As you stay close to home this summer, show Manitoba some love by diving into some prairie history. There is no better place to learn and understand our province's bygone pioneer era than at a rural heritage village, which are the heart of many communities across southern Manitoba.
Fort La Reine Museum
Portage La Prairie - Treaty 1 territory
Why go? This 5-acre village of 25+ buildings showcase life during three distinct periods of Manitoba’s history: Indigenous and European relations during the fur trade, the trailblazing pioneer life, and the industrious era of agriculture and railway.
The statement piece: every National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21), the museum works with neighbouring First Nations to raise an authentic grassland teepee that is available for viewing throughout the summer.
What’s old is cool again: Fort La Reine runs many cool heritage events (ice cream making, anyone?) One of their most popular is a vintage tea party tour where guests get a private tour and party in a heritage home of their choice. As the tea is served, they are taught proper Victorian etiquette and, of course, dainties are passed around.
Manitoba Agricultural Museum
Austin - Treaty 1 territory
Why go? Dedicated solely to agricultural history in Manitoba, this museum attracts farming fanatics from around the world namely for its massive collection of antique machinery. Young or old, anyone who is fascinated by motorized vehicles will fall in love with all the rare vintage tractors.
The statement piece: The Carrothers’ House is the landmark of the quaint one-street Homesteader’s Village. The Carrothers family was instrumental in the museum’s creation, donating the land on which it stands. The house is a fine example of an early 1900 farmhouse typically found on the Canadian prairies.
What’s old is cool again: Try to arrange a visit when the museum’s interpretive staff is offering any of their hands-on workshops so the kids can learn heritage activities such as wool spinning, ink pen dipping and butter making.
Mennonite Heritage Village
Steinbach - Treaty 1 territory
Why go? For a glimpse into the agrarian lifestyle of Russian Mennonites in southern Manitoba, tour the streets in the village and be transported back to the late 1800s. Explore a classic housebarn that kept the horses in close quarters to the family, and an operational Dutch windmill common in Mennonite settlements to harness the wind to mill grain.
The statement piece: After a morning of exploring, head to Livery Barn, the on-site restaurant for authentic Mennonite fare you can’t get anywhere else such as vereniki smothered in schmauntfatt, and plueme moss for dessert.
What’s old is cool again: go to the general store - the heart of any village - and purchase old-fashioned candy and throw-back gifts such a knit scarves, embroidery cards and tea accessories that are all crafted by locals around the area.
Multicultural Heritage Museum
Arborg & district - Treaty 2 territory
Why go? Located along the shores of the picturesque Icelandic River in Manitoba's Interlake, this multicultural heritage museum tells the story of the Icelandic, Polish and Ukrainian pioneers who learned to live, work and build a community together with the Indigeneous peoples in the region.
The statement piece: Check out the log house belonging to Trausti Vigfusson, a man who moved to the area known as New Iceland from (old) Iceland in 1898. The home was originally built in the village of Lundi (now Riverton) but was dismantled and moved on a horse-drawn wagon to the Geysir district in 1902. Luckily, with a bit of foresight, the home was easy to rebuild as Trausti marked each hewn log with Roman numerals - the remnants of which can still be seen today.
What’s old is cool again: Ukrainian pioneer John Hykawy constructed the museum's wind mill in a style known as a capp mill. The design was an eight-sided frame structure, with six sails, a windshaft and a roof assembly that would be turned into the wind. And except for the iron and belting, it was constructed entirely from local materials.
Pembina Thresherman's Museum
Winkler & Morden - Treaty 1 territory
Why go? A well-maintained vintage town setting that offers a immersive flashback to life on the prairies during the early 20th century. The village is replete with retro and photo-worthy sets such as a barber shop, gas station and old-fashioned variety store where kids can actually get behind the cash register and recreate a scene.
The statement piece: Brimberly Village (named after the two women who built this passion project) is the newest addition to the Pembina Threshermen's Museum. Inside Building #1 is a redesigned vintage street complete with a theatre, livery, bridal shop and art gallery! The bounty of artifacts donated by the surrounding community offer a dose of nostalgia that'll tug at elder family member's heartstrings.
What’s old is cool again: Imagine if you could go back to the simple days of a one-room school house? Check out the Pomeroy School from Roland, Manitoba - one of the province's oldest one-room schools. It was built in 1909 and closed its doors in 1954 to make way for a multi-classroom school in town.
Pioneer Village Museum
Beausejour & Brokenhead district - Treaty 1 territory
Why go? Over 3000 artifacts make up this small pioneer village with 28 buildings that explore the life of prairie settlers (mostly of German, Ukrainian and Polish heritage) in the Broken-Beau district.
The statement piece: The 16th Premier of Manitoba and 22nd Governor General of Canada, Edward Schreyer, hailed from Beausejour and his family homestead's house and barn now rests at the pioneer village. It's worth a visit just to snap an iconic prairie pic of the red barn's majestic gambrel roof against a Manitoba bluebird sky.
What’s old is cool again: The grounds of the pioneer museum make for a perfect gathering place for a free outdoor market, which runs every Thursday from 3-7 p.m. until September 3rd. Think jams, veggies, crochet gifts and more. There are also a few pop-up markets scheduled on Sundays throughout the summer.