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Winnipeg in four days

You’re going to do Winnipeg, and you only have four days (at most)? Then we’re going to have to pull out the Greatest Hits Compilation Album by Winnipeg (which is way better than Chicago, or Boston. Or The Rolling Stones).

Here we go!

Day One

Get the band together for the opener to this sweet record, a quick little ditty at SMITH Restaurant, at Inn at the Forks. A hearty breakfast of Red Flannel hash, or eggs Florentine, with some fresh pressed juices will make your opening number start with a bang.

Did you over-indulge in breakfast, though? Then let’s burn those calories with our second big hit, a turn on the Riverwalk. Mind the joggers as you stroll alongside the smoothly rolling river. As you head under the bridge, make sure to get a peek at the water level warning system, you’ll be shocked to see how high this river can get.

If shopping’s your thing, then the third track on this award-winning-trip is where you’ll want to be. The Forks Market and Johnston Terminal hold dozens of stores with plenty of goods you can’t find anywhere else. The deep cuts. You want eco-chic apparel? Bam! Hempyrean. Need some gifts hand-crafted by Canada’s first peoples? Boom! Teekca’s Aboriginal Boutique. Toys, puzzles, and games? Shazam! Kite and Kaboodle.

And this doesn’t even begin to describe the food options you have available. Tall Grass Prairie Bakery’s flaky cheese croissants will sustain you long enough to make it for the freshly-baked offerings from Mini Donuts Factory. If you need something more substantial, try not to get overwhelmed by the choices at your disposal. You could sample some curry at Taste of Sri Lanka, nibble some empanadas from The Chilean Corner, or savor some stuffed rotis at Bindy’s Caribbean Delights.

For the big hit single, it has to be the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a building so gorgeous they dedicated one of their tours solely to its architecture. But if you want to get inspired about social change, you’ll need to explore the many interactive galleries full of technological amazement while shedding light on global human rights issues.

If you’ve got kids in tow, then make like the Jackson 5 and say I’ll Be There, to the Manitoba Children’s Museum or the Manitoba Theatre for Young People (all conveniently located in The Forks). At the Children’s Museum there are so many activities to explore and learn from, like climbing the Lasagna Lookout and feeling the different textures, finding about how cow’s make milk at the Milk Machine, or putting on their city planner hat (probably a hard helmet, actually) at the Tumble Zone. While at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, they’ll get to see a story unfold in front of their eyes, featuring whimsical costumes and sets and talented actors, all aimed directly at the young audience.

Bon Jovi was Slippery When Wet, and you will be too if you take the kids to the splash pads found at Variety Heritage Adventure Park, where kids think they’re just playing around on the playground and on other interactive structures, when in fact they are subtle being taught about the First Peoples, the fur trade, and the history of The Forks. It’s not as subtle as those backward messages on Led Zeppelin albums, but at least it’s for a good purpose.

After attaining new perspectives from any of those fine establishments, balance that out with a literal new perspective by heading up to the revolving restaurant of Prairie 360˚ Skyline Restaurant and Lounge. From 30 floors up, you can see Winnipeg from a vantage point you can’t otherwise get, all while enjoying local delights like bison perogies.

But before you take your bows and pack it in for the night, how about an encore? If a classy nightlife is your thing, head down a couple floors to the piano bar and whiskey lounge and sip some Scotch to celebrate your debut album of living it up in Winnipeg.

Day Two

This is no one-hit wonder. You can start off this new record with a bang by reuniting the clan in Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District. There are gorgeous old Chicago-style buildings filled with new chic shops for perusing, like Bronuts, which serves up coffee and quality espresso drinks, as well as artisan hand-made donuts, which are made fresh every day.

For some entertaining education, start by heading to the Manitoba Museum. Feel like an explorer as you come aboard the life-sized replica of the 17th merchant century ship, the Nonsuch and see the size of the quarters that people actually would’ve stayed in. Then take a trip to 1920s Winnipeg, right after the big strike, and get a glimpse of what life used to be like (that rotary smartphone doohickey never really caught on).

Since you’re in the area, it might be time for a tour of the historic neighbourhood by taking an Exchange District Walking Tour. You might catch yourself gawking at some of the beautiful architecture of these turn-of-the-century buildings, and afterwards, you can pop into the myriad of unique shops, like the sexy and sophisticated dresses of Paperdoll Clothing, or the refined, hand-crafted shoes of Jose & Markham.

Make sure everyone is present for the band meeting at Cakeology, where they sell some freshly baked adorable cakettes, and enjoy them across the street at Old Market Square for some live entertainment on-stage at The Cube.

Embrace the artistic side as you head to the Winnipeg Art Gallery, where the largest collection of contemporary Inuit art is found, and there are constantly critically acclaimed touring showing being brought it, featuring everything from the photography of Salvador Dali to the pristine marble statues from the Greco-Roman era.

