On my travels, I enjoy a blend of contrasting things to see and do. A bit of history here, an ounce of adventure there, remarkable architecture, something new and exciting, a touch of recreation, some eye-catching scenery. Add to it some tasty culinary escapades and a soupcon of culture, and you get what I think is the perfect getaway. I experienced all that and more during my brief two day stay in Regina, Saskatchewan’s burgeoning capital named for Queen Victoria.
A first stop, Government House, originally built as the residence of the Lieutenant-Governor (or queen’s representative), is now a historic museum and a site of official governmental ceremonies, although the current Lieutenant-Governor maintains an office in the building.
The museum has been restored to the style of 1898-1910, the years in which Amédée Forget served as Lieutenant-Governor. Besides being able to look at Edwardian era furnishings and explore turn-of-the-19th century customs, visitors can also indulge in special activities such as monthly Victorian teas, geocaching and scavenger hunts, a New Year’s Day levée, Halloween events, picnicking on the grounds and bike riding. Admission is free and self-guided tours are available.
Outside, the Edwardian Gardens have been restored to their original early 1900s design by George Watt, who had a flair for creating “outdoor rooms.” Focal points include a rose garden, a hedge maze and the Netherlands Liberation Garden, home to 5,706 tulip bulbs, one for each Canadian soldier buried in Holland during WWII.
Another free architectural tour is offered at the Legislative Building, where Saskatchewan’s governing assembly meets on the shores of Wascona Lake in the heart of town. Thirty-minute tours of the majestic building are offered seven days a week. If you manage to get the same guide I did, expect a lot of humor blended with an encyclopedic knowledge of the building and its history and architecture.
Those into brewpubs have to make a stop at Bushwakker, housed in a refurbished building in the city’s Old Warehouse District. Not only do the beermakers get high marks and citations from connoisseurs and pundits around the world but the kitchen staff also turns out some great food—which has earned the restaurant a #4 ranking among the city’s 441 eateries by Trip Advisor contributors.
The lunch menu offers everything from crab cakes, shepherd’s pie, jambalaya and a wild boar burger to the Saskatchewan Hot Plate I tried. A platter of cabbage rolls, kolbassi, perogies, fresh sauerkraut and Bushwakker’s signature beer bread, the Hot Plate tasted pretty authentic to this third generation scion of East European immigrants.
For a bit of outdoor fun, head out to the scenic Qu’Appelle Valley and Beaver Creek Ranch and Horse Center. Owners Barry and Brenda Clemens offer everything from Cowboy Cookouts, Team Tracker (an outdoor treasure hunt), hay and sleigh rides and, of course, horseback riding. And did I mention lots of fresh air?
I began my visit with a wagon ride with Brenda at the reins and her trusty border collie following close behind. After we walked around the cookout grounds and took a bit of refreshment on the Clemens’ patio, Brenda took us for a ride up the steep mini-mountain behind the house in her golf cart. The jostling and jolting it took to get to the top was soon forgotten when I took a look at the spectacular valley below.
Any visit to Regina should include the must-see Royal Canadian Mounted Police Heritage Centre. Housed at the RCMP Academy, Depot Division, where all the nation’s RCMP cadets are trained, the Heritage Centre is a beautiful stone, glass and concrete building designed by world-renowned architect Arthur Erickson.
The first four galleries of the centre’s museum trace the history of the “Mounties” from their founding in 1873 up through the final years of the 20th century. The last two galleries are very interactive, letting visitors try to solve a crime and watch a video on what it takes to become a Mountie.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12:45 pm, “Depot” hosts the Sergeant Major’s Parade, either on the Parade Square or, in the case of inclement weather, in the Drill Hall. The drill lasts approximately 20 minutes, and scores of cadet march by in tight formation, arms swinging and with drums marking time and a band blaring in the background. It’s military pageantry at its most interesting.
I ended my visit with dinner at La Bodega, Regina’s first tapas bar, which boasts the city’s only three-level patio and international fine dining experience.
Besides a gamut of hot and cold small plates, the menu lists a versatile array of dishes—everything from Montreal smoked brisket and Spanish paella to the Middle Eastern Falafel Platter. For even more of a haute cuisine experience, opt for the seared foie gras, escargot Andaluza or the Parisian steak tartar.
I capped off the evening with a performance of “The Last Resort,” a musical comedy/murder-mystery by Canadian playwright Norm Foster at the Globe Theatre. Lots of fun and well-acted, and with a clever plot line and delightful musical score, the experience added even more pleasant memories of one of Canada’s great prairie metropolises.
All photos but the feature in this story were taken by Bill Rockwell.