Whether it’s taking the kids to spend a summer’s day at Winnipeg’s most fabled splash pad, or making a meal with 19th century folk at an astounding stone fort, Parks Canada Winnipeg has your family covered.
Parks Canada Winnipeg operates a portion of The Forks National Historic Site —Winnipeg’s most popular tourist destination; Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site — a big beautiful fort that features friendly costumed blacksmiths, farmers, servants and more; St. Andrew’s Rectory National Historic Site — a marvellous residence filled with interesting exhibits and welcoming interpreters that complement Lower Fort Garry (they are just down the road from one another); and Riel House National Historic Site — where the family life and legacy of one of Manitoba’s founding fathers is shared.
Let’s start at The Forks, because it’s the place to uncover Winnipeg’s storied history — especially with the help of a Parks Canada heritage interpreter.
The 6,000 years in 60 Minutes tour at the Forks is always a crowd-pleaser (Parks Canada)
Their 6,000 Years in 60 Minutes tour unveils this beautiful area — where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers intersect and where Indigenous peoples have been meeting, trading and socializing for over 6,000 years. On this interactive program, you will touch curious objects, hear about remarkable events, and learn what’s buried beneath your feet, while also learning about award-winning features like the stunning Oodena Celebration Circle.
This easy walking and wheelchair accessible tour is customized to the group’s interests and ages and is offered daily, 11 a.m and 1 p.m. in English, and 3 p.m. in French until September 5th. Tickets are just $3.90 for adults, $1.90 for youth (6-17 years), and children under 6 are free, Tours depart from the Parks Canada Info Desk in the Travel Manitoba Centre. (And hey, it’s not the only tour of The Forks on offer from Parks Canada, click here for more).
The tour is great for kids, and once it’s done there’s no chance you’ll be able to keep them out of Parks Canada’s Variety Heritage Adventure Park, which has one of the best water parks and a fully accessible playground that, upon closer inspection, presents the history of The Forks and Winnipeg through iconic features like Winnipeg’s first steam engine – the Countess of Dufferin, and first steamboat – the Anson Northup , not to mention the red river cart and Fort Gibraltar trading post. (Yes, what trickery – your kids will learn The Forks’ stories as they play, without even knowing it!).
Splash pads in Variety Heritage Adventure Park at the Forks (Parks Canada)
There are boats to play on, slides to slide, log fort walls, barrels and bales to climb, the ‘Red River’ water play splash pad to cool off in, and so much more. You’ll want to jump right in – which we invite you to do – all while lamenting that playgrounds weren’t nearly this cool when you were a kid. And if you forget something, no worries! The Parks Canada Adventure Store (next to the splash pad) has all your summertime needs covered. They’ve got Parks Canada signature hats, sunscreen and the most important summer necessity of all – popsicles!
At Lower Fort Garry a 15 minute drive north of the city, you’ll be swept back to a time where the fort’s residents and workers are busy with chores but never too busy to chat and share the latest gossip, all in good fun.
Situated high above the Red River, the grounds in and around the fort are a sight to behold. The massive fort is comprised one of Western Canada’s oldest collection of stone fur trade era buildings whose robust facades have been meticulously maintained. But the costumed interpreters — who are experts at interacting with kids and guests —really bring this place to life.
Pulling an Oxcart at Lower Fort Garry (Parks Canada)
These characters are the ones who run their splendid roster of hands-on trades and workshops that you and your kids will love. During the summer your little ones can learn everything from baking bannock, to making heritage hot chocolate, to forming candles from fat, to “Cast Iron Chef” competitions where you get to judge the cooking skills of the fort’s inhabitants.
Also, daily throughout August, you can enjoy a family friendly Beavers to Buicks guided tour ($7.30 per person), where stories and features of Lower Fort Garry’s fascinating past beyond a fur trading post – as a training facility for the Canada’s early police recruits; a penitentiary; an asylum; and a motor country club and golf course – are shared in this easy walking tour.
Riel House (Parks Canada Winnipeg)
Back in the south-end of the city, costumed heritage interpreters await your arrival at Riel House, where your family can hear, see and possibly taste what daily life was like for the Riel family and other Métis families during the mid-1880s in the Red River settlement. Ask the welcoming Parks Canada staff member for the free Xplorer Booklet for your children. They will be able to learn about the people and their past times through this explorative and engaging booklet. Once completed, return it to the staff member and get a free souvenir! Play the outdoor games of horseshoes or checkers, and explore the amazing heritage garden and taste some of the veggies!
As well, you’ll be regaled with stories of the Métis leader Louis Riel, the fellow after whom so many features in Winnipeg are named, and who was a key participant in the Red River Resistance, which helped lead to the creation of this province in 1870. Riel House was his mother’s home and where his wife and two young children lived, with 10 other family members, at the time of his execution in Regina, Saskatchewan for treason. In fact, shortly after Riel’s body was returned to Winnipeg, it ‘lay in state’ in Riel House for two days, before it was transported to and laid to rest in the St. Boniface Cathedral Cemetery.
So there you have it, if you are looking to go back in time, while having the best time in the present, and building memories for the future, look no further than Parks Canada Winnipeg.