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10 Hidden Travel Treasures in Manitoba

This year, hop in the car and visit these iconic businesses & attractions in Manitoba. How many do you know?

Are you a lifelong Winnipegger who ate Jeanne’s Cake on your birthday and spent every summer at Grand Beach? Or maybe you’re new to our beautiful province, getting acquainted with all that we have to offer? Either way, there’s never a shortage of fascinating, fun places to check out here in Manitoba.

Here are some of the most iconic and unique businesses and attractions in Manitoba. See how many you’ve visited, then let us know what else you’d add to the list.

H.P. Tergesen & Sons General Store

H.P. Tergesen Gimli

Image via Mercedez-Benz

No trip to Gimli would be complete without a stop at the iconic H.P. Tergesen & Sons General Store. The business, which offers a diverse selection of items, is the oldest retail business in Manitoba and is an important piece of Gimli’s history.

Tergesen’s is a family-operated business, opened in 1899 by Hans Pejur Tergesen, a local tinsmith. The original building was a two-storey dwelling with the upstairs used as a residence until 1902, when it was converted into a theatre, dance hall and as a classroom for the town school.

For many years, Hans’ son Svenn Johan (Joe) ran the store with his father and brother, until his health began to fail in the mid-1980s. At that time, his son Terry and wife Lorna purchased the family business, which was eventually passed along to his son Sören.

“Joe became a staple around the store,” says Lorna, who is still involved with running the family business. “He stayed in an easy chair and chatted with everyone who came in.”

“I’m proud to be a part of a family with such deep ties to Gimli’s history,” she says. “My mother-in-law started the first library here, and Grandpa Joe spoiled my kids. The first time I took the kids into Winnipeg I had to explain to them that they couldn’t just walk into a store and take whatever they wanted,” she laughs.

After Sören passed away, the business was taken over by Lorna and Terry’s other son, Stefan, who runs it to this day.

Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre

Oak Hammock Marsh

Image via Oak Hammock Marsh

Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre, which is a popular field trip destination for many local schools, is one of the most important conservation efforts undertaken in our province.

The Interpretive Centre is located on the edge of the Oak Hammock Marsh Wildlife Management Area, which covers 36 square kilometres and only counts for a fraction of the original wetland that once stretched from North Winnipeg to Teulon.

The Wildlife Management Area offers visitors 30 kilometres of trails that span a restored prairie marsh, waterfowl lure crops, an aspen-oak bluff, artesian springs and an area of some of Manitoba’s last tallgrass prairie. The wetland is home to 25 species of mammals and over 300 species of birds.

“The Marsh Wildlife Management Area is home to three-quarters of the birds across Canada,” says Jacques Bourgeois, Marketing and Promotions Coordinator at Oak Hammock Marsh. “During the migration season, the number of waterfowl can easily exceed over 100,000 in a single day.”

Oak Hammock MarshThe Interpretive Centre was built in the 1990s to replace the original log cabin located on the property and includes a variety of features designed to help blend it into the landscape — to be as “eco-friendly” as possible. This includes using underground water to heat and cool the building, plus a filtration system for the centre’s wastewater which uses a system involving the surrounding plants and cattails.

Not only does the organic shape and use of low light ensure that the surrounding wildlife is not disturbed, but more birds have actually flocked to the site since the construction of the Interpretive Centre, many of which live on the roof and other areas of the building.

Oak Hammock Marsh isn’t just a great place to learn about the diverse array of species that call our province home; it’s also an important piece of Winnipeg’s history. “The marsh once supplied Winnipeg with its water, before the city grew too large and we started getting our water from Shoal Lake,” explains Bourgeois. “In fact, Pipeline Road in Winnipeg is named after the pipeline which once connected Winnipeg to its water supply in the marsh.”

Sunset image via Manitoba Hot

The Mennonite Heritage Village and Museum

Steinbach Mennonite Heritage Museum

Image via Travel Manitoba

The Mennonite Heritage Village and Museum tells the story of the Mennonite settlers who came from Russia to Southeast Manitoba— preserving their heritage and way of life.

To do this, the museum has assembled 17 heritage buildings to create an immersive experience for visitors. Among the buildings, many of which are original structures that date back to as early as 1876, there’s a blacksmith shop, a general store and a windmill.

“Our windmill is actually the third windmill in Steinbach’s history,” states Barry Dyck, who has served as the Executive Director of the museum for over seven years. “The first windmill was moved and the second windmill burned down, but having the windmill on site is essential for communicating what life was like for early Mennonite settlers.”

Every year the Mennonite Heritage Village and Museum attracts over 45,000 visitors from over 50 countries worldwide and is a popular place for school field trips. Visitors to the museum can tour the grounds and buildings, bake traditional foods, make a rag doll and participate in a ‘laundry race’ that utilizes a washboard and clothesline.

