Why You Need to Visit Manitoba’s Assiniboine Park

Assiniboine Park Zoo
Ben Jaworskyj
Ben Jaworskyj

Think beyond grassy field and swing sets. Assiniboine Park is a beautiful, massive urban playground in Winnipeg that truly stretches the definition of “park” by a lot.

 

It’s a place with an interactive zoo, huge forests, a historic pavilion, hundreds of acres of landscaped gardens, sculpture gardens, a mini railroad, and an outdoor theater. Spend an entire day — or two — here.

Get up close and personal with polar bears at the zoo

Manitoba is famed for polar bears and white, chirpy beluga whales. You can see the largest bears on earth at the zoo’s acclaimed Journey to Churchill exhibit. Visitors stand under a large glass dome as the creatures frolic and dive right above. Also on display are over 200 other species including seals, muskox, Arctic fox, moose, and wolves.

Explore gardens galore

Romantic and meandering, the English Garden’s sterling reputation precedes it. There are thousands of showy perennials and annuals carpeting three acres, labeled with interesting information. There’s also the serene, art and sculpture-filled Leo Mol Sculpture Garden, which is a true local gem that honors a world-renowned artist from Winnipeg. There's something special about seeing art mix with nature so organicially. Obviously, spring bursts with blooms, particularly during the annual tulip festival, but the gardens are lovely any time of year for strolling in the fresh air.

Discover a nature-lovers’ refuge

The park encompasses one Canada’s largest urban forests, the 700-acre Assiniboine Forest. It’s a popular recreation area with about three miles of woodchip trails. The popular Preston Trail passes through a wetlands area, ideal for bird watching. For an easy walk through forest and meadows, take the half-mile paved Sagimay Nature Trail. Look out for deer, birds, and woodland creatures. Then pause to relax by the glassy pond.

Partake in plenty of activities

Assiniboine Park has the requisite playgrounds (including the amazingly fun Nature's Playground) and playing fields, including cricket and baseball. In summer and fall, walk, jog, cycle, or rollerblade the universal-access path. In winter and spring, cross-country ski, skate on the pond, or toboggan. You can also ride a steam locomotive, sign up for a guided tour of the zoo, Pavilion Gallery Museum, gardens, or Conservatory, or just relax on a bench at the duck pond. Afterwards, grab a bite at the Park Café.

Immerse yourself in diversity

Canada's Diversity Gardens are set to be a main attraction in the park — and they will be especially cozy in the fall and winter. Coming to life in the form of four cornerstones — The Leaf, The Indigenous Peoples' Garden, The Cultural Mosaic Gardens, and The Grove — plants and exploring the country's diversity will be the main focus of these intricately crafted spaces. Explore interpretive themes, like food and sustainability, while taking in the beauty of nature.

Enjoy al fresco summer entertainment

If ballet in the park appeals to you, you’ve come to the right place. Royal Winnipeg's Ballet in the Park, happens annually for three nights at the end of July, and is a crowd favorite. There's also Lyric Theatre that puts on concerts, performances, movies under the stars, plays, and art exhibitions on the big outdoor stage in summertime, June through August. In all, there are 30 programmed events, plus weekly music inside and jazz outside in the sculpture garden. The best part: It’s all free.

Find out all there is to do in Manitoba at the Travel Manitoba website.

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