Manitoba fall road trips: Winnipeg Family Vacation

Posted September 16, 2021

What is the secret to the perfect family vacation in Winnipeg? Loads of kid-approved activities, a handful of ways to spend time outdoors, a splash of hotel fun and a dash of adults-only options when you’re ready to leave the kids with the grandparents for a night (or two).

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This fall, we're featuring an amazing collection of road trips that will help you explore every corner of Manitoba.

Manitoba’s capital is a family-friendly city, with enough fun to last at least a week. There are tons of great hotel options, including many with terrific indoor pools and waterparks, conveniently located near your favourite attractions. After you’ve checked out some of Winnipeg’s most visited places suggested in our Winnipeg day trip and weekend getaway (like kid top pick, Assiniboine Park Zoo featured in our 48 Hours in Winnipeg trip) extend your exploration of Winnipeg with some of these options.

Child smiling and splashing in water area at Children's Museum
JP Media Works

Part 1: Let's make some fun

If you’re planning to spend some time at The Forks, the riverside dining and shopping destination, families with younger kids should definitely plan a visit to the Manitoba Children’s Museum. Kids love the museum’s different hands-on activities and exhibits, like the Lasagna Lookout climbing structure, the watery fun in the Splash Lab and the chance to be the conductor inside a locomotive.

Royal Canadian Mint

Families with older kids can check out the Royal Canadian Mint. Located 20 minutes from downtown Winnipeg, the Mint offers tours of its high-tech manufacturing facility. Coins from more than 75 countries are made here, including every single coin in Canadian circulation! You can strike your own coin in the interactive coin museum and then see how heavy a pure gold bar worth over $700,000 is. Collectors will definitely want to stop at the Mint’s shop, where you can get your hands on collector coins and other unique gifts.

Exterior and reflection in pond of Royal Canadian Mint
Enviro Foto
Two people riding bikes through the forest at FortWhyte Alive
JP Media Works
Child walking along boardwalk over marsh at FortWhyte Alive
Eric Stoen
Family paddling on the lake at FortWhyte Alive
JP Media Works

Part 2: Spend time outside in South Winnipeg

Once a former cement plant, FortWhyte Alive is now a four-season natural oasis, literally minutes away from some of the city’s best shopping at Seasons of Tuxedo (home to Outlet Collection Winnipeg, IKEA and Cabela’s).

FortWhyte has seven kilometres of trails that take you through prairie grasses, aspen forests, around a lake and across boardwalks. Rent a canoe to explore the area from a different perspective. Or bring your bikes and hit the multi-use Bison Butte Recreational Trail. Cruiser bike rentals are available.

Kids also love dip netting, as they find critters and crawlers in the marsh. In addition to loads of insects, FortWhyte is a great place to see animals like deer and a variety of species of birds and waterfowl.

A must for fall
Two people watching geese at sunset at FortWhyte Alive
Sunset show

During the fall migration, thousands of ducks and geese put on a fabulous sunset show as they flock to FortWhyte’s calm waters to spend the night.

Two people, one carrying a bag of greens, looks at local products in a covered sales area of the St. Norbert Farmer's Market.

For market fresh options, check out the Marché St. Norbert Farmers’ Market, Manitoba’s largest. Open year-round for in-person and online shopping, vendors from across the province come together to sell produce, proteins, baking, artwork, jewelry, plants, crafts and more.

While you’re in St. Nobert - one of Winnipeg’s Francophone neighbourhoods - check out the ruins of the Trappist Monastery. This provincial heritage site dates to 1892 and was gutted by fire five years later. The ruins are a peaceful place for an afternoon stroll. Or take a self-guided tour through the St. Norbert Heritage Park, where three log homes showcase the evolution of the community through Métis settlement and the immigration of Québec families.

Part 3: History and nature just beyond city limits

Just north of Winnipeg, about half an hour from the city centre, is one of Manitoba’s most important heritage sites. Lower Fort Garry sits on the banks of the Red River and features original buildings dating as far back as the 1830s. Lower Fort Garry is where Treaty 1 was created and signed by the Crown, the Anishinaabe and the Muskegon Cree peoples in a historic event that is commemorated each year.

In the fall months, visitors can explore the historic grounds, but the buildings themselves are not open to the public as they are in the summer.

A person and child paddling a canoe through Oak Hammock Marsh
Eric Stoen
A person holding a yellow songbird in their hands ready to release it

About 20 minutes west of Lower Fort Garry is Oak Hammock Marsh, a reclaimed wetland home to 25 species of mammals and over 300 species of birds. Check out the activities inside the interpretive centre, including a cool diorama of life in the marsh, before heading out to explore the trails. There are over 30 kilometres of trails through the wildlife management area, with some kid-friendly options near the interpretive centre that include floating boardwalks. You can also explore the marsh by canoe, as rentals are available. So too are guided programs and events like the annual Migration Festival in the fall, birding hours and astronomy nights.

During migration season in the fall, over 100,000 birds may stop at the marsh in a single day. The breathtaking experience of watching the geese as they fly into the marsh as the sun sets is one you won't want to miss.

Part 4: Leave the kids with the grandparents

If you are visiting family or friends, then may we suggest you take advantage of the babysitters and spend some quality time with your partner?

JP Media Works

While there are lots of great family dining options (may we recommend Across the Board, a board game café?), Winnipeg’s dining scene may be better appreciated sans minors. Especially when you want to sample the tasty brews at a local microbrewery or sip on craft cocktails. For a complete guide to where to eat and drink in Winnipeg, check out Peg City Grub, Tourism Winnipeg’s official food blog.

Another option for a night out is a visit to the Casinos of Winnipeg. Club Regent Casino in eastern Winnipeg and McPhillips Station Casino on the west side offer high end gaming, dining and entertainment options. In downtown Winnipeg, the Shark Club is a Vegas-style gaming centre that is a favourite post-Winnipeg Jets game destination. Across the street is the Hargrave Street Market, quickly becoming a favourite trendy food hall.

A person ready to throw a ball at lit up targets on the wall
Tyler Walsh, Tourism Winnipeg

Part 5: Stay active and stay sharp

For a last blast of fun before your vacation comes to a close, check out one of Winnipeg’s escape rooms. From spooky themes to brain-twisting puzzles, there are several options depending on the size and ages of your family. Combine the brain power of an escape room with the physicality of being in a real life video game at Activate Games. Games here require you to think, but also jump, throw, crawl and hide as you attempt to rack up points and beat the clock. This is a super fun activity for families with kids 10 and older. Other active options for active gaming include an indoor trampoline park, laser tag, VR gaming, axe throwing and some good old fashioned bowling!