At the beginning of the year, a fellow travel blogger was planning a little romantic getaway with her significant other. She asked of her readers on Facebook if any of us had similar plans and, if so, where were we headed. I replied and said that the hubs and I in fact had a couple’s weekend planned to Winnipeg, Manitoba. In February. Yes, Winnipeg, Canada, in the dead of winter. I remarked that Winnipeg, especially in winter, isn’t exactly known as a romantic destination but we were excited nonetheless. The blogger replied that the possibility for romance exists no matter where we travel, for it’s all about who we’re with and the quality of time spent with one another. I couldn’t have agreed more, and I kept that notion with me going into our couples-only, winter weekend trip to Winnipeg.
We ended up having an incredibly fun, relaxing, and adventurous, long weekend, and we developed a genuine affinity for the city of Winnipeg. Because we believe it’s a place where couples can go to reconnect with one another while having a good bit of fun, I’ve put together this 3-day guide so you may start planning your own couples-only Winnipeg weekend getaway. (I kept it loose because – well, it’s supposed to be romantic and relaxing. Never know when you and your sweetie might want to just cuddle up for a while!)
You’ve just arrived in town and you’re hungry. Waste no time and head directly to The Forks. Not only is it a dining and entertainment destination, The Forks is also an historically significant section of Winnipeg. It’s where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet so it’s been the city’s center of travel and trade for centuries. Archaeological evidence indicates the site dates back 6,000 years! Today, The Forks pays homage to its past by continuing the tradition of being a gathering place. Instead of trading furs, though, modern visitors can choose dishes from any of the ethnically diverse restaurants in the Food Hall. Communal tables are arranged at the center of the space, anchored at one end by The Common, a bar serving predominantly local beers and wines.
Once you’ve filled up, head just outside to the banks of the Red River. If you’re there in winter, strap on a pair of ice skates (rent some from Iceland Skate Rentals inside The Forks or bring your own like we did) and take part in a quintessential Winnipeg activity: skate on the frozen Red River Mutual Trail through the city. Each winter when the river freezes, it’s groomed and maintained as an ice skating trail. It’s quite romantic to leisurely glide across the ice, hand-in-hand with your honey. (There’s also the option of sledding or walking along the trail.) When it gets a bit chilly for you both, stop in one of the unique warming huts along the river and cuddle for a few minutes to warm up. At other times of year, enjoy your partner’s company with a quiet stroll on the Riverwalk.
With all that skating or walking, you’re hungry again – and thirsty! Head over to Peg Beer Co. in the Exchange District for incredible beers and equally outstanding food. Peg Beer Co. is an independent brewpub that focuses on operating positively in the community and on social responsibility. You can taste their collective passion for craft beer and quality food in each sip and each bite you take. Do yourself a favor and get the smoked corned beef. One order is more than enough food for two people and it will melt in your mouth.
Full and happy, return to your hotel for a good night’s sleep. I suggest staying at Fairmont Winnipeg. Sophisticated but not stuffy, the service and location of Fairmont Winnipeg are unbeatable.
For the ultimate in relaxation, be sure to pack your swimsuit and flip flops for an experience like no other at Thermëa. Revitalize your senses at this Nordic-inspired spa with rounds of thermotherapy. Described as “a passive exercise with active benefits”, thermotherapy is a 2,000-year old practice of alternating hot and cold treatments. The benefits include elimination of toxins, improved sleep quality, and a boost to the immune system. The steps of the thermal cycle are: 1) hot; 2) cold; and, 3) rest. Start in one of the 4 saunas (I prefer the traditional Finlandia sauna); after 10-15 minutes, move to one of the outdoor cold or temperate pools; lastly, finish the cycle in one of the relaxation areas. To experience maximum benefit, it is recommended that the thermal cycle be repeated 3 or 4 times. I must point out that cell phones and cameras are not allowed at Thermëa. I was disappointed at first because I wanted to snap photos of the cool treatments and the gorgeous Nordic decor. But it’s all about respecting the privacy of other guests and their right to relax. Also worth noting, your apparel during the entire experience is your swimsuit and a bathrobe. You may bring your own robe or use one provided by Thermëa (included in price of admission).
To complete the entire experience, be sure to dine at Thermëa’s gourmet restaurant. Yes, in your robe. In this peaceful and intimate setting, healthy foods never looked or tasted so good.
Note: Since we did visit in February, it was pretty cold outside. You might think it’s insane to be outdoors in Winnipeg in a swimsuit but changing your body temperature from hot to cold and back again is at the core of thermotherapy. Were there times I was freezing? Yes, but those times were short-lived. The only time I was almost unbearably cold was sitting at dinner in a wet swimsuit and wet robe. It would not have been so bad, though, if I’d had a dry robe to change into. So my advice is to either bring some extra money ($14) to trade in your wet robe for a dry one, or bring your own robe from home and change into it if you start to get super cold.
If you’re not too relaxed or super sleepy. round out the night with a cocktail at the cozy lounge inside Fairmont Winnipeg.
- Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR). The CMHR is the first museum of its kind, dedicated solely “to the evolution, celebration, and future of human rights.” The subject matter is rather heavy, so it’s understandable if it’s not an ideal activity for a couple’s weekend; however, I strongly encourage you to consider visiting. It is well worth it. (And it is totally deserving of its own blog post, which is forthcoming.)
- Assiniboine Park Zoo. Many of you know I’m not exactly a “zoo person” so I was a bit apprehensive about visiting Assiniboine. But after 5 minutes of participating in the award-winning Journey to Churchill exhibit, I was in tears and my apprehension was dissolved. Assiniboine’s obvious passion for conservation and climate change education altered my mindset entirely. Again, somewhat of a heavy topic; however, the polar bears are so stinking cute that you will want to just hug and squeeze your partner so tightly! (Assiniboine is another Winnipeg attraction totally deserving of its own blog post, also forthcoming.)
- Wander the Exchange District. Stop in to the neighborhood’s shops, bars, cafes, and galleries, while admiring the historic architecture that gave Winnipeg the nickname, “Chicago of the North”.
Whichever activity you decide on, follow it up with a ride out to Capital K Distillery, Manitoba’s first craft distillery. With advance reservation, you may tour the distillery to learn about Capital K’s craft vodka and gin made with only the best Manitoba grains. You can certainly taste the quality of the grains and the intense distilling process in the final product. Gin isn’t my favorite spirit but – I’ll tell ya – Capital K’s Tall Grass Gin is outstanding. Sample some, as well as the vodka, in the tasting room before departing.
As it’s your last night in Winnipeg, you’ll want to toast your fun, romantic, and adventurous trip. The perfect place to do so is The Merchant Kitchen. The restaurant’s concept is inspired by travel and adventure; the menu infused with flavors of both Asian and Latin street food. The dishes are meant to be shared and our favorites were the wok roasted Brussels sprouts with garlic, Thai chilies, and crispy onion; the spiced pork belly burger with pico de gallo, crispy fried egg, sriracha mayo, tortilla chips, bacon, and pickled red onion jam; and the Korean fried chicken. And then there’s the cocktails… each one is globally-influenced and finely crafted. My favorite was the Capel Pisco. It is dangerously delicious.
For me, romance is partly about keeping open minds and having new adventures together. The hubs and I did just that over our weekend in Winnipeg. Hopefully this 3-day guide has inspired you to consider Winnipeg for your next couples-only getaway!
My husband and I were guests of Travel Manitoba. All opinions expressed here, as always, are my own.