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Summer in Canada always seems to take its sweet time arriving, but finally it’s on the horizon. And there’s truly no better time to get out and explore our great country, even just for a short road trip or a family staycation close to home. Local Winnipeggers know that there’s so much more to this vibrant, prairie city than Portage and Main but, fortunately for those visiting Winnipeg with toddlers and kids, all the top attractions aren’t too far from that famous intersection. And unlike the Randy Bachman song “Prairie Town,” in summer it won’t be “fifty below”!
Top 5 Attractions for Visiting Winnipeg with Toddlers and Kids:
At first glance, The Forks is a cool area along the riverbank in downtown Winnipeg that’s bustling with things to do and places to go. There’s the Riverwalk and Canada’s largest skatepark in summer, the world’s longest skating trail for the winter months, and year-round The Forks is home to Forks Market, Manitoba Children’s Museum, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
But what sets The Forks apart from other trendy urban locales is the fact that it’s a National Historic Site for Canada. For over 6000 years, it’s been the meeting place for everyone from the earliest First Nations people, through to the fur traders, hunters, settlers, and thousands of immigrants who’ve made their way to where the Red River and Assiniboine River meet.
On the banks of the Red River, Fort Gibraltar is a beautiful spot to let little ones run around and blow off some steam, while learning about what life was like two hundred years ago. Founded by the Montreal-based North West Trading Company, Fort Gibraltar commemorates the era of the fur traders and all the roles played by First Nations people, the Metis, the settlers and explorers, and, of course, the Voyageurs.
Winnipeg’s St. Boniface area, where Fort Gibraltar is located, is still home to the largest French speaking community west of Quebec.
Formerly the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature, The Manitoba Museum is Winnipeg’s largest museum and the biggest heritage centre in Manitoba. It began in the late 1800s as a collection of artifacts curated by the Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba and housed in the basement of Winnipeg’s City Hall. By 1932 it officially opened its doors, and now stands as a reflection of Manitoba’s heritage. The museum stretches from the prairie to the Arctic, and the galleries represent all of Manitoba’s diverse regions. Highlights include a street scene of Winnipeg in the 1920s, and a virtual underwater observatory highlighting Hudson’s Bay.
The little wooden structure known as Ross House is one of the last remaining examples of Red River architecture. It was the very first post office in Western Canada, which the Ross family operated out of their home. The structure is remarkable—all the oak timbers used in Ross House are hand-carved—and tours help to recreate what life was like on the homestead in 1850.
The Assiniboine Zoo is over 100 years old and visiting remains a cherished highlight of any Winnipegger’s childhood. It’s grown from a few acres, that housed a handful of native animals like deer, bison, and elk, to a renowned facility and one of only five Canadian zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.
During the summer months, you can cool off at the new ‘Journey to Churchill Northern Species’ exhibit that features expanded polar bear, Arctic fox, wolf, musk ox, caribou, snowy owl, and seal habitats. It’s pretty much guaranteed that little kids will absolutely love the Polar Playground, with a moving ice-mass floor that responds to footsteps, an ice cave with hidden messages, and a responsive Aurora Borealis wall where children can conduct the northern lights.
If you’re visiting Winnipeg with toddlers and kids, staying downtown is your best bet. The centrally located Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Winnipeg Downtown is mere steps from most of these top attractions and also the city’s best restaurants. All guest rooms are equipped with a mini-fridge, and cribs are available upon request. King Suites offer extra living space and feature a fridge, microwave, and a wet bar, making visiting Winnipeg with toddlers and kids that much easier.
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