Across the land of living skies on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River and rooted in rolling grain fields is my home: Saskatoon.
Despite the time I spend on the road as a travel writer, I can’t help but always come back here – to both relax and adventure.
During my travels around the world, I’ve explored interesting and unique destinations and learned the value of being a tourist in my own home city. There are as many authentic and budget-friendly experiences to have in Saskatoon as there are around the world. The best part is – everything is less than a twenty-minute walk, bike ride or drive away.
(Supporting local businesses and artists who are often your neighbours is also another great benefit.)
Here are my favourite events and activities as well as the best lesser-known locations to experience in the Paris of the Prairies.
1. Go back in time at the Western Development Museum
I grew up on a grain farm but have adapted to the amenities of the urban world for the last decade. This is why I like to get back to my roots by exploring the Western Development Museum. Coincidentally, it’s just larger than a quarter section of land at 165 acres. The four branches of the museum house more than 75,000 artefacts and make it the largest farm machinery collection in Canada. It’s a true testament to the agricultural heritage of the Saskatchewan people.
During the Christmas season – my favourite time of year – the WDM celebrates the holidays with the Festival of Trees. It’s a weeklong community event with dozens of decorated Christmas trees, gingerbread houses and local entertainment.
2. Dig up Ancient History at Wanuskewin Heritage Park
Artefacts hidden in the soil layers at Wanuskewin Heritage Park are twice as old as the pyramids of Giza. I had no idea there was more than 6000 years of history only a short bike ride north along the Meewasin Valley Trails.
An archaeological dig site since 1982, it’s been important in uncovering the stories and ways of life of the indigenous peoples of the Northern Plains.
While visiting the dig site during the month of May, I watched as they unearthed a small cultural artefact. A National Historic Site, proposed future UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to the world’s most northern medicine wheel, the park highlights the rich cultures that are such an important part of Saskatchewan’s history.
3. Ride the Prairie Lily along the South Saskatchewan
Excited to hop on board the 120 passenger Prairie Lily riverboat, it was a new way for me to explore between the shores of the South Saskatchewan River.
I expected a tour of riverbank scenery and my favourite local landmarks like the Delta Bessborough Hotel. I was surprised to learn about the greatest nautical disaster to occur within the province.
In 1908, luxury paddle steamer the SS City of Medicine Hat sunk after crashing into the southern pier of the Traffic Bridge. Used for pleasure cruises and shipping, the steamer was designed by Scottish nobleman Captain Ross. Unfortunately, the Captain was unable to steer the ship when telegraph wires hidden beneath high water levels tangled in the ship’s rudder.
Thankfully everyone was unharmed and the unfortunate event makes for an exciting story today.
1. Saskatchewan Jazz Festival
Picture multiple free music stages (plus the main stage) and an outdoor beer garden set against the backdrop of the river. When the Jazz Festival is on, it really means it’s summertime in the Bridge City. It’s also a festival I attend every year with my family. We like to grab a meal to-go, set a blanket out on the grass and enjoy the music and atmosphere. My favourite genre? Bluegrass.
2. Fringe Festival
I celebrate summer every August by biking down to the Fringe -Saskatoon’s best summer street festival.
It’s ten days of indoor theatre, rows of food trucks and buskers entertaining crowds along Broadway Avenue. I make sure to go early to check out the craft vendors and local artists.
My favourite part is catching the live theatre performances which play throughout the week. It’s always hard to decide as there are more than 30 shows to choose from.
SASKATOON’S BEST KEPT SECRETSS
1. Swingin’ on the Saskatchewan with Saskatoon Lindy Hop
Every Tuesday evening throughout the summer months, pairs of dancers can be found swing dancing at the River Landing Amphitheatre. The Saskatoon Lindy Hop is a non-profit organization that loves to promote vintage style swing and jazz music. People of all ages and abilities are welcome to join in – no partner necessary. (If new to swing, go early as volunteers teach basic steps). If you’re not a dancer, it’s equally fun to watch while enjoying the 1920s and 1930s era music.
2. University of Saskatchewan Sculpture Garden
The open-air sculpture garden beside the Diefenbaker Centre on the University of Saskatchewan campus is truly a hidden gem. Founded in 1993, pieces were designed by both local and international artists. My favourite, the oversized concrete hand with curled fingers so large you can crawl between, is both eye-catching and interactive. It’s also close to the river and a great location to catch the sunset.
3. Nutrien Meewasin Skating Rink at PotashCorp Plaza
The outdoor skating rink along the river’s edge in Kiwanis Park is a classic winter spot for locals. But it’s one not many visitors know about. I love grabbing a hot chocolate with friends while having fun practising my skating skills. (Despite being Canadian, I’m not a very good skater!)
There are several skating parties to enjoy throughout the snowy season but the best part is that use of skates is free thanks to local donations and support.