When asked about the best things to see and do in Canada, I immediately chose Manitoba because (1) the name rocks and (2) I’ve always wanted to see Assiniboine Park for myself. And again, cool name.
But kidding aside, Manitoba is so much more than just an agricultural prairie province where you occasionally see polar bears. There’s so much more to see and experience in the northern jewel that is Manitoba—where Canada’s heart beats.
In the heart of Winnipeg is a historic place where the Assiniboine and Red River meet. Described by Tourism Winnipeg as “an urban oasis,” The Forks National Historic Site has almost everything that you can think of—it really is an oasis! You can walk by the river, go shopping, enjoy wide green space, and even go skateboarding. Both the young and the young at heart will find something to keep themselves busy during their visit at The Fork.
The Manitoba Museum
According to travel website Lonely Planet, the Manitoba Museum is “a mid-19th-century convent” and “Winnipeg’s oldest building and the largest oak-log construction on the continent.”
Tourism Winnipeg boasted of the Museum’s “award-winning heritage and edutainment center” which features a planetarium, a science gallery, and nine permanent galleries that showcases Manitoba’s colorful history and even The Hudson’s Bay Company Museum Collection.
With such a wide array of features, the main attraction of the museum is St. Boniface right over the equally spectacular Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge. St. Boniface is the birthplace of Métis leader Louis Riel, the founder of Manitoba. Take a stroll along Provencher Boulevard and enjoy the boutiques and cafes along the way—proof of St. Boniface’s unique French heritage that provides a certain charm in a nationally historical place.
Winnipeg Art Gallery
If the mighty Manitoba Tyndall stone building is not enough, let Canada’s oldest public art space lure you into an exploration of contemporary Inuit art—the largest public collection in the world.
International and local artists also hold regular exhibits here, so there’s always something new to view and appreciate. Visitors can also take artworks home from the Gallery’s gift shop from jewelry to hand-made glassware. Tourists from nearby hotels may also enjoy a hearty meal at the Storm Bistro while overlooking the sculpture garden—best enjoyed during summer.
Check out www.wag.ca for more details.
The Exchange District
Dubbed as a national historic site, the Exchange District is “one of North America’s most colorful and cosmopolitan neighborhoods” according to Tourism Winnipeg.
Covering the expanse of 30 blocks, the District has the widest collection of modern and modernized traditional architecture. Its art community is also considered one of the best in the country. Most visitors go to the Exchange District to look for one-of-a-kind antique items and exquisite artwork by local designers.
Check out their official website at www.exchangedistrict.org.
Wapusk National Park
National Geographic listed Wapusk National Park in its list of ‘Top Ten Things to Do in Canada National Parks.’
NatGeo suggested spotting polar bears in Wapusk for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The article reads, “the bears can be seen by visitors on organized ‘tundra buggy’ tours that originate in nearby Churchill but often fill up well ahead of time.”
During the months of late February and March, visitors can get a chance to see a polar bear or two as they prepare to hibernate. Herds of caribou may also be spotted in the area.
One of the most splendid northern attractions—the aurora borealis or northern lights—can also be seen at Wapusk.
Dubbed as “Winnipeg’s emerald jewel,” Assiniboine Park has awed millions of visitors in its century of existence.
Start them off young and bring the little rascals for a day at the Assiniboine Park Zoo and Nature Playground. Couples may enjoy a leisurely stroll through the tree-lined paths to the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden and Pavillion Art Gallery. When hungry, head out to the two restaurants within the Park. Cultural performances may also be enjoyed under the stars at the Lyric Theatre.
Lonely Planet suggests that starting 2014, visitors should “look for the vast Journey to Churchill exhibit which explores Manitoba’s nature.”
Royal Canadian Mint
The Royal Canadian Mint produces all coins in circulation around Canada, as well as 75 other countries that have coins produced in Winnipeg.
Opened to the public, visitors can get up close and personal with Étienne Gaboury’s 110-foot towering masterpiece made of glass. Take a tour of the facility to find out how coins are made. For an interactively fun visit, go to the Coin Museum for a chance to hold a 23-pound gold bar—worth approximately $600,000—with your own hands!
