Loren Christie is a Canadian travel expert and can often be seen and heard on TV and radio in Canada sharing his knowledge, so we’re super excited to have his writing here too.
He shares his insider tips to seek out those special experiences and to really make the most of your time in Canada.
Getting to know Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Admittedly Saskatoon, Saskatchewan may not be on the top of everyone’s “must visit” list when thinking about a trip to Canada. However, after having spent a weekend there, I can safely say anyone would be delightfully surprised. I discovered an attractive, vibrant city with a youthful, friendly population, hip bars and restaurants and top notch museums.
Exploring the city
The South Saskatchewan River bisects the city and appears to be the focus for people’s activities, at least in the summer! While kayakers, rowers, jet-boaters and sightseers aboard The Prairie Lily paddle-wheeler enjoy time on the water, the downtown side of the river offers pathways for walking and biking to those who prefer to be on solid ground. The parks along the river host a seemingly endless series of events. During my visit at the end of June, the music of Erykah Badu and Wyclef Jean performing at the SaskTel Jazz Fest filled the air. Like many “jazz fests” these days, Saskatoon’s version offers a range of music styles.
Getting to know the history
The Western Development Museum is one of the best museums I have seen. The principle exhibit is Boomtown, a re-creation of a typical Canadian prairie town circa 1910. Kids will love the opportunity to chat with blacksmiths, sit in a vintage car and dress up in the photography studio. Adults will get a real taste of what it was like for the first settlers to tame the Wild West. A little further out of town, the Wanuskewin National Heritage Park has been a gathering place of the Northern Plains Indians for 6,000 years. Visitors can explore the archaeological treasures found along 360 acres of scenic trails or get a lesson in hoop dancing in the Visitor Centre. I had a private lesson from a hoop dancing master. I discovered I am not all that bendy!
The top place to eat & drink
Shortly after winning a Canadian cooking show called Top Chef Canada, Dale MacKay convinced several key staff (including General Manager and Mixologist, Christopher Cho) to leave Vancouver and help him turn a 110-year-old heritage building in his hometown of Saskatoon into Ayden Kitchen & Bar. The vibe is the epitome of hip; I counted seven beards and eight man buns on the staff alone! The menu is locally focused with a modern flair. I had the charcuterie plate (all the meat is ground and prepared on site) and delicious trout caught from Lake Diefenbaker, just an hour’s drive away. For a tipple, head to Broadway and 10th. It has some great rooftops and patios for people-watching and the slowly gentrifying area around 20th street has some fun tapas and cocktail bars.
Where to stay
I stayed at The Delta Bessborough Hotel. It is a former railway hotel that dominates the surrounding skyline and looks like a mini version of Banff’s Fairmont Springs. It’s a beautiful hotel and perfectly situated on the river. Other options downtown include the Sheraton Cavalier and The James Hotel, the city’s first boutique hotel.
If you fancy exploring Saskatoon for yourself chat to Canadian Affair today.