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zoo

Top 5 ways to dine in nature

Get a dose of the wild or a picturesque view of outdoor scenery at these spots that blend sit down dining with outdoor fun.

Courtesy of Tundra Grill

Courtesy of Tundra Grill

The patio at Prairie’s Edge overlooks a serene pond surrounded by the greenery of Kildonan Park. Start the evening with crispy fried beet fritters before taking in a show at outdoor theatre Rainbow Stage. 2015 Main St, 204‑284‑7275

Hearty breakfast and lunch options make Buffalo Stone Cafe inside FortWhyte Alive nature preserve a go-to pick for a sweet nature setting inside city limits. The signature bison burger and a breeze off the shimmering lake are a perfect pair. 1961 McCreary Rd, 204‑989‑8355

Tundra Grill (pictured), inside the Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Journey to Churchill exhibit, boasts a 9 by 150 foot wall of windows looking out onto a polar bear habitat. Snack on kid-friendly foods like hamburgers and pizza while observing the animals roam and play. 2595 Roblin Blvd, 204‑927‑8060, Map 2: D-2

The elegant country cottage setting at Pineridge Hollow is the perfect backdrop to scratch-made fare that highlights prairie products. After sampling wild mushroom-stuffed perogies, wander the on-site garden and hand feed the goats outside. 67086 Heatherdale Rd 25E, Oakbank, MB

A century old country estate is the setting for fine dining at The Gates on Roblin. Seats in the Atrium deliver breathtaking views with your tender duck confit. Take a stroll around the grounds and visit horses grazing in the paddock. 6945 Roblin Blvd, 204‑224‑2837

Visit Wild Churchill Without Leaving Winnipeg at the Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

By Dunja Kovacevic

Tundra Treasures

Peer into the little explored but often mythologized world of the Arctic tundra with the Assiniboine Park Zoo‘s landmark exhibit, Journey to Churchill. Cutting-edge technology, top of the line research facilities, unparalleled attention to authenticity and environmental stewardship have set the bar for polar bear conservation centres, now recognized as the “Manitoba Standard”.

Mother bear and cubs by Keith Levit

Mother bear and cubs by Keith Levit

Majestic Manitoba

The story of Canada’s north is still a largely untold one. With environmental crises looming, the role that Manitoba has in protecting the legacy of the north and shaping the narrative of future generations is becoming increasingly important. By dazzling the senses and engaging the public, Journey to Churchill represents a monumental step towards Winnipeg’s growing reputation as a global leader in environmental and human rights.

The ambitious exhibit is both a love song to the untapped beauty of the north and a ringing call to arms. Opened in 2014, it is the first exhibit of its kind, aimed at education about climate change and conservation issues focused on northern species. According to Margaret Redmond, President and CEO of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy (APC), Journey to Churchill is “unparalleled in the zoo world in terms of its focus on northern wildlife and the immensity of the space given.”

Photo by Brad McCann

Photo by Brad McCann

Polar Bear Pilgrimage

Some 10-12,000 eco-tourists and adventure seekers file northward to Churchill, Manitoba’s Arctic jewel, each year in search of the Great White. Aptly named the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”, the wind-swept tundra has become a mecca for the world’s largest terrestrial predators, located at the crosshairs of their migratory patterns. Thrill seekers take to the frozen expanses of the tundra to catch a glimpse of these incredible carnivores.

While nothing can mimic the heart-pounding adventure of interacting directly with the bears in their icy environment, Journey to Churchill offers and experience of observing polar bears and other northern species undetected. Within the expanse of the exhibit are four main areas: the Wapusk Lowlands, Gatewa to the Arctic, Churchill Coast and the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.

The Gateway to the Arctic contains polar bears and their primary food source, the ringed seal, in adjacent pools separated only by a thin clear wall. Expect dynamic interactions between the animals, who are able to see and smell one another through the wall, as they pivot and thrash in the exhilarating quickstep between predator and prey.

Perhaps most exciting is the Sea Ice Passage, a 10-foot wide acrylic tunnel that serves as the primary vantage point for viewing polar bears and ringed seals beneath the water. The exhibit functions as a “living laboratory” says Redmond, presenting rare and unique opportunities for field researchers to observe behavioural patterns of polar bears and seals beneath the ice.

Along with boundless roaming space, the exhibit features an on-site state-of-the-art research facility. The International Polar Bear Conservation Centre not only promotes conservation research, but is home to the only transition centre for orphaned and at-risk polar bear cubs rescued by Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship. At the centre, they are rehabilitated before being relocated to designated safe areas.

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Staggering Specs

In order to begin construction on the exhibit, 86,699 metres of earth had to be transported. The tundra area of the exhibit, home to caribou, musk ox, snowy owls, and arctic foxes, covers 3,714 square metres. Polar bear roaming grounds within the exhibit span an immense 9,507 metres squared. Pools for polar bears and seals contain a total of 1,959,714 L of water. The indoor Polar Playground and Tundra Grill alone house some 238 people. The cutting edge 360 degree domed Aurora Borealis Theatre measures over 13 metres in diameter, and 5.5 metres high. Despite these scale considerations, the zoo is making every overture towards sustainability, even seeing a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification from the Canada Green Building Council.

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Courtesy of Assiniboine Park Zoo

Gathering Ground

Parks and zoos have long been spirited gathering grounds for families and larger groups. With this in mind, the Churchill Coast area is focused on immersive family fun. Children can explore the Polar Playground, which is packed with interactive and educational activities such as a moving ice-mass floor that responds to footsteps. Parents can unwind at the Tundra Grill, a fast-casual cafeteria-style setting with massive windows overlooking Churchill.

