Our Polar Bear Adventure Starts in Winnipeg

Visiting Churchill, the Polar Bear Capital of the World, located on the shores of Hudson Bay, has been on our ‘must do’ travel list for quite some time. We realized that dream earlier this month.

Our travels will eventually take us to Churchill.

On November 10, we flew from Washington, DC to Winnipeg (via Chicago) for a three-night stay before joining our Frontiers North Adventures (FNA) group. Both United flights were on time and the air travel was hassle free. Upon arrival in Winnipeg, we checked into the Sheraton Four Points at the airport. The hotel is connected to the terminal via a skywalk – very handy in the winter. We asked for a room overlooking the Winnipeg skyline in the distance — not so much for the view, but rather to ensure as little noise as possible from airport operations. Our strategy worked!

November 11 – Remembrance Day – dawned overcast, but by the time we had picked up our rental car and driven into downtown Winnipeg, the skies had cleared. While it was quite cold, and there was snow and ice on the sidewalks, the sky was blue and the sun was out. It turned out to be a really beautiful day, in fact.

On the way to downtown Winnipeg, we stopped at the Legislative Building, hoping to go on one of the public tours. Unfortunately, the building was closed to visitors due to Remembrance Day. It turns out that was the case for most of the places in town, although some opened around 1:00p.

We spent a good bit of the morning at the St Boniface Cathedral – a little eerie since only parts of the exterior walls remain. (The cathedral has burned down multiple times, most recently in 1968.) There was a poignant Remembrance Day ceremony near the gates. Not wanting to intrude on the solemn occasion, we watched from a distance. Next, we headed to The Forks for a quick bite of lunch before going for a walk along the riverfront promenade, which was covered in snow and ice. Negotiating parts of the path was tricky, but we enjoyed ourselves tremendously and the walk was exhilarating.

The Winnipeg skyline, looking across the Red River from the Tache Dock.

From the end of the Red River pathway, we took a meandering walk towards the center of town. Seeing that most of the stores on Portage Avenue were closed, we cut our foray into Winnipeg's shopping district short, returning to The Forks for another brisk walk, this time on the path along the Assiniboine River. A quick look-see at what remains of Old Fort Garry and a "cuppa" hot tea at the historic Fort Garry Hotel concluded our day of sightseeing.

St Boniface from the Red River pathway at The Forks.

We went to the Gasthaus Gutenberger for dinner. Excellent food – delicious soup to warm us up and great schnitzels (big portions). We split one order between the two of us and were comfortably sated, with room left over for a very yummy dessert – the Black Forest Cup (think chocolate sundae with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and lots and lots of cherries). We brought the evening to a close with a return visit to St Boniface Cathedral for some nighttime shots.

St Boniface Cathedral

November 12 dawned overcast and remained that way all day. At least it didn’t get any colder than it had been on the previous days - about 34F [1C]. We spent the day at Assiniboine Park – more specifically, first at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden and later at the Assiniboine Zoo.

There was a lot of snow on the ground at the sculpture garden, but we did not let that deter us from exploring the grounds. From there, we headed to the zoo, which we pretty much had to ourselves. We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the animals that were in their outdoor habitats. While there, we caught a glimpse of Debby, the world’s oldest polar bear, nestled amongst the boulders in her exhibit. (Little did we know then that we would return to Winnipeg a week later to hear that she had been euthanized in our absence [old age; multiple strokes; failing organs]).

I enjoyed all of the sculptures, but the whimsical bears were my favorite.

Musk oxen mum and calf at the Assiniboine Zoo.

That evening, we joined our FNA group for dinner at the hotel.

Next Up: The Eismeisters of the Churchill Tundra


  1. I really enjoyed your blog. Ilve only been to Winnipeg in the summer (and usually on business) so it was a treat to read a description of it in the winter.

  2. Dear eenusa,

    I followed your Antarctica Trip report at Fodor to Churchill trip here.
    Both are excellent, and people use the information you provided to prepare they trip.

    We are kind of your neighbor in Columbia, MD and also plan an Antarctica trip. From your report, you mentioned that you used a travel agency in Buenos Aires for your internal flight. Would you please pass that info to us?
    Email: riverhill99@yahoo.com
    Thank you very much!