08 OCT 2014: Talk to a local from Manitoba and they’ll tell you Manitoba is the heart of Canada. It helps that the province is smack in the middle of the country. But then again if you’re from a place where sightings of polar bears, beluga whales and catching the biggest trout on record are possible then no wonder hearts go a-beating.

Travel Manitoba, including a group of its regional reps from our westerly neighbouring province, hosted an evening soiree for local media at the Real Sports Bar & Grill last week.

The theme was the four iconic experiences of Manitoba: summer northern safari; fly-in fishing; fall northern safari; and the renaissance of Winnipeg. “Everything starts and ends in Manitoba in Winnipeg,” beams Dené Sinclair, manager for global travel trade relations with Travel Manitoba.

Now for some highlights:

Fly-in fishing

A big Canadian experience that has caught the imagination of international visitors, Sinclair says tourists can take a short float plane ride and be in the wilderness with a guide to catch record breaking big fish.

“Two years ago (the record) was for Brook Trout outside Winnipeg,” she says about the popular fish catch and release known as the Master Angler Program. If you think you caught a winner visit Travel Manitoba’s website  fill out an online form, and send an accompanying photo of you and the fish for your chance to get a certificate.

Iceland connection

Ever wonder about the Icelandic place names in Manitoba like Hecla or Gimli?

Statistics Canada reports Manitoba is home to the biggest Icelandic population outside Iceland going back as early as 1875.

Susan Wallis, group sales manager for the largest Manitoba-based hotel company Lakeview Hotels and Resorts explains how not only does she have Icelandic roots but the hotel chain has Icelandic ties too.

She quickly shows me pictures of a newly acquired hotel in the Lakeview Hotels and Resorts collection. The Lakeview Hecla Island Resort, a popular summer getaway on Hecla Island in Lake Winnipeg, is geared to families and those guests inspired by nature.

“Lakeview Hecla’s location has big ties to Icelandic immigrants,” she notes. The hotel is situated 180 km north of Winnipeg in Hecla Grindstone Provincial Park and Wallis explains is home to one of Canada’s best golf courses and first class fishing.

Keith Levit, president of Lakeview Hotels and Resorts, is also an avid photographer who has a collection of stunning wilderness images from his trips around the province and from Iceland at select properties.

The hotel company also recently opened The Grand Winnipeg Airport Hotel, a six-story boutique property with upscale amenities, in-room iPads and complimentary Netflix on both tablet and 46 inch LED Smart TVs.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR)

In its first paid weekend this past September 27 and 28, Maureen Fitzhenry, media relations manager with The Canadian Museum for Human Rights tells me the entire museum tours were sold out.

“We had over 2,700 people,” she says. The CMHR is currently taking online bookings for group tours with a limited daily schedule until the entire museum’s exhibits are fully open and functioning which she advises the completion date will be next month.

The new museum dedicated to exploring human rights is housed in an iconic building situated at The Forks in downtown Winnipeg. The CMHR is the first national museum outside Ottawa and the first new national museum in over 40 years.

https://humanrights.ca/

Royal Canadian Mint

I think of the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa as the big daddy to Canada’s coin making operations but Winnipeg also has its fair share.

Folks can take a 45-minute factory tour, watch how coins like the loonies or toonies are made and then do the ultimate weigh-in.

“We have a scale that measures your weight in currency and it’ll tell you how much you’re worth on the market,” laughs Elise Wood, supervisor of boutique and tour operations with the Winnipeg-based facility.

What? Apparently you just stand on the scale and the scale translates your heft via coins. Hmm, so much do you think your worth?

The Royal Canadian Mint produces currency for Canada plus over 75 countries worldwide.

Assiniboine Park Zoo’s new Polar Bear Exhibit

If you can’t take the ultimate trip to Manitoba’s north to see polar bears why not consider what Sinclair tells me as the next best thing? Wander through this new $90-million 10-acred polar bear playground. Dubbed “Journey to Churchill,” you get up close and personal views as you walk through a glass enclosed river system beneath the swimming paws of the world’s largest land predator.

She says, “It’s introducing an audience who can’t make it or an introduction to Churchill before you go up there to understand climate change and understand polar bears better.”


Winnipeg

Manitoba’s capital realizes it’s got to keep up with other capital cities so yes expect new developments. Insiders report a huge renaissance has been ongoing there recently. Besides the $351-million completion of the CMHR, Winnipeg is a breeding ground for arts and culture according to Tourism Winnipeg sales manager Natalie Thiesen.

“We had the largest fringe festival this year, one of the largest folk festivals, and have the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Canada’s oldest dance company,” she says about the whopping list of crowd pleasers oozing cultural celebrations.

In winter, catch a restaurant popup sensation on the ice patches by the frozen Red and Assiniboine rivers dubbed, RAW. “We’re the only one with this concept,” chimes Thiesen about the trendy food pop up truck way to experience fast food during winter. The Winnipeg Free Press noted the foodie thrill is great for hardy diners.

Other Winnipeg notes:

Winnipeg’s west end was home to three First World War soldiers who all received the Victoria Cross for their bravery. Originally known as Pine Street, the street has since been renamed to Valour Road in honour of these three great Canadians.

The windiest place in the country is at Portage and Main.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery has the world’s largest public collection of contemporary Inuit Art.

Move over Ottawa, Winnipeg purports to hold the longest naturally frozen skating trail title. (It’s 8.54 km). The Guinness Book of World Records in 2008 bestowed this frosty award on the city.

Next time clients mention they’re interested in experiencing one-of-a-kind moments and seeing some distinct culture consider some things happening next door in Manitoba.

For more travel info see http://www.travelmanitoba.com and on Twitter #ExploreMB

Manitoba

author

Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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