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Winnipeg (Canada): we interview Bea from the blog “Packyourbags”

This month our friend Bea, author of the blog www.packyourbags.org, takes us to her home city, Winnipeg (Canada). Bea, an avid hiker, now lives in France with her husband and son. Her blog is full of great family-friendly places to visit, especially in Europe. Do not miss her amazing blog post Top Hikes on Tenerife (with or without kids): it’s how we “met” her.

What’s your connection with Winnipeg?

Hello! My name is Bea and I have spent most of my life on the Canadian prairie, in the city of Winnipeg. Winnipeg is the capital city of the province of Manitoba. Our province is famous for its harsh climate. We have very long and cold winters, but we also have hot but short summers. Besides the harsh climate, we are also known for beautiful lakes and for polar bears living in their natural habitat near the northern town of Churchill on the shores of Husdon Bay.

What do we need to see if we want to travel to Winnipeg with kids?

When you travel to Winnipeg with kids you should definitely visit the Forks downtown. It’s hard to describe the Forks. They are called so because two of the three rivers that run through Winnipeg, the Red and the Assiniboine, meet here. The Forks has been a traditional trading place of the First Nations people who started meeting here about 6000 years ago. Today, it is a meeting place for all Winnipeggers.

Everything that matters in Winnipeg happens at the Forks. We have outdoor festivals in both summer and winter. There are amazing restaurants there, too. For example you can dance salsa outside in the summer and you can skate along the river in the winter. There is an amazing Children’s Museum here, the Manitoba Theatre for Young People has great plays for kids and even drama classes and workshops. Basically, if you only have time for one thing in Winnipeg, you have to see the Forks.

And what do we need to do in Winnipeg with kids?

There are many exciting things to do. You can:

  • See the Assiniboine Park Zoo where you can see polar bears swimming above your head.
  • Go to the Manitoba Children’s Museum at the Forks where kids can learn while playing and having a great time. It is therefore perfect for very cold or rainy days.
  • Visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It is the first museum of its kind in the world. It is never too early to start learning about our rights and responsibilities towards our fellow human beings. Besides that it is a world-class museum and you should not miss it.
  • Take your kids to a play at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People where they have plays for all age groups. My son enjoys this theatre immensely.
  • If you are looking for a playground, there is no better playground that Streuber Family Children’s Garden. It is fun and whimsical and parents enjoy it as much as the kids.

During mid-winter, since everything is frozen, you can skate on one of the longest river trails in the world. It is one of the most fun things to do in Winnipeg. Not only do you get to see the city from the middle of the river while zooming by on your skates, but you can also admire the amazing warming huts. These are little stops along the way for you to stop and warm up if you wish while admiring amazing craft presented by various architects who designed these breathtaking huts. And you can rent your skates right at the Forks.

For other fun things to do with kids in Winnipeg, see this blog post I wrote recently.

What’s the best season to visit the city?

This depends on what you would like to do in the city. If you don’t like winter then avoid November through April. Winnipeg can get temperatures well below -30 Celsius during January and February. And if you add the wind-chill factor, the actual temperatures can get even lower. It seems to me that our weather always turns for the worse on Halloween when kids go out trick or treating. And then our winter progresses rapidly with December, January and February being the coldest months.

However, March and April are still cold and there is snow on the ground. In fact, Canadians playfully refer to Winnipeg as Winterpeg. Despite the cold, Winnipeg is very sunny. In fact, it is the second Canadian city with the most sunshine after Calgary. But if you are a summer person, by all means visit any time from June through August. We have no shortage of things to do during our warm months.

What are the best winter festivals?

Because Winnipeg is all about winter, we know how to celebrate the cold. If you come in wintertime, I would actually recommend coming in February, our coldest month. This way you can enjoy our amazing winter festival called Festival du Voyageur, which lasts for two weeks. It has both outdoor and indoor events. The 2019 festival will run from February 15-24. This festival celebrates the “voyageur” – the French Canadian fur traders of the 18th and 19th centuries. Métis, First Nations and French Canadian cultures prevail at this festival. We celebrate winter, food, music, history and fun at this festival.

What are the best summer festivals?

