Let's face it: some of us have no desire to strap on cross country skis, snowshoes or skates and spend a few frosty hours outdoors in winter getting our sweat on. We'd rather keep the feeling in your fingers and toes, and expand our mind while staying indoors. But we are huge advocates of getting out of the house and exploring new places, so here's a list of off-the-beaten-track MUST-SEE-UMS (read: museums) that are open year-round.
Gimli Glider Museum, Gimli
This little museum, tucked among storefronts on Gimli’s commercial strip, commemorates the emergency landing of a Boeing 767 aircraft that ran out of fuel en route to Edmonton from Montreal in 1983. It’s worth a visit to the Gimli Glider exhibit to learn about this fascinating tale of Canadian aviation history, and how the town of Gimli became the hero. Visitors can try their hand at landing a plane in the flight simulator or snap a pic sitting with an original piece of the Gimli Glider fuselage.
Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, Winnipeg
A Manitoba Star Attraction, this sports museum is housed in the beautiful Canada Games Sports for Life Centre in Winnipeg’s East Exchange District. The 3,000 square ft. space displays 100 years of local sport history with a permanent collection of artifacts from homegrown athletes, such as an Olympic medal from speedskater Cindy Klassen and a bike of cyclist Clara Hughes. To be expected, there is a load of hockey memorabilia, with the crown jewel being the Avco Cup, the trophy of the now-defunct World Hockey Association. The cup remains in Winnipeg because the WHA Jets were the champions of the league's final 1979 season.
Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, Brandon
For aviation and war buffs, the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum at Brandon’s municipal airport is high on the list, but anyone interested in learning why the air force is entrenched in Manitoba identity should pay a visit (hint: it has to do with our big skies). Along with the many vintage aircrafts (some still air-worthy) and vehicles on display in the unheated hanger, visitors should check out the poignant memorial wall outside with over 18,000 engraved names of men and women who lost their lives serving in the RCAF during WWII.
Mennonite Heritage Village Museum, Steinbach
Even though the living village at this museum’s 40-acre site is not open in winter, visitors can still pass a few hours in the gallery spaces inside the Village Centre. Nearly 15,000 artifacts educate on Russian Mennonite history from the 1500s to today, showing how this wave of immigration shaped The Prairies. The temporary gallery space currently shows ‘The Art of Mennonite Clocks,’ while the Village Gift Shop is wonderful for browsing for novels penned by well-known local Mennonite authors.
Irvin Goodin International Wildlife Museum, Boissevain
Boissevain's wildlife gallery, tucked inside the town’s visitor centre, doubles as a wonderful science classroom for all ages. Over 40 species of taxidermy creatures are curated with artful backdrops, often depicting the rawness of the predator vs. prey relationship. One display shows a cougar downing a deer, and in another a musk ox fights off a pair of wolves. The burly bison is another favourite stop, and interpretation explains the significance of the bison hunt to the Métis and First Nations people inhabiting the Turtle Mountain region.
Heritage North Museum, Thompson
This warm and welcoming log cabin museum greets visitors with an impressive collection of boreal forest critters and history of the city's mining industry, while honouring the local Indigenous peoples. Volunteer guides at this Manitoba Star Attraction are very passionate about life in the remote North and share a welcomed perspective. Be sure to ask about the impressive story behind the birch bark canoe and caribou hide tipi in the signature diorama.
Franco-Manitoban history is well-preserved at Musée St-Pierre-Jolys, where the grand Le Couvent is at the heart. In addition to this historic 1900 stone convent, the museum grounds include Maison Goulet, a historic home of a Métis freighter who shipped goods between Fort Garry (Winnipeg) and St. Paul, Minnesota along the Crow Wing Trail. Look for the trailhead plaque commemorating this historic trade route, which is now a popular portion of Canada's Great Trail.
The Royal Canadian Mint, Winnipeg
Touring this high-speed, money-making facility and its on-site coin museum-boutique is a surprisingly entertaining way to pass a winter afternoon. Call ahead to arrange a tour and learn how Winnipeg's Royal Canadian Mint has made over 55 billion coins for over 75 countries. At the interactive displays, kids can strike their own coin and feel the weight of a pure gold bar valued at over half a million dollars.