What a year it’s been! We asked our fun-loving staff to tell us about their best Manitoba moments of 2015 and what adventures they are most looking forward to taking in 2016. From extreme tundra roaming to relaxing spa days to making family memories, here are just a few of the moments that hammered home the point once again that our land of friendliness and far-reaching horizons is pretty darn special. ❤️

Tamara – ice cream sandwiches and bison traffic jams

Best of 2015: What do bison, beaches and homemade lemon-ginger ice cream sandwiches – so delectable they don’t stand a chance of melting into a puddle at your feet – have in common? They are among the many precious memories that my 5-year-old and I took away from our summer adventure in Riding Mountain Provincial Park. We explored, learned, played, and ate (did I mention the ice cream sandwiches? Yes? Well…it’s worth repeating, trust me!) our way through the park and before we had even waved goodbye to the historic East Gate on our homeward drive, my son exclaimed “I cannot wait to come back next summer!”

Looking forward to in 2016Hello, my name is Tamara and I’ve never been to the Winnipeg Folk Festival. (Deep breath). There…I shamefacedly admit it. I often hear others talk about the festival – this iconic cultural tradition that I’ve completely missed out on. I plan to change that next year. I’m going to see for myself what all the fuss is about, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Alexis – bare bums and railroad runs

Best of 2015: This year was filled with firsts for my family – we did our first ever camping trip in Minnedosa on a hot hot hot July weekend. And we also took our first train trip – to Churchill, where we got to see beluga whales, go dog carting, and dip our toes into the Hudson Bay! Except in the case of my adventure-loving two year-old, who dipped his whole (fully clothed) body into a Hudson Bay tide pool. “I soaking wet. It happens,” he calmly remarked. This statement was good reminder for me, a somewhat anxious traveller, that whether it was expected or not, when “it happens”, you need to embrace it, because travelling is all about soaking in (pun intended) new experiences and making amazing memories.

Looking forward to in 2016: More family trips, and more chances to explore Manitoba as “it happens” to us.

Colin – our most passionate angler

Best Manitoba experiences of 2015: Fly fishing

Best of 2015: Fly fishing for Rainbow and Brown Trout in the Parkland. The dining experience at Casa Bianca in Winnipeg Beach.

Jillian – rain drops and a farm fresh pizza stop

Best of 2015: A highlight of our summer was hanging out at a friend’s cabin near Arnes in the Interlake. One evening we drove to Integrity Foods to partake in the Friday pizza nights. What a chill, family-focused outing. The owners were so welcoming and loved to share their story. The wood-fired brick oven pizza was superb. The farm and garden setting was very picturesque (especially with a thunderstorm brewing to the west). The kids loved petting rabbits and the donkey. Even going to the washroom in the compostable outhouse was an adventure!

Looking forward to in 2016: We are looking forward to yurting at Camp Morton Provincial Park in the Interlake and a family long weekend getaway at Elkhorn Resort in Riding Mountain National Park with its new water park.

Stef – the lake life lover

Looking forward to in 2016: Going to the cottage next summer and spending my weekends enjoying everything lake life has – from the quiet early morning kayaks with the loons (and my special coffee), to the runs along the road where everyone says “Hi!” while there’s a pleasant smell of morning bacon sifting through the air, to sitting on the deck having a happy hour drink, going fishing or any other water sport. Or just taking the boat to the quiet part of the lake and just sitting there talking and going for a dip in the lake.

Yan – casting for fishes and birthday wishes

Best of 2015: I took my family to Jessica Lake Lodge for my dad’s birthday in early September. My whole family loved the experience!

Breanne – steam, crackle, spa!

Best of 2015: My favourite experience of 2015 in Manitoba was Thermëa. Thanks to a Christmas gift from mom and dad, my boyfriend and I went in for the thermal experience on a gorgeous day in February. I loved the crackle and comforting scent of the fireplaces, the eucalyptus infused steam room and the exfoliating station. Adam took a liking to the polar bear plunge, whereas I only mustered the courage to take a dip a few times (and afterward, immediately scurried to the temperate pool). By the end of the day, huge fluffy snowflakes were coming down, which only added to the magic of it all.

Looking forward to in 2016: I look forward to attending a small summer festival like the Harvest Sun Festival in Kelwood. It would be a great opportunity to explore Riding Mountain Provincial Park and get in some much needed camping time. I have never been to a music festival so this would be my first. I also want to try all of Winnipeg’s new restaurants (Roost and The Merchant Kitchen, to name a few) and possibly snag some tickets to RAW: Almond!