Also located within the Gateway to the Arctic is the Aurora Borealis Theatre, which hosts a domed 360 degree viewing screen. An interactive video weaves the interconnected legacy between the people, plants, and animals of Canada’s north. At night, the room is transformed into a bewitching backdrop for storytelling and concerts while the Northern Lights play above.

Visit the Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s website for information on hours and admissions.

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Essentials: Polar Bear Pedagogy at Assiniboine Park Zoo

Photo courtesy Assiniboine Park Conservancy

Part cub nursery, part education centre, Assiniboine Park Zoo’s new International Polar Bear Conservation Centre will save furry lives and teach people how to protect the species.

The unique facility boasts an interpretive gallery with interactive games and multimedia displays about the majestic Arctic mammals and the impact global warming has on their survival. Education is just one of the centre’s three pillars; it’s also the hub for northern-research initiatives and will eventually nurture orphaned polar bear cubs.

 

Babies, Babies Everywhere: What’s New at Canada’s Zoos and Aquariums this Year

By SHANNON KELLY

The Calgary Zoo's new Penguin Plunge exhibit (Photo: Sergei Belski/Calgary Zoo)

Spring may be the best time of year at zoos: it’s when many of the babies (baby animals, that is) are born or are newly on display, the weather is warming up and many zoos (and aquariums) are unveiling new attractions in anticipation of the busy summer season. (more…)

Get a Peek at the Toronto Zoo’s Adorable New Addition

Photo by Ken Ardill, Toronto Zoo Volunteer

Can’t make it to Churchill, Manitoba, to see the polar bears in their natural habitat this winter?

Maybe you can mosey over to the Toronto Zoo instead, to see its newest addition—this irresistibly adorable polar bear cub that was rejected by mama bear. (more…)

Hot Attraction: Nighttime Zoo Tours

See a variety of animals at Papanack Park Zoo.

Head out on an animal adventure at Papanack Park Zoo, about an hour east of Ottawa. The zoo is home to a wide assortment of creatures, from the exotic (zebras, cougars, kangaroos,) to the familiar (black bears, raccoons, chickens). On Saturdays until Thanksgiving, take the rare opportunity to see animals on their evening prowl with the Night Safari. During these moonlit walks you can catch the lions feasting, hear the wolves howling, and enjoy a guided tour as you watch some nocturnal creatures stretch their legs. Don’t forget your flashlight!

Ottawa Family Fun

Whether you’re looking for something to do together, or an exciting activity to keep the kids busy, we’ve got your guide to good old-fashioned family fun. By Misa Kobayashi.

The Artissimo program. Photo credit: National Gallery of Canada.

LITTLE ARTISTS
If you want to get your little ones interested in art early, there’s no better way than the Artissimo program at the National Gallery of Canada. Every weekend and on statutory holidays from 11am to 4pm, children three and older and their parents can take part in building their own “Super Structures,” using the unique architecture of the gallery as inspiration. Other hands-on activities include making artwork to take home or display in the Artissimo gallery, and going on a self-guided search with mom and dad for paintings in the national collections that feature animals and children. Included with gallery admission. 380 Sussex Dr., 613-990-1985.

SWEET SEASON
Ottawa’s maple syrup season is something to write home about. With several sugar shacks in the region less than an hour away, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventures to be had in the spring. Indulge in the heavenly sweetness of taffy on snow or a hearty pancake breakfast, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride, and see demonstrations of how syrup is made. A couple of our favourite places to visit are Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm, which is open weekends until April 24, and Proulx Farm, open weekends until April 25. See websites for holiday schedules and full lists of activities. Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm, 2452 Yorks Corners Rd., Edwards, 613-821-2751, and Proulx Farm, 1865 O’Toole Rd., Cumberland, 613-833-2417. (more…)

Calgary Kids: Cultural Activities

How to get your kids away from the TV with fun and educational programs around Calgary

By Elena Redd

If your children watch television, play video games, surf the ‘Net or use cell phones, they’re immersed in what industry insiders call 360-degree marketing. According to the Media Awareness Network, children in Canada see 3,000 commercial messages every day—stamped on toys, slipped into movies, even plastered in school hallways. The idea these commercials send is simple: you are what you buy.

While you can’t remove your children from the modern age, you can enroll them in programs that sell a very different idea: you are what you know. We’ve scoured the city and found six programs that give children hands-on experience with art, music, literature, theatre and nature—with no commercial messages. (more…)

Summer Stops for Families

From the most intrepid of daredevils to the quietest of bookworms, bright summer days bring out the playfulness in us all. To make this the best summer yet, Where Toronto offers 15 exciting ways to craft your own fun in the sun.

There are thrills galore at Canada's Wonderland.

Find thrills at Canada's Wonderland.

ADRENALIN-FUELED ESCAPADES
More then 200 attractions and 65 rides test the truly adventurous at Canada’s Wonderland. This first-class amusement park is home to the Behemoth—the country’s tallest and fastest roller coaster with open-air seating and a blood-curdling 230-foot drop. If riding the rails isn’t your thing, try thrill rides like the toe-curling Drop Tower and stomach-wrenching Psyclone. For more subdued, tot-friendly amusements, head to Kidzville and Nickelodeon Central—kids will get a kick out of Dora’s Dune Buggies and Scooby Doo’s Haunted Mansion. Cool down at Splash Works, a 20-acre water park with twisting slides like the Super Soaker and the Plunge. Adults $51.99, seniors and kids $29.35.

(more…)