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Plan your trip to Canada’s cultural hotspot

With Canada now open to fully vaccinated travellers who meet entry requirements, Australian history buffs and cultural junkies eagerly anticipate the day they can soak up Canada’s rich cultural offerings, with Winnipeg set to be an essential stop on the travel itinerary.

As a cultural hotspot for Indigenous immersions, arts, and culinary adventures, the dynamic metropolis in Canada’s central province of Manitoba has become known as Canada’s cultural epicentre.

Travel Manitoba has come up with 10 unmissable cultural immersions you can only have in Winnipeg.

Newly opened in March 2021, Qaumajuq is home to the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world. This first-of-its-kind centre is an innovative cultural campus housed within the Winnipeg Art Gallery, in the heart of the city. Inspired by the light-filled spaces of the new building, Qaumajuq (pronounced KOW-ma-yourk) means “it is bright, it is lit” in Inuktitut. The undulating white stone of Qaumajuq’s façade hovers above the ground, as if floating over the glass-filled lobby. Its abstract quality recalls the vast scale of the North as well as the carved forms of the artwork within its walls.

Diversity Gardens, Assiniboine Park

Launched in July 2021, Diversity Gardens at The Leaf spans 30 acres of gardens and green spaces within Winnipeg’s renowned Assiniboine Park. Explore the natural beauty of six unique domains – Indigenous Peoples Garden, Kitchen Garden, Sensory Garden, Performance Garden, Seasonal Garden, and The Grove, as they evolve and change through the seasons. Click here to discover the vision behind Diversity Gardens and how they will grow to create a place where nature and culture unite.

Read: Canada dreaming: Calling all nature lovers

Assiniboine Park Zoo

Journey to Churchill at Assiniboine Park Zoo features three distinct zones along a fascinating 10-acre route, with interactive displays and audiovisual to reinforce the key messages of biodiversity, climate change and conservation of northern Manitoba. The sanctuary is home to polar bears, wolves, snow owls, muskox, artic fox, ringed seals, harbour seals and caribou. Prepare to be awestruck as you ready your camera while frolicking polar bears swim overhead the Sea Ice Passage, an underwater viewing tunnel. Make sure you check out the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre, a world-class research facility and interpretive gallery, where you’ll learn all about the intriguing Arctic ecosystems.

Hargrave Street Market

Take your tastebuds on a tour of Hargrave Street Market, where you can feast on everything from smashed burgers, pizza and ramen, to sashimi, brews from Lake of the Woods Brewing Company and cocktails from the Rose Bar. Located in the city’s SHED (Sports Hospitality and Entertainment District), this upscale food hall features six kiosks, run by some of the city’s best chefs, restaurants and restauranteurs, as well as renowned boutique grocery store, Mottola Grocery, offering a remarkable selection of imported foods and prepared meals to go.

While you’re there, get into the local spirit by attending a Jets NHL hockey game. Hargrave Street Market is located at True North Square, which is directly across from Canada Life Place, home arena for the Winnipeg Jets. Ice hockey is an institution throughout Canada and Winnipeg has some of the loudest and proudest fans in the country.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

One of Canada’s most famous buildings, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, is an architectural marvel constructed from curved steel and glass. There’s no doubt it is breathtaking to look at, yet its contents are even more powerful. Explore the 10 interactive galleries dedicated to human rights awareness, with exhibits ranging from Canadian Indigenous experiences to genocide, all of which inspire wonder, tears, and hope for a better future.

Read: Canada’s weird – but wonderful – stays

Manitoba Museum

Manitoba Museum is nothing short of a cultural institution in Winnipeg, powerfully showcasing the natural and cultural history of the province. Located in the trendy East Exchange District, the museum is famous for its iconic life-sized fur trade vessel housed in the Nonsuch Gallery. Unearth rare fossils in the Earth History Gallery, be dazzled by the northern lights in the Arctic and Subarctic Gallery, explore Manitoba’s diverse flora and fauna in the Parklands Gallery, and imagine yourself living in a Red River log house in the Prairies Gallery.

