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It’s the most wonderful time of the year to be out and about in the city. My favourite things about winter include: Christmas, shopping, warm drinks, sweets, Christmas, and well, Christmas. When the lights on Portage Avenue are aglow, and the stores bring out their sparkling decor, the spirit of the holidays follows close behind. If you’re with me, don your coziest scarf and check your list twice. Here’s how to spend a day savouring the season in Winnipeg…

Morning | Cafés and chocolate in St. Boniface

All great days start with a stop into Winnipeg’s French Quarter, home of quaint cafes and chocolate shops, all with a french flair. And with the busiest season of the year upon us, something caffeinated comes highly recommended. Stop into Café Postal for a warm cup of tea and grab a window seat to watch the daily commute. Next, head to newly opened La Belle Baguette to pick up freshly baked pretzels, croissants and bread to take on the go, but not before stopping to admire their in-house Christmas decor. You’re going to need all the inspiration you can get.

Don’t leave St. Boniface without visiting to the picturesque storefront of Chocolatier Constance Popp. This chocolate shop is quaint enough to catch the eye of any passerby, but especially so in during the holiday season. Twinkling lights illuminate rows of premium chocolate delights – including nutcrackers, santas and yule logs, all of which make excellent hostess gifts or stocking stuffers. While you may have already filled your hot drink quota for the morning, you might want to take time to enjoy their specialty hot and spicy chocolate drink. Don’t forget to pick up an advent calendar!

Afternoon | Shopping in the city centre

If you’re not fond of the shopping malls around the holidays, head straight for the city centre to tick off every gift recipient on your list. A successful shopping afternoon starts with a stop at The Forks Market, a delightful retreat in The Forks National Historic Site. In addition to the multitudes of unique merchants and food vendors available year round, The Forks Market will also be holding a Holiday Bazaar, with gift items from local retailers. Browse handcrafted goods to festive tunes before taking a break at the wine and hot chocolate bar.

Next, head directly to the historic Exchange District for festive store fronts and unusual finds. For wrapping paper, packaging, knickknacks and everything in between, stop into Tiny Feast on McDermot Ave. Browse the Haberdashery for the hat lovers on your list and Hilary Druxman for shiny things in small boxes. For the young ones on your list, Toad Hall Toys is the most magical place to wander and shop. If you need a break from all the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, visit Albert Street Cocktail Company for a strong one.

Evening | Tree hunt & festive light show

Your shopping isn’t done quite yet. Take a drive west of the city toward Shelmerdine and prepare to be enchanted. Part boutique part greenhouse, Shelmerdine is a mesmerizing sight during the holidays, with shimmering displays and plenty of trees to browse. Nothing beats a real tree for Christmas, even if all you end up with is a Charlie Brown tree.

Stay in the west side of the city for your last stop of the day at Canad Inns Winter Wonderland in the Red River Exhibition Park. With over one million lights and 26 themed areas, this Winter Wonderland will get you in the spirit of the season from the comfort of your (heated) car. If you still crave the outdoors, stop at the skating rink or climb aboard the free horse-drawn sleigh ride, available on the weekends. Happy Holidays!