Reasons to Visit Regina, Saskatchewan
June 27, 2019
by Annabel Townsend
For years, my husband and I had dreamed of moving to Canada. We imagined ourselves in the hip areas of downtown Vancouver, or perhaps in the sophisticated old streets of Montreal. The impetus for us leaving the UK was stronger than the pull to any one Canadian province however, so we told ourselves we’d give anywhere a try.
Where is Regina?
In the summer of 2011, I finally found an opportunity to live and work in Regina, Saskatchewan. I had never been to the Prairies in my life, hailing as I did from a crowded little town in North East England. I’d never heard of Regina. I looked it up on Google maps and nearly missed it. The city is easy to spot, but situating it among any other landmarks is harder. You have to zoom out five times to see the provincial border with Alberta. Canada is vast, and Regina is surrounded by a great deal of nothing. But that does not stop it from being a fun place to stay with more than a few unusual attractions.
I flew out from London and booked myself into the Turgeon International Hostel. A bed in the 8-person women’s dormitory set me back a mere $30 a night, and the clean, comfortable hostel was ideally situated three blocks from Regina’s downtown core. The friendly owner is British too, so I felt at home at once. Being so close to downtown also meant I could walk around, and also jump on Regina’s limited but functional transit system. I began to explore.
Regina’s Tourist Attractions
If you only have a short stay in Regina, heading to the park is a must. Wascana Park in the heart of the city is one of the largest urban parks in North America. The area that surrounds Wascana Lake and houses Saskatchewan’s Legislative Building (known locally as ‘The Leg’) is 930 hectares, making it bigger than New York’s Central Park and Vancouver’s Stanley Park put together! It is a beautiful place all year round, whether you are swishing through the trails on cross-country skis in the crisp winter sunshine, spotting birds or baby jackrabbits in spring, cycling the lake loop in summer or just admiring all the fall colours. Most major local events happen at Wascana Park, such as the Canada Day fireworks, Queen City Ex fair, and the Waskimo Winter Festival. You can also tour the Legislative Building and Government House from there and rent canoes to paddle around the lake.
Saskatchewan Science Centre
On the south side of the park lies the Saskatchewan Science Centre. Housed in an old SaskPower station, the Centre is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary in 2019. In addition to its 130 hands-on permanent exhibits, it has a travelling exhibit every summer, daily stage shows, a Maker space area and plenty of fun programming for children and adults alike. The Science Centre also has a wonderful ‘Go Science’ Outreach program that means Science Centre staff are often found popping up in other locations, bringing science to audiences that may not always be able to visit the Science Centre itself.
In the same building is one of Canada’s few IMAX cinemas that still use film projectors to show movies on a 52′ high screen. It usually shows the latest blockbusters, as well as documentaries, so should you wish to see Harrison Ford, five storeys high and in 3D, check out the latest Star Wars episode in IMAX format.
The Royal Saskatchewan Museum
The Royal Saskatchewan Museum is located on the top edge of Wascana Park and is a great place to take children. Not only is entrance via donation, it has recently acquired ‘Scotty’. Scotty is a complete, fossilized Tyrannosaurus skeleton, and the largest T-rex specimen in the world. Scotty (now found to be female) was discovered in the Frenchmen River Valley, also in Saskatchewan, in 1991. The museum has been remodelled to encompass a two-storey Tyrannosaurus display area, and the ground underneath shakes ominously when you press the button to hear her roar. Along with a fascinating First Nations gallery, the Paleo Pit play area, and a well-stocked gift shop, the Royal Saskatchewan Museum is well worth seeing.
Regina’s hidden gems
Eight years later, we are still in Regina. I admit, I fell in love with the place. Living here has also given me a different perspective on this little city and I have discovered many more hidden gems to visit.
Regina has a wide variety of restaurants for such a small place, and the foodie scene is subject to immense local pride. Evidence of Saskatchewan’s history of immigration is also present in the food offerings. The original Ukrainian immigrants brought perogies and cabbage rolls, and these can now be found all over the city. Some of the best restaurants include the Caraway Grill (Indian), Afghan Cuisine Family Restaurant, Orange Izakaya Fusion Cafe (Korean), Malinche (a Mexican food truck) and for a taste of home for myself, Chef Malcolm’s British Pie Shop. Food lovers can also pick up a wealth of local ingredients at the Farmers’ Market (twice weekly over the summer) or at the Local and Fresh market store in the Warehouse District.
If you are shopping for locally made oddities, Centennial Market in the Warehouse district, north of downtown is the place to be. The market is located in a cavernous, 140,000 sq feet space containing nearly 100 regular vendors, and selling everything from coffee and cinnamon buns, handmade bath bombs, metal sculptures, Hot Wheels cars, unique jewellery, to bison meat, garden decor, and gourmet dog treats. There are also many clothing stores to suit all styles. At the back of the space is a colourful art studio and gallery, a separate antiques and collectors mall off to one side, and you can even do a Ghost Tour of the 100-year-old building.
Embracing the winters
But what does one do in the six-month+ long winter? Saskatchewan winters are brutal, but I was pleased to find that life just continues as normal. Saskatchewan residents do not know the meaning of ‘snow day’. The best advice is to embrace the cold. Try snowshoeing or fat biking. Head to the City Square Plaza and learn to skate on the outdoor rink that’s built every year. (Free skate hire is available). Above all, take the time to appreciate the sense of freedom that the wide open space of the prairies evokes. Enjoy the year-round sunshine, or find something delightfully obscure and typically Saskatchewinian, like the Elvis Museum, the annual Festival of Mustard or the giant grasshopper sculpture named Reginald. He is usually wearing Christmas lights in winter. Regina is not the most obvious tourist destination, but there are plenty of unusual places in this city that are well-worth seeking out.