Manitoba Stay-Cation #13: Selkirk, Manitoba

Selkirk, MBWith just under 10,000 people living in Selkirk, it is considered one of Manitoba’s 10 cities. Being a small city, Selkirk obviously has a much larger array of businesses, recreational activities and services than many of the smaller communities I’ve highlighted this summer. From my home in Winnipeg, I can reach Selkirk in about 30 minutes, depending on traffic. It’s close proximity makes it an attractive destination when you are looking for something to do that is close to the city.

This summer, we have made not one, but two trips to Selkirk. On our first excursion, we went with only one thing on our minds….DINNER! I had heard about Barney Gargles from a few different people and the rave reviews made it a must to check-out.

The History of Barney Gargles:

Barney GarglesJudy Venier (Parkin) first took over the restaurant from her former partner around 1988. In 1991, Shirley Cormack joined her sister Judy, and together they became the sole owners of Barney Gargles. Over the years, Judy and Shirley’s children worked in various positions at the restaurant. Sadly, after 25 years in business, the future of this family run restaurant became uncertain, when the sisters both passed away earlier this year. Shirley’s son, Rob Cormack, had returned to the business to help out his mother in the weeks leading up to Judy’s passing and made the decision to stay on when Judy passed away in March of 2014. When Shirley passed away very suddenly just a few months later, in July, Rob, his siblings and cousins were left with many questions regarding the future of Barney Gargles. The restaurant temporarily closed its doors following Judy’s passing, but in the end it was decided, by both families, to reopen the business with Rob’s sister, Julia, as the manager. Rob continues to help-out at Barney Gargles when he is not at his full-time job. I was fortunate enough to sit down and speak with Rob for a few minutes following our meal and have since corresponded with him via email. He provided me with the history of the restaurant. He said that the decor and menu have changed over the years, but the family has always been committed to making as much of the food “in house” as possible. Rob shared that:

All of our cakes and pies are done right in the back kitchen and we still follow the fish batter recipe that came with the restaurant.

I’m sure that the decision to keep the doors of Barney Gargles open was welcome news to the community of Selkirk.

Our Experience at Barney Gargles:

First and foremost, in my experience a “line-up” is generally a good sign. We headed out for dinner on the Sunday of August long weekend and the restaurant was running a rib special. Having never been there before, I’m not sure if there is generally a wait or not, but I can honestly say it had me excited about the prospects of a great meal. We were told we’d have close to a half hour wait, but ended up getting in within 20 minutes or less. We waited out on the lovely bench outside and enjoyed the great weather. Many came and went while we waited. All those that left, seemed very satisfied with their meals and several were regulars (of course, I asked).

We had heard that Barney Gargles was best known for their battered fish and chips and desserts. We wanted to have a bit of variety, but at the same time, Tim and I both wanted the fish. Here’s what we ordered:

Every item we ordered was absolutely delicious. All of our meals came with fries and coleslaw. The fish was also served with a signature sauce that was super good. Tim requested sweet potato fries in lieu of regular and said the were very good as well. (I can’t believe I didn’t sneak one off his plate!) We really enjoyed the deep fried pickles and bruschetta appetizers that we shared, but the battered cod was superb. We were pretty much filled to the brim when we finished eating, but having passed the dessert showcase on the way in, there was no possible way we were leaving with sampling! It actually reminded me of a mini Baked Expectations, but with less selection. My guess is there were about 8 to 12 desserts to choose from and all looked incredible. I suggested sharing, but we all wanted something different, so in the end we ordered three and took the left overs home in a container. Aside from the food we ordered, Tim and Shay both had drinks. We were amazed by the very reasonable prices as our bill came to around $80 with taxes for the three of us (Eden was away at a friend’s and missed out). We really felt that both the food and value were very good. The restaurant was quite busy when we first arrived, but the service was still very good and the atmosphere was warm and comfortable. It is a great family restaurant and we’ll definitely be making the trip again soon.

Tim hadn’t sampled Shay’s chocolate cake until the next day and it was so good that he admitted he might actually be convinced to become a chocolate convert. It’s not that he doesn’t like chocolate, but when given the choice, he will almost always choose something else. This chocolate cake even had him “oohing and awing!”

Although we did not order either, when I quizzed our server up, she said that people actually travel miles for their liver & onions and veal. So, if you’re craving liver, veal, fish & chips or even a yummy piece of dessert, consider driving out to Selkirk to try something different.

