Family Fun - Fall / Winter
Parents please take note, if you follow this itinerary closely you just may be able to hold onto that “World’s Best Parent” sweater for one more year (as long as you promise your children that you’ll never wear it in public again).
Winnipeg brings the heat when it comes to creating family fun in winter, and this guide will show you how we literally put the excitement on ice while also providing ample indoor space to explore and create a sense of awe for your little ones.
In the last three years, the winter scene at The Forks – Winnipeg’s most-visited tourist destination – has been praised by both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, as there is really nothing else like it on earth.
Despite the city’s reputation for having a harsh climate from December through February, the “dead of winter” is actually when The Forks is busiest, as on any given weekend you’ll find thousands of skaters, dog-walkers, hockey players, stroller pushers and more on the Red River Mutual Trail. It is one of the world’s longest naturally frozen groomed trails (in the mornings the Zamboni is common sight), and it snakes out from The Forks across stretches of both the Red and Assiniboine rivers to locales like South Osborne, St. Boniface, and the majestic Legislative grounds.
To traverse this beauty, rent skates inside The Forks Market then feel the wind in your hair and the joy in your heart as you glide past our now-famous warming huts, which The New York Times describes as, “akin to visiting an interactive sculpture garden on blades.” These architectural marvels are the results of an annual architecture and design competition, providing both a spot to tie your skates, take a break, or take a selfie with your kids in (most “huts” also have an interactive component that kids and adults alike take to with gusto).
Even if you have toddlers, this is still a fun thing to do, as the trail is awash with stylish red chairs for pushing kids while there is also a small skating rink located right underneath the canopy (just outside the skate rental doors), along with several kilometres of on-land trails.
If you have adolescents that like to shred, then pack their snowboard gear and let them loose on The Forks’ Arctic Glacier Winter Park, which has the grooviest little snowboard terrain park around. Here they can work on hitting the tabletops, and maybe advance on to doing rail slides (moms, you won’t want to watch) — all under the guidance of a certified snowboard instructor.
Be sure to put FortWhyte Alive on the agenda. You name it, FortWhyte has it, including the awesome Richardson Rrrun Toboggan Slide, which is perched above a frozen lake, along with guided tours where you’ll learn about the region’s Indigenous and fur trading roots while snowshoeing. There’s also atl atl throwing and archery (don’t worry, it’s safe), Inuit and voyageur games, and full day activities and kids’ camps that will see your little ones learning how to make a fire then roast bannock over the flames.
FortWhyte is particularly beautiful in the fall, when migratory meals are on the menu at the Buffalo Stone Café. The café has an outdoor patio that overlooks a lake that is often awash in thousands of migratory birds.
Another can’t-miss in autumn is A Maze in Corn. Throughout October it is home to the Haunted Forest, a spooky experience that is suitable for families, along with a petting zoo, hayrides, pony rides, and of course, the massive corn maze that towers over guests and is ripe for exploration from August 1st throughout autumn.
Bridging the great outdoors and the comfy indoors is Assiniboine Park and Zoo. In winter, the park’s frozen ponds offer up ample outdoor skating for the whole family, while their conservatory is a great place to escape the cold; when you enter, you’ll be hit with a wall of humid, tropical air, while your little ones will be enchanted by over 8,000 trees, plants and flowers, along with turtles and fish that swim and hide amongst the ponds and water features. Plus, the conservatory is FREE to visit!
The zoo itself is a real showstopper for the whole family with snow leopards, Amur tigers, and red pandas – all of which dig the snow. Their Journey to Churchill exhibit is surely the best northern species and Arctic education centre of its kind in the world. It’s here you can spend hours watching polar bears swim and play right over your head in an acrylic tunnel. This is an experience no child – heck, no adult with a sense of wonder – will ever forget; it’s truly world-class in every sense of the word.
The Manitoba Museum provides a feast for the senses that inquisitive visitors will devour as they journey through Manitoba from the Sub-Arctic region in the north to the grasslands in the south. You’ll swear you can hear the thunder of hoof beats as you take in the life-sized diorama of a bison hunt, and will feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you stroll the boardwalk of 1920s Winnipeg. There’s also an out-of-this-world Science Gallery that features a Manitoba-made Black Brant rocket, computer simulations, maker spaces featuring LEGO bricks and motorized race cars. And, every visitor will be amazed by the wonders of the universe in the Museum’s full-dome digital Planetarium.
Tours of the Royal Canadian Mint set the gold standard (#dadjoke) for the whole family. The facility produces coins for hundreds of countries around the world (which you’ll witness on a tour), while your kids will get the chance to hold a pure gold bar worth nearly $500,000 that will astonish them with its weight.
You can also have some family fun while doing a team building exercise at Enigma Escapes, Codebreakers, Ultimate Lockdown, or The Real Escape – all of which house challenging interactive rooms where solving the thematic mysteries will literally set you free.
Manitoba Theatre for Young People, located at The Forks, does an incredible job putting on productions that hold kids of all ages in rapture, often utilizing mediums like puppetry. This season they’ll stage seven productions, including classics like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (January 26-February 4), and A Charlie Brown Christmas (December 8-30).
There are also many fun, sportier spots where the kiddies can run themselves ragged indoors. For instance, inside LaserTopia’s 10,200 sq. ft. facility kids can set their phasers to fun as they zap it up in the giant, two-level laser tag stadium, The Lost City. The setting is like something out of Indiana Jones, Avatar and Halo, making for quite the spectacle.
At Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park kids can jump around and have some high-flying fun in the mammoth trampoline park (all under safe supervision), while the rock climbing walls of Vertical Adventures offer uplifting, muscle-toning times for kids 10 and up.
If your children are under 12, bring them to Great Big Adventure, a sprawling 12,000 sq. ft. indoor park featuring an impressive 3,000 sq. ft. play structure which features seven 20 ft. slides, a mini-sticks hockey zone, obstacle courses, a mini basketball court, and a nifty section tailored specifically for toddlers. Kid City’s two locations also provide ample room for your little ones to run themselves right into naptime.
If your crew is older, and looking for some adrenaline-filled racing, Speedworld indoor kart track is the place. Its motto is “I don’t know what the question is but the answer is… MORE POWER!!!” which is equally hilarious and terrifying. Their Sprint Kart goes up to 40 km/hr, while the Race Kart can go up to 50 km/hr. But don’t worry moms who are reading this (as dad says he is taking the kids), because Speedworld is all about safety — plus the kids have to learn to drive somewhere.
Finally, there is all the glory that is the Bell MTS Place, which is home to concerts, the NHL Winnipeg Jets, and the AHL Manitoba Moose. The boisterous atmosphere during Jets games is the envy of all the league (making tickets admittedly harder to come by), while the Moose provide pro hockey that is both affordable and fun for the whole family (with group rates available too).