Known as the “Paris of the Prairies,” Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has grabbed the spotlight in recent months. This city in midwest Canada is bursting with activity. As the province’s main hub and one of the country’s fastest-growing cities, Saskatoon is experiencing a resurgence in culture, music and dining thanks to entrepreneurs and Saskatonians returning from big cities. Visitors can spend hours at the world-class Remai Modern Museum, have a tipi sleepover at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, enjoy live music, savor creative meals, and hike the trails along the South Saskatchewan River. Above all, take in year-round blue skies in Canada’s sunniest province.
Here are seven things to do in this must-visit destination:
1. Make your own linocut at Remai Modern Museum
After browsing through 406 of Picasso’s linocut prints at the Remai (pronounced REY-me) Modern, you might be tempted to make one of your own. Luckily, the museum offers a three-hour session where you can work on carving and printing. Opened in October 2017, the Remai Modern hosts a permanent exhibit of Picasso’s linocuts and ceramics and Fred Mendel’s art collection along with temporary exhibits, including the assemblage pieces in the “At the Center of the World” exhibit by Jimmie Durham and “Bathers at Night” fabric breathers by Paul Chan.
Overlooking the South Saskatchewan River, the glass-and-wood-stacked building pays homage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style, similar to Fallingwater. A copper-colored grid encompasses the exterior, keeping the temperature inside just right. Visitors enter a large atrium with a long fireplace with the museum named spelled in native languages, and are welcomed by Haegue Yang’s “Four Times Sol LeWitt Upside Down, Version Point to Point,” an eye-popping installation of hanging cubes of white venetian blinds.
2. Sleep in a tipi at Wanuskewin Heritage Park
Located ten miles outside the city, Wanuskewin Heritage Park sits above Opimihaw Creek and the South Saskatchewan River. This proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site provides a window into Canada’s history and is home to the country’s longest-running archaeological dig. Items are discovered daily from thousands of years ago, when bison roamed and ancient peoples lived off the land. At Wanuskewin, you can sleep in a tipi overnight, learn about indigenous traditions, and even practice First Nations healing hoop dancing. In just a couple of years, this cultural site will look a bit similar to its past—with actual bison roaming the grounds, a sight making it well worth the trip!
3. Explore history at the Western Development Museum
A life-size replica of 1910 Saskatoon Boomtown greets visitors at the Western Development Museum, which pays homage to a time when European immigrants ventured into the prairies of Canada. Take in the spirit of these pioneers who braved the harsh weather as you peek into replicas of their homes, businesses, school, and feed store showcasing authentic artifacts. Inside the “Winning the Prairie Gamble” exhibit, you’ll witness the progression of an immigrant family over the course of several years, from arriving in the province to surviving the Great Depression and the optimistic years that followed. Built in 1971, the museum also features an exhibit on innovations Saskatchewan contributed to the world in the fields of science and agriculture. Before leaving, take a souvenir black-and-white photograph of yourself dressed in early 20th-century garb at the Boomtown Photo Studio.
4. Enjoy music at Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival
As one of the largest festivals of its kind in western Canada, the multi-venue, ten-day outdoor Saskatchewan Jazz Festival officially welcomes summer. Nearly 80,000 fans come to enjoy jazz, blues, funk, pop, and world music. The main stage is set in the beautiful gardens of the historic Bessborough Hotel. Those staying at the hotel can attend the opening reception on the large balcony. The festival also offers a free stage at the nearby Kiwanis Park. Bring your folding chairs and sunscreen and get ready to be entertained!
5. Cruise the South Saskatchewan River
From the South Saskatchewan River, take in scenic city views and the stunning Delta Hotels by Marriott Bessborough, dubbed as the “Castle on the River” for its scale and distinctive turrets, on the Prairie Lily riverboat. Better yet, grab a glass of Prairie Lily rum punch, sit back, and listen to the guide share stories as you sail under the iconic brass-colored bridges, painted rocks, and gorgeous homes. The Prairie Lily offers cruises at 2pm, 4pm and 6:30pm (includes dinner), as well as Sunday brunch from Mother’s Day weekend until Canadian Thanksgiving (U.S. Columbus Day weekend).
6. Savor culinary delights by celebrated chefs
Saskatoon has more restaurants per capita than anywhere in Canada—and boasts some of the best. The winner of Top Chef Canada, Dale MacKay opened three establishments, one of which is Little Grouse on the Prairie, where you can enjoy delicious pasta made from wheat produced in the province. Get your fix on fries made from chickpeas (another Saskatchewan staple) at the brand new Shift restaurant located on the ground floor of the Remai Modern. Owners/chefs Beth Rogers and Thayne Robstad of Hearth restaurant forage the morel mushrooms they use in their delectable Eastern European dishes, and cook with freshly caught pickerel fish from the lakes up north. One experience you can’t leave without having: delicious perogies at the only drive-thru of its kind in Canada at Baba’s Homestyle Perogies.
7. Stroll Riversdale
A ten minute walk on the Meewasin River Trail from downtown Saskatoon leaves you in the charming Riversdale neighborhood, where the street signs have little red hearts on them. Almost every business and restaurant in Riversdale is less than five years old, and you will find happening cafes, rooftop bars, stores, and the atmospheric Roxie Theater with its Spanish village theme. At the year-round Farmer’s Market, farmers and artisans sell their wares in the indoor and outdoor market. Don’t miss the chance to meet Sea Buckthorn berry aficionado Betty, who sells everything from gelato to jams made from this rich antioxidant. Before leaving, stop by Hardpressed Studio to get yourself a printed shirt celebrating the prairie province.
Where to stay: The Delta Hotels by Marriott Bessborough, opened in 1935 by Canadian National Railway, has 225 modern rooms overlooking the South Saskatchewan River. The rooms feature custom beds, free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs. Club rooms and suites come with access to the private lounge serving continental breakfast and evening appetizers with wine. Rates start at $109/night.
For more on travel to Saskatoon, visit tourismsaskatoon.com.
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