Winter fun gets even better when it's free! Here are 24 ways to find adventure in Manitoba this winter that won't burn a hole in your wallet. This is far from an all-inclusive list of the free experiences to have in Manitoba in the winter but these should start to inspire you to find your own ways to explore Manitoba on a budget.
Visit a museum
There are so many hidden gem museums in Manitoba that are always completely free, and in the winter some of the bigger, well-known museums also offer days or times where admission is free. The few museums below are just a start of the long list of museums you can visit on a budget in Manitoba. There are tons of other art galleries and small town museums that have no or little admission, so don't take this as an all-inclusive list!
1. The Winnipeg Art Gallery is giving art lovers the opportunity to check out the incredible exhibits free of charge every second Sunday starting January 12 and ending December 13, 2020.
2. La Maison des Artistes Visuels Francophones is always free and its exhibits vary throughout the year, meaning you can return every month or two to find a new art waiting for you.
3. Praire Fusion Arts & Entertainment is an inclusive arts space in Portage la Prairie. The gallery itself has no admission and displays works from Manitoba artists. The centre also hosts paid events like movie screenings and art workshops for all ages.
4. Assiniboine Park is well-known as a summer destination for outdoor art and gardens but in the winter there's still art enough for everyone! The Pavilion in the park features four galleries, three of which hold temporary exhibits curated in part by the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The fourth gallery features a Winnipeg favourite: The Many Sides of Winnie-the-Pooh.
5. The Winnipeg Police Museum is free year-round and displays artifacts dating all the way back to the very beginning of the police force in 1874.
6. Itsanitaq Museum in Churchill displays some of the finest and oldest Inuit artifacts in the world. The gallery is a must-see when visiting Churchill and is free no matter the time of year you visit.
7. Check out Manitoba's only national museum for nothing, or next to it. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights offers free admission on the first Friday of every month between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. and $5 admission on all other Friday evenings in the winter.
Though these aren't free they're pretty close! These two $5 and under museums are fun stops if you're in Winnipeg or The Pas.
- Learn all about electricity, from the pre-electrical days of the 1800s to the potential future of electricity in our province, at the Manitoba Electrical Museum. Admission costs $3 and is free for kids under five years old.
- The Sam Waller Museum in The Pas is filled with curiosities like a two-headed calf and a stuffed squirrel. Kids and adults who love oddity will truly enjoy this quirky museum and it only costs $5 for an adult and $3 for children.
The great outdoors is the perfect place to explore for anyone on a budget and you don't have to go far in Manitoba to find a space to play in the snow. Even in the heart of Winnipeg there are places to get out and enjoy winter.
8. Oak Hammock Marsh is lovely all year and if you just want to explore the grounds it's completely free! If you want to tack on a visit inside the Interpretive Centre then it'll add $9 to your time at the marsh.
9. Head out on a hunt for the northern lights. On a clear night with good conditions you can see the beautiful dancing lights above your head in many parts of Manitoba but one of the best places in the world to see them is in Churchill, Manitoba.
10. Many Manitoban towns mark their territory with a giant statue. These roadside attractions make for perfect photo opportunities, especially on a low-cost Manitoban day trip. In Southern Manitoba you're almost guaranteed to find at least one of these big statues within an hour's drive, whether it be Chuck the Catfish in Selkirk, Happy Rock in Gladstone, Tommy Turtle in Boissevain or the giant mosquito in Komarno.
11. Skating at a community club, outdoor rink, or public park is a quintessential Manitoban experience, and there are so many places to lace up your skates this winter. Kildonan Park, St. Vital Park, the Brandon Skating Oval and the trails in Riding Mountain National Park are just a few places you can skate free of charge in the province.
12. The Forks is a super spot for free activities, especially in the winter. Try your hand at the invented-in-Manitoba sport Crokicurl, take a photo in the architecturally amazing warming huts, glide along one kilometre of on-land skating trails, and join Elders for a traditional Indigenous experience.
13. Grab your favourite non-motor operated snow vehicle and try racing down a hill at full speed at a few of our favourite Manitobogganing spots around the province.
14. The bridges of Manitoba are a great reason to get out and explore the province. Check out the Pinawa Heritage Suspension Bridge, Souris Swinging Bridge and La Barriere Park bridge for nothing more than the price of gas to get you there.
15. Provincial Parks around the province are wonderful places for winter adventure and entrance to all Provincial Parks is free in February. So put hiking through Birds Hill, cross country skiing in the Whiteshell, and seeing the frozen waters at Pinawa Dam Provincial Park on your winter bucket list.
A little extra fun for just a little extra:
- If you haven't got skates as you head to The Forks, Iceland Skate Rentals offers affordable rates at $6 for adults and $4 for children. These great prices mean you can take full advantage of the trails.
- Want to go cross country skiing but don't have the skis or poles? There are a few places around Manitoba that rent them out including the Windsor Park Nordic Centre. They charge $10 for adults and $6 for children a two hour rental.
Music and movies and comedy, woo hoo! Here's some good hearty entertainment at a great price – free!
16. The Winnipeg Folk Festival makes music accessible to everyone with their free mini-concerts at the Millennium Library on Saturdays. The program alternates between Folk for Families, your favourite family entertainers from Chickadee Big Top, and In the City, workshop-style concerts featuring local artists.
18. Open mic nights can be hit and miss, but that's part of the fun. Try a comedy night at Wee Johnny's or the Handsome Daughter in Winnipeg, a coffee house-style night of music at the Manitou Opera House or a jam night in Portage la Prairie.
Attend a free festival
Celebrating winter is a pastime in itself in Manitoba, and here are a few free (or partially free) winter festivals that really know how to crank up the excitement in the chilly months.
19. Pull on your ski pants and experience the liveliness of the Northern Manitoba Trappers’ Festival, the oldest winter festival in Manitoba. Watch the dog sled races, participate in family craft activities and watch the crowning of the Fur Queen, all for free.
20. The Gimli Ice Festival is a great place to try something new for free. We bet you've never thrown a frozen fish or cheered on a viking battle. Many events at the festival are free but if you want to participate in all of it, you can purchase an all-events weekend pass for just $5.
21. Head to Riding Mountain National Park at the beginning of February for Winter Adventure Weekend. Experience the park in a new way by skating on the trails through the trees and participating in outdoor family activities.
Take yourself on a tour
A leisurely walk can turn into a wonderful adventure in many Manitoban cities. Whether it's exploring buildings on the inside or outside, just take the time to look around you and you may be surprised by what you haven't noticed before.
22. The Royal Canadian Mint makes coins for over 70 countries around the world. The Mint offers tours year-round but in January they have tour times available at no cost. In other words, you can see how your money is made without spending any of it!
23. Finding art in Manitoban cities is becoming easier and easier. Take an afternoon to go on a self-guided mural tour to spot some of the newest Wall-to-Wall Mural Festival creations, take the West End Biz's virtual mural tour and then head out to find the works yourself in Winnipeg. Or head to a smaller city like Brandon, Selkirk or Churchill where murals have been popping up over the last few years.
24. Exploring the buildings that hold years of stories in their unique facades is another free way to spend an afternoon. Head out to see some of the coolest ceilings in Manitoba, visit the Exchange District to see buildings from the early 1900s, or check out one of Manitoba's most interesting and puzzling places, the Manitoba Legislative Building.