There are always lots of options for summer fun in Manitoba. I'm here to tell you that Spruce Woods Provincial Park should be your choice the next time you are thinking about a camping weekend! The park is conveniently located about 2 hours west of Winnipeg and less than an hour from Brandon. Grab the whole family and head over to the Kiche Manitou campground, which will be your base and the central point for all the activities on offer throughout your visit. Here are 5 of the best ways to entertain the family while you're there (but believe me, this list barely scratches the surface)!
Stay in a yurt
My co-worker, Joey, wrote the absolute best post about #yurtlife a couple of weeks ago so I'm not even going to try to offer anything new here. Do yourself a favour: read his post here to learn everything you need to know (and more!) about camping in a yurt. His description about yurts is 100% accurate, and in my opinion (like his), this is the very best way to camp. You get the best of both worlds... a lot of wilderness with just a touch of comfort. Perfection. Book early because there are only 10 yurts in the campground at Spruce Woods.
Play a round (or two!) of mini-golf at the Pine Fort IV course
Right around the Wagon Wheel (hole 10), my 9-year old son emphatically declared that this was the hardest mini-golf course he'd EVER played. This was right after he'd taken 7 shots on a par 3. This was spoken like the true pro he is - he has played 4 other courses in his life, after all.
Despite his struggles, he loved it and wanted to play a second round as soon as we had finished the first. It was a fun, relaxing way to spend an hour or so, and the beautifully treed course gave a bit of a reprieve from the hot sun. The cost is a very reasonable $7/adult, $5/child. Insider tip: if you don't have cash on hand, you can pay with debit at the campground store and take your receipt to the mini-golf desk to get your clubs.
Wagon trail ride at Spirit Sands
There is no doubt that the hiking trails at Spruce Woods are second to none. But what if you don't actually want to hike? Maybe it's too hot? Maybe you don't have enough time? Maybe it's a bit too much effort or you're with a group who have varying levels of mobility? The answer: Spirit Sands Wagon Outfitters! Hop onboard a covered wagon and let two regal Percheron horses be your guides. This 8-km trail will take about 2 hours round-trip. There are two stops along the way - the first is at the sand dunes, the second is the Devil's Punchbowl. Each stop is about 15 minutes and gives you just enough time to take in the view and get a few Instagram-worthy shots of this beautiful "desert" in the prairie. Another insider tip: despite the sand dunes, cacti and hot temperatures, Spirit Sands isn't actually a desert. It gets too much moisture (300-500mm/year)!
Learn something new at the Interpretive Centre
There are always activities happening around the park, like guided hikes, campfire talks and game nights at the amphitheatre. Check the park schedule for current offerings while you're there. But every day, the Interpretive Centre is open and it has something for everyone: taxidermy specimens of the various wildlife from the area, the history of the park, the science and geology of the surrounding lands and much more. Behind the centre is a workshop that features live skinks (you'll have to look closely - they're skittish and love to hide from prying eyes!), a bullhead snake and a couple of other reptiles. There's lots of table activities set up for kids to keep them entertained for hours!
Hang out at Kiche Manitou beach
The main beach at the Kiche Manitou campground is a true family playground. The water is clear and has a very gentle grade, allowing even the littlest toddlers to splash around without giving their parents anxiety of getting too deep. The sand, though not powder soft and white, has the consistency of that trendy "magnetic" version, making it perfect for sand castles. There's a dog swim section for your fur-babies, and for your human babies (and for adults too) there's a life jacket loaner station for anyone who wants that extra safety near the water. There are no rental fees or deposits - just grab the size you need and give them back when you're done. There are also peddle boats and canoes available to rent nearby ($20/boat/hour).
The best part? Spruce Woods Provincial Park is an all-season park, so if you can get out there in summer, there is always a lot to do in fall and winter.