Winnipeg, Manitoba saw a surge in popularity in Canada partly because of the return of the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League. But for people who have visited Winnipeg before there is another reason to celebrate the region and it is called Assiniboine Park.
The park is one of the largest urban parks in North America and to many who visit the city it is the most memorable natural attraction and recreation destination they will visit while in the region.
Assiniboine Park measures over 153 hectares (402 acres). It is situated north of one of the largest urban forests in Canada called the Assiniboine Forest. The park is very well developed while the forest is left in a wilderness state. Both are home to a smorgasbord of adventures.
Assiniboine Park dates back to the early 1900s when in 1904 the City of Winnipeg purchased 115 hectares (283 acres) of land on the southern banks of the Assiniboine River. The land was designated as a protected park and was named the “Suburban Park” for the first ten years until it was renamed the Assiniboine Park.
Assiniboine Park was the first park in the City of Winnipeg and – to this day – is one of the gems of the community. Since its early beginnings the park has grown into a major sightseeing and activity destination in the region. Some of the earlier attractions to take root in the park include the 1914 Palm House, 1907 Formal Garden and the 1929 Pavilion Gallery Museum (home to artifacts and art).
The Palm House has gone under some renovations since its early beginnings. In 1968 a new Palm House was constructed over and around the old existing attraction. Together with the Display Garden they form “The Conservatory” of jungle-love. It is a large complex which houses over 8,000 non-native plants and trees – it is reminiscent of a forest filled with many plants not known for growing in the province of Manitoba.
There are many floral gardens in Assiniboine Park. So much so that the park is a favorite for weddings, business meetings, special occasions, celebrations and photos. There are sections of the park which can be reserved for such an occasion like the Foyer Gallery (art gallery, gift shop & restaurant), Palm House (wilderness gardens) and the Floral Atrium.
There are many gardens in Assiniboine Park including the Herb Garden, Garden of Life, Daylily Garden, V.O.N Cutting Garden, Lily Garden, Mayors Grove, Butterfly Gardens, English Garden, Citizens Hall of Fame, Leo Mol Garden and the 1907 Formal Garden.
The Leo Mol Garden is part of and next to the English Garden. They are both housed in an enclosed section of the park. The Leo Mol is an escape for artists with statues, sculptures and a workshop… and the gardens is a horticultural gem with gardens on gardens of colors and scents.
The Leo Mol Garden includes outdoor sculptures, bronze statues and porcelains. A walking path explores from one statue to another, eventually connecting with the paths of the gardens. On site is the Schoolhouse Studio. It is where artists gather to work… and it operates as a gift shop and base for providing interpretive guided tours.
The Assiniboine Park is a recreation destination as well. There are some wide open spaces covered in grass lawns and shaded by groves of trees. People arrive to read books, play catch and enjoy picnics. Not far off in the distance are some sporting fields used for soccer, lawn bowling, bocce ball, baseball, volleyball and cricket.
There are many kilometres of recreation paths connecting facilities, services, gardens and attractions together. Some of them include an animal zoo, duck pond, outdoor stage, steam train ride, coffee house, restaurant, bike rentals, day use picnic sites, washrooms and a children’s playground.
For the young ones the Children’s Nature Playground is a popular destination. It is a large play area with tree forts, playground apparatus like swings and slides and some cool willow tree tunnels. In addition there are some mazes, sculptures and a large garden area designed as the popular board game “Snakes & Ladders”.
For the grown ups there is an outdoor stage called the Lyric Theatre. It is a summer bandshell and the site of jazz concerts, opera, stage shows, music symphonies, ballets, festivals and educational programs.
Assiniboine Park is not just a summer destination. Oh no. During the snow months the park becomes a winter wonderland straight out of a fairy tale novel. There are lights decorating buildings and artists having their way with the snow creating snow forts and ice sculptures. To warm up there are often open fire pits roaring as people gather around singing Xmas carols.
For the more active the winter pathways in the park become a 5 kilometre network of xc ski trails. After a day on the trails head back to the Duck Pond where there is a warming shelter and some good stories shared by the locals.
How to get to Assiniboine Park :
From Downtown Winnipeg, near City Hall, travel northeast on King Street and then take a right onto James Avenue. Next take right onto Main Street and continue to Portage Avenue where you take another right. Continue on Portage Avenue to the Highway #90 Exit. Take the exit and merge onto Century Street. Next you take a right onto Corydon Avenue and proceed to the park.