The prairie skies come alive in the summer and urge you to explore every last moment of sunlight. Whether you fly into Winnipeg, Manitoba and enjoy the city’s burgeoning food, art, and culture scene, or stop through on your way across the country, there are plenty of things to see and do within a few hours of Manitoba’s major city. Here’s where to start.
Blue skies, green fields, and open roads characterize this lush area of Manitoba. About 2 hours south of Winnipeg, the Pembina Valley is home to a variety of quaint towns that welcome you to explore. Head to Altona to discover the sunflower capital of Canada, stop by Carman for the annual Fiddle Festival or the Tempo Festival for the Arts, and check out the Pembina Thresherman’s Museum that features a historical village, giving you a peek into the past.
There’s also plenty of nature to discover — from marshes and plains, to lakes and cliffs — and even a provincial park. The Pembina Valley Provincial Park is home to trails, vistas, and the beautiful plains of Southern Manitoba.
Spruce Woods Provincial Park
Head to the west (just over 2 hours to the west of Winnipeg, to be specific), and you’ll find yourself in Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Just outside of Glenboro (home to Sara the Camel — a must-visit for a photo opp), you’ll find this park that’s home to desert-like conditions in the middle of Manitoba (we hope the camel makes more sense now)! Full of sand dunes and even some species of cacti, you’ll be transported to something completely different than the typical prairie fields you’d expect.
To make this a true day trip, take a hike or a tour of the park (you can even take a tour in a horse-drawn covered wagon) and visit the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a beautifully mirage-like pond.
Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site
Thirty minutes is all you need to go back in time in Manitoba. About 17 miles northeast of Winnipeg, you’ll find the Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site that’s home to 300 years of history. Originally a fur trading post, the area is now a place to discover what prairie life was like in the past. Enjoy guided tours, live reenactments, and an exploration of both First Nations culture and the work of Hudson’s Bay Company employees from long ago.
After you’re finished living in the past, head a bit further away from Winnipeg to Selkirk Park. Here, you’ll find a riverside space that features camping spots, boating areas, picnic tables, and even an outdoor swimming pool. Stop for an afternoon picnic, then head back to Winnipeg to enjoy one of their many tasty restaurants and cafes.
Have you always wanted to go to Iceland? We know it might not be exactly the same, but Gimli, a community 1 hour north of Winnipeg, is said to be home to the largest Icelandic population outside of Iceland. And the roots show at this great stop for a day trip. Visit the New Iceland Heritage Museum to learn more about the community’s roots, then head to a local shop, like Amma’s Original Eatery, to try some traditional Icelandic treats.
Other great things to check out while in Gimli? A beautiful boardwalk the runs along the shores of Lake Winnipeg, a bar (any bar!) that serves the World’s Best Whisky that’s distilled in the town, or the annual Icelandic Summer Festival. A must-do before you leave? Snap a selfie with the Viking statue in Harbour Park.
Grand Beach Provincial Park
Home to over 100,000 lakes, Manitoba might just be your next beach destination. Okay, we know it’s not the tropics, but if you’re visiting Winnipeg, you definitely need to stop by Grand Beach Provincial Park for a day.
One hour outside of town, this spot is home to one of the area’s most popular beaches. Lay your towel on the sand, walk along the boardwalk, or head out on the water to go windsurfing or sailing. Essentially, if the weather’s good, this beach is packed and is definitely a place to enjoy the prairie summer.
Looking for more adventure? Head to Riding Mountain National Park for your fill of nature or Lac Du Bonnet to see a dam built in 1906. No matter which direction you drive, you’ll find something worth the trip in Manitoba.
For more inspiration, visit the Travel Manitoba website.