Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba

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Polar bear in the middle of a field at Assiniboine Park Zoo
Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada contains animals from around the world with the polar bears being a prime attraction

Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada is home to more than 150 animal species in both indoor and outdoor exhibits. Located in Assiniboine Park, which contains many other popular attractions, the zoo is open year-round and is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The zoo started in 1904, the same year as the park was created, when the city Parks Board acquired several species of native animals and set aside a place in the park for the animals. By 1910, the mix of native and exotic species included swans, prairie wolves, buffalo, jumping deer, angora goats, and pheasants.

Today, the 80-acre zoo contains animals from around the world, grouped into exhibits/areas that flow into each other. Signage includes information about the species, natural habitats, diets, conservation status, and interesting tidbits. The areas are presented in this post in the order you’d encounter them on a clockwise walk through the zoo.

Seasonal Exhibit

On the west side of the zoo, you’ll find the Kangaroo Walkabout and the pollinator garden. Inside the Doug Harvey, Jan Shute and Family Centre you’ll find special seasonal exhibits such as Wildlife Rescue: Miracles in Conservation in summer 2023 and Defenses of the Animal Kingdom in summer 2024.

South America/Toucan Ridge

Toucan Ridge building at Assiniboine Park Zoo contains outdoor animal habitats as well as indoor ones

Toucan Ridge features plants and animals from South and Central America. It has both outdoor and indoor habitats for many of the animals.

Indoor tropical plant conservatory featuring South American zoo animals

Inside you’ll find a tropical oasis of lush vegetation. Bats, squirrel monkeys, cockatoo, toucans, mourning doves, boas, and green iguanas are a few of the animals found in this area of the zoo.

Animals of Asia

Animals in the Animals of Asia area of the zoo include camels, domestic yaks, the snow leopard, the Amur tiger, and gibbons.

Open Range

The Open Range section features a variety of animals and birds from around the world, including red kangaroos, common wallaroo, llamas, Rocky Mountain goats, and emu.

Wooden gate entry sign into area with wooden barn at Assiniboine Park Zoo

The McFeetors Heavy Horse Centre at the northern end of the range is home to Percheron Draft Horses.

Journey to Churchill

Large Inukshuk with sign beside it reading Journey to Churchill

A towering Inukshuk welcomes visitors to the Journey to Churchill exhibit, the most comprehensive northern species exhibit of its kind in the world and my personal favourite part of the zoo. You’ll see a façade resembling the town of Churchill, Manitoba and what appears to be a northern frontier. The town of Churchill, Manitoba is located in northern Manitoba along the western shore of Hudson Bay. Tourists visit the town to see polar bears, beluga whales, and the northern lights.

The exhibit recreates the tundra terrain between the Boreal Forest and the tundra. Animals you’ll find in Journey to Churchill include the snowy owl, Arctic fox, muskox, and caribou.

Polar bear feed inside a zoo enclosure

And, of course, polar bears, the star attraction. The Sea Ice Passage, clear underwater tunnels in the Gateway to the Arctic building, allow you to view polar bears and seals swimming from below the surface of the water. A clear wall separates the two species habitats.

Polar bear in Sea Ice Passage

Most of the polar bears at the zoo were rescued as cubs. Stop by the interpretive centre at the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Rescue Centre to learn more about polar bears, the Arctic ecosystem, conservation efforts, and climate change.

Read more in my post Journey to Churchill

Aunt Sally’s Farm

Covered colourful bridge for goat crossing at a zoo

Aunt Sally’s Farm features playgrounds for the zoo’s youngest visitors alongside a separate animal playground for lively goats. Other animal species on the farm include miniature donkey, miniature horse, llama, Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, llama, and Stone’s sheep.

Goats inside an enclosure at a zoo

The original Sally’s Farm, which was a petting zoo, opened in 1959 and closed in the late 1980s. The re-invented version opened in 2021. In keeping with modern standards of animal care and welfare, there is no direct contact with the animals, but you can still watch their antics. There are play structures and a two-storey lookout tower offering views of the zoo.

Two-storey tower at a zoo

Inside the Kinsmen Discovery Centre, you’ll find many fish, crustaceans, insects, reptiles, and birds, as well as mammals such as porcupines, squirrels, and meerkats.

Grasslands & Boreal Forest

The Grasslands & Boreal Forest section features animal species native to North America. These animals are very adaptable to the extremes of our climate.

The bison, North America’s largest land animal, is the keystone species of the prairie and Manitoba’s provincial symbol.

In addition to seeing the animals, you’ll find information on the bison, their behaviours, and their historical importance. Signage about the Indigenous Seven Sacred Teachings identify respect as the gift of the bison.

In this area, you’ll also find American Elk (Wapiti), cougars, wolves, Bighorn sheep, burrowing owls, and other grasslands and boreal forest animals and birds.

Special Exhibits and Events

The zoo often has special exhibits during summer months. Zoo chats, where you can learn more about favourite animals from zoo staff, occur several times a day from mid-May through August.

Skeleton figures along aa tundra-like landscape at a zoo
A few figures from Boo at the Zoo

Two well-loved yearly events take place in the evening after the zoo’s normal closing hours (4 or 5 pm depending on the season). Boo at the Zoo is a spooky Hallowe’en spectacle running in October. The light displays of Zoo Lights transfer the zoo into a winter wonderland during the Christmas season.

Visiting Assiniboine Park Zoo

The zoo is open daily year-round except for Christmas Day (December 25) when it is closed. It operates on reduced hours on Remembrance Day (November 11). See the zoo’s website for hours. They vary slightly between summer and winter.

The Tundra Grill offers light meals and snacks. Its large windows look onto the polar bear field. You may be able to watch the bears frolic (or rest) as you eat. A variety of seasonal concessions can be found throughout the zoo in summer months.

It is worth spending some time at the end of your visit browsing through Wild Things Unique Gifts, the zoo’s gift shop. It is a large store with a wide variety of excellent items that include Zoo and Winnipeg souvenirs, art, clothing, toys, fashion accessories, home décor items, and more.

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