All your senses are in for a treat this summer at Assiniboine Park.
For starters, everywhere you look you’ll see something amazing.
At the zoo, look up and you’ll spy life-sized animatronic dinosaurs in the forest, polar bears swimming over your head, or goats trotting across a bridge.
At The Leaf, should you look down from the walkway six-storeys above the Hartley and Heather Richardson Tropical Biome, you’ll see towering palms and swimming koi, all while your ears are treated to the sounds of Canada’s tallest indoor waterfall.
More candy for your ears can be had during Assiniboine Park’s Summer Entertainment Series, where nearly every Thursday and Sunday evening (starting June 29) you can catch some of Winnipeg’s best bands and musicians (including the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on opening night) for free as you chill while feeling the grass between your toes.
For those wishing to indulge their nose, may we suggest smelling some of the thousands of flowers located throughout the formal English Gardens or thematic Gardens at The Leaf, followed by dinner on Gather Craft Kitchen and Bar’s new patio where you can swirl a glass of Sandhill Syrah (you’ll relish that bouquet of dark fruits and coffee; plus, fun fact: Sandhill’s winemaker Sydney Valentino is from Winnipeg, while its former winemaker Howard Soon has roots here too) that you can pair with Persian braised lamb shank with cilantro pesto, potato purée and za'atar roasted baby carrots. (Should it be particularly hot outside, go for the Orchard Lane sauv blanc paired with the seared scallop risotto #pairingiscaring).
Indeed, all across the park’s 1,000+ acres there’s something wonderful to experience for all tastes – from art galleries, to athletic activities, to so many areas to simply chill.
Here’s what’s in store this summer in the city’s crown jewel, Assiniboine Park.
What’s new – and beloved and back – at the Zoo
Brand new for summer 2023 is the touring exhibit, Wildlife Rescue: Miracles in Conservation. Located in the Doug Harvey, Jan Shute and Family Centre on the west side of the Zoo, the exhibit gets you up-close to a range of fascinating species including the cane toad, Mexican red knee tarantula, big-headed turtle, and the Indonesian blue tongued skink. The focus of this interactive exhibit is on animals that were near-extinct but have made a comeback, highlighting how zoos, aquariums, scientists, governments and conservation groups have worked together to try to ensure the future of these unique species.
Along with interactive multimedia displays, there’s also the chance of having a guided interaction with certain animals when wildlife caretakers are present.
Not to be outdone by Wildlife Rescues’ enchanting animals, Assiniboine Park Zoo’s life-sized animatronic dinosaurs have once again taken over the forested trail right behind the Family Centre.
Dinosaurs Uncovered brings you for a walk you won’t forget, as every turn reveals a massive moving creature from the Triassic, Jurassic or Cretaceous period. You’ll hear the calls of fully feathered Dakotaraptors before seeing these late-Cretaceous carnivores that once stalked woods just like these in this very area 67 million years ago. You’ll be confronted by the Cretaceous-apex predator T-Rex, whose roar just may have you covering your ears; the super freaky beaky Quetzalcoatlus – the largest flying animal of all time, whom you also wouldn’t want to run into on land; and even some sauropods that will have you looking way, way up above the tree tops.
With 17 dinosaurs in total, covering a wide range of species and regions, Dinosaurs Uncovered is an experience that both kids and adults will love. Plus, it is included in the price of admission.
Also back at the zoo is the return of behind-the-scenes zoo experiences – and much like the dinosaurs, they too are big!
This summer you can get up-close with so many of the zoo’s largest animals, with tours on snow leopards, cougars, Amur tigers, polar bears and seals. These rare, incredible tours can now be booked online, with several happening each month throughout summer.
Having done both polar bear and seals tours in years past, we can assure you there’s no better chance to get to know these incredible species from the very experts who take care of them daily. In fact, you might even recognize several of these zoologists and animal care experts from CBC television’s Arctic Vets.
The Leaf keeps growing
If you already visited The Leaf when it opened this winter, you owe it to yourself to return under the summer sunshine. After just a few months the Hartley and Heather Richardson Tropical Biome has become even more verdant, with all the palms, ferns, and flowering plants growing to an already-astounding size (check out our before-and-after pics in the gallery below). The flowering plants behind the bench on the south wall alone are worth seeing (the colours are incredible), while the whole biome is like walking into a jungle.
