If you wish to travel to the western part of the world, looking for the perfect destination in North America can be a challenge since it is quite overwhelming to pick only a few places from a continent this great.
So, let us introduce to you the underrated gem that is Winnipeg where its people continue to maintain the integrity of its culture and traditions through unique forms of art and remarkable historical celebrations.
Thus, proving itself to be a city that is worth exploring!
Is Winnipeg a cool city?
Winnipeg is one of the coolest cities in the world because its preserved historicity continuously develops cultural and historical institutions, diverse attitudes, and leisure facilities.
This title was confirmed by TIME in an article published in honor of ‘The World’s 100 Greatest Places of 2021.’
Places of History and Culture in Winnipeg
One cool fact about Winnipeg is that, historically, it was a trading post for Canada’s indigenous people before the European settlers arrived.
Here are some of the most significant places that highlight the city’s historical and cultural roots.
Forts Rouge, Garry, and Gibraltar
Fort Rouge, Garry, and Gibraltar are all located in different positions at the forts of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.
Today, the remaining above-ground element of these forts is the north gate of Fort Garry II, situated in Upper Fort Garry Park. And to maintain the wall’s sustainability, it has been partially reconstructed.
The sites of the other two Forts — Gibraltar and the first Fort Garry have been identified to be adjacent to Winnipeg’s Union Station. The site of Fort Rouge is believed to be located on the south point.
All three forts contribute to the evolution of the fur trade in the west — beginning from the westward expansion to the domination of the North West and Hudson’s Bay Company.
In 1924, a designation as a National Historic Site of Canada was awarded to the fort by the federal Minister of the Environment on the advice of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC).
Circle of Life Thunderbird House
Given the large population of the city, Winnipeg features different religious institutions. One of the most popular among all is The Circle of Life Thunderbird House.
This place is the spiritual and cultural home of more than 72,000 indigenous people in the area, including the largest total Métis population (over 41,000) and the largest total First Nations population (over 29,000).
It is a significant point and mecca for the aboriginal people traveling from rural communities to Winnipeg’s urban environment.
The teaching of the thunderbird house is based on the principles of the Medicine Wheel — the four aspects that we have to ourselves: the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual.
It is the belief that strives for the balance of all these aspects to remain as healthy and happy individuals.
Centre du Patrimoine
If you are interested in knowing more about the culture and history of the city, visiting the Centre du Patrimoine is a great choice.
It is the primary institution in the entire province of Manitoba that promotes the Franco-Manitoban and Metis heritage.
This heritage center is devoted to preserving and making archives accessible. It features a reference library that contains up to 13,000 titles and genealogical resources, as well as a vast collection of archived documents.
It is located at 340 Provencher Boulevard in Saint-Boniface, which is about a fifteen-minute walk away from other historical sites.
These include the Archbishop’s Residence, Saint-Boniface Cathedral, the Maison Gabrielle-Roy, and The Forks National Historic Site.
Most Celebrated Festivals in the Winnipeg Community
Another reason Winnipeg is a cool city is because of its diverse population, which makes it a distinct cultural hub.
It started during the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program when the city welcomed its doors to thousands of immigrants.
And because Winnipeggers are known to have a high value for their community’s exceptional array of ethnicity, they showcased their openness to diversity and multiple communities where cultural festivals are hosted annually.
Get a glimpse of the most celebrated festivals in the city.
Folklorama began as a one-time event to commemorate Manitoba’s Centennial in 1970, but its success encouraged it to be an annual event.
Also, in 1988, its celebration was expanded from one week in August to two weeks.
Folklorama is a multicultural festival that begins with a public kickoff event held at The Forks.
It is then organized as eclectic pavilions throughout the entire city in venues like sports arenas, schools, and community halls.
Initially, there would be 20 pavilions that would open during the first week, while the remaining set would be launched in the following week.
During the festival, multiple ethnicities can showcase their traditions. Typically, this is done through cultural displays, ethnic cuisine, handicrafts, and souvenirs from each country.
Other forms of multicultural showcasing are folk dances and music performances either by local community groups or invited guest artists.
Interestingly, there are three different dance categories during the event. These are authentic, elaborated, and stylized.
The ‘authentic’ group is focused on performing folk dances the original way. The ‘elaborated’ group is performed with more adapted elements of folklore, like music and costumes.
Lastly, the ‘stylized’ group is the performance that is based on a new interpretation for contemporary audiences.
Winnipeg Folk Festival
Another festival that was originally planned to be just a one-time event is the Winnipeg Folk Festival.
It was held in 1974 in Birds Hill Provincial Park on Treaty 1 territory and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis.
By that time, it was a free event that managed to attract an estimated audience of 22,000.
This event is focused on the culmination of everything remarkable about Winnipeg’s local folk community. Aside from local artists, it also features artists and musicians from all around the world.
Today, the event garners a total of 70,000 audiences annually. This includes visitors and performers from across North America.
This festival is also a great motivation for tourists to visit the city.
It has now evolved to being a year-round arts organization that showcases one of North America’s premier outdoor music festivals each July.
Festival du Voyageur
Festival du Voyageur, also called the ‘Festival of the Travelers’, is Canada’s largest winter event and one of the most awaited gatherings of the entire year.
It is held in Manitoba’s French Quarter, Saint Boniface.
During this event, hundreds and thousands of people face the -40 degree weather in one of the coolest cities in the world, Winnipeg.
Its main purpose is to celebrate the country’s French-Canadian culture and fur trading past for ten days.
There are also historical reenactments, snow sculptures, and over 300 live musical performances that entice tourists from other parts of the world to go and visit the city.