There are countless festivals going on in Winnipeg during summer, perfect for kids and adults alike. If you come in June, we have Kidsfest or the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival. It is is an amazing concoction of shows and events by performers from all over the world. In July, you will be able to attend Fringe Festival – all about performing arts, especially theatre whereas in August, we have Folklorama, a wonderful two-week festival celebrating many cultures that make up the fabric of Winnipeg. You can taste foods from all over the world, watch folk dance performances and practice other languages.

A restaurant (or more) that you would recommend…

Oh my goodness!! There are so many! With kids, I would recommend these restaurants:

  • Mon Ami Louis. It is located on the Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge connecting Winnipeg downtown with its French quarter of St-Boniface. You can you enjoy some fabulous and affordable food here, while admiring the view of Winnipeg from the middle of the river. Our province of Manitoba has the fourth largest French Canadian population in Canada and we are very proud of this fact.
  • Pineridge Hollow. Located in Oakbank, a community right outside of Winnipeg, this restaurant is all about the province of Manitoba. So if you want to experience what our province is all about, this is your place. They also have a farmers market each Saturday morning.
  • Aurora Pizzeria and Cafe. Located on Corydon Avenue, Winnipeg’s Italian quarter, this place serves delicious pizzas and pastas to die for.
  • Baked Expectations. Located in Osborne Village, this diner style restaurant has been serving Winnipeg for over 35 years. It is the place where all the cool kids hang out. Perfect for a meal or to-die-for desserts.
  • Mini Donuts Factory. Head here for dessert. This hole-in-the-wall place at the Forks Market serves these tiny amazing heaven-in-your-mouth cinnamon sugar donuts. I dare you not to like them.

Can you recommend three hotels (in three different price ranges)?

If you are staying in Winnipeg, I would recommend staying downtown so you can be close to the Forks. Plus being central is always best.

  •  Inn at the Forks is my favourite hotel downtown, located right in the heart of where you need to be. Plus, Riverstone Spa is located right in the hotel.
  • Fort Garry Hotel is perfect if you want to stay at a historical hotel and still be downtown. It was built in the early 20th century in the chateau style. This hotel houses Ten Spa, home to the best hammam I have ever been to. Rumour has it, one of the permanent residents is a ghost. Are you brave enough to stay in the infamous room 202?
  • Canad Inns should be your top choice if you are looking for something more budget friendly and fun for kids. There are several of these throughout the city (though none downtown). Rooms for larger families feature bunk beds. There are swimming pools with slides. It’s all around kid fun extravaganza.

Somewhere special where locals take their kids …

If you’re in Winnipeg during summer months, you have to take your kids to Tinkertown which is an amusement park with fun outdoor rides. What child does not like rides?

Another fun summer thing is Rainbow Stage at the Kildonan Park, Canada’s largest and longest running outdoor theatre. The whole family can enjoy plays and musicals in an outdoor setting.

And in wintertime, why not go to Oak Hammock Marsh and enjoy some snowshoeing on a frozen marsh? Or if you happen to be in town when Raw Almond hold their dinner on ice event, why not enjoy a world class dining experience like no other?

A little souvenir to take home…

If you want a souvenir that is typically Manitoba, then get yourself a hat or another piece of clothing with the logo of our city’s hockey team, the Winnipeg Jets.

To dig further in history, why not get a kids book at Assiniboine Park Zoo gift shop entitled “Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear”? Did you know that Winnie the Pooh has a connection to Winnipeg? That’s why he was name Winnie … But I won’t tell you more, you have to read the book.

When you’re at the Forks, step into one of the souvenir shops. You will find clothing, mugs, maple syrup and Aboriginal art. There is something there for every taste and budget.

A special place (or more) off the beaten path, in or around Winnipeg

A great place, sometimes overlooked by visitors is the Fort Whyte Alive. It is an amazing nature preserve right in the city but away from downtown where kids can see bison, ducks and geese. There are fun nature tours and workshops. This place will give you a glimpse into the Canadian prairie landscape and it’s a great place to visit when you feel like escaping into nature but don’t have the time to travel far.

Bea from PackYourBags.Org

 

 

 

 

 

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