Rodin and Hiking: A Winnipeg Winter

By Susan Huebert   Trail Canada

The nights are frosty and the cooler days now vastly outnumber the warm ones. In lakes and ponds, the ducks and geese are gathering, and occasionally a “V” of birds passes overhead. Signs of the end of summer are multiplying, and classes are in full swing for students of all ages. In Winnipeg, as in many other Canadian cities, fall is a time when people return from their summer travel to settle down for another season, getting back to the daily routines they put on hold for the warm summer months. Yet there are still many events to attract visitors to Manitoba's capital city in the fall and winter months; for activities ranging from sports to bird-watching to attending concerts, Winnipeg is the place to be in the coming season.

Honking geese flying in formation, quacking ducks that whistle by as they flap their short wings furiously, and birds of all sizes and colours gathering to prepare for their fall migration is a sight to behold. Bird watchers may wish to take advantage of the unique opportunities the Winnipeg area provides for watching the spectacle. Just a twenty-minute drive north of Winnipeg is Oak Hammock Marsh, an area of wetlands where birds gather by the thousands to prepare for their long trek. With vast areas of open marshlands and an interpretive centre providing information on the birds or a place to warm up, Oak Hammock Marsh is good place for nature-lovers to visit. For those who prefer to stay in the city, Fort Whyte Centre in the southern end of Winnipeg is a good alternative. Guided hikes and lakeside dinners to watch the gathering flocks of birds will appeal to many visitors. Another place for nature lovers to visit is Birds Hill Provincial Park, just a short drive north of Winnipeg, where hiking, cross country skiing, and camping are among the activities available to visitors.

Sometimes, the best attractions in a city are the ones where visitors can come and go at their own pace. For people who do not have the time or inclination for long hikes or bird-watching, the city parks and historic areas may satisfy an interest in nature without wearing holes in their shoes. Assiniboine Park has attractions for the whole family, with an extensive zoo featuring a white bison among other animals, a conservatory featuring displays of seasonal flowers, the Leo Moll sculpture garden, and outdoor activities for summer and winter. Large or small parks and natural areas are dotted around the city, providing visitors and residents with space for recreation, relaxation, and the chance to see the vibrant fall colours. Buildings and museums can also be worthwhile to see. At the Manitoba Legislature, visitors learn about the province's history and government, and the Exchange District's classic stone buildings provide insights into changing architectural trends. The Manitoba Museum and Planetarium are also worth a visit. For people who are willing to brave the cold of February, the Festival du Voyageur is a good chance to enjoy history and culture. A celebration of the French Canadian contributions to life in this country, the festival features snow sculpture contests, a chance to try different cuisines, and many activities for the whole family. The weather may still be cold, but even blizzards are unlikely to dampen enthusiasm for the events going on at sites along the Red River.

Rivers have always played an important role in Canadian life, and they continue to do so even in the age of tourism and shopping. At The Forks, visitors can see just how essential waterways have been for life in Winnipeg. Located at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, the area combines history, nature, shopping, and ample opportunities for eating in the nine-acre area. Interpretive displays and sculptures along a riverside path give an idea of the vital importance rivers had in the formation of Canada and the special significance of the Upper Fort Garry area, while the Wall Through Time gives an overview of the region's varied history. For people who prefer indoor activities to outdoor pursuits, there is always enough to do. The Forks Market and Johnston Terminal provide food of all kinds, a farmers' market, and small shops with everything from Christmas decorations to clothes and toys. A trip to The Forks is also a good chance to visit the Travel Manitoba office, located at the end of the Johnston Terminal.

Sports fans will want to book trips to Winnipeg this season. The International Hockey League game between the Manitoba Moose and Milwaukee at the MTS Centre on November 25 is only one of the events of its kind going on, and fans will want to check on hockey, curling, and other sports events in the city. In football, the premier events of the year will take place on November 19 when Winnipeg hosts the Grey Cup at the Canad Inns Stadium. Which teams will be there this year?

When the snow flies and the weather is too cold to linger outside, what better way is there to spend an evening than by going to a concert? Winnipeg will host many musical events in the coming season. The Centennial Concert Hall on Main Street is often the first choice for concert-goers, although many other venues are also popular. The Eckhart-Grammatté Hall in the University of Winnipeg, for example, often holds classical concerts such as the Vogler String Quartet's performance this November. People whose tastes run to more modern music may want to check on the groups performing at the Convention Centre, MTS Place, and other venues around the city, where concerts by James Blunt and Roger Hodgson are only two of the musical events coming to Winnipeg.

Theatre and ballet are also well represented in Manitoba's capital city. Aficionados of ballet will want to keep their schedules open for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's renditions of A Cinderella Story or a twenty-first century adaptation of Mozart's classic ballet, The Magic Flute. Andrew Lloyd Weber's dark and dramatic musical, Phantom of the Opera, has almost finished its Winnipeg run, but there may still be some tickets available before its run at the Centennial Concert Hall is over on October 21. The Manitoba Theatre Centre, the Warehouse Theatre, and the other venues around the city have full schedules, playing everything from The Tempest to Driving Miss Daisy. The Manitoba Theatre for Young People at the Forks also has plans for a wide range of plays geared for the younger generation.

For many people, a quiet afternoon at the art gallery is a good way to while away some time. The Winnipeg Art Gallery downtown will have several interesting exhibitions this winter, with items of interest for many people. The display of Manitoba Modernist Architecture constructed between 1945 and 1975 will run until the end of October. Inuit art, as usual, occupies a prominent place in the gallery, with a special display of sculptures running until December, while an exhibition of the Impressionist sculptor Auguste Rodin's works will be in place until the new year. Sculptures, paintings, and much more will attract visitors to the gallery.

The coming of winter is no barrier to enjoying Winnipeg this season. From spectator sports to hiking and bird watching, from music to theatre to shopping, the city has activities to appeal to all visitors in the coming months.

Events listed are for 2006. For up to date event listing for Winnipeg visit www.canadaevents.ca

Winnipeg Features

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