Arrive in Winnipeg and transfer to the Fort Garry Hotel. One of Canada's classic luxury railway hotels, the Fort Garry was built in 1913 by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and is designated a National Historic Site of Canada. A symbol of Winnipeg's importance as a transportation hub, this hospitality icon is located just one block from Union Station and is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks.
Dinner is on your own this evening to discover one of the city's many fine restaurants. With more dining establishments per capita than any other Canadian city, the choices are wide-ranging, and many feature distinctly Manitoban fare, from bison steaks to pickerel (elsewhere known as walleye) and wild berries. Plenty of appealing options are within walking distance in the Exchange District, a well-preserved enclave of turn-of-the-20th-century buildings that has become Winnipeg's center for dining, art and nightlife. Or choose to dine in the Fort Garry's own Oval Room Brasserie, where full dinners and small plates are served nightly.
Day 2: Exploring Winnipeg Past & Present
Winnipeg, Canada’s fourth-largest city, has a rich and colorful history. Located at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, its name comes from the Cree word for “muddy water,” referencing nearby Lake Winnipeg. The region was a trading center for aboriginal peoples long before the arrival of Europeans who established a presence here in 1738 when French traders built Fort Rouge. In the early 1800s, Lord Selkirk, who controlled the Hudson Bay Company and operated much of its trading activities from the area, imported settlers from Scotland to farm the fertile land in the Red River Valley around Winnipeg. The nucleus of the Red River Colony was later incorporated as the City of Winnipeg in 1873, ushering in an influential future as a railway and business hub that became the “Gateway to the West.” Today, Winnipeg is a thriving multicultural city, and the cultural and commercial center of Canada’s prairie region.
Our exploration of Winnipeg includes a visit to FortWhyte Alive, a 640-acre nature reserve located just outside the city, and a local leader in climate and weather education. On a dynamic foray into understanding the forces shaping Manitoba's weather patterns, we head outside to measure current conditions using the same instruments the pros use to predict the next 72 hours. During our visit we check out climate adaptations of plants and wildlife and learn how a changing atmosphere is having an impact in Winnipeg, and from south to north in Manitoba. Finish up indoors around the warmth of a wood stove as we hear tales of major weather events in Winnipeg's past, including its biggest blizzard.
This afternoon we have a guided tour of the acclaimed Manitoba Museum. We view exhibits reflecting the natural and human heritage of the province, including a 17th-century sailing ship and the history of Canada's northern Indigenous cultures. Following our full day in and around Winnipeg, return to the Fort Garry Hotel with time to get ready for this evening's welcome dinner—your first chance to meet your Expedition Leader and fellow travelers on your polar bear adventure.