Sure, Canada's majestic mountain towns and breezy seaside communities are great destinations, but if you really want to be surprised, pay a visit to the prairie. Dauphin in Manitoba really is a postcard-perfect picture of a simpler time, set among the scenic farms, fields and lakes of the Parkland. Wander down Main Street to feel like you've stepped back in time to the turn of the century, and attend one of the countless festivals and events that occur throughout the year. And we can't forget the natural wonders in the area, either... Dauphin certainly isn't lacking in those. The town is right by Lake Dauphin and Lake Winnipegosis and pretty darn close to Riding Mountain National Park as well. Plus, Dauphin's nickname is the "City of Sunshine," thanks to its warm, bright weather (and the friendly locals certainly help its reputation!) What more could you ask for from a road trip?
Winnipeg is admittedly cold. The winters can be challenging, but the city has incorporated the cold and snow into its culture. The Annual Warming Huts Competition provides dozens of whimsical places (like a reverse snow globe or the inside of a burning woodpile) to rest and revive your toes while skating up and down the Red River Mutual Trail. The Festival du Voyageur is ten days of music, dancing, and French food in the middle of February. There are charms to be had in the summer, too. Take a stroll through the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden, visit the polar bears at the zoo, or grab a meal at The Forks Market. There’s plenty to do and see any time of year.
The Discovery Centre contains the largest collection of marine reptile fossils in Canada. That may sound like a very specific honour, but the collection is genuinely impressive. Most notable is the Guinness World Record Holder, Bruce, an enormous mosasaur over 43 feet long. Sign the kids up for Dino Day Camp or take the whole family on a fossil-digging adventure. There’s even a dinosaur-themed escape room.
Your first stop in Spruce Woods needs to be the Spirit Sands Trail. Technically, these constantly shifting sand dunes receive too much rainfall to be an actual desert, but it’s still wonderful to find the appearance of a desert in Canada. The trail through the dunes will lead you to Devil’s Punch Bowl, an eerie blue-green pond formed by underground rivers. Besides the dunes, there are tons of options for hiking, biking, and paddling all over the park.
The bison is an integral part of the prairies in Manitoba. They sustained the First Nations people living in Manitoba for thousands of years, and they were a crucial part of the grassland ecosystem. But due to over-hunting, bison populations have been severely depleted. The Bison Park at Lake Audy is part of a concentrated effort to restore bison to the region. The best time to visit is in the spring, to see the new calves! It’s a driving safari, so plan to view the animals from a distance from the safety of your car. If you want a closer look, you can sign up for a guided tour with a park ranger and learn more about conservation efforts in the area.
Riding Mountain manages to hold forests, plains, and parkland all in one beautiful place. There is a resort inside, so you can come back from a day of exploring and enjoy ice cream and a film festival. See the home of Grey Owl, a conservationist who, despite his controversial history, did some amazing work for the environment. Riding Park is also a good spot to see the Northern Lights, so you can check the Aurora Borealis right off your bucket list!
We end our journey in the charming farm town of Dauphin, the City of Sunshine. Although the scenery and outdoor recreation make this a great place to visit any time, you might want to plan your trip around one of the many festivals the city hosts throughout the year. Countryfest attracts major country music stars from all over the continent. The National Ukrainian Festival, complete with Cossacks and borscht, takes place in August. The Fort Dauphin Museum will take you back in time to learn about the fur trade. And don’t forget to take a beat to appreciate the scenery. It’s some of the best in Manitoba.
In the Canadian Dream, it's our experiences that make us richer. That's why we're encouraging all Canadians to get out and experience everything that Canada has to offer. You don't have to go far. Incredible, engaging experiences are all around us, all you have to do is start exploring.