winnipeg winter festivals

9 ways to beat winter in Winnipeg

winnipeg winter festivals

Don’t be fooled. Underneath all that ice and snow in Winnipeg, there is lots of lively fun to enjoy during the winter. (Adrian Brijbassi/

Story by Shannon Leahy Writer 

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA — Winnipeg has a bit of a reputation.

The coldest winters of any major Canadian city — check. The nastiest, strongest winds in Canada — check. Winter days colder than Mars — check (minus-53 Celsius was recorded in 2013). Gateway to the West and the beginning of the (borrrrrring) prairies — check.

Here’s what you don’t know about “Winterpeg.” The city turns hot when it’s cold outside. Winnipeggers know how to eat, drink and be merry no matter how hard the wind blows in an attempt to snuff out the fun.

When you live in a place dominated by a cold season that can start in September and last until May you learn to party hard so you don’t freeze to death.

Below are 9 Winnipeg festivals and events happening this winter. Warm up, be cool and party on!

Canad Inns Winter Wonderland (December 5-January 3): This is Manitoba’s largest winter drive through light show. From the coziness of your vehicle gaze at more than 1 million twinkling lights and light installations. Located at Red River Exhibition Park.

Fort Whyte Alive (year-round): The attraction promises a 640-acre winter wonderland for adventure seekers who like their fun served cold. Kilometres of forest trails, cross-country ski trails, snowshoeing, skating, a toboggan slide, ice fishing and wildlife watching (can you say buffalo?) are in store for you. Also available: winter survival courses!     

New Musical Festival (January 31-February 6): This is North America’s longest-running festival of contemporary music. For the 24th year the Winnipeg Symphony Orchesta (yes, the orchestra) is hosting composers and guest artists from around the world. This year the WSO performs John Luther Adam’s Pulitzer Prize music winner “Become Ocean.”

ICE Donkey Winter Adventure (February 7): Catch the first-ever obstacle course happening at the University of Manitoba. For five frigid kilometres, slide, crawl and dig in winter-inspired obstacles like “arctic monkey bars,” “snow ballz” and  “snowplow tire flip.” Team and single registration closes February 2.

Journey to Churchill Exhibit at the Assiniboione Park Zoo (year-round): What’s more “Winterpeg” than getting nose-to-nose with Manitoba polar bears? Harbour seals, arctic foxes and snow leopards will stare back at you too.

Red River Mutual Trail (January and February 2015): It is almost 10 kilometres of naturally frozen skating trail and the longest in the world. Skate through the heart of Winnipeg on the Assiniboine and Red rivers. Don’t worry. The rivers are frozen solid. You will be too if you don’t keep moving!

Warming Huts: An Art + Architecture Competition on Ice (January and February 2015): A sensational event, the Warming Huts attracts architects from around the world, including Canada’s Frank Gehry. The huts blend art with function by offering shelter to cold skaters and prestige to hot architect competitors. Located at The Forks and Red River Mutual Trail.

Festival du Voyageur (February 13-22, 2015): This is Western Canada’s largest winter festival. Celebrate Manitoba’s fur-trading past, culture, art, food, music and dance of Métis and Franco-Manitoban adventurers. Rock out to fiddle music and warm up (and pass out?) with “caribou” fortified wine.

Mardi Gras (February 13-14): Each year, the festival comes to Winnipeg and takes over the RBC Convention Centre downtown. Eat up the tastes, sounds and booze of Louisiana because baby, it’s cold outside!



Did you know these cool Winnipeg trivia facts:

  • Winnipeg’s Union Station was designed by the same architects responsible for Grand Central Station in New York City. That’s cool.
  • Steamy, sexy, bodice-ripping Harlequin Romance was founded here in 1949. That’s hot.
  • Winnipeg’s Osborne Village was chosen as Canada’s best neighbourhood by the Canadian Institute of Planners in 2012. That’s nice.
  • The cartoon character Snow White looks a lot like Charles Thorson’s Winnipeg girlfriend! The animator worked for Walt Disney Studios in the 1930s and helped create Snow White and Bugs Bunny. That’s cute.
  • World War II’s most famous spy, Sir William Stephenson, was Winnipeg-born and the inspiration behind Ian Fleming’s “James Bond” character. That’s shaken not stirred.


After earning her storytelling stripes around the family dinner table in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Shannon chased tall tales in Ireland, Japan & even Calgary. She founded Raystorm Communications, a writing & storytelling studio, shortly after escaping the Toronto publishing world. Shannon's office manager is a cat intent on telling his life story.

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