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How to spend 24 hours at The Forks in Winnipeg

No trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba is complete without a visit to The Forks. The historic meeting place is not only a confluence of two rivers – the Red and the Assiniboine – it’s also an exciting and energetic confluence of people, food and culture. We decided to spend a full 24 hours at The Forks exploring and eating as much as we could. Here's how we got the most out of our day!

Staying at the Inn

To give ourselves a base right on the Forks site, we booked ourselves into Inn at the Forks, a luxury boutique hotel with a popular full-service spa, Riverstone, and a fantastic upscale cocktail bar/restaurant, Smith. Specifically, we stayed in a Platinum Junior Suite with its stunning view of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and Winnipeg skyline. Worth it for watching the day transition to night.

Looking to book at Inn at the Forks? Find great rates here!

Tacos, rotis and wine

Our first order of business after settling in at the hotel was to head to the Forks Market to lunch up. The food selection at the market has improved dramatically in recent years, making the Forks a legitimate go-to for foodies of all types.

One of the many exciting additions to the market is Habanero Sombrero, a taqueria with a modern twist. Our favourite tacos are the carnitas, but anything will do. You can’t go wrong when choosing from their menu. Honestly, the only tacos we’ve had that were better were in Mexico City!

If you’re looking for a classic lunch treat then another great option is Bindy’s for a taste of the Caribbean. A staple of the Forks Market for over 30 years, we went for a classic beef roti and they taste as good as ever. In other words, ridiculously good!

It’s also enjoyable to sit in the market centre with its hip decor and constant buzz, so we recommend finding yourself a table to enjoy some people watching. Though we only had 24 hours at the Forks, we knew we’d be back here several more times before the clock ran out.

Another great addition to the Forks Market in recent years is The Common, a beer and wine bar that has now extended outside with a large patio area. We made our way out into the sun and found a table overlooking the Assiniboine River, grabbing ourselves a white and a rosé on the way, and chatting about how much the Forks has emerged as a truly awesome destination for locals and travellers alike.

Biking to St. Boniface

The Forks site is large, 3.6 square hectares (9 acres), with lots to see and do, but it’s also surrounded by beautiful sites and neighbourhoods, including the Riel Esplanade that spans the Red River and St. Boniface on the opposite bank.

One fantastic way to explore the whole area is on a bike. We managed to secure two cruisers from Inn at the Forks – just ask about bikes at the front desk – and made our way around the Forks grounds, past the stunning Canadian Museum for Human Rights and over the Esplanade Riel to St. Boniface.

On the bridge we stopped for crepes at Ker Breizh, a charming little crêperie that welcomes you to Winnipeg’s French quarter. Their crepes are delicious. Sweet, but not overly so, and light and airy. Truly reminiscent of crepes we enjoyed walking around the Marais in Paris.

The iconic Saint Boniface Cathedral was our destination. With its beautiful French Romanesque facade, the cathedral is literally a shell of itself after being gutted by a fire in 1968.

Today it remains an attractive and important destination not only for the beautiful facade, but for the fact that it's also a cemetery where many prominent Manitobans are buried, including the province’s founder, Louis Riel. History buffs cannot miss a trip to the cathedral.

Cocktails on Smith patio

Our bike adventure managed to create a bit of a thirst – big surprise! – so we parked our bikes and took a seat on the terrace of Smith, the bar/restaurant on the main floor of Inn at the Forks. We had cocktails on our mind, so we indulged in a few of the specials – they change up their cocktail menu regularly – as well as a few classics, like the Moscow Mule.

We’ve enjoyed cocktails at Smith many times and are never disappointed. There isn’t a better place at the Forks to go if you enjoy a cocktail, though Passero’s are fabulous too. (More on that in a moment.)

Smith serves a wide assortment of food as well. We enjoyed the refreshing crunch of a Cobb Salad in the warmth of the patio.

Walk to Niizhoziibean

Time for a walk! One thing we were excited to see at the Forks was Niizhoziibean – formerly the South Point – the lands across the Assiniboine from the main Forks site. The Indigenous lands are mostly undeveloped but include some stunning Indigenous art.

Getting there means a walk past the Oodena Circle, which celebrates 6,000 years of Indigenous peoples in the area. The beautiful amphitheatre features sculptures, a sundial, interpretive signage, a naked eye observatory and a ceremonial fire pit.

It also means a stroll over the iconic and historic rail bridge – built in 1888 – that spans the Assiniboine. Walk under and admire the mural dedicated to Indigenous artist Jackson Beardy, get about half way down the bridge to enjoy the best view of both rivers, as well as a pretty great view of the Forks port and market.

On the other side of the bridge you’ll find two amazing works of Indigenous art: Education is the New Bison, a 12-foot piece in the shape of a bison using 200 steel replicas of books and other articles by Indigenous authors. And Niimaamaa, a 30-foot sculpture of a pregnant woman that represents motherhood, Mother Earth and new beginnings. Both are worth the trip!

Dinner at Passero

Now, back to those cocktails we mentioned earlier. For dinner we returned to the Market and treated ourselves to one of the best dining experiences you can have in Winnipeg, a meal at Passero. Passero is one of those restaurants that makes foodies instantly giddy. If you've been before, you know the food is delicious so you're in for a treat. If it's you're a first-timer, you can tell from the minute you walk in that it's going to be special.

We started our dinner with a couple of amazing cocktails – a French 77 which is a delightful twist on the French 75 featuring St. Germain, and the Passero gin and tonic with a refreshing hint of basil. Next we enjoyed a simple appetizer of bocconcini, tomatoes, grilled bread, herbs and olive oil before moving on to the tasty crunch salad with delicious little tidbits like jicama and pistachios, that add up to make it a perfect summer dish.

Then the main event for us – the beef short rib. Holy cow. Literally. If you're a meat lover, it doesn't get any better than this dish. The beef rib was perfectly tender and served alongside crisp potatoes and savoury truffle au jus. It's a total showstopper. Finally, we couldn't leave without trying Passero's version of bread pudding. It's sweet, warm and delicious - the perfect comfort food and a great way to cap off our meal. We then immediately returned to the hotel to put on our sweatpants!

Day 2: Back to the Forks Market for Coffee and Pastries

In the morning of the second day we were back to the Forks Market for some of the best coffee in Winnipeg at Fools and Horses. Everyone has their Winnipeg favourites, but we love Fools and Horses and the Pilot Coffee beans they use, especially the Heritage Roast with its notes of chocolate, perfect for an early-morning cappuccino. (If you’re a tea person, don’t miss their London Fog!)

Speaking of chocolate, we also shared an almond croissant from Tall Grass Bakery, enjoying it outside in the morning sun while trying not to feel guilty as joggers and cyclists cruised by. If you’re a fan of baked goods, make a stop at Tall Grass, which has been a Winnipeg institution for years. Delicious.

Wandering the Forks

For the rest of our 24 hour trip, we wandered the Forks grounds admiring the public art, including Forever Bicycles, Path Through Time, the Monument Honouring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the mural honouring Jai Pereira, the Pan Am Games torch and more.

Although we didn’t have time on this visit, we also highly recommend a stop into the Canadian Museum for Human Rights or – if you have little ones – a visit to the Children’s Museum.

Of course the Forks is also worth a return visit, so if you can’t fit some of our recommendations into your schedule this time, just put it on your list for next time!

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