Oftentimes, when we arrive at a location that we want to explore, it has one, maybe two, features that draw us there. For example, a city park with a duck pond and a garden, or another place with a few sculptures among some flowers. Rarely does one site have everything. Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park has it all.

A long, long, long, long, long time ago, as a kid, I visited Winnipeg to see a church my father was building. He would often disappear for a week at a time, working on some project. Occasionally, he would have us tag along to see what he was doing. My memory of Winnipeg was of my first time at Harvey’s (my now all-time favourite hamburger restaurant) and the long drive from our house to where we stayed in Winnipeg.

This time, I was with my wife in the capital of Manitoba, and we were well on our way to see Alaska. I decided to stay in this city for two days. I planned on visiting Assiniboine Park on the morning of one of those days. I was nothing short of impressed with what was to offer and that all of it was free, including parking.

Assiniboine Park is a large public space open to anyone and everyone who comes to Winnipeg. What attracted me to this location was the gardens. There are a number of gardens in this park, each one a worthy visit in its own right, but when combined into one location, it makes Assiniboine Park a must-see stop. The gardens include the Indigenous Peoples Garden, Johnston Family Seasonal Garden, Kitchen Garden, Performance Garden, and my two favourites, the English Garden and Leo Mol Sculpture Garden.

But first, let me touch on the Citizen’s Hall of Fame. Many places honour celebrated citizens in one form or another. Winnipeg is the first for us to see two rows of busts of Winnipeggers alongside one of the gardens. Each bust includes their name and a small description of who they are. There are even a couple of empty pedestals for future famers to be added in the near future.  

Four of the gardens are beside the Citizens Hall of Fame. The indigenous garden is off on its own and features a totem pole, some sculptures and native plants and flowers. Of all the locations we have seen in honour of indigenous people and the plants they used, this one is top of the list.  

I had seriously considered visiting The Leaf. A new conservatory that had just opened when we arrived. It was on our original itinerary to see this destination, but I opted out in favour of exploring Assiniboine Park more. After all, there is an annoying lack of hours in a day when we are on vacation.

We would walk along the pathways of this sizeable recreational area, enjoying the views and seeing so many others doing the same. Our next stop was the English Garden. Again, a destination within a destination. It was a well-manicured garden with several statuary and flowers. It was well populated with other human explorers enjoying the artistic views of nature.  

A short walk from the English Garden is the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. I know my wife loves sculpture gardens, and I spent hours figuring out how much the admission fee to see this area in Assiniboine Park was. I had a hard time believing it was free to see and explore. An extensive array of sculptures is in a beautifully treed section of the park—another destination in a destination where I was so willing to pay admission.  

We also stumbled upon the Duck Pond. I was too busy visiting the restroom when Charlene could watch nearly one hundred goslings swim in a single file. She only captured a small segment of it with a video. I regretted missing this whimsical sight.

Assiniboine Park also included an art gallery, but it was not quite open when we passed it. I considered sticking around but decided to go to the zoo. Assiniboine Zoo was separate from the original plan, but since the park offered so many insights and wonders, I could not miss the opportunity to see what the zoo had to offer.

What is this animal? This is the first time we have seen this. It looks like it is young and may grow up to be bigger.

Unlike the park, the zoo is admission. Parking remained free since it is attached to the park. For the admission price, it was a reasonably sized zoo with a good variety of animals. We even saw one creature that we had never seen before, and considering the reaction of some of the other viewers, few people have also seen this animal.

I was happy to see a dinosaur exhibit outside. Very few places show dinosaurs among living trees exposed to the elements. It was like walking in the zoo, but we were encountering these long-extinct lifeforms.  

We spent over three hours exploring the park and another three exploring the zoo. This one location is an all-day destination, especially if combined to include The Leaf, and is well worth the time. Our visit there was very relaxed and enjoyable.  

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