For kids, summer can bring unbridled delight. There’s that gleeful freedom, that feeling that you never want the long warm days away from school to end...
But it’s inevitable that at some point as summer wears on, kids find themselves twiddling their thumbs, looking for some new form of stimulus that doesn’t involve the same old splash pad or playground. Parents, meanwhile, struggle to figure out how to keep kids from spiralling down a rabbit hole of gaming consoles and Snapchat filters.
Instead of threatening to drag children out of the house and take them shopping for back-to-school supplies (ugh), here are five activities to keep the kids engaged in the dog days of summer that will stimulate, educate and entertain.
For those with kids who relish in the squeamish, the Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out exhibit at the Manitoba Museum (190 Rupert Ave.) offers a chance to check out what makes critters of all sizes tick. The exhibit is a biological bonanza of information that peels back the mysteries (and the skin) of all manner of animals to show off the muscles, organs, bones and more. The exhibit runs until Sept. 2.
On Friday and Saturday nights, head downstairs to the Planetarium as it lights up with music, lasers and much more. The popular Laser Show series has returned, and this year features light shows timed up to the music of Queen, Lady Gaga, the Beatles and more.
Of particular interest to kids (and adults) is the laser show set to the 1980s music of the hit Netflix sci-fi series Stranger Things. Travel to the Upside Down and back with the Stranger Things crew while being dazzled by the sights and sounds inside the domed auditorium.
The Stranger Things laser show runs Saturdays at 7 p.m. through mid-September; tickets are $15. For those who want to do both the Animals Inside Out exhibit and a Planetarium show, packages are also available. See manitobamuseum.ca for more information and to buy tickets.
All aboard for a trip on the Prairie Dog Central Railway, one of the oldest vintage locomotives operating in North America.
Since 1970, the train has been taking young and old alike on round-trip tours from Winnipeg to Grosse Isle and back, and these days offers a number of themed trips throughout the summer.
On Saturday, Aug. 17, the train will feature bluegrass music performed by Spruce and the Meadowlark, both on the train and at the Grosse Isle stopover, which will also feature a wide range of vendors. On Thursday, Aug. 22, the Audayo Brothers will entertain passengers en route to Grosse Isle on the Heritage Picnic Tour trip, which features sandwiches, a salad, cold drinks and more once you roll into town.
Saturday, Aug. 24, is family fun day, featuring magician Patrick Gregoire, live music, temporary tattoos and more. Families are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch to enjoy during the stopover. On Sunday, Aug. 25, Gregoire returns for the Mystical Magical Train tour.
The train departs the station on Prairie Dog Trail east of Sturgeon Road at 11 a.m. and returns at 2:45 p.m., meaning the kids will be entertained (or at least occupied) all day. Prices vary for different runs; for more information and to buy tickets, visit pdcrailway.com.
The second week of Folklorama, Winnipeg’s two-week celebration of cultures from around the world, features a number of pavilions that have long been family favourites.
Among the second week’s high-energy live shows featuring singing, dancing and more are the Mexican pavilion (at the RBC Convention Centre, 375 York Ave.), Brazilian pavilion (also at the RBC Convention Centre), the Punjab pavilion (at the Punjab Cultural Centre, 1770 King Edward St.), the African/Caribbean pavilion (at Grant Park High School, 450 Nathaniel St.) or the Japanese pavilion (Petrus Hall, 2624 Inkster Blvd.).
Once the show’s over, stick around for some great eats and check out the cultural exhibits. Who knows? Unbeknownst to them, the kids might end up doing some learning this summer…
Most pavilions open in the evenings throughout the week and through the weekend. For more information (including show times) and to buy tickets visit folklorama.ca.
You could spend summer evenings poring through Netflix for new films to watch with the kids… or you could lather them up in bug spray, pack up some popcorn, grab some lawn chairs and head to Assiniboine Park’s Lyric Theatre to catch a film in the great outdoors.
The Movies in the Park series continues for two more weekends, with double-headers each night that will please audiences of all ages. On Friday, things get underway at 6:30 p.m. with a screening of Ralph Breaks the Internet, followed up at 8:45 p.m. with the blockbuster superhero film Avengers: Endgame. On Saturday, Aug. 23, movie night gets started with the 2019 live-action remake of Disney’s Aladdin at 6:30 p.m., and is followed up with everyone’s favourite 1980s time-traveling adventure, Back to the Future, at 8:45 p.m.
No tickets are required; admission is free. For more information and to check out all the other summer programming at the park visit assiniboinepark.ca.
Winnipeg’s glut of great spots to get a sweet treat has expanded over the last few months. And while everyone loves the stand-bys (hello, BDI and Sargent Sundae), a few new dessert-heavy spots will wow the kids while impressing the older sweet-toothed crew.
Over in St. Boniface, Dug & Betty’s Ice Creamery (309 Des Meurons St.) have quickly developed a devoted following for their high-quality, small-batch ice cream featuring innovative flavours and toppings. Fancy a peanut butter marshmallow square parfait? Ferrero Rocher-themed frozen treats? Balsamic and black pepper flavoured ice cream? The list of favourites is still changing; check out the parlour (which is licensed for fun boozy ice cream treats for grown ups) or chill on their patio. Pets are welcome.
The Icing Castle (55 Waterford Green Common), meanwhile, is a new dessert spot featuring bingsu, a popular Korean dessert combining shaved ice and sweet toppings. With flavours such as salted caramel and tiramisu, there are plenty of flavours to satisfy the sweet tooth of the grown-ups as well.
It’s impossible to visit Milksmith Inc. (651 Corydon Ave.) without young and old snapping photos of the ice creamery’s bright pink walls and splashy décor. But it’s the frozen treats that are truly the stars of the show. Milksmith’s Thai-inspired rolled ice cream comes in all manner of flavours, and features toppings that taste as incredible as they look. Whether you want it in a bowl, on a waffle pop or in a waffle-cone taco, get ready for an incomparable ice cream experience that’s sure to be a favourite with the kids.
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.