Marine Museum of Manitoba:

Our second trip to Selkirk was planned to take advantage of what I hope is not the last hot day of the summer. The kids and I packed up and drove out to Selkirk for the afternoon with plans to visit the Marine Museum of Manitoba and the Selkirk Park, Pool and Splash Pad.

The Marine Museum of Manitoba is situated on the banks of the Red River just outside the Selkirk Park gates. The museum exhibit consists of self-guided tours of 6 of Manitoba’s historic vessels. You are free to wander the ships and explore them in their entirety, from the guest rooms, to the decks, the galley, and even the “bowels of the ships”. If that isn’t interesting enough, many of the rooms in the ships are filled with theme based marine artifacts. The ships range in age, with the oldest being a steamship that was built in 1897. The ships are all unique and different as they were all designed and built for a variety of purposes. Aside from the S.S. Keenora (steamship), there is a historic icebreaker, a passenger and freight boat, a lake and river tug boat, as well as the Joe Simpson freighter which was built in 1963. The other 4 vessels were built in 1915, 1942 and 1955. I found it interesting to note the differences in what appeared to be the quality of the materials and workmanship in the various vessels. Understandably, each served different purposes and therefore the aesthetics would not be as important in an ice breaker as in that of a passenger boat! The kids and I enjoyed exploring the different boats and I thought it was neat to experience the true size of the boats because they were sitting on the ground and the entire “body” of the vessel was visible. The ships are connected by planks, so you are easily able to go from one ship to the next. It was a very hot day and I must admit we didn’t spend much time examining the various artifacts throughout the vessels.

Selkirk Park, Pool and Splash Pad:

My cousin and her family just moved back to Selkirk in June and she told me about the pool/beach. We had planned to get together, but it just hasn’t worked out, so I decided we would head out on our own. I think what really intrigued me about the pool/beach (or as the kids and I now call it “the Peach“) was that it brought me back to the many days we used to spend at the Oasis. We had always loved the Oasis because it was super close to the city, a great beach experience and yet pretty safe because there were no currents or anything like that to be concerned with. We were so sad when it sold several years ago and went private. In the years since, I can honestly say we don’t do more than a couple of beach trips per year. However, the Selkirk “Peach” may be just what we were looking for!

The Peach (pool/beach) is a man made pool with a “pebbled” finish cement bottom and a side walk that extends around the entire circumference of the pool. The pool is 110 by 95 metres and holds 6 million litres of water! It has a gradual depth increase and in the centre of the pool there is a floating “dock” to jump from. Diving is not allowed as the depth is only 7 feet in the centre. Sitting up against the sidewalk that surrounds the pool is a nice beautiful sandy beach and then beyond that, the outer most layer of these “concentric ovals” is several feet of grass. It is truly a wonderful place. Although the water is not “blue” like a pool, it seems very clean and I love that I can experience the beach without the worry of blood suckers, fish and seaweed. I must say I can be a bit squeamish when swimming in open water. This is really the best of everything. I also love the fact that trees have been planted in the grass that grows outside the sandy ring. This allows you to choose sun or shade or even both, depending on where you set-up for the day. I also loved that I could park right up against the fence that sits outside the perimeter of the pool and not have to lug the chairs, beach bags, air mattress, etc. too far. In fact, at the end of the day, I dropped everything over the fence to Shay who was waiting on the other side to put everything in the car. The water was beautiful and it really was a great day! For all of you former Oasis lovers out there….this is it, even better.

In addition to the pool, there is also an 18 feature splash pad for smaller children and modern change rooms and washrooms. The pool is located right inside the Selkirk Park, just past the Marine Museum. The cost is $4.50 per person, but children under 3 get in free. There are also season passes available.

Snak Shak:

Snak ShakBy the time we were ready to head back, it was late afternoon and everyone was a bit hungry. Although Selkirk has both a McDonald’s and a Dairy Queen, I really wanted to treat the kids to ice cream at a smaller privately owned business. I asked the lifeguards at the pool and they recommended the Snak Shak. It is a little drive-in style restaurant that was established in 1973. It is off the main drag, located at 545 Manitoba Avenue. You order at the window and either eat outside or in the car. At the Snak Shak, they serve both hard ice cream and 24 flavours of soft ice cream, as well as many specialty ice cream treats like sundaes, floats and banana splits. In addition, they also serve a variety of fast foods such as burgers, fries, taco in a bag, perogies, pizza pops, onion rings, etc. Although we didn’t eat, I asked our server what meals were the most popular and she immediately answered that their burgers and fries were very good. We didn’t have either, but I would love to check it out sometime.

