Dan's Diner in Manitoba under the Northern Lights

Dan’s Diner: Feast Under the Northern Lights in the Manitoba Tundra

Kristen Pope

Kristen Pope

January 3, 2024

3 min read

In the city, catching a ride to dinner often means grabbing a taxi or a rideshare, but in Northern Manitoba, Canada, one restaurant requires an altogether different mode of transportation. To reach Dan’s Diner, a unique pop-up restaurant located on the frozen tundra for just a few weeks in February and March each year, I climbed into a special all-terrain vehicle called a Tundra Buggy

Custom-built primarily for polar bear viewing—Churchill is known as one of the best places in the world to see them, especially from October to November—the buggies are nearly 14 feet tall with 5.5-foot tires. The vehicle rumbled along the frozen Canadian landscape, crossing the icy Churchill River, and arrived at its destination, where I disembarked for a one-of-a-kind culinary experience operated by Frontiers North Adventures.

People sit at a dinner table at Dan's Diner

While we arrived before the sun had fully set, we were soon greeted by the vastness of the dark night sky. Away from the lights of Churchill, depending on the day, you may see shimmering stars, some clouds, a sliver of a moon, or a bright full moon reflecting off the snow and ice. As a glimmer of green started to dance across the dark night sky, I watched as the faint glow slowly transformed into a wave of dancing light—the aurora borealis. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a kaleidoscope of colors. 

Churchill is located in the “aurora oval,” which sees around 300 nights a year of auroral activity, meaning the northern lights can be visible when the sky is dark and clouds don’t obstruct them. In February and March, Hudson Bay is frozen over, which lowers condensation and provides the best chances of clear skies, making it a popular season to view the lights.

After climbing out of the Tundra Buggy and into the custom-built Dan’s Diner, guests can settle in for a fine dining experience, eating in a cozy, heated space complete with panoramic windows and skylights, with plenty of opportunities to step outside and watch the dancing aurora over the pristine snowy landscape if Mother Nature cooperates. 

The set menu—which is typically around seven courses—features local and regional fare inspired by Manitoba. The menu varies but can include dishes featuring elk, caribou, and arctic char, as well as cloudberries and fireweed syrup. Locally grown produce from the Rocket Greens program at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, which provides the community with fresh greens year-round, is served when available.

View of the Northern Lights from inside Dan's Diner

The dining experience is named in honor of Dan Guravich, a wildlife photographer who was instrumental in creating opportunities for people to observe polar bears, who became the first cook at the Tundra Buggy Lodge, another of Frontiers North’s ventures. During the polar bear season in late fall, the Dan’s Diner facility is used as a dining unit at the Tundra Buggy Lodge, though the experience is different from the standalone Dan’s Diner, which is a more intimate affair. 

“The Dan’s Diner culinary experience is a one-of-a-kind dining experience that really you won’t find anywhere else,” says Alex Cupeiro, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for Frontiers North Adventures. “Located way out away from town, it offers ideal northern lights viewing because there’s no light pollution. And, on top of that, you also get the opportunity to enjoy a seven-course meal beneath the northern lights, which is a pretty unique culinary experience, not only in Canada, but in the world.”

Dining under the vast night sky—sometimes with an aurora—is unforgettable. The solar activity that causes the aurora is expected to ramp up in the near future, with solar maximum likely to occur in 2024, providing the opportunity for an even more incredible adventure. 

Dan's Diner in Manitoba under the Northern Lights

Getting there

  • Getting there: Most international flights to Manitoba arrive at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport (YWG). No roads go to Churchill, so you'll either need to take a two-day train ride from Winnipeg or a regional flight to Churchill Airport (YYQ). Note that the only direct flights to Churchill arrive from Winnipeg (flights from Gillam and Thompson stop in Winnipeg). Transportation from the town of Churchill to Dan’s Diner in a Tundra Buggy is included in the experience. 
  • Average Going deal for cheap flights to Winnipeg$446 roundtrip

How to do it

  • Best time to go: Dan’s Diner typically offers seatings on select nights in February and March, but be sure to inquire about availability since seating is limited. Individual tickets are available on a limited basis, though those are generally purchased by locals and seasonal workers in the area. Joining a northern lights trip with Frontiers North Adventures is a more reliable way to enjoy the experience, as once northern lights adventures fill up, the company often has capacity to open more tours.  
  • Cost: From $276 USD ($379 CAD) for 2024 (plus taxes and gratuity, excluding alcohol).
  • Dietary restrictions: Contact Dan’s Diner well in advance.
  • Tips and considerations: While the dining area is cozy and heated with great views, be sure to bring plenty of clothes to bundle up since you’ll likely want to spend time outdoors enjoying the pristine snow-covered wilderness and northern lights. Temperatures can easily plunge to -20 degrees Fahrenheit (or even colder), so check the forecast, dress in layers, and be prepared for frigid weather.

More cool experiences around the world

Kristen Pope

Kristen Pope

Freelance Writer

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer who focuses on travel, outdoor adventure, and science. She’s always on the lookout for opportunities to connect with nature, whether watching the northern lights dance overhead, hiking through Japan, or spotting penguins in Antarctica. Read more of her work at kepope.com.

Published January 3, 2024

Last updated January 9, 2024

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