Fort Gibraltar hosts a series of educationally themed cabins that aim to teach guests about early French woodworking as well as various trading artifacts.
The festival also offers a wide selection of traditional French-Canadian specialties. Tourists can enjoy crepes, tourtière, pea soup, and the Canadian prime — poutine.
Parks and Recreation Opportunities in Winnipeg
Winnipeg’s connection with the people, the past, and nature is also seen in its preservation and development of many landscapes and parks.
Here are some of the most prominent and coolest areas in Winnipeg that are visited all year round.
Assiniboine Park and Zoo
One of the finest attractions in Winnipeg is Assiniboine Park.
Established in 1904, this park now serves as a year-round playground for Winnipegers and tourists alike.
It was named for the Assiniboine people who used to be among the most prominent tribes that lived west of Lake Winnipeg.
The park covers approximately 1,100 acres (450 ha) of land. It features a multitude of facilities that span from the Assiniboine Park Zoo to the Conservatory and English Garden, Leo Mol Sculpture Garden, and Pavilion.
The Assiniboine Park Zoo features an award-winning northern species exhibit, the Journey to Churchill.
Here, tourists are allowed a cool experience of being nose-to-nose with playful polar bears, seals, and other Arctic animals.
Some of the highlights of the exhibit are the Sea Ice Passage, the indoor Polar Playground, and the Tundra Grill.
On the other hand, tourists and locals frequent the free-form beds of the English Garden every season.
To show the approachable view of nature, this garden is made to present a flowing layout and landscape style, rather than the regimented symmetry of the Formal Garden.
Another cool place to visit in this park is the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden, which parades a collection of bronze sculptures.
This free-of-charge facility is filled with the works of the internationally recognized Ukrainian-Canadian, Dr. Leo Mol. The gallery is home to a collection of paintings, ceramics, and other artworks.
Lastly, the Pavilion is a spot where tourists get a sight of the works of three renowned Manitoba artists: Ivan Eyre, Walter J. Philips, and Clarence Tillenius.
In the Pooh Gallery, a rotating selection of Winnie the Bear artifacts and memorabilia are showcased.
Fort Whyte Alive
The story of Fort Whyte Alive is a story of generational efforts for sustainable development.
Initially, this land area was used as a clay and gravel mining site to create cement. But during the 1950s, multiple floods and other clay sources made the area outmoded.
When the Wildlife Foundation of Manitoba saw the potential of this old industrial site as a wildlife habitat, efforts were made to start the reclamation work.
By the 1980s, the wildlife conservation focus shifted to environmental education, and there, the Fort Whyte Foundation was established.
For 30 years, the added prairie grassland to the forests and wetlands, as well as the fruit of the environmental education programs made the total area more like the original landscape it was.
Today, it is estimated that about 125,000 guests visit the park annually.
It is also known to be a popular destination for year-round fishing, canoeing, hiking, or birdwatching. During winter, this place is a spot for unique activities like snowshoeing and tobogganing.
Its 10,000 sq ft (930 m2) Interpretative Centre presents exhibits that include the Touch Museum, Aquarium of the Prairies, Prairie Soil Diorama, Planet H2O, and the Prairie Partners Live Exhibit.
All of these allow visitors to learn more about sustainability, water conservation, and wildlife.
In efforts to engage the youth in sustainable agriculture and employment training, FortWhyte Farms offer programs that educate them on leadership and healthy living skills.
Another premier park destination in Winnipeg is Kildonan Park. It is located along the banks of the winding Red River, northwest of Winnipeg.
This park’s total land area is about 39 hectares with 27,000 meters of pathways alongside the popular Rainbow Stage and the Witch’s Hut.
The Rainbow Stage is known for being the longest-surviving outdoor theater in entire Canada. It has a total of 2,600 covered open-air theater seats for audiences.
The Witch’s Hut, on the other hand, is a building that is designed to illustrate the fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm.
Initially, it was a gift to the Manitoban children and a centennial project of the German Community of Manitoba.
Also located in Kildonan Park is a Public Art, called Bokeh. It was an artwork made by Takashi Iwasaki.
Along with it was the Nadi Design, installed around the duck pond in 2018.
Bokeh provides lighting to the skating area of the park specifically during the dark of winter. It is a Japanese word that means blurriness.
Birds Hill Provincial Park
The Birds Hill Provincial Park was opened in 1967 for the celebration of the Canadian Centennial.
Its name was derived from the Bird family, who were among the settlers of the Red River in the early 19th century.
The early settlers left some marks along the trails of this park.
The scattered massive and erratic boulders were dropped here by the melting ice sheets thousands of years ago.
When the ice melted, its meltwaters carved steep channels in the glacier. Then, the water streamed through these ice tunnels and left large amounts of gravel and sand.
Later, snake-like ridges were formed and so was the beginning of the eskers. Its story is literally one of the reasons why Winnipeg is a cool city.
Today, this park is home to multiple activities such as festivals and various sporting events. It is a mixture of open prairie and forest.
There are available esker ridges, dry prairie, wet meadows, Aspen/Oak Parkland, and even bogs in the area.
Aside from that, the Birds Hill Provincial Park also features a campground. The site offers about 476 campsites with a choice of basic electrical or full-service camping.
Every summer, the park also hosts triathlons, orienteering, and equestrian events.
From attractions to history and even celebrations, Winnipeg really does not disappoint — proving itself as one of the coolest cities out there that you need to explore.
But if you need a little more convincing, you can also check out these other unique places to visit in Winnipeg and get to know the top tourist attractions that you shouldn’t miss on your trip!