The name is derived from the French word portage, which means to carry a canoe overland between waterways. In this case the "portage" was between the Assiniboine River and Lake Manitoba, over la prairie.
The city became a major transportation centre due to its proximity to the river, and later, the location of the main lines of the country's national railways passing through the community.
Portage la Prairie has the most sunny days during the warm months in Canada. Portage has a humid continental climate with warm summers and cold, dry winters.
Portage la Prairie is located on Provincial Trunk Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway), about 60 km west of Winnipeg. About 13 km west of the city is the eastern terminus of Provincial Trunk Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway), which travels from Prince Rupert, British Columbia via Edmonton, Alberta and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
1 VIA Rail Canada (Stops at Portage la Prairie station), toll-free: . This rail operator offers services that enable travelers to reach Canada's west coast and east coast. VIA Rail two routes serving Portage La Prairie:
- The Canadian up to three trips per week between Toronto and Vancouver with stops in both directions in medium to large cities and tourist destinations such as Sudbury, Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper, and Kamloops. Travel time to Portage La Prairie from Winnipeg is 1.5 hours and from Saskatoon is 12.25 hours.
- Between Winnipeg and Churchill twice per week with stops along the way in Portage la Prairie, Dauphin, Roblin, Kamsack, Canora, Hudson Bay, The Pas and Thompson. Travel time to Portage La Prairie from Winnipeg is 1.25 hours, from The Pas is 12.25 hours, from Thompson is 1 day 1.5 hours, and from Churchill is 1 day 20 hours.
- Mahikan Bus Lines. Operates bus routes in Manitoba. Operates a route between Winnipeg and Flin Flon including stops in Portage la Prairie, Neepawa, Ste. Rose du Lac, Dauphin, Swan River, and The Pas.
- Rider Express, toll-free: . Operates bus route between Winnipeg and Regina with stops at Portage la Prairie, Brandon, Virden, Moosomin, and Whitewood. Travel time to Portage la Prairie from Winnipeg is 1.25 hours, from Brandon is 1.5 hours, and from Regina is 5.75 hours. Route operates one day per week, only as a overnight trip. Offers connecting routes that enable passengers to travel from as far west as Vancouver.
Public transportation in Portage la Prairie is pretty scarce. Many people walk, but it is not a very efficient travel method as the town is very spread out and for a large part of the year it is quite cold.
- The world's largest Coca-Cola can. It was constructed from an old water tower and is now located between the local Canadian Tire and Canad Inns hotel on Saskatchewan Avenue West.
- Heritage Square. An outdoor community meeting place (particularly in the summer months) downtown. Surrounding Heritage Square are the Cinema Centre, Portage la Prairie Regional Library, and the William Glesby Centre—a performing arts facility which offers a live theatre & community art gallery.
- 1 Fort la Reine Museum, Q3077911. Jun-Aug 10AM-5PM, other months: check website. A heritage museum at the east end of Portage. The original Fort la Reine was built in 1738 by the French explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye and served as his headquarters for 15 years. Today the museum is home to an array of buildings from Portage and the surrounding region, and covers local prairie history from the 18th century (the period of French exploration) to the present day. There are 25 buildings open to the public, each containing hundreds of artifacts, on display. Some of the highlights of the museum are a railway caboose and the 1882 official rail car of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, builder of the Canadian Pacific Railway; a fully restored Ukrainian Pioneer Church; a number of houses that are more than 100 years old; a replica of Fort la Reine; a firehall with a fully restored 1931 Seagrave Fire Truck; the Old Officers Mess from the now retired Canadian Forces Base in Southport; and a school house and church built in the 1880s from West Prospect (a pioneer farming community that no longer exists). Adult $10, student or senior $8, child $5.
- The Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame/Museum. Dedicated to the history of softball in Manitoba, it has memorabilia from the 1930s to the present. It is housed in the Fort la Reine Museum in a former barracks.