Next, try for the weekly public Hermetic Code Tour. Get wrapped up into Winnipeg’s version of the Da Vinci Code, as your get a guided tour of the Manitoba Legislative Building and the brilliantly hidden freemason symbolism found within. You have to book in advance, but you’ll be glad you did.

You can always end your night at Rudy’s Eat and Drink. In the summer you can enjoy one of the city’s most gorgeous patios, or in the winter you can hop into their Igloo Ice Bar, where DJs and drinks keep everyone nice and warm.

Day Three

As the Rolling Stones would say, Start Me Up at McNally Robinson Booksellers, because today is all about shopping. Browse the bookshelves for a treasured tale, or make your way to the children’s section in the tree house overlooking the store. Their in-store restaurant, Prairie Ink Café, can energize you by combining their silky quiche, with a hearty smoothie, which can be topped off by some of their freshly baked pastries.

Or since you’re a well-established act by now, so why don’t you embrace your global following by heading to Corydon Avenue (Winnipeg’s “Little Italy”) and starting out at the Falafel Place, where their Mediterranean flavours inspire classic breakfast dishes to create something truly special. The falafel balls (don’t skimp on the tahini) added to scrambled eggs and hashbrowns? Unreal.

After that, it’s a short walk over to the chic boho neighbourhood of Osborne Village, where you can ditch the big box stores, and find the latest in smart, hip fashion. Try Rooster, where pretty shoes and killer boots will put you squarely in the spotlight, or Out of the Blue, where inspired indie designs will separate you from the pack. Whatever your pleasure, you’re sure to find something that can make you stand out with all of these hip arrangements available, or as gifts for friends and family.

Buying a great outfit can take a lot out of you. You should reward yourself with a trip to Black Rabbit Bistro Lounge for a stop on the patio and some shareable plates with friends. Beer battered pickerel with fries or the Black Rabbit BLT should give you what you need to carry on.

And carry on you shall, as you let the rhythm take you down to Academy Road, a prime shopping strip, where upscale independent stores show off their designer clothing, European shoes, fine wines, and decadent chocolate. Tire yourself out for a while, then turn it up to 11 by nabbing a wood-burned pizza at Pizzeria Gusto.

And before the final curtain call, there’s always nightlife a short walk away on Corydon Avenue, so either indulge in the best gelati in the city, or let the DJs of Bar Italia get you moving as you dance up a storm in the lounge, or kick back on the patio as the night takes you away.

Day Four

How about one last big farewell concert to say goodbye? This time, your opening number should begin through the historical streets of St. Boniface, Winnipeg’s French district. If views are your thing (views with your eyes, not YouTube views for your new music video), then you’ll have to head down the Esplanade Riel pedestrian bridge to get there. Then, have an expert guide from Tourism Riel take you on a walking tour around the architectural marvels, and relate stories of all the historic moments that occurred that there. Shine a light on the impressive Cathedrale de Saint-Boniface or L’Universite de Saint-Boniface, where there’s an abstract statue of Metis leader and founded of Manitoba, Louis Riel.

For some fine French delicacies, take note of Promenade Café and Wine, where their traditional French cuisine, like coq au vin or beef bourguignon, always provide a pleasing meal. Or if your sweet tooth is leading you around, you can make your way to Chocolatier Constance Popp, where artisan chocolates using Manitoba ingredients are produced to exquisite effect.

To keep up the historical theme, try Fort Gibraltar, a recreation of a traditional North West Company fur trading post, where you can experience how voyageurs lived and worked back in the early 1800s through numerous charming in-character recreations. If it’s winter though, you are in luck as it is transformed with Festival du Voyageur, a festival full of music, shows, snow sculptures, and new activities to enjoy.

Your big closing number is going to take place at Assiniboine Park Zoo, where the Journey to Churchill exhibit will take centre stage. This unbelievable display of arctic life is the most comprehensive showcasing of northern species in the world. Dip down into the underwater viewing tunnels and be amazed as polar bears swim inches away from you, or swing into the Aurora Borealis Theatre and watch the beauty of the northern lights.

After the thrilling crescendo of taking selfies with some majestic arctic species, lower the volume on your day by exploring the rest of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy. Walk around the calm English Gardens, and stop for a contemplative break at the Leo Mol Sculpture Gardenz, where butterflies dance among the bronze statues, and fountains and flowers fill the air with a harmonious serenity.

End the night with dinner at the nearby Captial Grill and Bar, where their upscale casual atmosphere will please foodies and families alike. After having your fill, wrap your night up back at Assiniboine Park by enjoying a live performance at the Lyric Theatre, where the sprawling lawn means a cozy spot to nestle into is never hard to find.

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