Romper Room on the Prairies
Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA - New family travel attractions in Winnipeg include the $10 million-dollar renovation of the Manitoba Children's Museum, a fantastical Children's Nature and Adventure Playground at Assiniboine Park and, for the tweens, the newly built Adrenaline Adventures outdoor park and wakeboarding course.
Manitoba Children's Museum Makeover
The Children's Museum celebrated its 25th birthday in June with the grand opening of a new facility that offers 33,000 square feet of fun-filled exhibit space including 12 exciting ‘discovery learning' galleries (double the previous number), spruced up educational rooms, and a newly added Welcome Centre.
Kiddies will not find ‘do-not-touch' touch signs here. The 12 new galleries, created by Montreal's Toboggan Design, are all hands-on. and a series of open-ended cubes, somewhat like interactive play structures meant to both entertain and educate.
Upon entering the newly renovated Children's Museum "the only thing people will recognize is the train, a 1952 diesel locomotive that is the spine of the museum," says Lisa Dziedzic, Director of Marketing and Communications. That said, even "Junction 9161" has been revamped with a new paint job to the train's interior, one side of the engine house replaced with Plexiglas, and a new tower inside the locomotive where children can climb up to look out the top and see the entire museum.
While the train's lookout tower is impressive, it's the Lasagna Lookout that is the biggest hit with the kids. They climb through a five-layered structure that includes a slab Swiss cheese, a spaghetti forest (made of foam noodles) and a rigatoni roller before getting to the top. They'll really be hungry after this adventure!
Other galleries include the Illusion Tunnel that draws children into a giant psychedelic slide and tests their perceptions; the Tumble Zone, a child-friendly construction zone of 5,000 large Lego-like blocks where kids use their hands or a crane to create towering cityscapes; and the Splash Lab complete with an enormous wall of bubbles and tables where young scientists can experiment with water and their imaginations.
The Milk Machine, contained within a giant cow cube, is the place to learn all about dairy cows and follow the journey - through a series of air tubes - of how milk moves from the cow to the carton.
Over at the Pop M'Art, a "creation station," kids can "shop" for art supplies and create their own little masterpieces. Children also create their own art at the Mellow Marsh where a touch screen acts like a palette to drop and drag colors into abstract paintings that can be emailed home to the artist. The Marsh also allows youngsters to walk under giant leaves and flowers.
And for wee visitors, the Tot Spot is a toddler-exclusive space where little ones can tumble and play in a miniature version of the museum.
To make the galleries even more interactive the museum has added a "cast of characters" who will engage visitors young and old, answer questions and help them enjoy the space. In addition to The Mayor, who holds court at Time Squared, the colourful clock tower and central meeting place, there's Field Trip Kid, who is perpetually exploring the museum and all its wonders, as well as The Artist, The Chef, The Conductor and The Scientist.
"Families have been waiting for this (new renovation)," says Dziedzic. "We hope to become the leading family-friendly area."
The Children's Museum attracts about 135,000 visitors each year, and to date has welcomed more than 2.5 million children of all ages.
The Children's Museum is open year-round, with summer hours from 9:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. daily. Admission is $10 per person, for all ages, and annual memberships are $40 per person.
For more information call 204-924-4000 or visit www.childrensmuseum.com
Whimsy in the Woods
Part of Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park $200-million redevelopment, the Children's Nature Playground is a whimsical outdoor space, set in natural surroundings of two acres of trees and flower, that will make all ages feel like a kid again.
"This playground is unlike any other in all of Canada and we are so thrilled to hand it over to the children and families who can now make it their own," says Margaret Redmond, President & CEO of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy.
As you enter the Children's Garden through a storybook-like mini blue door you are transported into a technicolor world of wonder that's part Alice in Wonderland and part life-size Snakes and Ladders game.
In this bold and beautiful outdoor area, children can let their imaginations (and bodies) run wild as they are greeted by of troupe of topiary frogs holding musical instruments and a wooden Loch Ness monster that guards the garden.
Children can explore a giant robin's nest made of reclaimed wood, walk through tunnels of willow boughs or climb the rope ladders to the sky-high crow's nest slide.
Huge twisted boughs shaped like ladders stretch upwards from flower beds of hyacinths and pansies, and there are gentle rolling green hills of rubber where kids can walk, run or sit, before testing out the rock climbing wall, slithering down long red slides, or filling up pails at the sand and water stations.
And for the young-at-heart the saucer-shaped swings can accommodate adults and children.
And it's a year-round, too. In winter, snow and ice will transform the Children's Garden and Nature Playground into a frosty wonderland with snow forts, toboggan runs, ice sculptures and outdoor fire pits.
In the summer, the Nature Playground is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Admission is free.
For more information call 204-927-6000 or visit www.assiniboinepark.ca
For kids and adults looking for active fun that gets their hearts pumping, the newly constructed Adrenaline Adventures outdoor park offers a cable wakeboarding course, towering ropes course, and beach volleyball courts.
On this unique wakeboarding course, the boarder is pulled by an overhead cable system that controls the speed, rather than by a boat. There's a training lake for beginners, and the more advanced can wakeboard, water ski or kneeboard on two larger lakes surrounded by six cable towers that will get participants up to speed on the water or jumping over the wake.
For those who prefer their adrenaline rush off the water, the five-storey high-ropes course has been described as a "jungle gym for adults." There are two levels of challenges, and thrill-seekers can climb to one of two platforms, at about 30 feet and 45 feet respectively, via two different rock climbing walls or by scurrying up a huge rope net. (Unfortunately, you cannot take the stairs.)
From the top platform, adventurers (clipped into safety harnesses and a cable system) can traverse the course by stepping on a series of moving boards and tubes, and swinging on ropes "Tarzan-style" to move across.
Courageous types who feel the need for speed can also exit the top platform on one of three zip lines that will take high-flyers 500 feet across the open prairie.
Children as young as 4 years old have climbed the rope net, but there is a 40-pound minimum for the ropes course, and everyone must take 15 minute of dry land training on how to use the clips, harnesses and equipment. "No one goes without training," says owner Jason Rohs, and everyone must wear a safety helmet.
This winter, thousands of people will enjoy snow tubing on the site's giant hill, and Adrenaline Adventures will one of the only places in the world to offer cable snowboarding, says Rohs. And there will also be skating on the small lake.
Summer hours are Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. to dusk; Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to dusk.
For more information visit www.adrenalinemb.com