Upper Crust Bakery:

Upper Crust BakeryWe didn’t stop at the Upper Crust Bakery, but some of you may remember when they had a location in the city, on Pembina Highway (I think). Their bakery offers delicious baking and I especially loved their cinnamon buns. The original bakery is in Selkirk and still remains there today. I actually didn’t realize it until I did this post, but the Upper Crust Bakery does still have a Winnipeg location in Charleswood at 3416 Roblin Blvd. So, if you’re craving one of the best cinnamon buns around and can’t make it out to Selkirk, you can always pick some up in Charleswood.

If in fact you do take a drive out to Selkirk, Eveline Street runs along the river and has some beautiful old historic homes along it. It is obviously one of the older streets in the city and is lined with big beautiful mature trees as well. Enjoy your trip!

Manitoba Stay-Cation #11: Cooks Creek Afternoon Adventure

Why Cooks Creek?

Cooks Creek is a very small Manitoba community located just minutes from the city. The only reason I even know of Cooks Creek is because Ace Burpee often mentions his parents and home town during his morning radio show. Being a small town girl myself, I was always intrigued and wondered what Cooks Creek was like. This summer, Cooks Creek once again popped up on my “radar” when I was researching Manitoba Festivals. I thought the Cooks Creek Medieval Festival sounded really cool and was so disappointed when I had a schedule conflict and couldn’t make it. It is definitely on my “Manitoba Must Do’s” list, but it will now have to wait until another year.

Although I’d really never travelled in this direction, I did end up heading out this way as part of my Manitoba Stay-Cation blog theme. I was out for a drive and passed the Cooks Creek turn off while en route to Beausajour and Lac du Bonnet. I made a mental note and decided to do some research and find out more about the town when I got home (despite having missed the festival). I was amazed to learn about the massive “prairie cathedral” located in Cooks Creek and just knew I’d have to set aside some time to check it out. So, Sunday afternoon my neighbor and I hit the trail and set out to do some exploring.

Cooks Creek Heritage Museum:

Although our sites were set on the Immaculate Conception Church in Cooks Creek, we had decided to take the afternoon to explore the area and thus made a stop at Cook’s Creek Heritage Museum before continuing on to the church. The museum grounds consist of 7 historic buildings that are full of treasures from the past. I have been in many museums, but what made this a bit different was the large collection of religious artifacts. Having grown up Roman Catholic, many of the pieces brought back memories of my childhood (when I was an “Alter Girl”!) There was also war memorabilia and it was interesting to see pieces from Auschwitz, a concentration camp that was located in Poland. [I had just finished reading The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (an excellent book) and much of the story focussed on life in this particular camp.] We did find that some of the museum items didn’t have proper signage or descriptions and it was somewhat difficult to figure out the historical value/purpose of them. The museum also boasts a beautiful array of traditional Slavic costumes. We enjoyed browsing through the various rooms of the main house, as well as most of the outlying buildings. Here are a couple of pictures from our museum stop:

St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church:

While at the Museum, we also had the opportunity to take a quick peek at the church next door. St. Michael’s is also a beautiful old church and I’m so glad we got to take a look around before heading to the Immaculate Conception Church.

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Immaculate Conception Church:

I have to begin this with a bit of a disclaimer. Although raised Catholic, I have not attended a Catholic church for many years, so I feel like I’m almost talking about a foreign subject. Please forgive me if my descriptions or wording are not completely accurate, most of this post is based on a the limited printed information I was able to find/collect along with what I remember from the tour.

One of the Manitoba treasures that I learned about in my Manitoba Stay-Cation research was that located less than 40 km outside of Winnipeg is this monstrosity of a church that is not only an incredible piece of architecture, but also has a tremendous story that’s really worth exploring. The Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church was designed and constructed under the leadership of Father Philip Ruh. Construction began in 1930 and continued to be worked on in stages until it was consecrated in 1952. As you approach the grounds and building for the first time, you can’t help but be “awed” by the expanse and grandeur of the structure, especially when you consider that it is located almost in what appears to be the middle of nowhere. It is not found in the hustle and bustle of the city where there is a huge population to support it and it is not even found in the midst of a rural town, but rather along country road 212, just outside of Cooks Creek. The entire building and grotto were built by volunteer church members. The main church structure was created with concrete, stucco and paint. From the murals to the faux marble painting….everything was created with the love and passion of a group of committed parishioners. This project not only extended over a 22 year period, but also continued during the war when times were very bleak. It is hard to imagine the thousands of hours of volunteer labour that went into the building of the Immaculate Conception Church.

