The weather has warmed up. The sun is shining. School is out and it's time to get out and explore. But sometimes exploration can be exhausting and time consuming and really, just a terribly long drive.
That's where a family weekend getaway in Portage la Prairie comes in.
Not the first thing you thought of when it comes to summer adventure? Well rethink that notion. At just an hour's drive from Winnipeg, you'll be there before you know it and once you get there, there is no shortage of things to entertain and educate everyone who comes along.
Your adventure begins with the perfect place to stay. Farm Away Retreat is just outside the city limits and is just so darn charming, you'll wonder if you walked into a story book. The sprawling farm house boasts 5 spacious rooms, a huge kitchen, enormous living area and views of the verdant back garden that is bursting with hidden treasures. Sisters and owners, Tracy and Taralea are welcoming and generous hosts that will truly make you feel right at home.
Book a stay in the Prairie Oasis Room with its big bay window and adjoining room perfect for the kids to have their own little space--complete with kid sized beds, activity books and puzzles as welcome gifts.
Your stay includes breakfast--our first morning was crepes with homemade raspberry sauce and sausages, while the second day was eggs to order with locally produced bacon and buttery toast.
And while the house itself is worthy of attention, the highlight is the surrounding garden that will keep you and the kids busy for hours. There's everything from a rustic cabin complete with vintage stove and furniture, a secret garden, a wishing well, play structure, play house and so many cute little details you'll want to take pictures of everything. And come summer, there's even an outdoor swimming pool to cool off in.
Visit the Animals
As you wander to the back of the property, you'll encounter some four legged friends. The farm also boasts horses and bunnies that you can pet and visit. You can also take a tour of the family's actual working farm a few minutes drive away. On the day we visited we were treated to a gaggle of tiny lambs that the kids were able to pick up and hold, and we even saw a lamb being born right before our very eyes.
This collection of 25 historic buildings is the perfect place for some exploration and education. The recreated buildings not only honour the history of the area, but aim to show what life was like on the prairies 'once upon a time'. Visit a school house, trapper's cabin, doctor's office, dentist's office (complete with a creepy and uncomfortable looking dentist's chair), law office, general store, printing press, firehouse and more.
In the summer, be sure to stop by for Prairie Sundays where different activities and workshops take place. Get hands on with bannock making, butter churning, soap making, pioneer crafts and more. (Also, keep an eye out for the announcement about the escape room they'll be hosting in August.)
It's time to burn off steam and there's no better spot than Stride Place and their amazing aquatic centre. This indoor water park features a wave pool, waterslide, lazy river, splashing water feature and a soft and squishy floor, so that sitting and standing in the pool is super comfy. Pro tip: On a Saturday, come right at 1 pm once the public swim opens up and you'll practically have the place to yourself for an hour.
Located on Island Park, Stride place is also right next to an outdoor water park, playground and miles of green space and pathways for walking and cycling. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite warm enough the weekend we were there, but we weren't able to leave without a strict promise to our kids that we'd be coming back once true summer was upon us. Okay, okay--the things we do for our kids, right?
(It'll give us a chance to check out the outdoor swimming pool at Farm Away Retreat too.)
To keep up the energy levels, your next stop is over in Southport (about a 10 min drive) where the rec plex is the perfect place to while away an afternoon. There's a complete gym in case you want to sneak away from your family and get in a little self care time, but if they won't leave you alone, you can join them for some wall climbing. Kids need to be 35 lbs to join in--they've got the most adorable kid harnesses--and once you've received your orientation, you're free to make your way up and then safely hurl yourself off the wall. After you're done there, bring your competitive spirit and head downstairs for a few rounds of 5-pin bowling.
A weekend away wouldn't be complete without some nosh to go with it. Head to Bill's Sticky Fingers for their famous ribs (the honey glaze was delicious) or a heaping plate of souvlaki. Nearby, Over the Coals is known for their giant, melty subs if you're in the mood for some serious carbs.
Kids and train buffs will marvel at Lita's Station where the interior is made for train lovers of all kinds. Hundreds of model train cars decorate the space while a train track along the ceiling boasts a moving train to go with your burgers. Be sure to try the crispy homemade fries.
If you'd like something to spice up your taste buds, head to Om Indian Cuisine for traditional north Indian cuisine complete with favourites like naan, samosas and chilli prawns, and some surprises with a Canadian twist like the butter chicken poutine. Be sure to try the mango lassi--basically a mango milkshake bursting with freshness.