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Gimli, a popular resort town along the west shore of Lake Winnipeg, is most visited as a summer day trip to those seeking sun and the beach. Fall and winter are a more serene time of year to plan a weekend getaway and let out your inner Viking in New Iceland.
Icelandic settlers founded this lakeside community in 1875, and today, Gimli’s Viking roots are still apparent in the town’s street names and annual celebrations. Brave the elements on ‘big windy’ (the nickname for Lake Winnipeg) on an ice fishing or snowmobiling adventure or stay cozy browsing the town’s many shops and restaurants.
Be sure to make time to learn more 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 is full of trails for hiking in fall and cross-country skiing in winter, as well as photogenic vistas of Lake Winnipeg.
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.
Lake Winnipeg is a world-renowned destination for a favourite Canadian winter pastime: ice fishing. Colourful, quirky shacks pop up on the ice around Gimli each winter, forming a village of anglers that come from all over Manitoba. For those who don’t own their own equipment, Gettem’ Greenbacks offers fishing shack rentals ready on the ice. Avid snowmobilers also love touring over 600 kms of trails around the New Iceland region. The Interlake Snow Trackers club also maintains many warm up shelters along the way. For more self-propelled winter activity, Camp Morton Provincial Park located 10 kms north of Gimli offers 15 kms of easy, well-groomed cross-country ski trails winding in and around the campground and lake.
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 Ice Fest takes place in the harbour on frozen Lake Winnipeg in early March to celebrate the snowy season and the hardy locals. What sets apart this outdoor gathering from another community winter festival is a schedule of strange competition such as the frozen fish toss, car racing on ice, and frozen t-shirt battle. A Viking battle reenactment, kite boarding demo on the lake and chili cook-off round out the activities.
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