Kirsten – FIFA meets and magical feasts

Best of 2015: This year, I discovered how lovely Old Pinawa Dam is, waxed nostalgic in the Interlake, paddled the Pinawa channel, roared with fans at FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada, stared agog at the gods of Olympus, and smiled as I flopped around like a rag doll after completing two rounds of Thermëa’s thermal experience. Also, because Manitoba’s food scene is currently set to ridiculous, I had way too many great dining experiences to list here, but Enoteca was the tastiest, Table for 1201 was the prettiest, and the PEI Seafood Festival’s gala dinner was the most insane — all 12 courses of it!

Looking forward to in 2016: I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan, so for next year, I’m making it a point to get to the Medieval Festival and geek out (I already got a costume picked out for my cat). I’m also super excited to take the train to Churchill with a bunch of cool local Instagramers and see the tundra all abloom in summer. Fingers-crossed I can actually get a ticket to RAW:almond, and baking bannock outside at FortWhyte Alive seems like something that needs to happen in my life. How have I not done this yet?! Bannock, good. Bonfire, good. Winnipeg winter, goooood.

Lil – Our garden gal

Best of 2015: The International Peace Gardens

Looking forward to in 2016Winnipeg Folk Festival

Dené – sports, skates, treks and tunnels

Best of 2015: Skating all the way to the St Vital bridge on the frozen Red River!! Watching a Winnipeg Jets playoff game. The opening of our new Travel Manitoba Visitor Information Centre. Les Miserables at Rainbow StageFIFA Women’s World Cup Canada. Hiking the Gorge Creek Trail in Riding Mountain National Park. Paddling the Caddy Lake tunnels (not my first time, just a highlight of the summer). Being amazed at Cavalia.

Looking forward to in 2016: Lunchtime skating on the river trail now that we work at The Forks!!! Hopefully (and finally) making it to RAW:almond. The opening of Peg Beer Co. (and all the excitement in the Manitoba craft beer scene).

Doug – the water boy

Best of 2015: Sailing on Lake Winnipeg, Old Pinawa Dam, and Sandy Bay and Elk Island — the water in Lake Winnipeg was low so you could walk across to Elk Island along the sand bars.

Looking forward to in 2016: Hoping for some yurt action in Hecla, camping near Riding Mountain, camping/canoeing at Nopiming (Tulabi Falls), and canoeing the tunnels at Caddy Lake.

Cindy – family giver and catfish kisser

Best of 2015: Reeling in monster catfish on the Red River. Relaxing at the tranquil Falcon Trails Resort in the Whiteshell. Riding Mountain Provincial Park is another top pick. Exploring rural communities in the Interlake. Farmers’ markets across the province. Our sandy beaches and Toba and his seal phone!!!! Hahahahaha

Looking forward to in 2016: Opening of The Forks Market expansion.

Carol – our music maven

Best of 2015: Great Woods Music Festival

Looking forward to in 2016: Red River Exhibition

Rebecca – wearing white and dining right

Best of 2015: I really enjoyed Table for 1201. It was such a unique outdoor event with everyone dressed in white and so much creativity with all of the different themed tables.

Looking forward to in 2016: I have never been to RAW:almond and would love to check it out in 2016!  It is another unique outdoor experience that is “bucket list” material.

Cathy – polar bear seeker extraordinaire

Best of 2015: My favourite experience in 2015 was zipping across the flats in northern Manitoba on Churchill Wild‘s so-called Rhinos, custom designed vehicles made for traversing the wild and wet landscape along the eastern Hudson Bay shoreline, looking for wildlife, primarily polar bears.

I was with a motley crew of bloggers, traditional print journalists and broadcast media from Canada, the U.S. the U.K. and Australia. It was a lively, worldly group and we shared a lot of laughs and special moments watching black wolves, black bears, clouds and even a traffic jam on the gravel airstrip outside Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, where there is not a road, a town, a soul for hundreds of kilometres. Favourite viewing: watching a female polar bear with two-year-old cub relax in our presence and then amble so incredibly slowly into the Hudson Bay, we couldn’t tell when they transitioned from walking to swimming. It is wonderful to see bears sparring, nursing, snoozing, interacting, or walking towards you, which I have seen at other times, but there is something special about being allowed into their “living room” to watch their day-to-day behaviour–cuddle, chew on some grass, walk into the water, walk out, lay in the sand, another cuddle, sniff, scratch, yawn, snooze and so on. I have had the supreme good fortune to share polar bear viewing in Northern Manitoba every year for the last 15 years with journalists from around the world. I sometimes tire of the journalists (kidding!) but never tire of watching the bears.

Looking forward to in 2016: I look forward to being surprised by polar bear behaviour in the wild yet again.

Where’s 2016 going to take you in Manitoba? Tell us in the comments!