A kaleidoscope of culture and the unsung hotbed of Canadian history, Manitoba offers exciting destinations for any traveller. Discover MÃ©tis history, Mennonite culture, distinctive art, rich agriculture and world-class natural destinations all over the province. Here are just a handful of things to see and do in Manitoba.
For the true nature enthusiast, come to the "Polar Bear Capital of the World" for an amazing polar bear eco-tour in a Tundra Vehicle (a massive Hummer-like truck for safe watching), or spend a summer in a boat or kayak watching thousands of beluga whales congregate in the Churchill river. Churchill is located on the shore of Hudson Bay; visitors must fly into Churchill or take a VIA Rail train. Visit the Town of Churchill's website at www.townofchurchill.ca for a list of eco-tour operators.
The Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, Brandon
This nonprofit public art gallery offers national and international exhibits with a special emphasis on contemporary Manitoban art. They offer classes and workshops in addition to art sales and year-round tours. Admission is free.
Westman Reptile Gardens, Brandon
A short drive east of Brandon is Canada's largest reptile exhibit, open year-round and most holidays. You can see snakes, turtles, spiders, crocodiles (including the only two Nile crocodiles on display in Canada) and much more. The cost of admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children under 16 -- children aged two and under are free. Visit www.reptilegardens.ca.
Where to stay: Centrally located, the Casa Maley is a bed-and-breakfast open year-round. A full breakfast is included in the room rate.
Fort Whyte Centre for Family Adventure and Recreation, Winnipeg
Don't miss this award-winning destination. More than 600 acres of forest, lakes, marshes and self-guided trails house 27 species of waterfowl, whitetail deer, muskrats and other wild animals in their natural habitat, plus a 70-acre bison prairie and viewing mound. Summer offers fishing, hiking and birding, and in the winter, enjoy snowshoeing and ice-fishing or ride the toboggan slide. The 10,000-square-foot interpretive centre features lots of exciting exhibits plus the Buffalo Stone CafÃ©.
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Le Musée de Saint-Boniface, Winnipeg
Built for the Grey Nuns between 1846 and 1851, Le Musée de Saint-Boniface is the oldest building in Winnipeg and was the first convent and hospital in Western Canada. It now serves as a showcase of Métis and French-Canadian history. The museum is located in the heart of old Saint-Boniface (a short walk across the Esplanade Riel from The Forks) and open year-round.
Where to stay: Minutes from downtown Winnipeg is Hotel Fort Garry, which offers Kid Theme Rooms with direct access to the Splasher's Indoor Pool & Waterslide. Mom and Dad can escape to Ten Spa or enjoy complimentary Starbucks coffee in the luxe rooms. Those without kids should consider the romantic Mariaggi's Theme Suite Hotel and Day Spa. Suites have a Jacuzzi, steam room, stereo system, TV, DVD player, VCR, fireplace and pool table. Theme rooms include Hawaii, Mexico and India.
The Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, Morden
This exhibit houses the largest collection of prehistoric marine fossils in North America (from the seaway that covered much of North America 80 million years ago). Discover skeletons and artists' conceptions, life-size reconstructions and dioramas featuring mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, birds, fish, sharks, squid and turtles. Open year-round.
Where to stay: Enjoy the warm hospitality and excellent food of a Mennonite home at Sieman's B&B. Close to outdoor recreational activities. Telephone: 204-822-1973.
The Suspension Bridge, Souris
Just 46 kilometres southwest of Brandon, Souris is home to Canada's longest suspension bridge, measuring 552 feet or 177 metres, originally built in 1904 by Squire Snowdon.
Where to stay: Enjoy a private guesthouse overlooking the Souris River at , Rustic Retreat B&B. Offering a master bedroom, fully modern kitchen and bath, the guesthouse sleeps up to eight people. Canoe, hike or just enjoy farm life.
Margaret Laurence Home, Neepawa
The Margaret Laurence Home is a living memorial to famed Canadian novelist Margaret Laurence. A wide variety of her memorabilia includes her doctoral robes and hoods, typewriter, honourary degrees and original furniture. Open May 1 to September 1. Visit www.mts.net/~mlhome for further details.
Where to stay: Enjoy a view of the Whitemud River valley in one of two comfy rooms at the Highland Glen B&B.
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