- Portage la Prairie's City Hall. A limestone structure that was designed by Thomas Fuller, who also designed the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. It was opened in 1898 as a Dominion Post Office and became City Hall in 1960. The building was declared a historical site in 1986. On the roof is a bell which tolls for a few seconds daily at 9AM, noon, 3PM, 6PM and 9PM.
- Other heritage buildings. St. Mary's la Prairie Anglican Church, built in 1854, is located near the downtown. Saskatchewan Avenue (the city's main thoroughfare) contains many historical buildings, as do Tupper Street and Royal Road (named after the Royal Visit of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and King George VI in 1939). Crescent Road, which follows Crescent Lake for over 5 km, is lined with many large, grand heritage homes dating back to the late 19th century and early 20th century.
- Manitoba Hydro Power Smart Island of Lights. running from November through January,
- Community Walkway. Along parallels Crescent Lake is a 5.2-km (3.2-mi), multi-use trail used for walking, bicycling, skateboarding and rollerblading, running past many grand heritage homes and the tranquil, picturesque sites along the lake.
- Hot Blizzard Folk Festival in February
- Portage Exhibition & Fair ("PortageX") held every July
- Portage Potato Festival, Republic Park. Early August. Live bands, potato pancake breakfast and lots of kids' activities: bubble ball, petting zoo, pony rides, face painters, animal train, Sponge Bob water bouncer, obstacle course, magic show and dog shows.
- Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival, Cottonwood Acres (2.5 km east of the junction of Highways 331 & 240, 5 minutes southeast of town); and Island Park in the heart of Portage la Prairie. Two days in late August/early September. Free tent camping at Cottonwood Acres.
- Watch the trains go by. The Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways intersect in Portage; one of the few places in Canada where the two railways meet. This has made Portage la Prairie one of the most ideal places for railway aficionados to view trains; approximately 72 trains pass through the city each day.
- Pick strawberries and Saskatoon berries. There are many pick-your-own strawberry and Saskatoon berry (service berry or June berry) farms within a 15-minute drive by car. June is the best month to go.
- Farmers' market. In the Portage Credit Union Centre.
- Over The Coals, 232 Saskatchewan Ave E, ☏ . Tu-F 11AM-10PM, Sa 4PM-10PM. Mediterranean, Greek, Canadian. Wraps $6.25-7.25, mains $12-18.
- Lita's Station, 904 Saskatchewan Ave E, ☏ . 7AM-2PM. Family-run railway-themed diner. Wraps with French fries $10, burgers $7-12, sandwiches $6-10, dinners $13-16.
- Om's Indian Cuisine, 190 River Rd, ☏ . Tu-Su 11AM-9PM. Indian, vegetarian-friendly. Dishes $11-16.
- Canad Inns Portage la Prairie, 2401 Saskatchewan Avenue West, ☏ . This hotel includes the rink of the Portage Curling Club, Aalto's Garden Cafe, a pub known as Tavern United, and many banquet halls. Rooms from $125.
- Hi-way Motel, 2010 Saskatchewan Avenue West, ☏ . One- and two-bed guest rooms. Some rooms have fireplaces. $90-100, fireplace suites are $160.
- 1 [dead link] Prairie Blessings Bed & Breakfast, 10 Campbell Weir Ave, High Bluff (A few minutes drive northeast of town. The B&B is in a former church.), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: 10AM. Only three rooms. Includes a magnificent breakfast. You will have to navigate stairs to/from the basement. $65-75, no tax.
- The community of Southport, about 5 km (3.1 mi) south of Portage la Prairie, is home to a small recreation complex featuring a gymnasium and 5-pin bowling alley, and displays military/air force history throughout the town and airport. It celebrates Canadian Forces Day in early June.
|Routes through Portage la Prairie|
|Saskatoon ← Melville ←||W E||→ Winnipeg → Toronto|
|Churchill ← Dauphin ←||N S||→ Winnipeg|
|Brandon ← Carberry ←||W E||→ Winnipeg → Thunder Bay|
|Yorkton ← Neepawa ←||W E||→ END|
|Yorkton ← Neepawa ← ←||W E||→ → Winnipeg → END|