As a local, I know that there are some Manitoba travel tips that aren’t super obvious before you step foot in the province. Some of which can make or break your trip.
Manitoba is a lovely destination with a ton to do and see, but that doesn’t mean this central Canadian province is one-size-fits-all. In fact, I hear of travelers making mistakes all the time while visiting, and then wondering what went wrong.
I absolutely adore my adopted home province, and to help you fall in love with it just the same, I’m here to spill my top travel tips you should know before visiting Manitoba, Canada. And while you’re here, check out my picks for the best things to do in Gimli!
15 Travel Tips for Manitoba
Pack For the Season
Let’s get the big one out of the way first – when you visit Manitoba will dictate what you pack.
The rumors are true – winters can get down to -40°C (-40°F) in the winter, not including windchill. But, just the same, it can get up to +40°C (104°F) in the summertime. Plus humidity.
That’s a big spread, and if you don’t pack for Manitoba accordingly, you will be absolutely miserable. I recommend packing super light for the summer and packing heavy layers for the winter.
Don’t Underestimate Winter
Branching from my previous point, you won’t want to underestimate winter in Manitoba. Yes, it can get mighty cold, and there are certain (often lifesaving) things you’ll need to do to prepare.
First of all, I wouldn’t rely on public transportation during this time. Manitoba doesn’t have a great transit system in general, but you don’t want to be waiting at bus stops in the insane cold. And if you plan to drive, then you’ll need winter tires, a shovel, and enough know-how to drive in snowy conditions.
Further, you’re going to want to bring a toque (beanie), heavy mittens with hand warmers, warm winter boots, a parka, long underwear or leggings, and a scarf.
Take Day Trips from Winnipeg
Many first-time travelers to the province tend to stay in Winnipeg, and I can kinda get it. Winnipeg is a bustling city with plenty of incredible restaurants, hotels, landscapes, and things to do.
But if you want to get the best of both worlds without taking a full Manitoba road trip, then taking day trips from Winnipeg is your best bet. Some of the best are Riding Mountain National Park, Nopiming Provincial Park, Gimli, Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park, and Pinawa.
Don’t Skip the Beaches
Are you coming to Manitoba for a beach vacation? Chances are, you hadn’t considered it. But this is where I tell you that Manitoba has some incredible beaches.
There are thousands of lakes in Manitoba, but there are two in particular that are awesome and within easy reach of Winnipeg – Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg.
👉 Some of the best beaches on Lake Winnipeg include: Grand Beach, Matlock Beach, Gimli Beach, South Shore Beach, and Gull Harbour Beach.
👉 Some of the best beaches on Lake Manitoba include: Steep Rock Beach, Sunset Beach, and Saint Ambroise Beach Provincial Park.
Purchase Provincial Park Permits in Advance
If you plan to visit any of the province’s provincial parks, then it’s a smart move to purchase your vehicle permit in advance. You can also do so during normal business hours in the park itself, but it’s always a hassle to find a place to buy them. You can simply log in to the Manitoba Parks website and purchase it the morning of.
If you plan on visiting one of the province’s two National Parks in the summer, then you can purchase your pass upon arrival.
Know the Pot Smoking Rules
It’s no secret that Canada is 420-friendly across the board, but the exact laws and regulations surrounding everyone’s favorite weed vary from province to province.
There are plenty of places to buy marijuana in Winnipeg (seriously, it seems like a new pot shop springs up daily), and people 19+ can have up to 30 grams of non-medical cannabis on them in public.
Of course, operating a vehicle while under the influence is illegal, and you can’t smoke in public. It’s true – under Manitoba law, smoking in parks, on sidewalks, on beaches, etc. isn’t permitted. Smoking cannabis is only allowed in a private residence and doesn’t apply to some rental suites.
Find the Polar Bears
Manitoba is famously home to Polar Bears, and whether you head to Churchill for an epic vacation or just stick to the Winnipeg Zoo, spotting them is an extra fun thing to do.
Of course, polar bears are the obvious thing to see in Churchill in October – November, but the destination is home to Beluga Whales in the summer, most notably in early July.
Rent a Car
As previously mentioned, renting a car is the best way to see Manitoba. This way, you’ll either be able to take day trips from Winnipeg or a full-blown Manitoba road trip. For car rentals in Canada, I recommend checking out Discover Cars first, as they’re great for stacking up the competition.
If driving isn’t your thing, then you’ll be happy to hear that Winnipeg does have Uber, and drivers are usually not too far away. However, a full cross-town trip could easily run you $40+ dollars one way, so you’ll have to factor that into your budget.
Winnipeg does have a bus system as well, although it’s definitely not the fastest way to get across town in most situations. Manitoba does not have a comprehensive bus system as a whole, and driving is the only real way of getting around if you’re venturing outside of Winnipeg.
