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Prairie Autumn Magic: Why Your Next Fall Trip Needs to Be to Manitoba

Step off the beaten path and discover a new type of autumnal beauty on the Canadian prairies.

When it comes to fall getaways, shoulder-season travellers may naturally gravitate toward Canada’s East Coast, with visions of brilliant fall foliage and glowing lighthouses.

But consider Manitoba, where you’ll still find hues of red, orange and yellow — set against vast fields of gold as farmers hurry to harvest their bounties. And, as one of the sunniest provinces in Canada, Manitoba also boasts wide-open blue skies that contrast the colours of the season beautifully.

Centre your trip on the capital city of Winnipeg, where a number of urban and not-so-urban adventures are sure to keep you busy. Or head outside the city for an overnight in the one of the province’s fantastic parks.

 

ALE TRAILS + COFFEE CULTURE

Coffee by day, ale by night.

Exploring a city in the fall usually means having a warm beverage in hand, and Winnipeg has plenty of options to keep you caffeinated. In the city’s French Quarter, St. Boniface, stop into Café Postal before exploring the rich Francophone history of the area at locations like the St. Boniface Cathedral and Le Musée de Saint-Boniface Museum. If you’re in the downtown core, there are endless options, including Forth, Joe & Lily and Parlour Coffee.

With a recent craft beer boom, Winnipeg has a variety of taprooms to choose from. Start at The Forks and get an introduction to local breweries with a beer flight from The Common, which can be sipped beneath gently falling leaves on the expansive patio. Next, walk down Waterfront Drive to Nonsuch Brewery for a pint under a ceiling of foil umbrellas, before continuing on to Little Brown Jug for their signature 1919 brew (named after the Winnipeg General Strike). Or, if you’d rather not walk, hop aboard a vintage trolley with Winnipeg Trolley Company for a tour of three Winnipeg breweries, complemented with tales of the city’s dastardly past.

 

THE MAGIC OF THE MIGRATION

You don’t have to be a birder to appreciate the fall migration. Manitoba is a key resting spot for over 400,000 geese and other migrating birds as they make their way south for winter.

FortWhyte Alive is a popular spot to witness the migration, protecting 640 acres of urban green space and providing the public with extraordinary wildlife experiences without even having to leave the city limits. On evenings throughout September and October, FortWhyte Alive welcomes guests to its lakeside viewing deck for a spectacular show where, by sunset, the lake is covered with an extraordinary number of honking birds.

 

STEAM AT THE SPA

Photo Courtesy of @yoshigrams

One of the most popular year-round attractions in Winnipeg becomes even more attractive in the autumn months, which are arguably the best time to visit. Cool (but not too cold) temperatures mean you can make the most of Thermëa by Nordik-Spa Nature, Winnipeg’s premiere outdoor spa.

The spa follows the Nordic relaxation technique of hot-cold thermal cycles. Start with a visit to the hot, dry sauna for 15 minutes and follow it with a quick dip in the ice-cold pool (a shock, but a must). Immediately after, choose a spot to relax for 20 minutes: options include a number of cozy fireplaces, hammocks, hot tubs and steam saunas. This process repeats for as many times as you like. Don’t be surprised if the day melts away; it’s quite easy to spend upwards of eight hours at Thermëa when you factor in a visit to the restaurant and lounge.

 

ARCHITECTURAL HEAVEN

Photo Courtesy of Anthony Urso

Winnipeg’s historic Exchange District is even more beautiful in the fall, with North America’s largest and best-preserved collection of heritage buildings nestled between golden-hued trees.

It is also the main hub for Nuit Blanche, Canada’s one-night, all-night arts festival, where the city stays up late to celebrate culture with public and interactive art exhibits. It is truly one of the best nights of the year to be in this historic district, along with First Fridays, a monthly event that happens on the first Friday of each month, when art galleries stay open later and artists welcome visitors into their studios.The Exchange is also one of the best areas to replenish and try some of the city’s top restaurants and eateries. Tapas and cocktails can be found at the Amsterdam Tea Room and Deer + Almond, while quick eats can be had at Miss Browns and King + Bannatyne.

 

DAYTRIPPERS DELIGHT

Any fall trip to Manitoba would be incomplete without venturing outside the city limits. For those with limited time, a day trip to Pinawa Dam Provincial Park will satisfy both historical and wilderness cravings — the Manitoban ruin is a remnant of the province’s first year-round hydro generating plant. Take the self-guided trail to learn about the history of the town and plant, while admiring the captivating foliage of the trees that have grown in around the structure.

Also to the east of Winnipeg is Whiteshell Provincial Park, one of Manitoba’s most beloved parks. This natural beauty boasts a number of significant hikes; consider a picnic at Pine Point Rapids or venture to the Bannock Point Petroforms for a glimpse into Manitoba’s Indigenous cultures, where a number of petroforms —stones placed in  shapes such as turtles and snakes — are believed to have been created  centuries ago.

For those with more time to spare, an overnight to Riding Mountain National Park is worth the drive. Located three hours west of Winnipeg, this bustling summer town slows right down in the cooler months, with a few establishments remaining open to welcome those seeking the gorgeous scenery and serenity that the fall season brings. Stay at Lakehouse, Arrowhead, or have a real Canadiana experience in a Parks Canada oTENTik — a tent-meets-cabin structure that is more glamping than camping. The most captivating fall views can be found on the Gorge Creek Trail, while the Lake Audy Bison Enclosure will get you close up to a herd of 40 plains bison.

Don’t forget to download our complete guide of 30 amazing things to do in Manitoba this fall here.