Parents, make your plans now because festive season is almost here!
When it comes to options for you and the kiddos to catch a performance, attend an event or experience a seasonal attraction, Winnipeg is the gift that keeps on giving.*
From late-November through early January you have your pick of touring events (including ones you’ll like even more than the kids), while our world-class cultural centres and performance groups are back at it with annual shows and marquee events that ring in the season like a shot of Bailey’s in your coffee.
Festive season in Winnipeg officially begins when Santa floats into town. This year’s Manitoba Hydro Santa Claus Parade –– which continues a tradition that started in 1909! –– takes place on Saturday, November 18 at 5 p.m. The route starts at Portage and Main and will run west along Portage Avenue before culminating at Memorial Boulevard and St Mary Avenue. Dress warm and expect floats that will light up your little ones’ faces, along with block parties starting at 4 p.m. to get you moving before the big show. Here’s all the spectator info you’ll need.
If seeing Santa on his float is not enough for the fam, you can head to FortWhyte Alive on December 3 (10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) to experience Santa in the Forest, or see Santa in the Marsh on November 25 (noon to 3 p.m.) at Oak Hammock Marsh.
We tell you, that Santa, he’s everywhere –– including at the zoo too!
From November 24 to January 7, Zoo Lights is returning to Assiniboine Park Zoo, creating a spectacle that includes incredible light displays, hearty food to keep you warm, and Santa and his merry band of wintery characters roaming the grounds to spread even more cheer. Tickets once again will be date and time-specific, ensuring smaller crowds so you can all get your picture with the big guy, while more new things include giant illuminated dominos, a massive light maze and even a special Sensory Night on December 6 to ensure everyone can enjoy this enchanting event.
For even more lights you can enjoy from the comfort of a car, Canad Inns Winter Wonderland will also return from December 1 to January 6 at Red River Exhibition Park. During this ticketed drive-through event you’ll cruise past millions of lights spread out over 2.5 km, with more than 30 new displays this year and some surprises too. You can also bring your skates to do some spins under the illuminated rink, while food and photo opportunities abound.
Another nice event to start the season is the return of the Holiday Train on November 20. Formerly known as the CP Holiday Holiday Train, the annual event (25 years and counting!) has been renamed the CPKC Holiday Train and will once again roll through the city flaunting its holiday light display at 9 p.m. at the Panet Road and Molson Street crossing. While your kids will love the light show itself, parents will also appreciate a performance from Canadian all-star band Anyway Gang (which features Sam Roberts, Chris Murphy from Sloan, Dave Monks from Tokyo Police Club and Menno Versteeg from Hollerado). How about that!
Kids’ concerts and performances by Winnipeg’s best
As we’ve come to expect, Winnipeg’s performance groups will once again dazzle audiences with a full month of festive fare.
Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet will stage its annual Nutcracker, featuring more than 100 dancers (including surprise guests like the Asham Stompers bringing the Red River Jig to the stage!) performing this elfin spectacle to Tchaikovsky’s famous score. Performances are on December 21, 22, 23 (two performances), 26, 28, 29 and 30, with tickets available here.
At Manitoba Theatre for Young People you can take your kids through the wardrobe to Narnia, which will be staged by Toronto’s Bad Hats Theatre from November 30 to December 20. This adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic is a world-premiere and is suitable for kids aged 5+. Get your tickets here, which you’ll note are going fast.
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) has two festive film score-accompaniment performances this season. On November 25 and 26, your kids can belt out “Let It Go” as the WSO accompanies Olaf and co. in Disney’s Academy Award-winning Frozen. Then, on December 8 and 9, it will be the return of Cann – James Cann! – in the star-studded Buddy film (get it?) Elf, with the WSO providing John Debney’s fantastic score.
On December 14, you can also catch the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra at the West End Cultural Centre performing a double bill featuring the best holiday tracks from The King and Whoville, as they present Elvis and the Grinch at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets and more info here.
The legend himself, Fred Penner, is also putting on his “Concert for the Season” at the Burton Cummings Theatre on December 17 at 3 p.m. As you would expect, there are only select seats left to see Fred perform with the Cat’s Meow Band, so find your tickets here.
On top of all that local talent, there’s also a number of touring shows to put on your radar too.
At Canada Life Centre you can catch Disney on Ice as it presents Into the Magic –– featuring characters from Coco, Frozen, Tangled, Moana and more –– from November 23-26 (multiple shows; tickets available here).
Also coming to the Canada Life Centre is Cirque du Soleil Corteo, which is the famed company’s top arena show, having already dazzled 10 million audience members across the globe. Five performances to choose from December 7 to 10.
And finally, Bluey's Big Play is coming to the Concert Hall from December 11 to 13! Considering we take most of our parenting tips from Bandit and Chilli, we bought our tickets to this puppy as soon as it was announced, and we personally can’t wait to see how “The best television series in the world” will be adapted using larger-than-life puppets on the stage. Plus, this is no side project, as Bluey’s Big Play has been developed by Bluey creator Joe Brumm and features music from its original composer, Joff Bush (dah da da dah dah dah da dah da dah dah da dahda da… Awesome!). The Guardian gives it 5 stars, plus it’s a straight up 50-minute runtime with no intermission. Genius! Somehow, there’s still the pick of the litter when it comes to tickets, so get your family’s here.
Even more excitement!
At a glance, there’s so much more in store for the family this holiday season.
The Manitoba Moose have six home games in December, offering your little ones ample time to dance for the Jumbotron while the Moose’s Me + 3 Packs make it so easy and affordable to treat the family to some pro hockey.
At the Manitoba Museum, along with so many great exhibits to explore, the Planetarium will be showing Perfect Little Planet, Aurorae, Manitoba Skies and Legends of the Northern Sky (find tickets here) in December. Christmas at Le Musée de Saint-Boniface takes place on December 2 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with plenty of festive activities on offer, and surely you’ll find plenty of festive fun at places like the Manitoba Children’s Museum, while the Dalnavert Museum should be announcing its Victorian Christmas content soon.
*’Tis the season for clichés too.