Set at the forks of two great rivers, outdoorsy fun is always flowing in Winnipeg.
Bisected by the Assiniboine and the Red rivers, Winnipeg is at the centre of it all. Any visit to the Manitoba capital should start where it all began—Indigenous people have gathered at The Forks for more than 6,000 years and the intersection is still the heart of town and now home to a public orchard, an urban garden, and a food market, plus plenty of opportunities to paddle out on the water. Walk nearby to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the only museum of its kind, whose Tower of Hope dominates the city skyline. From the famously cold corner of Portage and Main, try the excellent Exchange District restaurants that sit out to the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, where polar bears swim year-round. And the Winnipeg camping? Some of the province’s best parks are just beyond city limits.
Just across the Perimeter Highway that encircles the city, this place gets busy. The site of some of the earliest European settlements in the region, here campers can visit preserved pioneer homesteads and ride horses from the onsite stable. Despite its busyness, you can still get away from it all in Bird’s Hill—almost half of the park is set aside as backcountry, perfect for mountain biking or hiking, perhaps along the 7.2-kilometre Lakeview Trail.
Manitoba’s most popular beach, this stretch of white sand was once serviced by its own rail line that brought sun-seekers out from the city. People still flock here for the dunes and the waves of Lake Winnipeg, as well as a number of birds, including bald eagles, pelicans, and the endangered piping plover. Swim, kite-surf, and build sandcastles, then explore beyond—the park includes more than 2,500 hectares of territory.
Set on a quiet reservoir that doesn’t allow motorboats, St. Malo is a peaceful place. Take your pick from two beaches, or do some picking—chokecherries, Saskatoon berries, and wild plums all grow naturally in the park. Then get out on the water in a canoe, kayak, or even a sailboard—the park has a designated launch area for the latter.
Although situated at a relatively southerly latitude (driving to the US border takes less than 90 minutes), Winnipeg’s landlocked position means it experiences all four seasons in full. Winters are famously cold, with the mercury dropping well below zero for extended periods of time, meaning you’ll have excellent snow for skiing and thick ice for skating. Summers are hot, and this is when the whole city comes outside, soaking up the sun in a series of events, from music festivals to ballet at Assiniboine Park.