Manitoba is known as “The Heart of Canada”. It is one of three Prairie Provinces, bordered by Ontario to the East and Saskatchewan to the West.
Manitoba is famous for its legendary winters, endless amount of lakes and provincial parks, and its cultural diversity. In fact, there are over 200 languages spoken throughout the province.
Our license plates read “Friendly Manitoba”, and it couldn’t be more accurate. No matter where you are from, Manitobans will welcome you with open arms.
Let’s discover some unique facts and what Manitoba is famous for!
1. Polar Bears
Churchill is home to one of the largest concentrations of polar bears in the world, earning its nickname as the “Poplar Bear Capital of the World”.
With a population of only 900 people, this small Manitoba town is home to more polar bears than humans! It is one of the few regions in the world where polar bears can be viewed in the wild.
This remote town is not accessible by road, so you must travel by plane or train. Fall and early winter are the best time to see polar bears as they begin moving from the tundra to water. There are several ways to see the polar bears including tundra vehicle tours, boat tours, and helicopter tours.
Churchill draws wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world, and even made National Geographic’s “Places of a Lifetime” list. If you are seeking those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, you may want to add Churchill to your bucket list.
2. Lakes, Beaches and Rivers
Manitoba is known for being home to more than 100,000 lakes, including Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipegosis. Whether you want to swim, canoe, kayak or fish, there is an abundance of lakes to choose from.
With so many lakes, you can spend the day at a beach without ever travelling far.
One of Manitoba’s most popular beaches is Grand Beach. Its soft, white sand extends for 3km along Lake Winnipeg. Enjoy your time swimming in the crystal clear waters or walking along the famous boardwalk. The beach has also been named one of the best beaches in all of North America.
In Northern Manitoba lies Little Limestone Lake – a hidden gem that is worth the five hour drive from Winnipeg. Little Limestone Lake is a marl lake, meaning the lake will change colors throughout the year. Summer is the best time to visit as the water becomes a beautiful turquoise color in warm temperatures.
3. Riding Mountain National Park
Riding Mountain National Park is one of only two National parks in Manitoba. Home to the charming cottage town Wasagaming, the park is especially busy in the summer with locals and visitors alike. For many, the relaxed vibe of Manitoba’s cottage country is unparalleled.
Riding Mountain is well-known for its amazing wildlife sightings. Don’t be surprised if you come across a deer or moose on your early morning walk. The park’s moose population itself is estimated at 3000 animals! Some other commonly seen animals are wolves, lynx, otters and black bears.
You can also visit a herd of plains bison at the nearby Lake Audy Bison Exhibit. Just be sure to follow the warning signs on the highway – you never know what furry friend is looking to cross!
Manitoba is known for its capital city of Winnipeg, which is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country. From a plethora of festivals to world-class attractions, and an epic food scene, this mid-size city has plenty to see and do.
The most popular destination in Winnipeg is The Forks, a historic meeting spot that sits at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. Here you will find tons of tasty food options, charming boutiques, and the world-renowned Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Nearby is the Exchange District where you can catch live music during Winnipeg’s Jazz and Fringe Festivals. For the full Winnipeg experience, head down to the Canada Life Centre to cheer on the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets.
For more on what Manitoba’s capital city has to offer, don’t forget to go over our post on the 14 things Winnipeg is known for.
5. Icelandic Festival
The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba “Islendingadagurinn” is the second oldest continuous cultural festival in North America. The festival takes place every August in the town of Gimli, approximately one hour west of Winnipeg.
The festival is largely run by its volunteers and sponsors, who have stayed true to event traditions for over 120 years.
Activities include history reenactments, art shows, midway rides, and a sandcastle building contest. Take a deep dive into Icelandic heritage and become an honorary Icelander!
6. Northern Lights
Did you know that Manitoba is known for its northern lights or the Aurora Borealis? In addition to having the highest polar bear population, the town of Churchill also offers the most magnificent views of this natural phenomenon.
The northern lights can be seen in Churchill nearly 300 nights a year, with peak time being between February and March. Bask in the beauty of the green and purple lights while you capture this spectacular light show.
If you’re not able to travel that far North, other towns like Flin Flon and The Pas offer up some stunning views. You can even catch a glimpse of them around Winnipeg if you’re willing to look hard enough!
7. Legendary Winters
When you hear of Manitoba, your first thought may be “isn’t it really cold there?” The answer is yes. Manitoba is famous for getting really, really cold.
Luckily, local residents are prepared to deal with the -40C temperatures when it hits. Manitobans can be found bundling up in their snowsuits and cleaning the snow off their cars (and praying that the car starts so they can get to work).
