In the midst of the Saskatchewan prairies sits the busy city of Saskatoon, with the South Saskatchewan River winding a path through its centre. Boasting great downtown neighbourhoods, many attractions and plenty of lively festivals, the city is an excellent place to visit at any time of year.
Saskatoon’s Meewasin Trail runs along both sides of the river and is a good place to begin your trip. Passing through the riverside parks, bridges and forests, it has great views of downtown – including of the imposing Delta Bessborough hotel which is known locally as ‘the castle on the river’ . Downtown has a good selection of shops with several shopping centres and districts such as Riversdale, where you’ll find plenty of places to pick up souvenirs, or across the river in Broadway, which is home to many independent boutiques and specialist shops. There is also a huge variety of restaurants in the city - from deli shops to fast food with dishes from around the world - as well as plenty of nightlife including live music and theatre productions.
Other downtown attractions include several different boat trips on the river, a fun children’s splash park during the summer months, a busy farmers’ market and a good spread of festivals throughout the seasons. The fantastic outdoor theatre event ‘Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan’ lets you watch some of the famous plays reinterpreted on the shores of the river. In colder months, the Wintershines Festival is a treat with its ice park, beautiful sculptures and light displays.
The city has an interesting history and a population comprising many different backgrounds. The downtown Ukrainian Museum tells the story of the many Ukrainian immigrants that have arrived since the early 1900s to cultivate and farm the land. The Wanuskewin Heritage Park, just twenty minutes’ outside the city, is dedicated to sharing the history and culture of the Northern Plains Indians through performances, interpretive trails, galleries and even overnight tipi wilderness camps.
Across the river is the university which is home to the Diefenbaker Canada Centre, providing an interesting look at the life and legacy of Canada’s 13th Prime Minister as well as his final resting place. Just north of that is the popular Western Development Museum - a huge indoor reconstruction of a 1910 boomtown which offers an entertaining place to spend the day.
A little further afield you can explore beautiful trails through the river valley, prairie and forest of Beaver Creek and on the sandy beaches of Cranberry Flats, both just a short drive south of the city. There are several provincial parks within easy reach: the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo to the north of the city is open throughout the year, offering a view of many different animals in natural enclosures and a petting zoo for the children.
Saskatoon enjoys a cold and snowy winter season, which the residents fully embrace with plenty of winter events, celebrations and sports. The Frosted Gardens at the Delta Bessborough in February are a stunning sight, with beautiful ice carvings displayed and lit with coloured lights, as well as fun attractions such as an ice graffiti wall, ice maze and an ice bar for refreshments. November brings the Festival of Trees in the Western Development Museum – a colourful Christmas warm-up with attractions from designer Christmas trees to classic Chirstmas movies on the silver screen, all to raise money for the local hospital. For those looking for something more energetic there are a wide range of cross country skiing trails, an outdoor ice rink and toboggan runs at Diefenbaker Park.
There is plenty to do whenever you visit this surprising city, whether you want lively entertainment or simply to unwind in the surroundings.
Things to do
Top tips for visiting Saskatoon
Top Tip 1
• Saskatoon has a great farmers’ market which runs throughout the year on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays; perfect for picking up some delicious fresh produce, homemade goodies and crafts. Some of the food vendors stay open all week so it can be a quiet and cheap place to stop for a tasty lunch.
Top Tip 2
• During the winter months the city has many celebrations and festivals, from the beautiful ice sculptures of The Frosted Gardens to the decorated trees in the Western Development Museum. For something different, book a horse-drawn wagon ride through the light displays of the Enchanted Forest at Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo.
Top Tip 3
• If you are travelling with children there is plenty to keep them busy, from splash playgrounds and fun parks to indoor soft play. A great find is the Children’s Discovery Museum, located in Market Mall, which offers several different areas including dressing up, arts and crafts and construction toys.
Top Tip 4
• On a warm summer’s evening there can be nothing better than sitting on a sunny terrace and enjoying a delicious meal or a cold drink. There are many places to do this in the city but one of our favourites is the roof garden at The Yard & Flagon, which has a great vista over the bustle of Broadway Avenue.
Top Tip 5
• Shopping is varied in Saskatoon with several shopping centres, independent boutiques on Broadway and souvenir shops in Riversdale. For an up-and-coming neighbourhood, head to 33rd Street and browse the vintage clothing stores, antique shops and tasty cafés.
Top Tip 6
• The city has a very special annual visitor – the magnificent pelican – which returns each spring year after year to fish from the weir. Take the walking trail beside the river and watch these huge and beautiful birds in action.
Top Tip 7
• Saskatoon is named after a wild berry that grows in the region. Sample some delicious Saskatoon Pie as well as other tasty, home-style dishes in lovely surroundings at the Berry Barn, just a short drive south of the city.
Top Tip 8
• For an interesting day out, head north to Batoche National Historic Site – the setting of the 1885 battle – where you can step back in time and tour the restored village buildings with some fascinating anecdotes and preserved artefacts.