The unmissable Hudson’s Bay Company Gallery is the showcase for Manitoba’s national treasure – the Hudson’s Bay Company Museum Collection. One of the world’s most significant historic resources, the exhibition spans three centuries, containing more than 10,000 artefacts telling the story of one of the oldest commercial enterprises in existence.

The Exchange District

Winnipeg’s eclectic Exchange District, established at the turn of the century, is resplendent with pristine heritage buildings constructed during the 20th century. Tours offered by the Exchange District Biz takes in the art scene of this thriving hub, along with the evolution of local building design, from brick-and-mortar warehouses to modernist structures. The historic collection of terracotta and cut stone architecture serves as a popular backdrop for filming movies, including The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Capote. Immerse yourself in Winnipeg’s hippest art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, live music and theatre.

The Forks
You haven’t truly immersed yourself in Winnipeg’s urban culture until you’ve spent a day at The Forks, arguably Winnipeg’s most popular neighbourhood. Situated at the meeting point of the Red and Assiniboine rivers and adorned with murals and sculptures created by Indigenous artists, The Forks is a hub of great eateries, craft breweries, shopping, and pop-up attractions. Enjoy lunch around a communal table at The Common and soak up the sunshine on a River Boat Tour.

During winter, strap on some skates and experience a true Winnipeg tradition as you glide your way along the Red River Mutual Trail, the longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world. Thaw out in the warming huts, where submissions for the Warming Huts: An Art + Architecture Competition on Ice are displayed – a delightful melding of world-class design and art with Winnipeg’s famous winters.

Read: A white Christmas in Canada

St. Boniface neighbourhood

The heart of Manitoba’s francophone community, St. Boniface offers a rich cultural immersion around every corner. Stand beneath the ruins of the imposing façade of Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface and visit Le Musée de Saint Boniface Museum, a National Historic Site that served as the first hospital, orphanage and senior’s home in western Canada. Learn about the unique culture, history and language of the Métis Nation, Indigenous Peoples who originated in the Red River area of what’s now called Manitoba. The museum houses the largest collection of Louis Riel artefacts in the country, recounting the history of Riel, the founder of Manitoba and one of Canada’s most recognisable historical Métis figures.

Visitors staying in the downtown precinct can reach this cultural neighbourhood by crossing the Riel Esplanade pedestrian bridge that connects The Forks to St. Boniface. Shop for locally produced cheese and chocolate, check out the art galleries, and step back in time at Fort Gibraltar, where costumed actors re-enact scenes from the voyageur era.

Hermetic Code Tour
Step inside the Manitoba Legislature Building, with the dazzling Golden Boy sculpture atop its dome. Join the exclusive Hermetic Code Tour led by author and historian Frank Albo to uncover mystical secrets of the building’s architecture so well hidden they have eluded experts for almost a century. Unearth hieroglyphic inscriptions, numerological codes and secret teachings inscribed in a Masonic language. Discover why Egyptian sphinxes, a Medusa head, life-sized bison and cattle skulls adorn the building.

Receive exclusive access to a sacred room where the Queen of England holds ceremonies. Immerse yourself in evil-repelling icons and mysterious symbols such as an eight-pointed star commonly found in ancient temples. Look at the clues and decide for yourself whether the legislature is a recreation of legendary Solomon’s Temple.

Note for all travellers
Travel to Canada is going to be a little different than it was prior to the pandemic, and we encourage all travellers to be fully informed of the pre-entry and on-arrival public health and testing requirements both federally and provincially. This includes the mandatory use of the ArriveCAN app. Travellers should plan for extra time in the lead-up, and upon the arrival, of their trip. For the latest information on travel to Canada including the updated requirements and restrictions, please visit the Government of Canada website.

Are you planning a Canadian adventure? Where’s first on your list? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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