It’s not all bad though! The colder weather also brings an abundance of sunshine. In fact, Manitoba enjoys more than 2300 hours of bright sunshine every year.
Bundle up and enjoy some popular winter activities like the Festival du Voyageur, snowmobiling, or skiing at Asessippi Resort.
8. Spruce Woods Provincial Park
When you think of the Prairies, you probably don’t picture a desert – but one exists in Manitoba! Spruce Woods Provincial Park is home to a unique desert-like area called Spirit Sands.
The Spirit Sands is a moderate hiking trail that passes through a truly unique ecosystem. True to a desert landscape, its blowing sand dunes tower 30 meters above the surrounding area.
There is not much tree coverage on this 4km journey, so be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen as it can get quite windy.
There is simply nothing like a Prairie sunset. It is one of the most photographed sights in Manitoba – and for good reason.
Whether you are in a wide-open field or sitting on a patio downtown Winnipeg, the marvel of the Prairie sky is sure to take your breath away.
Often featured on the nightly news, Manitobans send in their sunset shots from around the province. From pink to purple to gold, these dreamy sunsets can’t be beat!
10. Ice Fishing
For many Manitobans, the start of winter means only one thing: ice fishing season.
With well over 100,000 lakes across the province, the foundation for this winter hobby is pretty clear. As the lakes and rivers freeze over, Manitoba offers endless fishing opportunities for all experience levels.
Thousands of fishing fanatics head to Manitoba every winter to hit the ice. Boasting some of the top bodies of water on the continent, there are plenty of chances to catch sought-after species like walleye or northern pike.
This winter activity has grown so much in popularity that it’s even referred to as the “ice fishing revolution”.
11. Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre
Manitoba is famous for being home to the largest mosasaur in the world – his name is Bruce and he holds the Guinness World Record for being the biggest T-Rex at 42 feet long!
Located in the small town of Morden, The Canadian Fossil Discover Centre holds the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in all of North America.
This museum is especially great for kids, and offers digging tours, an interactive theatre and a rideable metal mosasaur.
This small Manitoba town seems like an unlikely spot for such a big tourist attraction – but brings in thousands of visitors every year. Maclean’s magazine named it one of Manitoba’s top five tourism destinations.
12. Winnie the Pooh
Did you know that the beloved Disney character Winnie-the-Pooh was named after Manitoba’s capital city of Winnipeg?
On his way home from his Manitoba, Lieutenant Harry Colebourn came across a bear hunter who was selling the cub for $20. He bought the cub and named it Winnipeg (or Winnie for short) after his hometown. Winnie travelled all the way to England, and was left in the care of the London Zoo when Lt. Colebourn deployed to France.
Today, there is a commemorative statue of Winnie-the-Pooh and a young soldier at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg.
13. Food Drive-Ins
In the summer, it is all about food drive-ins in Manitoba. While Winnipeg boasts some incredible restaurants, sometimes it doesn’t get better than a juicy hot dog from a small town food joint.
A casual country drive can often lead to a delightful food discovery. Some of the most popular drive-in stands are located in the town of Lockport, about 20 minutes north of Winnipeg.
Enjoy a burger or ice-cream from the famous Half-Moon Diner or at Skinner’s, the oldest hot dog venue in Canada! Feel like you are being transported back to the 1950’s as you venture out to these old-fashioned diners.
14. Longest Outdoor Skating Trail
One of the best ways to truly take in a Manitoba winter is by checking out the Red River Mutual Skating Trail in Winnipeg.
This 10 kilometre trail sits on the Assiniboine and Red Rivers and is easily accessible from The Forks. In 2018, Winnipeggers formed the world’s longest chain of ice skaters to raise money for CancerCare Manitoba.
There are plenty of warming huts at various points along the river. Stop in at one and enjoy a hot chocolate – with the blistering cold temperatures, you’ll be glad these little sanctuaries exist!
15. Famous People
You now know that Winnie-the-Pooh originates from this small Prairie province, but Manitoba has also produced many other famous artists, musicians, actors and professional athletes. And a few names may come as a surprise!
Among them are Neil Young, Anna Paquin, Carol Shields, Randy Bachman and Jonathan Toews.
Worldwide pop sensation Justin Bieber also spent a fair bit of his childhood in Winnipeg, where his Dad lived for many years.
Convinced that Manitoba is more than just a “really cold place”? Good!
The outdoor adventures and one-in-a-lifetime experiences make this Prairie province worth the stop. We hope you add it to your Canadian travel bucket list – you won’t regret it!