“We do what’s called ‘experiential tourism’,” Dyck states. “We don’t want visitors to just come and walk around the heritage site — we want them to have hands-on experiences which will help them understand the history of the first Mennonites in Canada.”

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Image via Wikimedia Commons

The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (CFDC) is located near Morden and currently houses the largest collection of marine vertebrate fossils in Canada.

Founded in 1969 as the Morden and District Museum, the museum was initially housed on the second floor of the Post Office building in Morden, where it contained a collection of fossils that were excavated while mining bentonite in surrounding quarries. The CFDC is a “living museum” in the sense that there are over 30 dig sites which are active in various areas around the Pembina Valley from April to October.

“We hire students every year to help us with the excavations and tours,” says Peter Cantelon, who has served as the Executive Director since 2012. “Being able to participate at one of our Fossil Dig Adventures means that our visitors will have the chance to hear from our on-staff paleontologists and then get their hands dirty digging for 80 million-year-old fossils.”

Arguably the museum’s feature attraction is a mosasaur named Bruce who was discovered in 1974. Bruce is the largest marine reptile on display in the world and was awarded a Guinness World Record in 2012.

In addition to housing marine reptile fossils, leading tours and operating dig sites, the CFDC also works in partnership with the Province of Manitoba and Travel Manitoba, and has partnered with world-famous film studios like Paramount and Universal. When the film Jurassic World was released, the studio sent giveaways for CFDC employees to give to visitors.

Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum

Commonwealth Air Training Museum Brandon Manitoba

Image via The Brandon Buzz

The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum is Canada’s only museum dedicated to honouring and preserving the history of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, an operation that trained Commonwealth pilots, aircraft crew and ground crew in Canada during World War II.

The museum was founded by a group of veterans in 1980 and occupies nine acres of land just outside of Brandon. Located on the site are five buildings including the period Hangar #1 (which is a historic site), the original canteen building, a medical and dental building (currently being restored) and an ‘H Hut’ dwelling, which was copied from another building located in the town of Douglas.

“An H Hut is a unique kind of dwelling which has two wings – sections where pilots would sleep and relax – and a shared shower and laundry in the middle of the H,” explains Stephen Hayter, who has served as Executive Director of the museum since 1999.

Many of the original planes on the site are still in use today and the growing collection currently includes a Fairchild Cornell, a Stinson, a North American Harvard and a de Havilland Tiger Moth plane – all of which are currently airworthy. The museum also houses a Fleet Finch, which is being restored to airworthy status.

Visitors to the museum can book guided tours, while most tours at this Manitoba Signature Museum are self-guided.

 Related: “How did they get Wi-Fi in that airplane?” 

The Ship and Plough Gastropub

Ship and Plough Pub Gimli

Image via the CBC

This business is the newest on our list but is quickly becoming a popular destination, also located in historic Gimli. The Ship and Plough opened in 2013 and has enticed visitors from all over the province to check out their annual winter music series.

The gastropub is owned and operated by Scott Carman, who was an active member of Winnipeg’s LGBT community, serving as the Director of Media and Communications for Pride Winnipeg before moving home to Gimli. The pub derived its name in honour of the Icelandic families who chose to settle in Gimli and call it home.

Serving up pub classics like bangers ‘n mash and fish ‘n chips, The Ship and Plough is a must for anyone who enjoys good food, a relaxed atmosphere and some of the hottest music in Manitoba.

Despite its cozy size, the gastropub has managed to carve out a reputation as one of the best venues in the province and regularly hosts a slew of folk, rock and blues artists both from within our province and who tour across the country. Artists who have graced the stage include Scott Nolan, Mark Reeves and Micah Erenberg, and the Ship and Plough serves as one of the venues for the Gimli Film Festival. If you aren’t able to score tickets to a show or a screening, the Pub Trivia nights and karaoke are always worth the drive.

The Manitoba Agricultural Museum & The Manitoba Threshermen’s Reunion and Stampede

Austin Agriculture Museum

Image of the Pioneer Village via Manitoba Co-Operator

The Manitoba Agricultural Museum was one of the first museums founded in Manitoba. It is dedicated to collecting and preserving vintage agricultural machinery and buildings which were essential to the livelihood of our farmers for generations.

In 1951, museum founder Dan Carruthers noticed that a lot of old farm machinery needed to be restored and was destined for the scrap heap. Instead of allowing important pieces of our history to be demolished, he founded the museum and donated a significant portion of his land to be used as the museum site.

The museum sits on 320 acres near the town of Austin and includes over 500 pieces of vintage farm machinery. There are also more than 20 buildings which hold artifacts and smaller pieces of equipment.

“The museum houses Canada’s largest collection of vintage farm equipment,” states Alex Campbell, who sits on the museum’s board and has been volunteering at the museum his whole life. “Many of the volunteers are lifelong volunteers who have been coming to the museum with our parents since we were children. It’s a very ‘family oriented’ place.”

