Ideas for an Autism Friendly Canada Day

Canada Day, at the start of summer holidays, is a perfect opportunity to do something fun with the family. Often, though, our family has found Canada Day events to be too big of a commitment, and crowds can be overwhelming.

But we can still enjoy the day!

Our criteria for autism friendly means:

  • easy to get there, park, and leave if we’ve had enough
  • the possibility of a break from crowds; some quiet spaces
  • something interesting to do or see!

Here are a few suggestions:

St. Norbert Farmer’s Market

3514 Pembina Highway
Market Opens: 8 am
Children’s Activities: 3-7 pm

Why is this outdoor venue autism friendly?  It tends to be less crowded and fun sensory activities like face paint, bouncy castle, and a splash pad for cooling off and water play.  You can leave and come back easily. It works to go for the afternoon fun with the kids, go home to eat and relax and then go back for the fireworks.  a lot of the farmers market stands are open so you can find fresh lemonade and lots of BBQ and home baking.  Washrooms are available as well. More info at

Lower Fort Garry

5925 Highway 9, St. Andrews
9:30 am – 5 pm

If you like history, Fort Garry has lots to explore.  Take a self-guided tour or take in one of the many special programs and events.  You could pack a lunch to eat at the sheltered picnic area or anywhere on the grounds, or visit the restaurant (although it is busy on special occasions).

Canada Day at the Manitoba Museum

190 Rupert Avenue
10 am to 5 pm

There’s a to enjoy at the Manitoba Museum on Saturday, July 1. Although it may be busy, there are lots of opportunities to find a quiet space if you need a break.

  • Children (age 3-11) wearing red and white will receive free admission to the Museum Galleries featuring the Legacies of Confederation: A New Look at Manitoba History exhibit celebrating Canada 150.
  • See the new Planetarium show, Chasing the Shadow, This Summer’s Solar Eclipse.
  • Take part in the Canada Day Scavenger Hunt inspired by animals featured on Canadian coins for a chance to win a family membership.
  • Check out the World`s Giant Dinosaurs and learn how these ancient creatures got so big. Dig for fossils in the Dino Dig, examine real fossils and enjoy hands-on activities.
  • Travel back in time in the Museum Galleries and board the Nonsuch.
  • Explore interactive activities in the Science Gallery.

Sensory Friendly Movie: Cars

Silver City St. Vital
Doors open at 10:00
Movie starts at 10:30

Autism Society Manitoba will be on hand with a limited number of gift cards to see the movie that day.  Look for them near the parking lot entrance, just inside the doors.

Lights are a little brighter, sound a little lower, and there is a room next door to hang out and color or play if the movie gets a bit overwhelming.

Early Fireworks

781 Crescent Drive, Winnipeg
8 pm

Lots of locations are doing fireworks at dusk (around 11 pm).  If that’s too late for your kids, Crescent Park are doing them at 8 pm.  The Ghanaian Union of Manitoba is having a potluck picnic and activities all day that look like lots of fun for kids willing to try new things.  More information here.

Half Moon Drive In

6860 Henderson Highway, Lockport

Take a drive up Henderson Highway to Lockport and enjoy a burger or hot dog at this retro diner, where you can get the best hot dog in Canada.  They also serve hamburgers, fries and ice cream.

For ice cream lovers, Sargent Sundae at 2053 Portage Avenue (open 11 am to 11 pm) is a good choice, and you can also enjoy a visit to Assiniboine Park, which is just across a foot bridge on the other side of Portage.

Canada Day at the Marsh

Oak Hammock Marsh
10 am – 4:30 pm

Are there nature lovers in your family?  Oak Hammock Marsh is offering some extra activities for Canada Day like guided canoe tours and wagon rides (and cake!).  You can also simply enjoy the beautiful views the park has to offer, or try an activity like critter dipping.  Visit their website for more information.

Fort Whyte Alive is also a good option, depending on how busy they might be.

Royal Canadian Mint

9 AM – 5 PM
20 Lagimodière Boulevard

Activities include a 1-dollar coin exchange, Canada 150 themed token strike, children’s entertainers, and free self-guided tours. A limit of five, 1-dollar coins (while supplies last) and one free token strike per guest.

Bring a Picnic to the Lake

It seems a little obvious, but if you’re trying to avoid crowds and enjoy summer, swimming is a good option.  Even Birds Hill becomes a lot less crowded if you go in the evening, but going further afield will probably do the trick if you’re trying to find a place with fewer people.  You can check this list of beaches to read about location, amenities, and current water quality status.

Community Celebrations

If you are looking for a party, try one in a community outside Winnipeg.

The Sunova Centre in West St. Paul offers an all day event. It isn’t overly busy and, as an added bonus for some families, it should be dog free!!  The festivities in Selkirk and Gimli come recommended as enjoyable and not too busy.

As well, many of the community centres will have small scale celebrations. Transcona and Sinclair Park Community Centre look as if they will have a grand celebration!

Do you have other suggestions or family traditions?  Tell us about them in the comments!

Further Reading:

To look for more Canada Day events that might be of particular interest to your family, search your community in To Do Canada.

To think about how to help your family expand their comfort zone and try new things, check out Go Fly a Kite: Exploring Your Family Culture.

For general ideas for summer activities, take a look at Summer Planning and Getting Out There: RDI in the Summertime.

One comment

  • Marcy Tschetter

    The Manitoba Museum is free for children on Canada day..not sure if the dinosaur exhibit is something that you had to pay extra for,,, in the first place. I have never been sure if street parking is free on holidays. There was lots of construction, around there recently.

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