up in the meaning of life in all that wide-open space.
It’s what we do when the cold weather hits: eat. In fact, Saskatoon in particular is a foodie mecca having more restaurants per capita than any other city in Canada. But most delightful are the five-star restaurants in small towns throughout the province. In particular are JB’s Bistro in Mortlach that serves up a unique fusion of casual French and humble hometown cuisine. And my favourite, Harvest Eatery and Fresh Market in Shaunavon, that takes comfort food to the gourmet level.
5. Road trip across 651 036 square kilometres.
Look beyond the Trans-Canada Highway to find some stunning locations to visit while roadtripping past yellow, blue and gold fields of canola, flax and wheat. There are dozens of road trips through the province that belie the common misconceptions of flat and boring in Canada’s “Gap.” Options include exploring the lodge-pole pine forests of Cypress Hills in the south to the Nipekamew Sand Cliffs in the Boreal forest of the north. Camping in tipis, hiking trails or heading out to view some of Saskatchewan’s beautiful churches dotting the province are a short list of things to do while out wandering.
So there you have it folks, some great reasons to take the scenic route through the heart of Canada. Please let us know if you have any Manitoba or Saskatchewan favourites of your own in the comment section.
This post was co-authored by Meghan Advent, a co-creator of Travelher.org and Ashlyn George, who runs The Lost Girls Guide to Travelling the World. Manitoba images produced by Meghan Advent, Kaitlyn Hanson of the Paperback Princess and Michael MacDonald of Shoot and Shutter. Saskatchewan images produced by Ashlyn George.