A friend, who was born in Winnipeg (let's be clear about that up front), once told me that "You're not a Winnipegonian until you've had to chop your bike out of the ice in the spring." I shared this with my cousin's son who moved to the capital of Manitoba a few years ago. "That's no joke," he told me. "Everyone here absolutely embraces the cold and the snow." I've had the chance to visit Winnipeg only once in a blizzard and I was surprised that it didn't faze anyone. I had been invited to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony, which I wrote about for Canadian Living magazine. It was shortly before Christmas, and bitterly cold. After an hour or more inside the sweat lodge (an experience I would highly recommend to anyone) my cohorts and I stepped outside – in our shorts and towels – into bitter cold and snow and nobody seemed fazed by it. So it shouldn't surprise you to learn how snow and ice play just a big part of the holiday season in Winnipeg. Let me share with you a few wintry moments that make Winnipeg a great place to visit – during the festive season or throughout the winter. Winnipeg in Winter Will Frost Your Ears, but Melt Your Heart [caption id="attachment_2205" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption=" Picture-perfect Wintry Winnipeg (Photo: Andres Villafana)"] [/caption] Winnipeg is a walkable city, sunshine or snow. Ambling about the streets during the holiday season is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. There's the Exchange District (cool cafes, trendy restaurants, amazing architecture, artisan shops...), The Forks National Historic Site (scenic historic landmarks, entertainment complex right in the middle of the city), the Winnipeg Art Gallery (Inuit, Nunavut, Prairie and international art collections), FortWhyte Alive (140-acre nature and historical interpretive centre just outside Winnipeg, with roaming bison, authentic sod houses, nature trails and exhibits), the MTS Centre entertainment and sports complex (which hosts concerts, pow-wows and sports games) and more. Skating on the Seine [caption id="attachment_2204" align="aligncenter" width="191" caption="Lone skater on the Seine River, Winnipeg (Photo: Debbie Vokey)"] [/caption] The meandering Seine River winds its way through prairie lands before reaching the city of Winnipeg. The river freezes over in winter, providing months of outdoor skating. And if you're not overly keen to strap on blades, then grab your camera. The landscape is a magnet for amateur photographers. The City at Night Lit Up for the Holidays [caption id="attachment_2207" align="aligncenter" width="396" caption=" Manitoba Legislative Building at Night (photo: Tiffany Veldkamp)"] [/caption] It's obvious that Winnipegonians (or is it Winnipegers?) take Christmas seriously when you see how the government buildings get all dolled up for the holidays. Locals and tourists alike shouldn't miss an opportunity for a post-dinner walk through downtown Winnipeg. And if you want to get out of the cold in the daytime, you're always welcome to tour inside the Manitoba Legislative Building. Art in the Park [caption id="attachment_2208" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Pavilion in Assiniboine Park (Photo: Pam Cameron)"] [/caption] If you're looking for a daytime outing during the holidays that will appeal to the entire family, look no further than Assiniboine Park . The art gallery in the Pavilion (pictured here) is a good place to warm up after skiing on almost 6 kms of cross-country ski trails, which are groomed twice-weekly. Another fun spot to warm up is the Duck Pond Shelter. Walking in the Snow [caption id="attachment_2209" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="River of Ice (photo: Cathleen Hjalmarson)"] [/caption] Sure, everything freezes over in Winnipeg in winter - but that's what makes it so special. The Winnipeg Public Works department maintains a good mix of ski trails right within city boundaries. Visit their Cross Country Ski Trails section online for trail conditions and times. The Forks in Winter [caption id="attachment_2210" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Arctic Glacier Park, The Forks (photo: Travel Manitoba)"] [/caption] Aboriginal tribes originally used this riverside spot, where the Red River meets the Assiniboine River, as a meeting place for ceremonies and trade. Today, The Forks is one of the most impressive public spaces in Canada. The Prairie Garden, the Peace Meeting Site and the Arctic Glacier Park are a few of the venues at this popular Winnipeg complex. And, yes, hot chocolate and indoor shopping are part of the package! Holiday programs and activities run through December and into early January. Have you checked out Christmas in Banff Lake Louise, St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick?