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Gimli, a resort town along the west shore of Lake Winnipeg, is one of the most popular day trips or weekend staycations for Manitobans seeking fun in the sun and on the beach. Spring and summer are the best time of year to plan a visit to let out your inner Viking... just be sure to book ahead if you’re planning on overnighting.
With the help of Indigenous peoples in the area, Icelandic settlers founded this lakeside community in 1875. Today, Gimli’s Viking roots are still apparent in the town’s street names and annual celebrations. Soak in the seaside vibe of ‘big windy’ (the nickname for Lake Winnipeg) with a day at the town beach or a sailing adventure with Gimli Yacht Club. For a change of scenery, browse the town’s many shops and restaurants. Be sure to make time to learn about the area’s Icelandic roots at the New Iceland Heritage Museum and nearby Viking Park, where a 15 ft statue watches over the town. Nearby Camp Morton Provincial Park offers camping in lakeside yurts and cabins, as well as hiking trails and a self-guided tour of historical buildings from the camp’s bygone days.
Follow your nose and stomach around Gimli for a food-fueled adventure. Start your day with a latte at trendy Flatland Coffee Roasters and then cross Centre Street to Sugar Me Cookie Boutique for a rustic fruit strudel or slice of vinarterta, a multi-layer plum cake with roots in Iceland. For lunch, head to Ship & Plough for pub fare along with a pint of local Manitoba brew, or to Brennivins Pizza Hus - a Gimli tradition - for one of their iconic pies. Dining out in Gimli is not complete without ordering pickerel - a delicate flakey white fish - pulled fresh from Lake Winnipeg. Pickerel (aka walleye) is featured on many menus around town, but Beach Boy or Kris’ Fish & Chips are popular spots for pan fried and battered options.
One of Manitoba’s longest-running (over 130 years!) and beloved cultural festivals Islendingadagurinn takes place every August long weekend in Gimli. This celebration of Icelandic culture features everything from contemporary musical acts straight from Iceland, traditional fare made in Amma’s Kitchen, curious sporting competitions like frisnok and Islendingadunk, and a signature battle reenactment at the Viking Village. However, you can visit Gimli anytime throughout summer to get a feel for the town’s Viking vibe. Pose for a selfie with the giant Viking statue that overlooks the town and learn about the elusive huldufolk from Icelandic folklore that hide about in gardens.
H.P. Tergesen’s & Sons (est. 1899) is Manitoba’s oldest general store still in operation. Located in an iconic heritage building at the corner of Centre and First Avenue in Gimli, Tergesen’s has evolved over the generations into a must-visit boutique for trendy fashion, footwear, nifty gifts, and a stellar bookstore, specializing in Manitoban authors. It’s also the best place to find a Viking-inspired souvenir to remember your trip to New Iceland.
At the heart of Gimli is its history, and the best place to understand the fabric of the community is at the New Iceland Heritage Museum, a Manitoba Signature Museum and Star Attraction that is open year round at Waterfront Centre. Through artifacts, murals and multimedia exhibits, visitors learn about the wave of Icelanders escaping economic depression who settled the region with the assistance of local Indigenous groups. For a more modern historical event, visit the Gimli Glider Museum, a one-room exhibit in which visitors relive the fateful day in Canadian aviation history when a Boeing 767 ran out of fuel and glided to a safe landing at Gimli’s abandoned airstrip in 1983.
Gimli’s appreciation of the arts runs deep, as evidenced by the list of renowned novelists, filmmakers and artists who have roots in the region. Gimli Film Festival takes over the town for four days every July, screening short and features films made in Manitoba and beyond. During the day, participants venue hop from screening to screening, and then in the evening settle down in the sand for the signature beach screenings that happen over Lake Winnipeg.
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