Saskatoon Shines! This is what you’ll see on signs as you drive into the city limits from an expanse of wheat fields in every direction. If you’re thinking of visiting Canada, or if you’re traveling domestically, you may be considering destinations such as Banff, Prince Edward Island, or Niagara Falls, but there’s another destination you should consider. Saskatoon is one of Canada’s sunniest and quickest growing cities and whether you’re into relaxing on patios at hip restaurants, kayaking at sunset, or cross-country skiing on freshly fallen snow, there’s plenty to do all year round.
I first moved to Saskatoon for graduate school after living in Halifax for the first twenty years of my life. I didn’t know what to expect from a city 1,500km from the nearest body of salt water when I could see the ocean from my parents’ bedroom window while growing up. I flew into the YXE over a checkerboard of farmers’ fields with no idea what kind of place awaited me. However, it only took a few weeks to realize that Saskatoon is a vibrant city filled with people who are passionate about where they live. Here are five reasons you should visit Toontown.
1. Riversdale District
Things to Do
When you visit Saskatoon, one of the first places you have to explore is Riversdale. This district borders downtown and the South Saskatchewan River, which divides the city into East and West. Riversdale is one of the oldest but quickest changing parts of the city, and there has been a recent influx of new businesses opening over the past decade. Some unique places you can find are King Me Boardgamery, Deadlock Virtual Reality Arcade, and the recently opened Remai Modern art gallery.
My favourite part of Riversdale is The Meewasin Valley walking trails that run along the river. In the spring and summer, the trails are filled with families on their way to the nearby farmers’ market, and it’s not uncommon to hear live music playing from various local artists. When the weather warms up, the farmers’ market is a great place to grab locally made coffee, desserts, or chocolate before coming to neighbouring Victoria park for a picnic.
Food and Drink
There are also many unique cafés in the Riversdale, but the one with the coolest design has to be Drift Sidewalk Café. Drift is designed with a beach theme and features driftwood style furniture. They also have a food menu highlighted by their crêpes that you can either design yourself or chose from a set menu. If it’s dinner you’re in the mood for, I recommend Picaro, a Latin American restaurant on the end of 20th Street, or Leyda’s, which serves all gluten free and nut free dishes.
Pagoda in Victoria Park in Saskatoon
If you’re brave enough to experience your first Saskatoon winter, there’s no shortage of things to do. However, stay bundled up because temperatures can reach below -40ºC/F. Temperatures tend to be milder during the beginning of December and late March but are still generally below freezing.
Activities in the City
You can go skating downtown at the Cameco Meewasin Rink where skates are available by donation, or you could rent snowshoes from Eb’s Source for Adventure and trek along the river. You can also rent a toboggan from Eb’s and head toward Diefenbaker park for a day of sledding.
Activities outside the City
If you enjoy more remote activities, take a drive north of the city toward Prince Albert where the surrounding fields will fade into forest. There are plenty of places you can try your hand at ice fishing. If you find yourself in Île-à-la-Crosse, you can even drive on the ice roads. Cross-country skiing is another popular activity in the province. Finding yourself on a trail so quiet and muffled by snow that you can hear your own heart beating is sure to give you a new appreciation for the wonders of nature.
Starting around mid-April, temperatures in Saskatoon surpass 10ºC (50ºF) and stay there until September. With more than 2,200 hours of sunlight a year, you can grab a bottle of sunscreen and a kayak and explore the South Saskatchewan River. If you have never Kayaked before, there are lessons available from the Saskatoon Canoe Club. If you would rather stay on land, there are plenty of bike trails to keep you busy for the length of your stay.
In the summer, temperatures often surpass 30ºC (86ºF). It’s a perfect time to walk down 2nd Avenue and grab a beer on one of the various patios. Come June, you can stop by the annual Jazz Festival. Don’t let the name fool you. Music at the festival ranges from Acoustic to Electronica. If trying new foods is your thing, you can stop by A Taste of Saskatchewan, a festival that starts in July where restaurants from around the city park food trucks near the Delta Bessborough Hotel and give you the opportunity to try all the best food in Saskatoon in one place.
A pair of pronghorn
If you go for a drive around the farmland of Saskatchewan, you’ll likely see deer, pronghorn, and moose. It’s not uncommon to see sloughs around the city covered with thousands of geese. If you go farther north into the more forested areas, you might even see the occasional wolf or black bear. Near the city, there are many areas for birdwatching or hiking so bring your binoculars to Beaver Creek Conservation area where you are sure to see a variety of birds, especially if you come in the morning or before sunset. Also, check out Cranberry Flats Conservation Area’s sandy beaches along the river. In the fall or spring, you’ll catch birds migrating north and south.
5. The People
Possibly the best reason to visit Saskatoon is to meet the people. The city in many ways still feels like a farm community that never outgrew its small-town hospitality. When I moved to Saskatoon, the first thing I noticed (besides the beautiful sunsets) was how helpful and kind people around the city were. If you need help with directions or are looking for new friends to meet up with once you get here, don’t hesitate to mingle with the locals. People from Saskatoon take pride in their city and love to show it off.
Daniel grew up in Halifax on the East Coast of Canada. After finishing his Kinesiology degree at Dalhousie University, he moved to South Korea for two years before returning to Canada again to complete his MFA in writing from the University of Saskatchewan. He writes about travel, fitness, and writing.