Brandon is a city of 49,000 people (2016) in southwest Manitoba about an hour north of the North Dakota border. Brandon is the second-largest city in the province, after Winnipeg. Brandon is known as a city that is not too big to be impersonal, but not so small that it lacks the amenities of large cities.
Prior to the influx of people from Eastern Canada, the area around Brandon was primarily used by the Sioux people, the Bungays, the Yellow Quills, and the Bird Tails. In the 1870s and early 1880s, the Plains Bison were nearly wiped out by over-hunting. With the destruction of their staff of life, the buffalo, the nomadic Sioux people began to agree to settle in reserves such as the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, or left the area entirely.
French Canadians also passed through the area on river boats on their way to the Hudson Bay Post, Fort Ellice near present-day St. Lazare, Manitoba. The city of Brandon gets its name from the Blue Hills south of the city, which got their name from a Hudson's Bay trading post known as Brandon House, which got its name from a hill on an island in James Bay where Captain James had anchored his ship in 1631.
During the 1870s it was believed by most that the transcontinental railway would take a northwesterly direction from Portage la Prairie. Many thought that the route would most likely go through either Minnedosa or Rapid City, Manitoba because they were both located at natural river crossings. Rapid City was the front runner for the site of the new railway and had prepared for the impending building boom accordingly. But suddenly, in 1881, the builders of the railway decided to take a more westerly route from Winnipeg, towards Grand Valley. Grand Valley was located on the northern side of the Assiniboine, opposite the side of the river where present-day Brandon sits.
Grand Valley was settled by two brothers John and Dougal McVicar, and their families. With the expectation of the new railway, settlers and prospectors now rushed to an area they had previously avoided. Around 1879 a few settlers led by Reverend George Roddick had begun to build their new homes about 10 miles south of Grand Valley, at the foot of the Brandon Hills.
Meanwhile, in Grand Valley with the promise of the railway, the town began to boom. Regular voyages were made by steam sternwheelers to the city, each bringing more and more settlers. In the spring of 1881, General Thomas L. Rosser, Chief Engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived in Grand Valley. It was Rosser's job to choose the townsites for the railway. Rosser approached Dougald McVicar of Grand Valley and offered him $25,000 for the railway in Grand Valley. McVicar countered with $50,000 to which Rosser replied that “I’ll be damned if a town of any kind is ever built here". So instead Rosser crossed the Assiniboine river and built the site of the railway on the high sandy south of the River, two miles west of Grand Valley. So the site was then moved to a site just west of today's current First Street bridge in Brandon. A shanty had been built there by a man named J.D. Adamson, and it was on this quarter section Adamson claimed that Rosser chose as the townsite for the CPR Railway and named Brandon.
After the location of the railway was changed again, there was still hope that Grand Valley could become a rival neighbour to Brandon. But late in June 1881 it became clear that Grand Valley would not have lasted as a city long term. A flood hit in late June, and as the city was built on a low-lying part of the river, flooded quickly and dramatically. Because Grand Valley was built on a low flood plain, and Brandon was built on the heights on the other side, it became apparent that Brandon was the best place for a city in the area.
Rosser had chosen Brandon as the townsite in May 1881, within a year settlers had flocked to Brandon in such numbers that it was incorporated as a city.
An internment camp was set up at the Exhibition Building in Brandon from September 1914 to July 1916.
Although Brandon has a municipal airport, limited commercial passenger service is available. Perimeter Air is the only airline offering passenger service to Dauphin and Winnipeg. The Winnipeg International Airport is approximately 200 km to the east of Brandon and is well connected with flights across Canada. Travellers can fly into Winnipeg and then transfer to ground transportation to reach Brandon. The Brandon Air Shuttle provides daily transportation from Winnipeg International Airport to locations in Brandon. The shuttle will pick up and drop off at any location in Brandon.
Greyhound Canada has announced that it will terminate all services in Western Canada and Northern Ontario at the end of October 2018.
Greyhound Canada and Grey Goose bus lines runs several bus routes through Brandon. The Brandon bus terminal is at 141 6th Street in the downtown core and is open 7 days a week. Buses depart for destinations such as Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, and Vancouver. The bus terminal has a restaurant, locker storage, and vending machines.
Brandon is at the junction of the Trans Canada Highway and Highway 10. Highway 10 south is a direct connection to North Dakota (USA). The US and Canada customs offices on this highway operate 24 hours. The Trans Canada Highway that goes eastbound to Winnipeg or westbound to Saskatchewan. It is a four-lane highway.
Via Rail serves the city of Brandon through the train station in Rivers, 30 km north of Brandon on Highway 10. The Via Station in Rivers is a limited stop service for trains on the Toronto-Vancouver line. Trains heading west depart on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday at 15:13 and trains heading east depart on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday at 16:30.
