Who doesn’t love a daytrip? No overnight bag to pack. No need to worry about hair care products. A day filled with adventure and a night in your own bed. What could be better?
Manitoba’s prairie landscape and relatively sparse population make it easy to get out of town for the day. In fact, if you drive from Winnipeg’s downtown for 10 minutes, you’ll find yourself on outskirts, and then quickly in the see-for-miles-ahead zone.
Walk the Walk
Head northeast, up Highway 59 to Birds Hill Provincial Park. Find the Nimowin Trail. In Cree, it means peaceful. I’d have to agree. At 1.8 km, it’s a nice fall stroll to begin your day. See those low bushes about as big as a round coffee table? Find the berries and give them a crush between your fingers. If you have a sudden craving for a tall glass of ice and some tonic water, you’ve discovered juniper berries and the flavouring agent of gin.
Bring that long lens for your camera because you’re gonna see deer. And wild turkeys. Black-capped chickadees and redpolls like to hang out at the bird feeders that are graciously filled by visitors. If you’ve never seen a male pine grosbeak before, you’ll be impressed by his brilliant red outfit.
Fresh air makes us hungry. Directly across from the White-tailed Deer Trail is the charming Pineridge Hollow. The French onion soup arrives in a generous red cast-iron bowl, topped with green onions. You’ll be so impressed that you may have to return for breakfast tomorrow. Order the lemon ricotta pancakes, topped with caramelized apples and a drizzle of lemon sauce.
The gift shop next door will make you want to redecorate your entire house. There’s a fantastic idea in every corner from swanky sectionals to tiny tea candles. In winter or summer, the sprawling verandah is decked out with hard-to-resist cast-iron garden décor and pretty touches for the holiday season ahead, whichever it might be.
It’s time to leave the park and head north for a little more retail therapy. Lockport, famous for hot dogs and giant catfish, is also famous in my books for a boutique called Eveline Street. Proprietress Huda Haddad pulls together a stellar collection featuring hard-to-find labels (Metalicus, cut-loose and the much-coveted John Fluevog shoes and boots). Huda will take one look at you and start pulling pieces—a cardigan here, a vest there—and you’ll be looking red-carpet-ready in no time.
Visit the General Store
The Red River General Store, that is. Monique Buckmaster was driving by a long-abandoned general store one day and had a thought. “I kind of like it.” So on a whim, she purchased the store and transformed it into what has become a favourite weekend stop. On a country road along the Red River, the store stocks heirloom seeds, local honey, locally-roasted coffee, handmade soaps and everything Monique grows in her ever-expanding gardens. It’s all organic. There’s fresh organic baking too—apple butter filled cinnamon buns, buttery cheese scones and still-warm bread. On weeknights, there are workshops—everything from how to make soap to sauerkraut.
Pumpkin Patch Stop
You must stop at one of the many homes along Henderson Highway that have created captivating fall arrangements featuring pumpkins, other squashes and the last of the season’s veggies. Take some photos with the kids. Maybe they’ll have some warm apple cider to sample. Pick out your Jack-O-Lanterns and for the season ahead. Grab some sugar pumpkins to make my favourite—pumpkin pie.