How to Weekend in the Wheat City

Posted November 10, 2023 | Author Jillian Recksiedler

I thought I knew the Wheat City. With family roots in the fields of southwest Manitoba, I spent a fair amount of time in Brandon growing up: holiday breaks visiting cousins, an annual outing to the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, and a handful of high school sporting events all framed my experience of the city.

City of Brandon downtown in winter

The past few years, I’ve been itching to go back. It may be an age thing; the older I get the more nostalgic I’ve become. But just as I have grown up, I’ve been curious how Manitoba’s second largest city has come of age, too.

I wanted to go beyond the city’s agricultural heritage, and I discovered exactly what I suspected: an under-the-radar arts and culture scene that’s totally worth planning a weekend getaway to explore.

An emerging downtown

Colourful heritage buildings line the streets of downtown Brandon

Brandon’s historic downtown is like a shy cousin to Winnipeg’s Exchange District. A handsome collection of heritage architecture – centred around Rosser Avenue and 10th Street – is a testament to the Wheat City’s significant role in settling the Canadian Prairies at the turn of the 20th century. In addition to ornate façades, vivid ghost signs – advertisements painted on the sides of buildings that have faded with time – are everywhere you turn.

The vacant McKenzie Seeds tower keeps a watchful eye over the city – a nod to its agriculture roots, but also a contrast to what’s happening at street level, 100 years later. Young entrepreneurs – many of whom have travelled the world and are choosing to return to their hometown – have caught on to downtown’s charm and are setting up shop. Affordability, combined with a steady population (with increasingly cultured tastes) means a palpable energy is returning to the Wheat City’s core.

Be sure to check out Chez Angela when in town, a rustic bakery that causes a buzz in the restored Bass Building on 10th Street. Fifteen minutes before opening, I found myself at the end of a long lineup of eager locals. When the doors opened, we were embraced by the sweet smell rising from the baking racks, a cheerful brick-and-beam interior, and relaxing live cello music.

Locals-in-the-know snatched up loaves of Angela’s signature Wheat City sourdough and baguettes (prepared in traditional French method using flax linen, I’m told). While my husband and I started our morning modestly with a slice of house-made quiche, we soon gorged on an almond croissant, a pecan danish, a cinnamon pull-apart roll and the most robust chocolate chip cookie in Manitoba: made with buckwheat and toasted walnuts. Wife-and-husband team Angie and James Chambers (she is the baker, while he is the host) have a from-scratch, local-first philosophy and the results, judging by the steady stream of visitors, fulfill a craving in the city.

Brandon’s creative side

We headed down Rosser Avenue to check out the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, the city’s well-reputed community arts organization that we had heard so much about over the years. Here we spent the rest of the morning at the main gallery’s exhibit viewing a poignant and personal collection of work.

Colourful murals are pop on buildings downtown, too. Brandon Tourism offers an online, interactive mural walking tour map so visitors can plan a self-guided tour of the art in any season.

We decided to head to Crow’s General Store, a hidden photo op in the woods at the far east end of Rosser Avenue along the Assiniboine River. We strolled and took pictures among the impressive collection of antiques and curiosities. From vintage cars and bikes to sewing machines and typewriters to a faux facade of an old post office, we were transported back in time

Gotta Eat Here

Worker inside an Ethiopian Restaurant in Brandon
Tana Ethiopian

The dining scene in Manitoba's second largest city has serious momentum, and we could have planned an entire itinerary around which local restaurant to nosh at next. Lady of the Lake offers fresh fare in a funky space while Komfort Kitchen is the go-to for a classic Sunday brunch buffet. Multicultural cuisine is also on every corner - take your pick of Chili Chutney for Indian, Sabor Latino for a mash up of Latin cuisine, or Tana's for Ethiopian. Black Wheat Brewing Company and Section 6 Brewing Co. are the city's beloved local taprooms and worth a stop when exploring downtown.

Retreat to Nature

Our home base for our adventure was located about 15 minutes south of the city. While there is no shortage of hotels in Brandon, we opted to stay off the beaten path to where a Jacuzzi and bottle of bubbly were awaiting us at a tiny cabin in the Brandon Hills. Nature’s Hideaway is a couple’s getaway: masterfully crafted wood cabins, hand-built by the owners, and tucked away on the family acreage that overlooks kilometres of rolling farmland.

Welcome sign at Brandon Hills
A sign of walking trails in Brandon Hills

The solitude is welcoming. Nature’s Getaway is the perfect location when weekending in Brandon. Guests can opt to veg at the cabin, spying on pond life from the balcony with binoculars; hike and mountain bike the network of trails at the nearby Brandon Hills Wildlife Management Area, or head into the city, as we did, to check out its downtown Renaissance.

Brandon has grown up. And if it has been years since you returned to the Wheat City, now's the time.

Travel Manitoba staff was hosted by Brandon Tourism, who did not review or approve the content of this story.

About The Author

Hi, I'm Jillian, a marketer, communicator, traveller and Manitoba flag waver. Growing up in rural Manitoba during the '80s means I have a penchant for daytrips, maps (the paper kind), and prairie sunsets. I never tire of sharing stories about my home.

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