Brandon is the funnest city in Canada. -Alice, age 5
This was declared by my daughter after three days spent in Manitoba’s second largest city. When you had the weekend we did, it’s really quite hard to argue with that statement. Between the great food, awesome outdoor spaces, a fun hotel and variety of activities, a weekend getaway to Brandon is the perfect family holiday.
It all started on a sunny Friday morning. My husband (Matthew) and I packed up the car with our 5-year-old (Alice) and 2-year-old (Nicky) and made the quick and easy two hour drive from Winnipeg, arriving in Brandon with time to check into our hotel and make it for lunch. What could be simpler?
Our weekend included two nights at the Victoria Inn. This family friendly hotel boasts newly renovated rooms (with ridiculously nice showers), as well as a swimming pool with a water feature and even a little playground for tiny tots. One of my favourite features was receiving a text as soon as we got to our room asking if everything was okay, and subsequent ones throughout our stay checking if we needed anything. It was a nice touch. Alice loved the pool and I couldn’t get Nicky away from the playground for long. I’d say it was a hit all around.
To me, food is pretty much 80% of the reason I travel and Brandon did not disappoint on that front. Dinner on our first night was at a fantastic El Salvadoran resto Sabor Latino, where we feasted on papusas, tacos, sangria and my favourite, arepa–corn tortillas stuffed with three cheeses and chicken. We also checked out Lady of the Lake, an adorable space complete with crystal chandeliers and vintage furniture. If I lived in Brandon, this is the place I’d meet my friends on mom’s wine night on the regular. Matthew dug into a giant Excaliburger, featuring a slab of meatloaf turned into a hamburger, while I opted for a delicious goat cheese, olive and spinach pizza called The Lady. I am no ketchup fan (sorry Heinz), but their housemade sundried tomato ketchup made me a believer.
On our first morning, breakfast was served up in our hotel at the 34th Street Bar and Grill where my favourite–eggs Benny–came along with delicious strawberry waffles for the kids and crispy loonie like hashbrowns for all. Breakfast on our second morning was at nearby Coffee Culture where much needed hot coffee and tea were the perfect accompaniment to light and flaky croissants. Our final lunch in town happened at Tastee’s where burgers, onion rings and fantastic peanut butter milkshakes were served in an adorably retro setting.
If my motivation for travel is food, then it could be argued a kid’s motive is for treats. The first one coming in the form of ice cream at Crow’s General Store. But really, the ice cream is only a minor player here, since it’s the store itself that is the real star. From top to bottom, and all around, you will find all manner of antiques and curiosities. From vintage cars and bikes to sewing machines and type writers to a faux facade of an old post office, you could spend hours exploring here.
More treats came downtown at the Global Market on Saturday morning where a very long line forming in front of one particular booth drew me in. It turns out Chez Angela, known for its incredible baked goods, was the draw and I happily walked away with a box of lemon pound cake, mini cherry pie and a bourbon pecan Danish. Yum. We washed all that down with a cortado for Matthew and a maple tea for me at craft coffee spot, Fraser Sneath. (You know a city has arrived when it can count a hipster coffee shop among its assets.) Later that afternoon we also made a stop at Well Dressed Cakes by Brett for macarons and cupcakes. (It was about this time I also went up a notch on my belt.) One of the kids favourite treats ware strawberry smoothies from Pita Central. Made with yogurt, they were so creamy and smooth.. and it’s fruit, so that counts as a healthy treat, right? (The taco pita I had for lunch that day was a worthy reason to visit too.)
Of course, no family weekend away can be complete without some fun. On the first night, that came in the form of mini golfing at Albert’s Bistro. Complete with windmills and ponds, I’d never realized what a perfect activity this is for a family, no matter what ages. The next morning, fun visited us in the form of ceramic painting at Fun Time Pottery. Really, what’s better than getting messy with paint, while also creating something you can take home with you? After painting, we headed to the Keystone Centre to check out some horses. A world class facility for horse shows around the world, there were hundreds of equines inside. Me and Alice were taken on a behind the scenes tour to meet an Arabian that had come up all the way from Louisiana.
That weekend, Ribfest was in town, so we made our way there as well. Held at the Riverbank Discovery Centre, here three giant rib trucks competed for a meaty crown—and wow, were the offerings tender, juicy and delicious. I think I may compose a song about the baked beans and maple cornbread. The festival also featured a bouncer for the kids and Farmery beer tent for the parents (and other adults too, I assume). We also made our way inside the interpretive centre where displays shared info about the area’s wildlife and natural landscape. Throughout the weekend, we found ourselves pulling over to enjoy parks and playgrounds everywhere we went, also stopping in at the splash park at Rideau Park to cool off during this hot summer weekend.
Our visit ended with a trip to the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum. This former air training base once hosted thousands of pilots for training during WW11 and today, the hangar boasts an impressive collection of actual war planes, while the galleries tell the stories of the people who passed through the base over the years. Matthew—who is a complete plane nerd—was absolutely enthralled and Nicky loved watching the mini replicated plane crashes because that’s just how two-year-olds are.
Typically, the words shopping and kids don’t go that well together, but that’s just because you haven’t been to The Green Spot yet. What at first seems like a simple garden centre is actually much more. Here, the front area (and it’s big) is full of chic clothing, home décor items, patio furniture, gourmet food products, bath and body stuff and more. And what’s in it for the kids? A fish pond they can marvel at, birds they can feed almonds to and even a dinosaur lurking in the plants. The Lady of Lake was also a great spot for shopping with its eclectic collection of jewellery, accessories, décor items and kid’s books. Make sure you pay a visit to the sparkling Talia the Tea Truck out front as well. You can’t miss her.
In the end, we had the best kind of weekend getaway. We were busy, we had lots to do, it was easy to get to, fun was had by all, and we were left wanting more (I saw at least five more restaurants I need to try on my next visit). For more on all there is to see and do in Brandon, visit here and start booking your family weekend getaway today.