Our tour guide, Darlene, was extremely knowledgable and it was very interesting to hear the stories of how the church came to be and learn the history of many of the artifacts as well as the symbolism and meaning behind the icons and art work that flank the sanctuary. It seemed as though every image and statue was created, selected or given for a very specific purpose or with symbolic reasoning. It was very interesting, but I highly recommend the short guided tour as I would never have learned what I did without Darlene’s expertise and passion for what she does.

Although I’m sharing a few pictures, mine totally fail in comparison to the amazing photos taken by Winnipeg photographer Ken Yuel. You absolutely need to click the link to check-out his pictures of Manitoba’s “prairie cathedral”.

There is much written about Father Ruh, as he was responsible for designing many churches across Canada in the early 1900’s. It is believed that over 40 of those churches remain as a part of his legacy today.

Shortly after the completion of the church, Father Ruh embarked on a new dream. He envisioned creating a place of worship similar to that of Our Lady of Lourdes shrine that is located in Lourdes, France.  It is considered to be one of the most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world and it was Father Ruh’s dream to create something similar right here in Manitoba. The grotto that was created on the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Church is very large and has a somewhat medieval look. Although the structure is still very impressive, one couldn’t help but notice the deteriorating condition of the faux stone.

The Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Church and Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes are really a testament to Father Ruh and the dedicated volunteers in his parish who joined together in this labour of love. Upon close inspection, you can see the little imperfections in some of the work, but when looked upon as a whole I am truly moved by how they pulled together to accomplish this wondrous place of worship. It is truly mind boggling to think of all of the effort that went into to the planning, building and finishing of this project. It is totally worth the drive to see this for yourself.

Pineridge Hollow:

Time was running short, but we couldn’t help but take a quick detour and stop at Pineridge Hollow on our way home. We didn’t have time to eat, but I know their reputation speaks for itself. The restaurant boasts fresh Manitoba grown food and the atmosphere is second to none. The grounds are beautiful and the store has “my taste” stamped all over it. I absolutely love all of the unique gift ideas, furniture and accessories. If you are looking for a great meal and an awesome shopping experience, Pineridge Hollow is a must stop!

We had a wonderful afternoon and all of this was less than 40 minutes from the city. If you decide to do the Cooks Creek Adventure, be sure to check the websites for hours of operation. I do believe the church is only open on weekends. Enjoy!


Manitoba Stay-Cation #10: Clear Lake/Riding Mountain National Park

As a kid, Clear Lake was an annual vacation destination for much of our extended family. Several of my cousins and their families would rent cabins at Clear Lake and spend a week there each summer. Our family never rented a cottage, but we would sometimes drive up for the day and join in the fun. I have only been back a few times as an adult, but a few weeks back, the kids and I were invited to spend the weekend with my cousin at the cottage they’d rented for the summer. This coincided perfectly with my kid’s camp pick-up date and the cottage was less than 15 minutes from their camp. The best part was that we got to visit with Brenda and had a wonderful tour guide to shows all the best things to see and do. Unfortunately, it poured rain much of the weekend. When it wasn’t raining, it was really too cool for swimming in the lake, so we didn’t get to do as much as we wanted. Despite our limited personal experiences on our Manitoba Stay-Cation at Clear Lake, here are a few pointers if you plan to visit Riding Mountain National Park any time soon.

If you’ve never visited Clear Lake before, it can be a bit confusing. Here are a few tips that may help to prepare you for your trip. There is a fee when you enter Riding Mountain National Park and it is per person, not per vehicle as is the case in Provincial Parks. It cost us $7.80 per day for an adult and $3.90 per day for youth. So it cost us around $16/day just to enter/stay in the park. We were there 3 days, so that cost a whopping $48! There are annual individual and family passes that are much more economical if you are planning several visits. The Single Location Annual Pass for National Parks is just under $100 for a family. A Discovery Pass allows your family entry into any National Park across Canada and is well worth the $136  if you plan on visiting more than one park. Park passes are valid for 12 full months from date of purchase. Clear Lake is as the name would suggest, the name of one of the lakes inside the park. The park is huge and actually consists of several smaller lakes and campgrounds. Clear Lake is the largest and located closest to Wasagaming which is actually the main town-site in the park. Wasagaming is sometimes used synonymously with “Clear Lake“. Onanole, MB is a small village just South of Wasagaming and between the two is Sportman’s Park, which has a seasonal campground and offers various services and activities for those visiting the area. If you click this link, there is a map that will provide you with a better understanding of the park.