By public transit
Brandon Transit operates ten bus routes throughout the city. The Brandon Transit website provides a map of the routes. Buses depart every 30 minutes during peak times and every hour during non-peak times. Limited public transit is available on Sundays.
The city has no shortage of taxi companies. Fares are metered and based on rates set by the city.
By rental car
There are two car rental agencies in the city and prices are approximately the same throughout the city. Many rental agency offices are not open on Sundays.
- Budget Rent-a-Car, 215 6th Street, +1 204-725-3550
- Enterprise Rent-a-Car, 759 1st Street, +1 204-725-1300
- Riverbank Discovery Centre, #1-545 Conservation Drive. Home to self-guided trails around the Assiniboine River, tourism information on the city, and canoe/kayak rentals. free.
- Brandon Folk Music & Art Festival, Keystone Centre. Annual event held in mid-July on the grounds of the Keystone Centre. Opportunity to hear music from across many different genres. Family-friendly event.
- Ag Days, Keystone Centre. Canada's largest indoor agricultural trade show and program. Held in mid-January each year at Brandon's Keystone Centre.
- Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, Keystone Centre. The Royal Manitoba Winter Fair is one of Western Canada’s largest agricultural events and the largest annual event to be held in Brandon. Held annually at the end of March.
- Manitoba Summer Fair, Keystone Centre. Fair is held annually in early June.
- Brandon Jazz Festival, Brandon University (270 18th Street). The Jazz Festival brings over 3,000 performers to the city from across Canada and the USA. The day is dominated by high school performances and workshops while the evenings are concerts. Event held annually in mid-March.
- Thunderbird Bowl. 8 lanes of fivepin and 12 lanes of tenpin bowling. Home of Huggy's Restaurant, Huggy's Lounge, and Pizza Place.
- Wheat City Golf Course. Brandon's most scenic golf course. $25.
- Shilo Country Club, Shilo, Manitoba (23 km east of Brandon on PR 457/340.). One of Western Manitoba's sternest tests of golf and home of many area tournaments. $25.
- Deer Ridge Golf Course, 8 Deer Ridge Road (Located just N of Trans Canada Hwy), ☎ . A nine-hole golf course with large greens, Deer Ridge offers one par 5 and two challenging par 3 holes. Easy to walk and can be played in under two hours, it is great for both local residents and travellers alike.
- Wheat King Hockey Games, Keystone Centre. The Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League play hockey games from October - April at the Keystone Centre.
- BU Bobcat Games, Brandon University (270 18th Street). The Brandon University Bobcats volleyball and basketball teams host games on weekends from October - March.
- Brandon Shopper's Mall, 18th Street and Richmond Avenue. Brandon's major shopping mall is anchored by Safeway.
- The Corral Centre, 18th Street at Kirkcaldy Drive. Brandon's first power centre includes Wal-Mart, Safeway, Home Depot, and Michael's. There are several other shops and services.
- Velvet Dip, Victoria Avenue at 9th St. One of Brandon's original ice cream shops.
- Twisters. An ice cream bar in a retro 1950s theme.
- Kam Lung Restaurant. Brandon's premier restaurant for Chinese food.
- Marino's. Home of the "Marino's Classic", Brandon's best pizza.
- Houstons Country Roadhouse, 3000 block Victoria Avenue. This country-like bar features bands and a large dance floor.
- The Double Decker, 943 Rosser Ave. The Double Decker is a tavern featuring a large eating section and a menu full of pub food. They also have a bar section that often features live bands.
- Clancy's Eatery & Drinkery, 1133 Princess Ave. Clancy's is a two-storey eatery/pub. The upstairs and certain other rooms are designated for eating, while others are designated bar space.
- Canad Inns, 1125 18th Street (Keystone Centre). Hotel attached to the Keystone Centre. Convenient if you plan to attend an event at the Keystone. $120.
- Victoria Inn, 3550 Victoria Avenue (west end). In the west end of the city. ~$120.
- Royal Oak Inn and Suites, 3130 Victoria Avenue (west end). ~$120.
Bed and Breakfasts
- Brandon University Campus Housing, 270 18th Street. During summer months, the university will rent out dorm rooms.
- Riding Mountain National Park: Located approximately 100 km north of Brandon. Greyhound bus provides daily buses between Brandon and Wasagaming (townsite located within the park).
- Spruce Woods Provincial Park: Located approximately 60 km south east of Brandon. No public transit is available to Spruce Woods.
- Souris: Approximately 40 km south of Brandon. Canada's longest Swinging Bridge is in Souris.
- Spirit Sands: [dead link]The featured destination of Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Home to Manitoba's only open sand dunes.
|Routes through Brandon|
|Calgary ← Regina ←||W E||→ Portage la Prairie → Winnipeg|
|Dauphin ← Minnedosa ←||N S||→ → becomes → Dunseith → Churchs Ferry|