Used as a meeting place for more than 6,000 years, the area in Winnipeg now known as The Forks – named as such because two rivers, the Red and Assiniboine, converge there – remains one of the most visited sites in the city.
Just a 15-minute drive from the airport, The Forks offers a wonderful snapshot of the best of Winnipeg has to offer, whether that’s eating, shopping, stunning outdoor surroundings, learning about the origins of the area, or popping into a museum or two.
Here are three items that should be on your to-do list for your next visit.
1. The Forks Market
Once an outdated, dull space, the main building on site, The Forks Market, has recently been transformed into a modern and stylish hot spot. The two floors of the building – built as stables in the early 1900s – are packed to the brim with businesses that sell mostly locally made wares, from clothing to ceramics to candles and cupcakes (and some very cute Winnipeg souvenirs). On the main floor, the food and drink area known as The Common offers a tasty and diverse selection of bites ranging from fast food to more formal sit-down spaces, as well as a bar with lots of local beers on tap to try.
2. Frozen Fun On the Rivers
The Forks is at its best during the coldest time of year. Each winter, when the Red and Assiniboine rivers freeze solid, The Forks creates the Red River Mutual Trail, the Guinness World Record-holding longest naturally frozen skating trail in the world. And the best part? It’s free to use! Along the chilly trail, skaters can warm up in a collection of warming huts, the designs for which are chosen from a pool of ideas submitted by design and architecture firms all over the world. The frozen river is also the location of an unparalleled dining experience – Raw:almond. The annual fine-dining event began in 2013 and features world-class chefs who prepare meals in a pop-up restaurant right on the ice. The ambiance is intimate and cozy and the food is creative and fun.
3. Canadian Museum for Human Rights
A more recent addition to the landscape of The Forks is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Opened in 2014, the CMHR is the first national museum to be built outside of the Ottawa area and explores all aspects of human rights, with a focus on Canada, through ten permanent galleries. The museum uses interactive digital technology in many of its galleries, making for a very distinct museum-going experience.
The Forks site is also home to the Manitoba Children’s Museum, the Manitoba Theatre for Young People, the Scotiabank outdoor stage – which hosts concerts and events in the summer – more restaurants and shops, and dozens of other indoor and outdoor activities. Shaw Park (home of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team) is also just steps away.
The millennia-old history of the site is also worth looking into if you plan to make a stop. From the first settlements of Aboriginal Peoples to the fur trade, early railway development, and the conversion to its current purpose, The Forks’ past contributes a lot to what the unique and desirable destination has become.