Things to Do:

There are so many things to do that I couldn’t possibly identify them all, but I assure you there is something for everyone. Here are just a few:carriage ride

  • Horse drawn carriage ride around the Wasagaming Town-Site
  • Boat and Paddle Board Rentals
  • Bike Rentals
  • Horseshoes
  • Tennis
  • Miniature Golf
  • 18 Hole Clear Lake Golf Course
  • horse back riding
  • hiking
  • swimming
  • and no doubt many more things I’ve failed to mention

The Park Theatre is the largest log cabin theatre in North America. It was built in 1937 and is definitely considered a Clear Lake hallmark. It still operates today and in 2012 converted to digital film in order to stay in business. I was disappointed we weren’t able to see a movie there during our stay. I know I would want to arrive early enough to check out the building as I know I’d appreciate its unique architecture.Park Theatre


Of course, I can’t speak based on first hand experience because we stayed in my cousin’s rented cottage, but I can tell you that there are various types of accommodations to choose from.

  • camping
  • oTENTik and Yurts (for those that are looking for something more rustic than a cottage, but a step up from tenting. I actually saw a sample oTENTik in the park and was very impressed. This would be a great option for anyone willing to rough it…..just a bit.)
  • Hotels/Motels/Resorts
  • Cottage Rentals

My cousin made a few recommendations regarding places to stay. She said that Manigaming Resort always appeared to be very well maintained. She also told me that her family annually spends a few nights at one of the chalets at Elkhorn Resort during the winter and they love it. Aspen Ridge cottages were formerly known as Lee’s and have been well maintained over the years. Idylwiylde cottages are also nice. I’m sure there are other great places to stay, but these are the ones that she had either stayed at, visited or heard about.


The streets are lined with quaint little shops and boutiques offering beach wear, high end clothing, good quality footwear, jewellery and giftware. It has a very “old-fashioned resort town” feel and the streets are always busy with people wondering in and out of stores. I am generally not much of a shopper (other than for great deals), but there were many businesses that are sure to appeal to those that love to spend.

One place that really stood out for me was Poor Michael’s Emporium. This shop is packed with used books and an assortment of unique giftware and art. It is bubbling over with character and has an incredible cozy atmosphere. Inside there is also a cafe that offers a selection of home baking and light snacks. Poor Michael’s should be on the top of your list of “must do’s”. I wish I had more time, but I was on my way to pick the kids up when I stopped in. Next year when I go to camp drop-off/pick-up I’ll be sure to set aside some time to truly explore and enjoy Michael’s. It is located right on the roadside in Onanole MB, just a few miles from the park entrance.Poor Michael's Emporium


If you regularly read my blog, you already know food is much more up my alley. We only tried out a few of the establishments, but of course, Brenda was able to advise us on the best “eats” in the area.

The Chocolate Fox is a quaint cottage style shop that offers an assortment of Manitoba products. Some of the products they sell include Manitobah Mukluks (love these!!) and Fixation Jewelry. They also serve some of the best gelati I’ve tasted. The gelati is made right in the store and is absolutely delicious. They sell other specialty treats like Morden’s fine chocolates and an assortment of fudge, as well as freshly made popcorn in a variety of flavours. The Chocolate Fox is a “must” if you are visiting Clear Lake.

The Martese is a local tour boat that can accommodate 95 passengers on its 3 decks. They offer a dinner cruise that received some good reviews on Trip Advisor. We weren’t able to do this because of the weather, but I think it would be a lovely experience and word is the food is good….especially the cheesecake. This short promotional video gives a bit of Clear Lake history and some video footage of the lake.

If you asked my kids, I’m sure that they would agree that The Sugar Shop is one of their favourites. This is a little shop that is filled with bulk candy bins and an assortment of wrapped candy. The best part is that all of the bulk candy is the same price, so the kids can fill there little bag up with all of their favourites without the fuss of bagging each selection separately. Brenda says the store is always busy!Sugar shop


We didn’t even enter T.R. McKoy’s during our short stay, but I was told that the patio is a lovely spot to enjoy a few appetizers and sangria late in the afternoon on warm day!

