Portage la Prairie
This urban oasis 30 minutes west of Winnipeg wears its rich cultural heritage on its sleeve. Surrounded by fertile farmland, the city of 20,000 is equally at ease with modern trends and long-standing tradition.
The best preserves and 4-H club calves still earn bragging rights and ribbons at the Portage X, an annual fair staged within a stone's throw of the ultra-modern outdoor waterslides and indoor wave pool at Island Park.
At the centre of the horseshoe-shaped Crescent Lake, the park is home to an ice-skating and arena complex and 70 acres of outdoor sports grounds. There's an 18-hole golf course, a secluded campground and Mayfair Farm, where visitors fill their baskets from acres of strawberry patches or cruise a garden market that also supplies local restaurants with seasonal fare. A venue for outdoor concerts, the park is also the home of the annual Potato Festival, a celebration that always includes free French fries. Directly opposite from the park, a scenic 5.2 km paved walking path hugs the lakeshore. At its eastern end, it's just blocks from shops, motels, the local arts centre and Fort la Reine Museum, a living archive for area families whose forebears contributed artifacts, farm equipment and even some of the buildings in its pioneer village. As a community space, the museum has revived a tradition of hosting a farmers' market on summer weekends and its programming runs the gamut from bannock-baking classes to multimedia exhibits and an annual motorcycle fun run. Lake Manitoba beaches are just 24 kilometres north of town, near the internationally famous waterfowl migration wetlands at Delta Marsh.