It felt like the second coming of ABBA.

To much fanfare, a media blitz and free $75 gift cards to the first 1,000 shoppers in line, IKEA opened its nearly 400,000-square-foot store in Winnipeg in late November.

The Winnipeg location is Canada’s first new market by the Swedish furniture giant in 30 years. The store is also home to Canada’s biggest warehouse. The new home-decor centre gives visitors one more big reason to head to Winnipeg for shopping and dining.

“We’ve never met with as much enthusiasm and warmth in a market,” says Madeleine Löwenborg-Frick, IKEA Canada’s public relations manager.

The umlaut-loving retailer’s store and warehouse is the anchor tenant in a huge big-box shopping district. When completed, the 80-hectare development will be Winnipeg’s biggest retail project in the last 25 years.

Shop ‘Til You Drop
Families can drop the kids off at the 2,000-square-foot supervised Small Land play area. From there, 55 inspirational room sets, a collection of cool Christmas decor items and a prismatic gift section beckon.

After, or maybe before, a long walk through the store, visitors can fuel up at the 650-seat IKEA restaurant with its iconic $1.00 breakfast or a plateful of the company’s famous Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce.

The IKEA Effect
The addition of IKEA on the Winnipeg retail landscape also shines a spotlight on South Winnipeg, a bustling shopping district where dozens of factory outlets and box stores offer discount prices.

And nearby lives Linden Woods, one of the city’s most vibrant neighbourhoods with 39 acres of lakes and 69 acres of parks with pagodas, fountains, pedestrian bridges and paved trails. Linden Woods is also home to outstanding restaurants, a true silver screen movie experience and enough great shops to check off the gift list in one visit.

Think Inside the Boxes
A few blocks north of IKEA along Kenaston Boulevard brings one to Linden Ridge and Kenaston Commons, a shopaholic’s wonderland of independent shops and big-box stores. Quarks stocks Uggs and other formidable winter footwear. Meanwhile, gift emporium Bowring is filled with Canadian-made gifts from Turkey Hill maple syrup to RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) souvenirs.

Among the big-box outlets, check out uniquely Canadian retailer Home Outfitters, an offshoot of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the oldest corporation in Canada. From hardware at RONA to haute women’s fashion at Winnipeg-based fashion retailer Nygård Fashion Park, there are items for all.

Adventurous friends will appreciate wasabi or chile chocolate bars from the Lindt Chocolate outlet. Indigo Books has more than just stacks of Fifty Shades of Grey. For a non-bookish loved one, pick out a soft pashmina or handbag from the curated boutique gift section.

Where to Chill
When it’s time to take a food break, options abound. Clay Oven has Winnipeggers lining up for its celebrated Thali platter. For Hollywood glam, Moxie’s Grill & Bar offers a menu designed by Alex Chen, former executive chef of the Beverly Hills Hotel. Chen adds seasonally-inspired creative fare like New York steak with warm maple bacon dressing to Moxie’s classic family-friendly menu.

The newly opened Cinema City McGillivray is another magnet in the neighbourhood. The first-run theatre has three VIP screens where viewers 18 and older can sit in lounge-like leather chairs with side tables for cocktails or snacks delivered to your seat. Sip a Cotton Candy martini while watching the new Bond movie.

Nearby Noshing
Further north along Kenaston Boulevard, the stretch of Taylor Avenue between Kenaston and Waverley upholds Winnipeg’s tradition of excellent cosmopolitan dining and food shopping. Piazza de Nardi is an upscale food store and bakery set up like an Italian market place. Carbone serves thin-crust, coal-baked pizza. A pie topped with arugula and prosciutto can’t be beat. Wasabi packs in a stylish crowd for outstanding sushi in a setting worthy of a design magazine. Here, the new style sashimi and tuna nachos are crowd favourites. Dalat is the neighbourhood’s go-to Chinese restaurant.

For more holiday shopping in Winnipeg, check out this two-day Shopping Itinerary. For home shopping ideas, see Winnipeg’s Design and Decor Mecca.

In Winnipeg, Canad Inns Fort Garry on Pembina Highway is just a five-minute drive or cab ride away from South Winnipeg shopping. Families can enjoy the waterslide while couples or girlfriends can make a fun night out at Celebrations, a dinner theatre with pizzazz.

Winnipeg has always been a fun place for North Americans seeking a shopping and dining weekend getaway. The addition of IKEA delivers bigger and better fun. For travel information on Manitoba and Winnipeg, visit Travel Manitoba or Tourism Winnipeg websites.