If you’re heading to Winnipeg for the first time, whether it be for business or pleasure, prepare to be surprised: Winnipeg is a seriously cool city with a lot going on. This highly under-rated city has an excellent restaurant scene, vibrant arts community, and plenty of cultural attractions. Added to that, Winnipeg is a pretty city surrounded by beautiful parklands. Here are five places that every first time Winnipeg visitor should be sure to check out:

The Forks sits on the banks of the Red River, and is home to a National Historic Site, the fantastic Canadian Museum of Human Rights, a huge market with 300 vendors selling local produce and crafts, and lots of sweet indie boutiques. Plenty of the city’s best restaurants are to be found here, including the fabulous Smith Restaurant which specializes in farm to table dining.

The Exchange District is a super cool neighbourhood that just happens to be North America’s largest collection of historic buildings (and unsurprisingly is another National Historic Site). Here you’ll find lots of interesting shopping, awesome restaurants (including Boon Burger Cafe, a vegan burger bar that is just amazing whether you are vegan or not). The Exchange District is also where you’ll find some of the city’s biggest festivals in the summer months.

FortWhyte Alive is 640 acres of prairie where buffalo roam free, just south of the city. There’s tons of stuff to do there, from kayaking, sailing, and stand-up paddling in the summer (with lessons available), plenty of family friendly activities, great hiking, bike rentals, snowshoeing in the winter (obviously), and special programming to enjoy year round. FortWhyte Alive is also home to the Buffalo Stone Cafe, which is a great spot to grab lunch after all those outdoorsy pursuits.

Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature is a heavenly place to spend an afternoon (or evening) in Winnipeg. There are hot-tubs, cold plunge pools, saunas, and a range of massages and relaxing spa experiences available. If you’re in the city on business, this would be a great place to treat yourself after sealing the deal.

Rae and Jerry’s is such a fabulous vintage gem, and everyone needs to visit at least once. Open since 1957, and quite possibly unchanged because walking in there you feel like you’ve entered a red velvet furnished Vegas lounge that the Rat Pack would be happy to frequent. Go for killer cocktails, great steaks, and random menu items such as picked herring and sour cream. This place is a trip, and lots of fun.

Image courtesy of Travel Manitoba.