They are two of Winnipeg’s most visited and most loved places, so we’re putting The Forks and Assiniboine Park head-to-head to see how they match up.
Round 1: Major Attractions
Assiniboine Park has the Zoo and it’s hard to compete with the seven, yes count them, seven polar bears that call the Journey to Churchill exhibit home. See them splashing underwater or eyeing you while you eat. Plus can you see more than 1,500 other animals, like the new super cute snow leopard cubs.
The Forks boasts Canada’s newest national museum, the skyline-altering architectural wonder that is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. And while the view from outside is impressive, explore the museum’s 11 galleries for a truly inspiring journey from darkness to light.
Round 2: Performances and Parties
The Forks is the site of some memorable concerts and celebrations, including, of course, Canada Day and New Year’s Eve festivities. This summer, Interstellar Rodeo busts out of the gate – a weekend (August 12-14) celebration of music, wine and local food. And we can’t forget these other events that happen at The Forks: Kids Fest and Aboriginal Day Live in June. And you’ll likely find some music or a quirky performance somewhere at The Forks at any given time at the Busk Stops found around the site.
Not to be outdone, Assiniboine Park hosts its own Canada Day picnic party and the line-up at its Lyric Theatre is jam packed this summer, with live music happening every week (check the schedule). Plus, catch the Movies in the Park Friday nights in August.
Round 3: Tasty Eats
At Assiniboine Park, you can chow down on some kid-friendly fare while watching polar bears play at the Zoo’s Tundra Grill. Or relax on the banks of the Duck Pond, enjoying some crispy pickerel fingers or Winkler farmer sausage on a pretzel bun at the Park Café, where the patio is now open.
So The Forks might have the edge in this round, with a huge array of dining options, ranging from quick service meals like fish and chips and sandwiches on homemade bread, to full service restaurants offering everything from pancakes, to spaghetti, to fine dining featuring the best Canadian ingredients. Plus, this summer Israel Asper Way is turned into Food Truck Alley and the restaurant on the Esplanade Riel footbridge, Mon Ami Louis, is now open. And, how could we forget to mention RAW: almond the winter pop-up restaurant built right on the frozen river?
Round 4: Awesome Playgrounds
Climb, slide, and splash your way through The Forks’ history at the Variety Children’s Heritage Adventure Park. Be the train conductor, slide down an ox cart, or hide out in a fur trade fort. In a sure sign that kids loooove this playground (my son once said he wanted to stay there forever), certain sections of the park are getting a little maintenance this summer, but it remains open daily, with the splash pad open from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm.
Where else can you get lost in willow tunnels, be serenaded by frog musician topiaries and climb to a sky-high crow’s nest? That would be at the Nature Playground in Assiniboine Park, where kids can run free across colourful rubber mountains and get down and dirty in the sand and water play area (parents be warned: wet sand holds some kind of magical power over kids). Open daily from 8 am to dusk.
Round 5: Trails and Gardens
Since 1904, people have been flocking to Assiniboine Park to enjoy almost all forms of outdoor activities. Jogging, cycling, rollerblading, the park’s paths are well used. Plus, let’s not forget skating on the Duck Pond and cross country skiing in winter. It’s a given that Assiniboine Park has incredible gardens – with its prim and proper English Garden and its eco-conscious Water Wise Garden, which opened this June.
Although at the mercy of water levels, the Riverwalk, connecting The Forks to the Manitoba’ Legislature, is well traveled path. And in the winter, the river becomes a skating trail, earning a Guinness Record the longest naturally frozen skating trail. The Forks once again fuses the past and present, featuring both a Prairie Garden of native wild species and an Urban Garden that grows vegetables and herbs harvested by the Inn at The Forks.
Round 6: Art and History
The Forks in itself is a historically important site – a meeting place for over 6,000 years, and today it’s a National Historic Site. Interpretive exhibits and attractions such as the Oodena Celebration Circle tell the stories of this place. And every winter, the frozen river becomes an outdoor sculpture gallery as the Warming Huts blend form with function.
Assiniboine Park delivers its own art-packed punch, with the main attraction being the magnificent Leo Mol Sculpture Garden showcasing the beautiful bronze works by this Ukrainian-born artist. The Pavilion Gallery is Museum features the works of three renowned Manitoba artists. Plus, the Pavilion is home a permanent collection of Winnie the Pooh art and memorabilia –a fitting tribute to the bear who was named for Winnipeg.
We’re calling it a draw! It’s impossible to declare a victor in this bout. There’s a reason why people flock to both The Forks and Assiniboine Park, they are equally awesome year-round destinations!
Now we turn the decision over to you. Which one of these great spaces has stolen your heart?