Whitehouse Restaurant & Bakery is clearly a popular spot. Every time we walked by there was a line-up that extended outside the doors. Obviously, the crowd is a testament to the great food and service. We didn’t get an opportunity to sample the goods, but I’m told the bakery is excellent. In fact, Manitoba sought out some of the best places for sweet treats across the province and has placed the Whitehouse in what is known as  Cinnamon Bun Trail brochure! Who wouldn’t want to follow that trail?Whitehouse Bakery

Clear Lake Trading Post serves as the local grocery mart and is great for picking up anything you may have forgotten when packing for your trip.

Sportman’s Park is not only an RV park that offers seasonal sites, it also has a restaurant, small arcade, pool table, miniature golf course and a convenience store. The parking lot is host to a busy Farmer’s Market every Saturday. We stopped by and loaded up on fresh fruit and veggies, some baking and I even bought a funky watch to replace my broken one. We also stopped at Sportsman’s Park on the way home for a quick round of mini-golf and a bite to eat. The golf course seemed to be well maintained and the food was good. I had a burger and the kids both had pizza and everything tasted great. I was a bit disappointed that we had to leave, as the Sunday evening live entertainment on the patio was just starting and it looked like a good time.

Across the road from Sportman’s Park is The Foxtail Cafe. Although we didn’t eat there, Brenda says the food is very good and made special mention of their signature wood fired pizzas.

One of the places I went on more than one occasion was the Siesta Cafe. Although we didn’t eat, they served an awesome cup of coffee and had a wonderful little patio out front that you could sit on to enjoy your java. The cafe was very quaint and one of my favourite spots. The food also receives great reviews on Trip Advisor.

There is so much to see and do (and eat!) in Clear Lake. The whole experience seems to take you to a far off place. It feels like you are walking the boardwalk in a popular tourist destination, but instead of tacky knickknacks and souvenirs, there are good quality charming little spots to eat, drink, shop and explore. My biggest disappointment was the weather and lack of time we had.

Of course, all of these things cost money! It is difficult to explore the Wasagaming town-site without the kids begging for this and that along the way. I would suggest setting a budget or pre-planning the activities that you’d like to do during your stay. It could get very pricey between park fees, accommodations, activity costs, trips to the candy store, eating out and gelati runs!

Clear Lake is a beautiful place to visit and makes a wonderful vacation destination. I highly recommend it and would place it near the top of my Manitoba Stay-Cation list!

Manitoba Stay-Cation #9: Neepawa, Manitoba

Manitoba Stay-cation NeepawaWe 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.Manitoba Stay-cation

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.

Manitoba Stay-cation

Neepawa Court House ~ built in 1884

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.

Manitoba Stay-cation Neepawa

Neepawa Lily Festival Market

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. 

Manitoba Stay-Cation Neepawa

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!

Manitoba Stay-Cation #4 ~ State of Mind

Over the past few days, I have come to realize something that never really occurred to me before….a “VACATION” doesn’t have anything to do with distance travelled or amount of money spent. I had a bit of an “a-ha” moment yesterday when we were heading out to Lockport to my sister in-law’s. The sunroof was open, windows down, great tunes were playing and the mood was light…..we were totally living in the moment and our minds were “unoccupied” with the pressures of life.  As I took it all in, it suddenly dawned on me that VACATION is really more about attitude and living in the moment than it is about location. We have travelled this road many times before, but for a change we decided to take River Road instead. This scenic drive took as along the river. It was interesting to look at all of the beautiful homes that rest along the banks of the Red River, some brand new and others many decades old. The drive took us no more than 20 minutes, but for those few minutes in time, we were in fact, on “vacation”.


I decided to look up the meaning of the word vacation and although we often think of a vacation as an extended period of time away from work or home, the root word is of course, “vacate” or to be “unoccupied“. In thinking about that I realized that vacation really is more about state of mind than anything else. Totally aborting all work, worries and thoughts that bog us down, even if only for a short period. It is about taking a break from work and the hustle and bustle of life.

My Reflections:

My mind is rarely still. I am one of those people who truly have difficulty enjoying the moment. I’m guilty of letting my mind wonder and ponder when I should be listening and more “present” and living in the moment. I’m aware of my short comings and this is one of my biggest battles. I’m one of those people who feel I need to be physically away from home to disengage, but perhaps I don’t need to escape the country and hop on a plane to be on vacation. Wouldn’t it be freeing to be able to accomplish that same euphoria that you experience on a tropical vacation, right here at home. There is nothing worse than living your life for vacation ~ constantly being in “wait” mode. What if we could mimic that by simply changing our attitude and state of mind. I think it is a conscious decision that takes effort to follow through, but the benefits could be priceless. Perhaps I can learn to stop and create those moments or hours in a day by simply deciding to disengage from my thoughts/work, and go to a “space” where my mind is in fact, unoccupied. Just stop and enjoy the moment. It doesn’t have to be on a sandy beach or a trendy tourist spot, perhaps it is just looking around and wondering what someone else would notice or think if they visited Manitoba for the first time. We live in a beautiful city, with incredible history and architeture. So often we become too familiar with our surroundings and with that comes a lack of appreciate for the beauty before us. Ice cream at the BDI sounds like a great “vacation” and wouldn’t take more than an hour. How about taking in one of the many free concerts or making a decision to explore a city park you have never visited?

