Winnipeg/Exchange District

Autumn is a great time for a visit to Winnipeg: temperatures are moderate, summer tourist season’s died down, and the changing scenery and foliage makes for some lovely touring and stops in the Manitoba capital.

Winnipeg/Louis Riel commemoration Winnipeg/St. Boniface Cathedral
[Winnipeg/Louis Riel commemoration, St. Boniface Cathedral]

Here’s a few of my favourite discoveries during my recent trip. Flight time’s about three hours from Vancouver (I flew nonstop with Air Canada).

Winnipeg/Journey to Churchill

The Assiniboine Park and Zoo may have recently undergone a beautiful upgrade after receiving $20 million in donations, however it’s the Polar bears that have taken over as the star attractions since the Journey to Churchill exhibit opened just over a year ago. 

Winnipeg/Journey to Churchill

Assiniboine’s the only facility that’s equipped to take in polar bears – Journey to Churchill takes up 10 acres of the 80-acre zoo. 

The zoo team works with Conservation Manitoba who often track polar bears being threatened by wolves. One of these three cubs was brought in from Toronto, due to lack of space. 

Winnipeg/Journey to Churchill

As you approach the glass curved tunnel, anticipation builds with kids and adults alike waiting with cameras and smart phones at the ready.

Winnipeg/Journey to Churchill

And then a splash! and the bears begin to glide above our heads as we gaze in wonderment. It’s really an awesome experience and rare treat, getting this close to the polar bears! 

Winnipeg/Journey to Churchill

If you’re lucky, some of the adult beard will walk over towards the Tundra Grill, particularly during the Breakfast with the Bears hour. For a solitary animal, these polar bears can be quite social. According to the trainers, positive reinforcement is part of the zoo’s program. Trust is built up between trainer and bear as the bears receive daily attention along with their meat and fish-based meals. Fun foods include lettuce and berries. 

Winnipeg 2015-40

Rescue and newly-acquired cubs (averaging 500 lbs.) are first brought to a transition area until they’re comfortable with the regular enclosure spaces. Polar bears are also grouped together according to age. Some bears can live up to 40 years or more. 

Don’t forget to visit Manitoba’s other Subarctic region animals and while you’re at it, get a taste of the town of Churchill just beyond the polar bears and seal enclosures. 

Assiniboine Zoo and Park is located at 2595 Roblin Boulevard in Winnipeg. 

Photo by Ariane Colenbrander

Offered through the Downtown Winnipeg Biz association, A Moveable Feast Food and Cycle Tour is a wonderful four-and-a-half hour excursion through through the downtown core, sampling at some of Winnipeg’s newest culinary gems as well as standard favourites. We began our tour at the Downtown Winnipeg Biz office to pick up a couple of cruiser bikes for the evening.

Winnipeg/Provencher Bridge

This tour includes both a guide and bike valets who awaited us at each stop, ready to grab our bikes and place them on a holding rack while we enjoyed the nibbles. The entire staff share fun tidbits about the city and are generally just great fun to be with for a night!

Photo by Ariane Colenbrander Photo by Ariane Colenbrander
[Squash & BBQ pulled pork Bahn Mi at Nicks on Broadway; New White pizza at Carbone Pizza]

Our tour took us to six stops:
Fools & Horses Cafe, 379 Broadway (charcuterie and wine/beer)
Nicks on Broadway, 287 Broadway (Squash Bahn Mi with pulled pork)
Carbone Coal Fired Pizza, 260 St. Mary (New White and Calabrese flat-bread, coal-fired pizzas)
Clay Oven at Shaw Park, 1 Portage Avenue East (third floor), East Indian appetizers
Promenade Cafe and Wine Bistro, 130 Provencher Boulevard, wine 101 tasting with mushroom crostini sampling (I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast here with a great view over the river)
Yellow Dog Tavern, 386 Donald Street (a ton of classic bar food to wind down our evening)

Winnipeg/Provencher Bridge

Cycling over the Esplanade Riel at night was a super cool highlight of the evening, especially on the way back into town with that imposing view of the Museum for Human Rights.

Winnipeg/Emptyful light sculpture
[Winnipeg/Emptyful light sculpture]

You’ll not only get a taste of Winnipeg’s culinary scene but also gain an appreciation for its lively cultural and arts scene as a few stops en route point out some pretty cool city sights, such as the playful Emptyful light sculpture! Downtown Winnipeg Biz also offers wine tours, beer tours, patio crawls and Sunday breakfast tours.

Barley Brothers

Housed in a former Earls location, Barley Brothers has the distinct honour of having more taps than anywhere else in Canada (yes, I confirmed with beer manager Raj Maniar, more than Craft Beer Market in Vancouver and Calgary). 

150 taps to be precise. Their focus is on North American beers, with a few from Mexico, Germany, Iceland, Norway and Belgium. The ever-rotating tap list means Raj is busy printing out new beer menus every few days, however this destination craft beer and dining spot draws in locals, sports fans and university students alike. This is the second Barley Brothers location (opened 11 months ago; the first location was opened a couple of years ago and has 72 taps). 

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers play in the stadium just a 10-minute walk down the road. 

As far as going through that massive beer list? I went straight for the IPAs and ordered a flight of four, five-ounce pours. 

Barley Brothers sampler
[Little Scrapper IPA, Paddock Wood 606, Dieu du Ciel Moralité, Flying Monkey Smashbomb Atomic]

Cocktails and wine are also available. 

Barley Brothers

The restaurant tries to source local products for its menu wherever possible. Look for a comfort food-focused offering with burgers, soups, salads, flatbreads, fish n’ chips – all the goods that go great with beer!

The food menu gets a main overhaul every six months that rotates with a seasonal menu change. Barley Brothers are also the guys behind other Winnipeg establishments including Carnaval Brazilian, Prairie 360, Sherbrook Street Delicatessen and Hermanos Restaurant and Wine Bar. 

Barley Brothers are located at Polo Park (655 Empress Street) and Stadium (2005 Pembina Highway) in Winnipeg. 

My food and bike tour, zoo entry and meals were courtesy of Tourism Winnipeg. Opinions, as always, are my own.

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