Download an Aurora Borealis App
Did you know that you don’t have to go to the Canadian Territories to get an Aurora Borealis light show?
Though you’ll be hard pressed to see this natural spectacle in the city due to light pollution, there are some nights when you can see the northern lights on full display in more rural areas. To know what your viewing chances are, I recommend downloading a free app and turning on your push notifications.
Bring Mosquito & Tick Repellent
If you plan on visiting Manitoba from spring through fall, then you’re going to want to bring a metric tonne of bug spray. Especially in more wet areas of the province, mosquitos can be very bad. If you’re someone like me who swells up at the very thought, then repellent will be your best friend.
With ticks, although most Lyme disease cases occur between May and July, ticks can stick around until November in Manitoba.
Be Bear Ready
A slightly larger animal than the aforementioned ticks and mosquitos, there are between 25000 and 30000 black bears in Manitoba. It is something that, unless you’re in the middle of a city, you will have to be cognizant about.
When camping, always put your food in bear containers and never leave trash lying around. When hiking, never wear earbuds, always make noise to announce yourself, never get between a momma and her cubs, and carry bear spray in case of the worst.
The last time I was in Riding Mountain National Park, I saw a mom black bear and her three cubs climb really tall trees. It was a super cool thing to witness (from the inside of my car).
👉 Fun Fact: The Hudson Bay coast of Manitoba is the only place in the world where Black, Polar, and Grizzly Bears are known to coexist.
Know Where to Avoid
Like anywhere on the planet, Manitoba has areas that you should definitely go to, and areas that, as a visitor, you should probably avoid.
Any search of Winnipeg will tell you that it has one of the highest violent crime rates in Canada. It’s an unfortunate truth due to rates of poverty, homelessness, gang violence, and drug use.
But crime in Winnipeg is more or less concentrated. And, unless you go to one of the high-crime areas, chances are you’ll have a problem-free visit.
👉 The areas of Winnipeg I most recommend you avoid are:
- North End
- North Point Douglas
- Central Park
- West Alexander
As a general rule of thumb, any area of Downtown Winnipeg north of Portage is a no-go (with exceptions, of course, such as Chinatown and the Exchange District). Honestly, I wouldn’t even park my car north of portage if you’re seeing a sports game or concert – park on the south side and you should be fine.
Don’t Skip the Museums
So here’s the thing – Manitoba has some world-class museums that you should absolutely make a point of visiting. Whether you’re trying to add some culture to your life in the dead of winter or just to beat the heat of the summer.
👉 The best museums in Manitoba are:
- Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Winnipeg)
- Manitoba Museum (Winnipeg)
- Winnipeg Art Gallery (Winnipeg)
- Children’s Museum (Winnipeg)
- New Iceland Heritage Museum (Gimli)
- Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (Morden)
Visit For a Festival
Manitoba is home to some unreal festivals and, no matter what time of year you visit, you should attempt to check out at least one of them.
👉 In particular, some of the best festivals in Manitoba are:
- Festival du Voyageur
- Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Fest
- Winnipeg Folk Fest
- Rockin The Fields of Minnedosa
- Red River Exhibition
- Dauphin Countryfest
- Icelandic Festival of Manitoba
- Canad Inns Winter Wonderland
- Manito Ahbee Festival
- Nuit Blanche
- (Among like a million others)
Carry a Tote Bag
Many businesses in Manitoba are making a conscious effort to cut down on their plastic waste, and plastic bags have been one of the first things to go. Even at most grocery stores, plastic bags are in scant supply (as they should be), although there are paper ones usually available.
Either way, I recommend bringing along a tote bag that can fold up really small into your day bag. Sometimes, it’s just good for the environment, but other times there really isn’t another choice.
FAQs About Manitoba Travel
What treaty areas does Manitoba encompass?
Traveling through Manitoba means being on Treaty 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 land, as well as some areas that are signatories of 6 and 10. The land is ancestral of Anishinaabe, Dakota Oyate, Anishininewuk, Denesuline, and Nehethowuk. It’s also the Red River Métis home.
Is there anything worth seeing in Manitoba?
There is plenty worth seeing in Manitoba including Winnipeg, Brandon, Morden, Riding Mountain National Park, Churchill, The Canadian Museum of Human Rights, and more.
Is Manitoba safe?
Manitoba is a very safe place to visit, provided you know which areas to avoid.
What is Manitoba Canada best known for?
Manitoba, Canada is best known for being at the very center of North America. It’s also known for Winnipeg, festivals, northern nights, polar bears, lake culture, and beaches.
Thanks for reading my 15 Manitoba travel tips! I hope this gives you a better idea of what to expect in this incredible province. For more great Manitoba content, check out my guide to Nopiming Provincial Park.
Happy exploring Manitoba!