If you’ve never considered a trip to the Prairies during winter, perhaps it’s time to learn why you should. As a true four-season destination, there are so many things to do in Saskatoon — even during the chilliest of all the seasons.
Allow me to set the stage.
The city’s appeal has grown exponentially over the past few years thanks to an on-fire food scene (figuratively speaking), a revitalized downtown core and an expanse of adventure and cultural offerings. It’s for these reasons and more that this Reginan proudly calls Saskatoon her second home.
In fact, it hardly surprised me when recently it was the only Canadian city to make the coveted New York Times’ 52 Places To Go in 2018 — ranking 18th! I mean where else can you get drive-thru pierogis, pop in to a gallery for some Picasso and see Canada’s longest running archaeological dig?
So, if you find yourself in Saskatoon during the snowy season (or this post compels you to plan a trip), here are a few activities to include:
Picasso in the Prairies
One of the reasons the New York Times took notice of this vibrant city was the 2017 opening of the new world-class art gallery, the Remai Modern, which overlooks the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.
The innovative gallery is home to the world’s largest collection of linocuts by Picasso. While these linocuts, along with some of his ceramic sculptures, may be star attractions, they are far from the only reasons to visit the Remai.
Homegrown talent hangs alongside touring exhibitions by national and international artists, spread out over 11 galleries on three floors. There’s also a variety of programming from artist talks and performances, to films and a hands-on learning studio. Insider tip: dine on contemporary Canadian cuisine in the onsite Oliver & Bonacini restaurant, Shift.
Wanuskewin Heritage Park
No matter the season, my favourite stop when visiting Saskatoon is Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Recently shortlisted for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s the perfect place to get in touch with nature, while learning about the province’s First Nations heritage.
Whether you take part in tipi construction, try your hand at traditional arts and crafts, or simply enjoy storytelling through dance performances or evolving exhibitions, expect to be immersed in an authentic cultural experience. In winter, strap on snowshoes and hike one of the numerous trails that lead you across the lands where ancestors have been gathering for over 6,000 years. Fun fact: Unearthing artifacts since the 70’s, Wanuskewin is Canada’s longest-running archaeological dig.
Embrace the White Stuff
Curling, a sport long synonymous with us Saskies (and a Canadian favourite, of course) can now be enjoyed outdoors. “Hurry hard” to Broadway Avenue to give crokicurl a shot. This morphed version combining two beloved winter pastimes, crokinole and curling, is a new and very well-received addition to the city’s winter line up.
If ice skating is more your speed, lace up and enjoy the winter views of the river valley at the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink. Nuzzled up to the river’s edge beside the historic Delta Bessborough Hotel, the rink is open daily and has both a warm up shelter and outdoor fire pit, to keep skaters cozy. Insider tip: No skates? No problem! The awesome rink offers free skate rental.
For faster paced action, rent a fat bike or kicksled from Escape Sports and explore 80km of river valley trails along Meewasin Trail. Make sure to grab a hot chocolate or coffee to go from Drift Sidewalk Café (beside EscapeSports).
You will definitely feel the rush when you join in on the fan fervor at a local lacrosse game. Not to mention that lacrosse is Canada’s national sport, eh? A popular winter attraction, albeit indoors, a Saskatchewan Rush game is an experience not to be missed.
Saskatoon’s Food Scene
Now onto the red-hot food scene I mentioned earlier. Staple favourites of mine (and many, many others) include the local and sustainably focused fare at The Hollows; Ayden Kitchen and Wine Bar’s home-style comfort dishes, and Little Grouse on the Prairie’s à la carte Italian offerings. However, there are some new hotspots heating things up even more in the city.
Check out güd eats; a food truck turned brick and mortar vegan pit stop, its Saskatoon’s only 100% plant-based fast food vendor. Found in Riversdale, Latin-local restaurant Picaro is the newest on the block from the owners of popular, California-influenced eatery, Una Pizza & Wine.
Coffee aficionado? Get your rocket fuel at Venn Coffee Roasters, a new Nordic-style coffee shop located along trendy Broadway Avenue.
We’ve Got the Beat
Take in the nightlife and the city’s bustling live music scene while rubbing elbows with the locals at the Capitol Music Club or the Bassment.
Dynamic stage acts in a pub atmosphere is what you can expect from the Capitol Music Club. Sip local brew, sing along and enjoy the show. In contrast, the fittingly named underground club, the Bassment, features a seated intimate candle-lit atmosphere showcasing local and touring jazz acts.
Whether it’s the fine fare, dynamic nightlife or culture and adventure that brings you to Saskatoon, one thing is for certain, this prairie city is sure to surprise you.
Top image: Wanuskewin Heritage Park