Man­i­toba of­fers nat­u­ral won­ders – bo­real for­est, north­ern tundra, 100,000 lakes – and cul­tural trea­sures – in­no­va­tive art in­sti­tu­tions, a packed fes­ti­val cal­en­dar and a rich mul­ti­cul­tural tra­di­tion

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1 Se­cret sym­bol­ism, es­o­teric clues, oc­cult

mean­ings! The Her­metic Code may sound like Dan Brown’s lat­est best­seller, but this one-of-a-kind ar­chi­tec­tural tour is a real-life in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mys­ter­ies of the Man­i­toba Leg­isla­tive build­ing, a Win­nipeg land­mark since 1920.

In this riv­et­ing 90-minute ex­plo­ration – des­ig­nated a Sig­na­ture Ex­pe­ri­ence by Destination Canada – ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian Dr. Frank Albo un­locks the mes­sages hid­den within the stately neo­clas­si­cal struc­ture, con­nect­ing the build­ing’s de­sign to mythol­ogy, nu­merol­ogy, Freema­sonry and some scandalous civic his­tory. By the time you’re done, you’ll see the iconic Golden Boy – a five-me­tre statue that looks out over the city – in a whole new light.

2 The Cana­dian Mu­seum for Hu­man Rights,

the only mu­seum in the world solely ded­i­cated to hu­man rights aware­ness, stands in down­town Win­nipeg at the fork of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, for mil­len­nia a tra­di­tional gath­er­ing place for In­dige­nous peo­ples.

The Mik­i­nak-Keya Spirit tour, de­vel­oped and gifted by seven El­ders of the Anishi­naabe, Cree and Dakota na­tions, is a guided cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence that links the mu­seum’s his­toric setting, in­no­va­tive ar­chi­tec­ture and far-reach­ing man­date to In­dige­nous worldviews. Through cer­e­mony, singing and sto­ry­telling, this con­tem­pla­tive jour­ney ex­plores the Seven Sa­cred Teach­ings, in which hu­man rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties are grounded in spir­i­tual bonds con­nect­ing us to each other and to the land.

3 Po­lar bears may grab the most at­ten­tion,

but there’s an­other big white mam­mal mak­ing waves – lit­er­ally! – in Man­i­toba’s north. The Hud­son Bay is home to the largest bel­uga whale pop­u­la­tion on Earth, and sum­mer is the best time to meet them, as they ven­ture by the thousands into the warmer es­tu­ar­ial wa­ters of the Churchill River.

You can ob­serve these gen­tle, play­ful crea­tures from a boat, us­ing hy­drophones to lis­ten in on their chatty, chirp­ing un­der­wa­ter con­ver­sa­tions. Sea North Tours and Lazy Bear Ex­pe­di­tions also sup­ply low-tech kayak­ing, pad­dle-board­ing and snorkelling ex­cur­sions: once you’re in the wa­ter, you might find that cu­ri­ous bel­u­gas want to check you out.

4 Watch cur­tains of coloured light shim­mer

and stream across the night sky in Churchill, rated one of the top three lo­ca­tions world­wide for view­ing the aurora bo­re­alis.

Sci­ence can ex­plain the north­ern lights as charged par­ti­cles hit­ting the Earth’s at­mos­phere. Inuit leg­ends can speak of torches guid­ing spir­its to the af­ter­world. But noth­ing can quite pre­pare you for the ethe­real beauty of na­ture’s own light show. Whether you’re watch­ing from the com­fort of a domed view­ing lounge or camped out on the tundra near a blaz­ing bon­fire, wit­ness­ing this astro­nomic event un­fold across pitch-black sub­arc­tic skies is a trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

5 Man­i­toba may be at the heart of the con­ti­nent,

but Lake Win­nipeg – breath­tak­ingly vast and beau­ti­ful – feels like an in­land sea. With lime­stone beaches, rocky cliffs, low­land marshes and deep swathes of bo­real for­est, the com­plex ecosys­tems sur­round­ing the lake are home to moose, deer, bears and teem­ing birdlife.

The Lake­view He­cla Re­sort of­fers rugged hik­ing and bik­ing trails, along with a lux­ury Nordic-themed spa and an 18-hole lakeside golf course. The town of Gimli, founded on the lake’s south­west­ern shore as a haven for Ice­landic im­mi­grants in the early 20th cen­tury, is packed with cul­tural ameni­ties, in­clud­ing a fourth-gen­er­a­tion fam­ily-run gen­eral store, restau­rants serv­ing pick­erel pulled from the lake, and even an an­nual sum­mer film fes­ti­val.

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