Indigenous Peoples Day on June 24, Canada Day on July 1
Assiniboine Park’s Summer Entertainment Series Presented by the Casinos of Winnipeg starts on Saturday, June 24 with a full day of FREE activities for Indigenous Peoples Day! Starting at noon, there will be entertainment at the Lyric Field stage including Norman Chief Memorial Dancers, Shanley Spence, Leonard Sumner, Andrina Turenne and STUN. For kiddos, there will be face painting, bouncy castles and more fun stuff.
There will also be entertainment at the outdoor Performance Garden at The Leaf featuring Ethan Lyrics, Mitchell Makoons, Renee Lamoureaux, Cosmic River and Victoria Turko, along with fire teachings with Cree Crowchild at the Indigenous Peoples Garden.
Both the Lyric Theatre field and Gardens at The Leaf will have food trucks onsite and there’s also a huge makers’ market at the Lyric Theatre.
For Canada Day, the Lyric Theatre and Gardens at The Leaf will once again be the sites for so many celebrations, all starting at 11 a.m. and running until 5 p.m. Along with all the family friendly activities and countless things for your kids, entertainment will include the likes of Madeleine Roger and JP Hoe on the Lyric Stage, while Andrina Turenne, Slow Leaves and Shay Wolf will be playing at The Performance Garden.
So many FREE concerts!
If you are looking for free concerts and free events for the whole family, Assiniboine Park has you covered this summer.
Alongside concerts at The Lyric Theatre and Performance Garden at The Leaf (there are so many more than what’s detailed above), you can also catch live jazz in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden, which is just about as tranquil as it gets. These jazz performances take place on August 6, 13, 20, and 27, all of which are Sundays starting at noon.
The Lyric will also be home for Movies in The Park almost every Friday evening, with two films (a 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. showing) of classics and new films like E.T., Turning Red, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (find showtimes here). There’s also Wellness Wednesdays throughout August at 6 p.m., which includes yoga and Zumba; and various kids concerts on July 16 at 5 p.m., August 26 at 2 p.m. and August 27 at 5 p.m.
Ballet in the Park is also returning from July 26-28 (each night at 7:30 p.m.) where you can watch performances from the celebrated Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, along with the Folklorama Kick-Off Event on Saturday, July 29 (4 to 8 p.m.).
A few hidden gems
Of course, anytime is a good time to visit Assiniboine Park. Aside from its marquee attractions, a few hidden gems you must see include:
The Pavilion Art Galleries
If you are a fan of massive landscape paintings, Inuit art and Winnie-the-Pooh, be sure to go inside the iconic Pavilion. The Ivan Eyre Gallery on the 3rd floor (reopening on June 24) has an amazing collection of Eyre’s paintings, with massive landscapes that you can stare at for hours. One floor down the John P Crabb gallery is always putting on great exhibits, often with an emphasis on Inuit art, and on the same floor the Pooh Gallery details our city’s connection to the world’s most famous bear.
See the park via Bee-2-Gether Bikes
Located right at the Park’s entrance from the Assiniboine Park Footbridge, the good people of Bee-2-Gether Bikes (our pals Kim and Chad Celaire) have so many fun pedal-powered vehicles for rent – from tandem bikes, to regular bikes, to carts, and even some huge vehicles that can hold a whole family. With the extensive network of roads and trails found throughout Assiniboine Park, they offer a great way to see it all while having so much fun.
One of Winnipeg’s premier outdoor pop-up bars, Cargo Bar (located across the Riley Family Duck Pond from the Qualico Centre), features craft cocktails, wine, and local beers all set in the most charming kid-friendly setting. There’s often live music and the onsite food from Poacht food truck is so colourful and flavourful.
Window at the Park Café
If you’re looking to grab a quick burger, iced coffee or ice cream, the takeout window attached to the Park Café restaurant has you covered.
Watch some cricket
The Manitoba Cricket Association stages cricket matches on Assiniboine Park’s north, centre, and south pitches. Here’s a link to all the upcoming games.
This is just a snapshot of what’s in store at Assiniboine Park this summer! For more, go to www.assiniboinepark.ca