A popular public space on the site of an ancient meeting place in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba offers modern-day shopping, dining, entertainment, historic attractions, and green space
The Forks, located at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is a top attraction for both tourists and locals. The multi-use space offers dining, shopping, recreation, green space, and attractions of historic and cultural significance. It attracts over four million visitors each year.
The Forks has been a meeting place for over 6,000 years. Archaeological investigations have revealed evidence of indigenous peoples’ activity thousands of years ago. The Forks was the hub of the fur trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. As grain production became the primary industry in the late 19th century, the area turned into a key railway development site. Over the last thirty years, the site has been redeveloped as a modern multi-use meeting place.
Winnipeg is my home. I believe it has a lot to offer visitors and I can easily provide a long list of things to see and do, but The Forks is the top place I recommend to all tourists regardless of their specific personal interests. Each time I visit the site, I am again struck by what a lovely spot it is.
The Johnston Terminal, The Forks Market, The Forks Market Plaza, and an outdoor patio area form the hub of shopping and dining.
The Johnston Terminal was once a cold storage railway warehouse. It is now home to a restaurant, a coffee shop, and several unique shops including Wag@TheForks, a Winnipeg Art Gallery outlet selling Inuit, First Nations, and Métis art along with Manitoban and Canadian handmade works.
The Forks Market, housed in two former adjacent stables for competing railway companies, contains shops, a fresh food emporium, restaurants and a food court. The wide variety of food choices includes Caribbean, Italian, steak, all-day breakfast, sushi, fish and chips, burgers and hot dogs, Asian, pancakes, Greek, donuts, bakery goods, and ice cream. The entire two floors of the Market are licenced. The Common offers 20 craft beer and 20 wines on tap. Shops on the second floor offer local products, crafts, and artisan pieces. There is also a branch of my favourite bookstore, McNally Robinson Booksellers.
The space between the two original buildings has been turned into an contemporary courtyard housing the Food Hall. The space features a skylight and brick walls that were once the exteriors of the stables.
A large canopy is the central point of the The Forks Market Plaza just outside the Market building. Various events, from concerts to dance lessons to fitness classes, occur under the Canopy. In the winter, the Canopy becomes a skating rink. Skate rentals are available in the Market.
The entire plaza area has been newly licensed in 2019 for alcohol consumption. You can now take the beer or wine you purchased at the Common outside with your food onto the patio area. The area includes communal tables, bistro tables, Adirondack chairs, evening lighting, and fire pits, all overlooking the river.
During summer months, Splash Dash offers half-hour river boat tours from the dock at the Forks. They also have canoes available and run a water bus service between 5 docks in Winnipeg (when water levels aren’t too high).
In the winter, the river is home to the world’s longest naturally frozen skating trail. The River Trail is lined with unique warming huts, winners of an architectural design competition.
The 54 acres at The Forks contain other recreational opportunities, green spaces, picnic areas, and historic and cultural features, all easily explored via walkways throughout the site. Tandem and other novelty bikes are available for rent if you prefer to explore The Forks and surrounding areas that way.
Another walkway, the Riverwalk, winds its way along the riverbank at the edge of The Forks to the foot of the Manitoba Legislature building with interpretive plaques along the route. Note that the Riverwalk is closed when river levels rise.
Signage throughout The Forks provides historical, cultural, and geographical information.
The Forks National Historic Site is a Parks Canada riverside park dedicated to preserving and presenting the 6,000 years of human history at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.
The Forks Historic Rail Bridge allows pedestrians and cyclists to cross to the south side of the Assiniboine River. The bridge was originally built in 1888 and was abandoned for many years before being converted to its current state. It is also the optimum spot to see the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.
Other things you’ll find at the Forks are a skateboard park, the CN Stage and Field which is a large outdoor stage and field hosting many concerts and events, the Manitoba Children’s Museum, Inn at the Forks hotel, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, the Winnipeg Railway Museum, and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Writing on a stone wall at the site says The Forks is “a special meeting place open to everyone, honouring our history and culture.” It certainly does seem to have something for everyone. It is also the site of many festivals and events. Check The Forks Events page.
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