We spent lots of time on the road when I was a kid. Although many of our Manitoba travels were sports related, my parents also sold Amway products, so they would regularly be scooting around making deliveries and doing product demonstrations in rural Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Despite this, I can’t really remember ever exploring the towns or making a field trip out of our excursions, so my memories are mostly restricted to baseball diamonds, arenas, curling rinks and the occassional town pool. It has been lots of fun going back to many of the towns I visited as a child and digging a little deeper to find the treasures that lay behind my limited knowledge and experience in these rural locations.
When I travel to my hometown of Binscarth, Manitoba, we drive the Yellowhead Hwy. #16 which passes right down the Main Street of Neepawa. As I have gotten older, I have become more observant and have noticed and appreciated the beautiful old trees that canopy many of the streets, the gorgeous location with part of the town nestled onto hillsides and the old heritage properties that seem to be in abundance. I have always wanted to spend some time exploring Neepawa and last Friday presented the perfect opportunity, as all it meant was an early departure for Bible Camp pick-up. I was on my own, so I could spend as little or as much time as I wanted doing the things that interested me the most. In the end, I spent about 3 1/2 hours in Neepawa and easily could have extended my time.
Neepawa Visit July 2014:
I had timed my visit with the Neepawa Lily Festival, but in all honesty most of what I wanted to do involved exploring things that are there whether it is festival time or not. Of course, the town was a buzz with visitors, vendors and of course the many locals who were out to support the festivities. Like most festivals, there are many events planned for both young and old, but my feeling in general is that it is somewhat more appealing to those that have a great appreciation for horticulture and a love for beautiful flowers and gardens. I like that too, but in most cases a slow drive by or quick stop at a garden is enough for me. I was really more interested in what the town itself has to offer.
Not unlike my other Manitoba visits, I have found that planning ahead is a bit difficult. Most town websites offer a list of services and businesses, but don’t really allow you to find the quaint little shops, coffee shops and restaurants that I find so appealing. I would always rather hear from a local or a previous visitor to find out their experiences and recommendations. There is nothing like the positive experience of someone else (or negative for that matter), to help guide you in where to go and what to see. The internet has not really proven to be that useful when trying to figure these things out ahead of time, so I do what I do best ~ talk to people. Much of my day evolved through the conversations I had with people along the way.
1. My first stop was the Court House which in itself is a remarkable building that was built in 1884 and considered one of the 24 historical landmarks identified in Neepawa. Of course, architecture is one of the things that fascinates me most and this building did not disappoint. I went inside and stopped to chat with a lady at the Lily Festival Information center. She was able to provide me with a map and answer some of my questions about where to go and what to see during my short stay.
2. Farmer’s Market ~ There were many vendors set-up because of the festival and they offered everything from food to clothing. Some vendors were selling handmade goods while others were marketing jewellery and funky clothing. I wandered through, but shopping was not really in my plans, so I headed straight for the tours.
3. In conjunction with the festival, there were 3 tours being offered. There was a 2 hour bus tour highlighting the history of the town and buildings and a second 2 hour bus tour of the gardens/lilies. I didn’t really have time for a 2 hour tour, although I would have enjoyed the historical tour. (This tour may also be available at other times of the year, but I’m not 100% sure and couldn’t find where I had previously read that.) I opted for the third tour which was only 20 minutes and gave me a nice quick tour of the town via horse and wagon. This tour took us down past Margaret Laurence’s childhood home and the old Knox Presbyterian Church which just celebrated its 137th Anniversary. I didn’t have a chance to see the inside of the church, but would have loved to. There were many other beautiful old homes along the way.
4. After the tour, I decided to get a bite to eat at the Brews Brothers Bistro which is right on the main drag ~ Mountain Avenue. It is located in a heritage building and has very high ceilings and exposed piping. The restaurant is family owned and you can tell that the owners have poured their hearts into building a successful business. Although I had to eat and run, I did enjoy speaking to one of the owners. She was very friendly and open to me sharing my experience with my readers. I ordered the “full” size Greek salad and it was not only delicious, but huge and inexpensive as well. The service was quick and good. The bistro serves pizza, quesadillas, soup and salads. Although I didn’t have coffee, I also hear they serve a great cup of coffee with an array of options. I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch and the price was right at around $8 for a very large portion.
5. After lunch, I did a quick walk of the main street and checked out a few of the shops. It’s Time Fashion and Gifts offers a wide array of items and is a true gem for such a small town. It’s Time occupies…
4500 square feet filled to the brim with unique fashions,accessories, gifts and wellness products.
6. My final stop was the Margaret Laurence House. With time running out, I optedfor a quick self-guided tour. I was disappointed that I didn’t have time for the guided tour, as a few ladies had just completed it and were raving about how informative it had been. I enjoyed touring the home and my favourite part was finding the hole where the old stove pipe had been. Evidently Margaret used to listen to adult conversations through this when she was young. I must admit, visiting the home made me want to go back and read The Stone Angel again as I can’t even remember the story line….unfortunately high school was a long time ago for me.
7. With only a few minutes to spare before I had to hit the road and pick the kids up at camp. I decided to take a quick drive around town. I was told that two “must sees” were the Riverside Cemetery and the garden at the bottom of the hill on Mill Street. I did a quick tour and found both without too much difficulty. Although I am not 100% sure, I think I found the Stone Angel, as well??
Although I’m not certain, I think this beautiful garden is privately owned and maintained. It sits at the bottom of Mill Street and is truly remarkable although my pictures don’t really do it any justice.
I really enjoyed my time in Neepawa and wasn’t ready to leave when the time came. It is a gorgeous town with lots to see and do. If I had more time, I would have loved to visit the Beautiful Plains Museum, Lion’s Riverbend Park, The Lily Nook and completed the self-guided walking tour that takes you by all 24 of the historically significant buildings. There is a brochure highlighting the properties with a short historical summary of each. I’m not sure if this is available in a pdf or not, but I was given a copy when I booked my “horse and wagon tour”. I didn’t visit the park/campground, so I really can’t comment, but it looked beautiful from a distance when I took my drive around town. Lots to do and see in Neepawa!