This summer, as we continue to venture out and take in the sights and sounds of the city and our province, I hope to view my surroundings with “rose coloured glasses”. I want to be more observant and take note of all those things that I’ve never taken the time to notice or appreciate before. For the first time ever, I am not only proud to be a Manitoban, but I am excited to explore all that it has to offer! I hope that some of my readers will also take the plunge and go on a Manitoba Stay-Cation with my family and I.

I would love to hear from you. If you have favourite Manitoba shops, restaurants, quaint little villages, parks, campgrounds, etc. Please leave a comment below. I have lots planned, but I would love to discover all of those little gems that others don’t know about. Please let me know your Manitoba Musts!




Manitoba Stay-Cation #3: Souris, MB

Instead of taking our typical route home to Winnipeg from Binscarth along the Yellowhead (Hwy #16), I had done some advanced planning and decided to take an alternate route via Highway #83 through Birtle and then south to Virden. The road was re-opened, but the Assinaboine River and ground water was still very high along the highway. From Virden, we took the TransCanada Hwy#1 to Hwy#21 south. We stayed on this highway until we reached Hwy#2 and then began our trip eastward towards home. Our chosen “pit stop” was Souris, MB. I remember visiting Souris as a child as my dad coached the Binscarth Orioles Senior Men’s baseball team and we travelled through much of Manitoba to games and tournaments during the summer months. I didn’t remember much, but did remember “The Swinging Bridge”.  Of course, my memories of the bridge re-surfaced in 2011 when the town was forced to sever the bridge due to extremely high water levels. The bridge was re-built in 2013 and is once again the longest bridge of its kind in Canada.

The Swinging Bridge:

The first swinging Bridge of Souris, (Plumb Creek) was built in 1904 by ‘Squire’ William Henry Sowden to help him sell land on the east bank of the Souris River.  

Mr. Sowden owned land on both sides and the bridge helped him to cross the river and access his land on the opposite bank of the river. To learn more about the history of the bridge, check out this article on eBrandon.

The Hillcrest Museum:

William Henry Sowden also built the beautiful castle like home on the river bank just west of the bridge. The Hillcrest Museum was once home to the Squire and his wife. She had always wanted to live in a castle and thus he built this beautiful home to please his wife. The home was built in 1910 and is loaded with character. The tin ceilings are incredibly designed with some of them being 3 dimensional. Although there are only one or two pieces of furniture from the original home, the museum is set up to show what tools and accessories would have been used through the earlier years of the home’s existence. Some of the rooms have been set-up in themes such as a toy room, vintage clothing room, history of Souris room, etc. The museum is even home to a collection of more than 5000 butterflies. The admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children, so for less than $10 the kids and I had a guided tour of the beautiful home. As a lover of heritage homes, this was a real treat. This incredible home is considered to be in the Top 64 Canadian Heritage Properties.

Victoria Park:

Although we did nothing more than drive through the park, I immediately knew this would be a great place to camp. Plum Creek winds its way through Victoria Park and gorgeous treed campsites line its banks. Aside from the gorgeous camping spots, the park is also home to the town pool which is equipped with water slides and sprinklers.

Other Attractions:

In the few hours we were in Souris, we certainly didn’t have time to take in all the local attractions. There are actually many things to do when visiting this picturesque rural community. There were at least 2 other museums we didn’t visit. The history of Souris was very evident in the heritage homes and buildings we passed as we explored the small town (with less than 2000 people living there). The town is also known for the Agate Pits and for $20 the entire family can explore the pits to see what kind of treasures they might find.

Regarded as North America’s largest deposit of semi-precious gems, this twelve acre glacial deposit is known for agates, but the site has also yielded epidote, jasper, petrified wood and additional varieties of stones, unique to this area.