The site also includes the very first pioneer village in Manitoba and includes the oldest grain elevator, a CP water tower, Masonic lodge and one of the last remaining one-room schoolhouses in the province, built circa 1962.

Visitors to the museum can book tours and visits, but Alex is quick to point out that the best time to visit is during the annual Manitoba Threshermen’s Reunion & Stampede, a family event that includes threshing, grain binders and other pioneer activities. The highlight of the event is a parade, during which old pieces of equipment are shown off throughout the grounds.

Threshing image via Manitoba Cooperator

Marine Museum of Manitoba

Marine Museum of Manitoba

Image via TripAdvisor

The Marine Museum of Manitoba was founded in 1972 to tell the story of the development of marine life on Lake Winnipeg and the Red River. To this day, the museum remains one of the best locations to see vintage ships, artifacts and other items that relate to marine life in Manitoba from the 1850s to present day.

Among the ships stored on site, one of the most important is the S.S. Keenora. The ship, built in 1897, served as a passenger and freight steamship on Lake Winnipeg, the Red River and Lake of the Woods. Measuring a full 158 feet, she housed 65 passenger cabins and could travel up to 15 knots, or 27.78 kilometers per hour.

After she came to Winnipeg in 1917, the S.S. Keenora was used exclusively by a group of affluent Winnipeg lawyers who rented her for a season and used her as a floating dance hall.

Many of the ships have been restored during their time at the museum, including the C.G.V. Bradbury, which was built in 1915. Donations along with municipal, provincial and federal funding allowed the museum to “re-deck” the ship and install rubber decking that will prevent water from damaging the ship. The C.G.V. Bradbury served as part of the Department of Transport’s Marine Services fleet (today called the Canadian Coast Guard) from 1915 until she was forced to retire in 1973.

During her time on the water, the C.G.V. Bradbury also served as an icebreaker, a fishing vessel, a lighthouse and even helped transport a group of doctors through thick ice to a northern settlement struck by a flu epidemic.

Tinkertown Family Fun Park

Tinkertown Winnnipeg Manitoba

Image via Manitoba Hot

“Come to the town where the train goes around!” If that line rings a bell, you’re likely one of many Manitobans who grew up hearing the memorable Tinkertown Family Fun Park jingle on TV and radio.

Tinkertown, a family-friendly amusement park located outside the town of Springfield, began as Kiddie Land in Regina. However, it was forced to move when the public land it sat on was expropriated by the City of Regina in the mid-1970s. At the time, then-owner Bill Macovichuk took his collection of rides and attractions eastward to Manitoba and settled just a few minutes from The Royal Canadian Mint next to the KOA campground.

When the campground closed in the mid-1990s, the park expanded into the entire space, providing room for the Kiddie Swing, Tilt-a-Whirl, bumper cars, 18-hole mini golf course and the iconic Steamliner Miniature Train, which transports families around the park.

The famous Tin Lizzie car rides, which have been a featured attraction from the Kiddie Land days, are still in daily operation every season. In fact, it’s Western Canada’s only “Tin Lizzie” ride and is manufactured by Gould’s MFG, located in Winnipeg.

Asessippi Ski Area and Resort

Asessipi Ski Manitoba

Image via Asessippi Ski Area and Resort

Asessippi Ski Area and Resort, located 30 kilometres south of Roblin, is the largest ski resort in the province.

While the resort offers river tubing during the summer months, its busiest season is obviously during the winter. Boasting three ski lifts, 26 downhill ski and snowboard runs, a snow tubing park and two terrain parks, it offers one of the best opportunities to take advantage of our winter months.

If you’re not a pro snowboarder or skier, you don’t need to worry about purchasing all of your gear in advance. The resort offers a rental and pro shop where you can choose the right equipment and make sure that it fits and is fastened properly before hitting the slopes.

And if adrenaline isn’t your thing, don’t worry – the resort also offers extensive snowshoe trails.

The most recent and exciting attraction was added in 2015 when Bluesky Expeditions signed a five-year contract to move its 28 sled dog team down from Churchill to a semi-permanent camp at the base of the ski hill.

Bluesky Expeditions, which began in Churchill in 2002, offers visitors a chance to experience the thrill of a 3.2-kilometre dog sled ride without having to travel long distances, and this is currently one of the hottest attractions of the winter season.

Have we missed any of your favourite iconic Manitoba businesses? Tell us what travel and tourism-related businesses you love below.

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Alyson Shane

Alyson Shane is a writer and business owner from Winnipeg, Manitoba who has been publishing content online for 16+ years. She runs Starling Social, an agency which develops digital marketing strategies that combine social media, paid advertising and content strategy to keep businesses growing and engaged with their customers. Outside the office, Alyson is a passionate urbanist who loves gardening, riding her bike and thinking about the public spaces that bring us together. She can be reached on social media at @alysonshane.

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