Winnipeg in summer can be a glorious place. We get lots of sunshine and there are plenty of things to do. Many people think of great summer adventures outside of our city, as we have wonderful parks and other outdoor spaces. But don’t be fooled. Downtown has its charms and attractions too.
So, if you are living in or visiting downtown Winnipeg on a fine summer’s day, where should you start?
Let’s start with the obvious. The Forks is wonderful year-round. There is the fabulous indoor market. The Common now serves libations both indoors and out. You can pull up a Muskoka chair and sit around a fire in the evening, or you can walk along the riverfront. You can watch the boats go by, spy on the ducks and geese and even fish right off the Riverwalk. I’ve seen many a catfish pulled out of the water right by the docks. There are beautiful gardens and the Oodena to walk through. It takes an awful long time to get bored at the Forks, and it doesn’t cost you any money to wander around.
The Forks isn’t the only pretty outdoor space downtown. Upper Fort Garry Provincial Park is tiny but lovely. You will find it at the corner of Main St. and Assiniboine. There is a small remnant of the fort, comfortable and original seating, and a lightshow every evening. If you bring your furry friend, you can cross Assiniboine and enter downtown’s Bonnycastle Dog Park. It’s nice to know not every part of downtown is a concrete jungle.
Downtown Winnipeg Farmer’s Market
Looking for fresh produce? You don’t need to leave downtown. During the warm months, you can trek over to the Downtown Winnipeg Farmer’s Market. Its current home is in True North Square. You will find it open every Thursday from 10am to 2:30pm, with all sorts of fresh produce sold from local farmers. You can also find baked goods, jams, honeys, cheese, crafts and other fun stuff. It’s wonderful being able to shop in the open air.
Fitness in the Park
If you overindulge in the baked goods at the market, you might consider joining Fitness in the Park for one of their many sessions. They offer free lunch classes every weekday. They use multiple locations, so this is also a nice way to get to know downtown Winnipeg’s green spaces. Currently, Fitness uses the Legislative grounds, Memorial Park, and the Millennium Library grounds for classes. Their main focuses are yoga and Morfit. It’s nice to get a midday break from being cooped up indoors and it’s a great way to keep fit. To learn more about the program, visit the Downtown Winnipeg Biz site. (www.downtownwinnipegbiz.com)
The Exchange District
On the northeastern edge of downtown, The Exchange District beckons for visitors. You can sign up for one of their historic walking tours (www.exchangedistrict.org/historic-walking-tours/ ). Or you could just take yourself around. There are funky shops to visit and eateries aplenty, from poutine to fancy cuisine. Lose yourself on the winding streets and pretend you are visiting a city from a hundred years ago. The heritage buildings are delightful and a photographer’s dream. We are lucky that Winnipeg’s stalled economic progression from last century left us this beautiful legacy.
Do you like flowers and pretty foliage? Who doesn’t? While you can see some lovely examples at the parks already mentioned, there are two other places downtown that are worth a visit. The Manitoba Legislature and surrounding buildings are lovely all year, but summer adds a pretty splash of colour. From the Leg, you can also walk down to the Riverwalk and enjoy the Assiniboine River.
From the Leg, it’s a short walk to Dalnavert Museum on Carlton St. You may know it for its indoor tours of life in the 1800s, but the outdoor grounds are also worth a viewing. You can do a self-guided garden tour in the summertime. The gardens surround the house and are divided into six distinctive areas. Visit www.friendsofdalnavert.ca for more details.
When you get sick of using your feet, you can head back to where you started, the Forks, for a river tour. Splash Dash is at it again this summer. You can book a ticket on their boats and cruise both the Assiniboine and Red, while learning a dash of history from your driver. Covid has changed their rules a little, but you can still book in with a group for a relaxing tour. Check them out at www.splashdash.ca
Bonus Material Future Summer Events
I know we said seven, but let’s add an eighth reason to visit downtown — patios! Yep, downtown Winnipeg is chock full of them. Big ones, small ones, even rooftop ones. If you are looking for inspiration, check out the recent Patio Fest put on by Downtown Winnipeg Biz for location inspiration.
And finally, while Covid still has many attractions closed, some will return later this summer and others will return next year. The Winnipeg Art Gallery, with its beautiful new Qaumajuq exhibit showcasing Inuit art, will likely be open by summer’s end, as will the Manitoba Museum. Once sporting events are back, it’s always a treat to take in a Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball game.
The Fish have an exceptional baseball park just across from the Forks. I don’t know about you, but I certainly miss stadium popcorn, hot dogs and drinks. Other events, like outdoor movies, might also return, making downtown an even more happening place. And if you live downtown, you don’t even need to worry about parking. That sounds rather ideal to me.