Woodfire Deli:

We totally lucked out when it came to lunch! We asked the young man at the Hillcrest Museum if he could recommend some place for lunch. He immediately directed us to the Woodfire Deli. The building itself is obviously close to 100 years old, but was recently renovated by the new owners of the building. The ambiance is wonderful with this old versus new contemporary design. The original wide planked floors have been beautifully refinished, but yet proudly reveal the decades of wear and tear. The deli seating is a combination of antique church pews and modern cafe style seating. The ceilings must be at least 15 feet high (maybe 20??) and the decor is very open and airy. The chalkboard menu and whimsical tile work make it visually appealing and very quaint. We absolutely loved the design and the wood fired pizza was delicious! The open wood oven is visible from the tables and the pizza was cooked to perfection. While the kids opted from something very plain, my pizza had roasted red peppers and artichoke. Scrumptious! I had asked if I could take a few pictures for my blog and “Buffy”, one of the owners came by our table and shared a bit of the history of the deli. The owners purchased the property last October and after renovating the space, just opened for business in April of this year. Although we only had the pizza, the restaurant also serves salads, sandwiches, cooking ingredients, gelato and fresh baking.  I think Steve and Elizabeth have a real gem here. In perusing their website, I was intrigued to learn that Elizabeth is a trained holistic health coach and their recipes are made from whole ingredients.

Our Deli brings you all the quality of ‘slow food’ made simple and convenient. The Wood Oven is the heart of our operation, bringing a traditional, slow cooking method into modern ‘fast’ food.

For me, every good trip involves great food and that includes a Manitoba Stay-Cation! The Woodfire Deli was an incredible find and I can’t wait to take my husband back with us next time. I’m not sure if we’ll camp at Souris this summer, but it is definitely on our list of places to visit again.

Manitoba Stay-Cation #2 ~ Rain, Rain Go Away!

The first leg of our Manitoba Stay-Cation was certainly not typical for the Roys. The rain was so heavy on the drive out that I had to pull over at Minnedosa for a nap. The 2 hour drive up to that point had been gruelling, with “water ruts” on the road that pulled the van this way and that, blinding rain and the powerful off-spray from oncoming traffic along the highway. I was so tired I opted to stop for a 15 minute sleep. I have never had to do this before, but knew that I was way too fatigued to drive any further. We arrived safely in the late afternoon and unlike other years, spent all but the last day cooped up inside out of the cold and rain. Most of the Canada Day events were cancelled, but all of the “meals” were still served in the town hall instead of the various locations in town. Like most of Manitoba, Binscarth was blasted with several inches of rain within a small window of time. Basements flooded, sewers backed-up and the creek at the park spilled its banks. Despite the poor weather, we had a wonderful time visiting with family.

Binscarth Park and Pool:

This first set of pictures was taken at the Binscarth Park. I couldn’t find a picture of how the creek usually looks, but if you look at the first picture, you can see a narrow “black” line at the bottom of the green grass line and that is the top of the “subway”. The “subway”, as we always called it is a huge cement channel (like a square culvert) that runs beneath the Yellowhead (#16) Highway. I am not sure, but I am guessing the size of the subway opening is about 8 to 10 feet square. Usually the water runs over the base of the subway and is just a few inches deep.

The subway was one of our favourite places to play when I was growing up. The bottom gets all slimy with algae and we would race down the subway to get a running start and then slide on our bottoms into the open water on the otherside. Of course, I would “have a bird” if my kids did this, but we were generally not very well supervised. In fact, we would ride our bikes the mile out of town to get there down the highway. The park is located in the base of a valley, so this involved navigating the hill down to the park and mustering up the physical strength to make the climb on the way back up. No one wanted to be the one who couldn’t make it and had to get off and push their bike to the top of the hill. I don’t remember how old we were when we began this, but I never remember my parents biking with me. We were definitely very young. Oh, to be raised in the 70’s….were there any rules back then?

The very small creek would run through the subway and is usually no more than about 6 to 8 feet wide and only a few feet deep on this side of the highway. On the other side, it is much deeper and collects more like a pond before running through another subway that runs through a large hill. The pictures below show how the creek spilled its banks and flooded out some of the more open camping spots along the creek. The current was nasty as well.

These photos were taken upstream a few miles from the park. You can see these little streams look more like raging rivers with the high Manitoba waters and strong currents.

This last set of photos were taken yesterday, along Hwy #83 in the valley between Miniota and Virden. If you look at the bridge, you’ll be able to see where the river usually runs. The entire valley has been flooded in this area and the water is right up to the edge of the road.

So happy to have sunshine and warm weather! Stay tuned for our next edition of our Mantioba Stay-Cation!