Despite what you might think, Winnipeg is being thoroughly enjoyed by tourists this winter season.
They’re dusting off their parkas, lacing up their boots and stepping outside to explore, walk and taste their way through our wonderful winter city. They’re discovering ‘pockets of paradise' in forested areas, and noticing how the snow sparkles 'like tiny diamonds in the sunlight.’
Who are these hearty tourists? Well, they’re snowbirds.
Although they’re Winnipeggers at their core, these retirees typically head south at the first sign of frost, not returning to Winnipeg until the snow has melted and spring is on its way.
So how exactly are snowbirds spending their first winter in Winnipeg in more than five, 10, or even 15 years?
We asked them to share the winter activities they’ve (re)discovered and their answers are inspiring—from trekking through parks and forested trails to virtual wine tastings, picnics and Planetarium shows—proving it’s possible to love winter in Winnipeg when you’re used to being poolside in mild temps until mid-March.
We hope these snowbirds inspire you to get out and explore Winnipeg for yourself. Even we discovered something new about the city!
Years spent wintering away: 10
You need to look at what stops you from doing things and find a way around it. If you say, "It’s cold out”, well, put some warm clothes on. I bought my husband long underwear to make him stop complaining about it being cold.
I also bought a pair of grips for my boots, and they make a big difference. Instead of being nervous about slipping, now I'm marching along.
One day we walked (by accident) all the way from The Forks to the Osborne Street bridge. Before doing it, we would've said, “that’s really far”, but it wasn't far at all.
We walked along the Bois-des-Esprit trails and the woodcarvings gave us something fun to look for and really slow down. You’re in a little pocket of woodland with deer and other animals, and it’s truly a little piece of paradise.
Scott Young, the Planetarium astronomer at the Manitoba Museum hosted a virtual Planetarium show during the great planetary conjunction and we watched it from the comfort and coziness of our own home. He’s pretty dedicated to stand out in the freezing cold in his backyard doing it. I really enjoyed it!
We never go out for meals normally, but we’ve gotten takeout from SMITH a few times because their food is so delicious. We just ordered their fried chicken sandwich and I love their gnocchi—they're like little pillows of deliciousness.
Brian and Donna
Years spent wintering away: 15
Spending winter here is such a novelty for us, so much that we feel like tourists!
We've been going on beautiful walks on the city’s trails, including Churchill Drive where we were amazed to spot a swan on the partially frozen Red River, and Crescent Drive Park where we spotted a barred owl, made a snow angel and enjoyed the hoar frost on the trees.
The Forks was amazing on New Years Day, and I so wished we still owned skates. It was so beautiful and looked like such fun. What an amazing skating trail! The Legislative grounds were beautifully lit up too.
We’ve also been appreciating the little things, like how the snow sparkles like tiny diamonds in the sunlight and how the frost forms such beautiful patterns when it freezes on the windows of our garage.
Years spent wintering away: 6
We indulged in a virtual wine tasting with De Luca Fine Wines. It was a safe and creative way to sip, savor and socialize in the comfort of our home—without having to drive. De Luca's delivered our “Winter Warmers” tasting kit (two bottles of red wine and Zoom instructions) and the virtual event was short and sweet (or should I say short and full-bodied?).
We’ve been exploring the city’s urban forests with brisk walks along Bunn’s Creek trails and McBeth Park (home to many plains cottonwoods, the largest trees found inside the city). A few times we ended our walk with a winter picnic by a fire, taking along a pot of hot homemade soup and thermos of tea.
We’ve enjoyed strolling the walkable Back Alley Arctic art gallery that artist Kal Barteski has created in Wolseley. This is a must-see if you live in Winnipeg.
With a bit of creative thinking, we are finding new ways to have global cultural experiences. We're trying diverse, locally owned restaurants for takeout once a week and pairing the meal with a documentary or movie about the country, or reminiscing about our previous travels there.
Our takeout highlights include:
- Grace Cafe or The Crusty Bun for soup or a sandwich to warm up after a walk
- Mountain Bean for a perfect cup of fair trade coffee or tea to enjoy along Bunn's Creek Trails
- Inferno’s Bistro - our favourite French eatery
- Cilantro's Restaurant - exceptional Indian cuisine
- Thida's Thai Restaurant - excellent Pad Thai
- Viva Restaurant - you have to try the Vietnamese deluxe vermicelli!
- Magic Sushi - easy to use app for order and delivery, excellent communication and service
- Southwood Golf and Country Club in St. Norbert - excellent menu, and most weeks they have one night offering an international cuisine special
- Nonsuch Brewing Co. - the burger and local craft beer is the taste of “home”
More snowbirds share their winter experiences:
Although we never expected to be here over a winter, my dog, April is very happy. Together we've been outside for at least two hours every day walking and exploring the Charleswood dog park, Assiniboine Forest and the Harte trail. The biggest surprise has been the areas around the river—both on the Charleswood and St. James side—I've found new secret areas that I never knew were there and I’ve lived here for 64 years. -Cheryl and April
We dug out our arctic parkas and go for daily walks in Henteleff Park. Luckily we’ve only needed regular winter jackets for most of the winter! -Pat and Chris
We’ve taken daily walks and had some interesting discoveries, including little book houses on people's lawns for "take a book, share a book” purposes (I recently ran out so I especially enjoyed this), and bird feeding stations in yards. We decided to set up our own, and we now enjoy watching blue jays, woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and our daily visitor, a well-fed grey squirrel. We made use of the Christmas lights tour map to check out yards around the city, and took advantage of a warm winter's night to make a snowman. -Jane