The one upside of being a Manitoban who does not own a cabin is that my family’s summer weekends are spent exploring the province.  We often go on daytrips - a quick adventure past the perimeter around Winnipeg’s greater metropolitan region – to get a quick and easy change of perspective. I love that I’m back home with the kids before the sun sets.

We recently spent a spring day exploring the Birds Hill area northwest of Winnipeg, and our m.o. was to experience the region beyond the popular park. Instead, we travelled the rural roads of the RM of Springfield, planning our days’ adventure around Manitoba’s (and our family’s) homesteading heritage. We visited three farm-filled attractions – all within a 15-minute drive from the perimeter highway and all within a 10-minute driving of each other – to connect with our Prairie identity.       

Morning: baby animals (oh my!) at Deer Meadow Farms

Wake up to the sound of clucking hens. Deer Meadow Farms is a popular autumn destination (think corn maze and a forbidden forest), but a spring/summer visit = baby animals at the petting farm! We headed straight to Animal Alley so staff could introduce to us to all the new life on the farm – from the climbing kid goats and cuddly lambs to the docile calf and pony. My daughter loved her time in the chicken pasture, where the friendly brown leghorns made for great company and education about where our food comes from.

Plan to spend 2-3 hours at Deer Meadow Farms – beyond Animal Alley there are a variety of activities for kids such as climbing the bale pyramid, bouncing around the tractor tyre mountain, and solving the Fort Frontier bingo game. Tractor rides are always a thrill while on a farm – and staff take guests on a wagon train ride through a forest for an up-close encounter with a rescued herd of fallow deer.

Traipsing around a farm works up an appetite. Deer Meadow Farms welcomes guests to bring their own picnic or visit their on-site Grain Barn concession stand.

Lunch stop: farmhouse chic at Pineridge Hollow

We opted to visit another attraction in the region that exudes prairie ethos: Pineridge Hollow. Few local businesses ooze more Manitoba charm and hospitality than this stunning country estate. Pineridge Hollow is our province’s gold standard in the farm-to-table approach – the carriage house-style restaurant serves veggies, herbs, fruit and meats all from the owner’s nearby property Oak Knoll Farm. All menu items are mouth-watering – but the hand-cut beet chips with dill cream dip are stand-out and oh-so Insta-worthy. Pineridge Hollow is more than a restaurant – it is a destination. Be sure to save time for browsing the house for country chic furniture, gifts and clothing. Staff are also masterful event planners - not just for on-site weddings – but their weekend farmers’ market and DIY-homesteader workshops have skyrocketed in popularity in the past few years, attracting a whole new generation of locals to their property.

Afternoon: giddy up at Miracle Ranch

We could have browsed the grounds of Pineridge Hollow all afternoon, but we had reservations for our most exciting adventure yet: a trail ride at Miracle Ranch. Admittedly, I was a bit unsure of how my 7-year-old daughter would take to being on horseback for 1 hour. Nevertheless, it turned out she was the perfect age – her eyes were opened wide to the ranch lifestyle and the sandy vistas of the backcountry around the RM of Springfield. The staff and horses at Miracle Ranch are very patient and experienced with kids; 35-year-old Fudge was the perfect companion for a nervous Grade 1er. There is no doubt that more trail rides will be in our future – my daughter could not stop talking about the ride for days afterward.

Pit stop: ice cream+ at Cedar & Main 

As our full day of quintessential rural prairie life ends, we turn our eyes back to Winnipeg. An ice cream treat is always the preferred finish to a summer day trip for our family, so we detour through the RM of Springfield’s thriving community of Oak Bank to stop at Cedar & Main. Do not let the modern exterior of this photogenic drive-in restaurant fool you – it still serves up old-school classics like soft-serve ice cream and fat boys with fries.

If you still have some open weekends this summer, consider planning a day trip around some of the rural municipalities surrounding Winnipeg. Whatever direction you choose - north, south, east, west of the city - there are some very uniquely rural ways to fill a day.