Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A few good perks

Discovering the house we'd bought was so close to park made for great opening act

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Sunday afternoons, we have a family tradition of biking along Wellington Crescent to Assiniboine Park. On a sunny day it's a beautiful half-hour ride from home, and we each have our favourite location to visit. My kids are trained to ride leisurely (so they don't leave me too far behind) with an occasional shout of "on your right" as we pass dog walkers, stroller-pushers and rollerbladers on the path.

Our usual route circles past the Lyric Theatre, over to the duck pond and the Park Café, where we've spent many winter afternoons thawing our fingers and toes before heading back to the frozen pond for more skating.

I always have great intentions to feed the ducks but forget the crusts at home; luckily they look fairly well fed.

From the pond we head to the Nature Playground, where the kids tackle the net bridges and the saucer swings with gusto. Then we loop through the English Gardens where I dawdle, wondering why my annuals don't thrive half as well as the gorgeous beds there. (It might have something to do with my negligent watering habits.)

Depending on the day, we might go for a ride on the miniature steam train, or head to the zoo. Our favourite time to visit the zoo is closer to Halloween, for the somewhat cheesy but mostly charming Boo at the Zoo. We plan our timing carefully so that it's spookily almost dark, but not too dark, when disguised volunteers can scare parents and kids alike.

If we have visitors in tow, we show off the Conservatory and the Pavilion Gallery. My girls take great pleasure leading the way to the Pooh Gallery, and proclaiming our distant family connection to Ernest Shepard, illustrator of the original A.A. Milne stories.

We wind our way on the bike trails past picnics and pick-up games, past family gatherings and smaller groups, and eventually we start to head home. But no trip to Assiniboine Park is complete without a side trip across the footbridge to Sargent Sundae. I'm a sucker for their pumpkin soft serve, but I have yet to be disappointed by any flavour. Ice cream in hand, we walk back across the bridge, watching the river and waving to people in canoes and kayaks.

On a visit to Winnipeg before I moved here, MTC artistic director Steven Schipper took me to the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. Surrounded by those beautiful and evocative sculptures, my husband and I made the stressful but exciting decision to make an offer on a house. My knowledge of Winnipeg was a bit spotty at that point and I didn't realize that the house we were debating buying was a relaxed bike ride away from the park. Discovering we were so close to such a great community attraction was one of the great moments of our early days in Winnipeg. Now it's part of what makes this city home.

Camilla Holland moved from Toronto in 2011 to take over as general manager of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. MTC's season of theatre worth talking about kicks off with the courtroom drama A Few Good Men on Oct. 18 at the John Hirsch Mainstage. For more information, visit

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 30, 2012 A6

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