For more information, visit www.mint.ca.
Of course, Canada is all about exploring outside the box. Going beyond Winnipeg is just as fulfilling when you go to two of this author’s dream destinations: Prince Edward Island and the neighboring isles of Nova Scotia.
Prince Edward Island
‘The Gentle Island’ may be home to kind and calm folks, but its exciting offers teem with vivacity and life that makes visitors keep on coming back for more.
According to the Prince Edward Island (PEI) tourism website, “as a visitor to PEI, you can do more than just witness the Island way of life. You can live it, too.” And isn’t that the essence of traveling—to go beyond one’s comfort zone to explore, to enrich, and to embrace other cultures?
PEI Tourism continues, “If you’re looking for a holiday with some real life behind it, you’ll find it here. Yes, you might get your hands dirty. You might also get your shoes wet. And your knees stained. All temporary. But the memory of your Island experiences will last a lifetime.”
PEI and beaches are almost synonymous with each other. Most visitors longing for a day under the sun by the beach pack their back and head off to PEI. According to Lonely Planet, Spinnaker’s Landing is “a continually expanding boardwalk (which) allows you to wander and enjoy the harbor and its scenic surrounds.” Restaurants and shops surround the area to cater to almost every tourist’s need. The best time to visit is during the summer months when live music can be enjoyed almost every day. Keep the kids busy by bringing them to see the mock lighthouse and the huge ship. Parents and kids alike can also enjoy a visit to the Eptek Exhibition Centre to see local and international artworks.
Visitors can explore Avonlea Village—a theme park where tourists can interact with characters from the classic novel ‘Anne of Green Gables.’ There are even cow-milking sessions and a wagon ride to make your visit feel more authentic.
And speaking of Anne, tourists can also visit the Anne of Green Gables Museum—a 44-hectare property called home by Lucy Maud. Affectionately called ‘Silver Bush’ by Maud, the museum is now home to Maud’s famous writing desk and a bunch of autographed first edition books.
When you feel your tummy a-rumblin’, head off to Anne’s Table and find out the secrets to their local lavender, their deliciously unique potato recipes, and even heartwarming seafood specialties. If you have enough time, why not take a cooking class in this remodeled church?
In fact, PEI food is so good that Zagat—the leading food review/guide in the world—hailed PEI as “the second best foodie getaway in the world” according to PEI Tourism.
This year will mark Charlottetown’s 150th anniversary and with over 150 festivals and events to witness throughout the year, travelers will never run out of experiences to cherish!
For the complete list of celebrations this 2014, check out the Tourism PEI page.
Marcello suggests that tourists should “explore the natural wonder of the Bay Fundy, which boasts the most impressive tides in the world.” He also claims that some of the best lobster meals in the world are served in Nova Scotia.
Marcello also dubbed Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island as “North America’s answer to the Amalfi Coast in Italy.”
Driving along the Cabot Trail means driving along 185 miles of Canada’s picturesque landscapes and seascapes. A trip to Cape Breton Highlands National Park is also a good opportunity to see whales and wild moose.
National Geographic wrote, “Cape Breton also offers a chance to experience the Gaelic culture of Atlantic coast communities like Ingonish and, across the island, French-speaking Acadian culture in Gulf of St. Lawrence towns like Chéticamp. When driving the trail between the two a counterclockwise direction enhances the dramatic coastline views—but the faint of heart often reverse the route.”
Jennifer Melo of Canadian Living posted an article entitled ‘7 Reasons to Visit Nova Scotia’ and we couldn’t agree more.
The list features the Halifax Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (where you can also see the Titanic Exhibit) , the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, the intoxicatingly inimitable brewery tour courtesy of Alexander Keith, the immigration museum called Pier 21, Peggy’s Cove—including Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, the Harbour Hopper Tour (best enjoyed by kids and the kid at heart), and the waterfront UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lunenburg for the best scallops in Nova Scotia.