Saskatoon, located in the province of Saskatchewan, does not generally fall on any “must-see” list for visitors to Canada, but it should. There are two things, if nothing else, you need to bring with you to Saskatoon. You need a warm smile, and a sense of humor, because this is one of the friendliest and most relaxed corners of the world.
Here are a few more fun facts about this prairie town: Its name is an Anglicized spelling of a Cree word that means ‘place of many berries’. Saskatoon only sees 353mm of rain per year, and an average 2,268 hours of sunshine, the most in Canada. In contrast, Saskatoon sees some of the coldest winters (at times dipping below -45 degrees Celsius) and some of the hottest summers (going well above 40 degrees!)And Saskatoon has a relatively small population, somewhere in the neighborhood of 250,000.
So what does one do in these extreme weather months, one might ask! As always, we’ve got you covered, here’s a great list of 25 things to do in Saskatoon.
1. Shop at the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market
If you spend any time on the prairies, the breadbasket of the world, a visit to a farmer’s market is a must. The Saskatoon Farmer’s market is the oldest farmer’s market and the largest in the province. Multi-generational farm families have been carting in their produce for decades for the masses to enjoy. The market community has grown well beyond farmer’s to include artisans, crafters and specialty food makers. If you’re in town on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday during the summer months, head down to River Landing and enjoy a fabulous lunch and wander through the market alongside the beautiful Saskatchewan River.
2. Take a Horsedrawn Carriage Ride
What better to enjoy a warm summer day than to climb into an elegant wagon and listen to the rhythmic clip-clopping of hooves, with river views to your right, and city views to your left? Visitors can enjoy a number of tour options including a tour of downtown, beginning at the historic Bessborough Hotel, a Spadina Crescent tour that shows southern views of the Saskatchewan River and others. The sleigh rides generally run from May through to September.
3. Spend the Afternoon at Wanuskewin Park
The province of Saskatchewan is proud of its aboriginal heritage, and there are plenty of incredible parks to explore and cultural sites to teach you about the roots of this fascinating province. Wanuskewin Park area contains archaeological sites that pre-date the Egyptian pyramids. Evidence points to settlements dating more than 6,000 years ago, and are some of the most well-preserved sites of Pre-Contact occupation. The park is also home to wonderful cultural programs, including Tipi sleepovers, story time and archaeological lectures.
4. Lunch at the Berry Barn
We are willing to bet you have never heard of a Saskatoon Berry until this very minute! Well, if you’ve never had the pleasure of enjoying some warm Saskatoon berry pie (topped with vanilla ice cream of course), the Berry Barn is your next stop. A short drive from downtown Saskatoon, the Berry Barn is located on a 300 acre strawberry and produce farm. The restaurant serves some of the best cabbage rolls you’ve ever had, incredible Belgian waffles, and of course, Saskatoon berry everything for dessert. There is also a neat little art gallery and gift shop bursting with handicrafts made by local artisans.
5. Acquaint Yourself with the Ghost of the Bestboro Hotel
Canada is home to some of the grandest hotels in North America, and if you’re visiting Saskatoon for the first time, there is no finer place to stay than the Delta Bessborough. Much like the Fairmont Chateau Springs in Banff, the Bessborough was a grand railway hotel, built in 1935. Casting its shadow across the South Saskatchewan River, the hotel has a little known secret – It’s haunted! If you happen to peek out your door at night, keep your eyes peeled for an older man in a grey suit and fedora wandering about aimlessly.
6. Take a Boat Cruise
The city of Saskatoon is best seen from either across the river, or from the river itself. The Prairie Lily has been taking guests up and down the river for the years. This picturesque paddle boat sets sale Wednesdays – Sundays on a relaxing one hour cruise. Climb up to the top, enjoy the views and river breeze, and listen to the tale of the river narrated over a loudspeaker.
7. Mountain Bike in Blackstrap Provincial Park
Approximately 40 minutes south of the city lies Blackstrap Provincial Park, a landmark known for a rather unusually tall hill. In the winter months, this man-made hill is home to several Nordic trails, perfect for cross-country skiers of all levels. But because most visitors like to steer clear of the winter chill, spring and summer are great months to enjoy the extensive mountain biking circuit. All trails are marked by their level of difficulty.
8. Visit Third Avenue United Church
Churches are plentiful across the province of Saskatchewan, but none are as beautiful as Saskatoon’s Cathedral of Methodism. Originally constructed in 1912 in the Gothic design, life-size figures depicting the Nativity, bright stained glass windows, and a Casavant pipe organ are a warm invitation to this historic church.
9. Catch a Movie in Friendship Park
When summer hits the city, Saskatoonians spend every waking moment outdoors. Friendship Park, located in the Meewasin Valley, is a regular gathering place for locals. It’s one of the city’s most developed parks and the jumping off point for canoeing, rollerblading, bike riding, picnicking and movie watching! That’s right, Friendship Part turns into a fabulous outdoor cinema where hundreds of locals throw down their blankets, serve dinner and enjoy Hollywood favorites.
10. Enjoy Live Music at the Bassment
The jazz scene is alive and well in Saskatoon, and The Bassment has been consistently voted as one of Canada’s best jazz venues. Jazz greats like Diana Krall, Tara Davidson and the Joey DeFrancesco Trio have all played the Bassment stage. This all-ages venue also offers an array of classical, blue grass, acoustic and blues performances.
11. Drive through the Enchanted Forest
It’s the most wonderful time of the year when you whip up some hot chocolate, hop in the car, crank up the heat, and take a drive through Saskatoon’s top winter attraction, the Enchanted Forest. From the middle of November to early January, visitors will wind their way through 75 custom animated light displays, dispersed throughout a beautiful urban forest. This is a great after-dinner activity, and we recommend you give yourself half an hour for the self-drive tour.
12. Go on a Geocaching Hunt
Yes, geocaching is still a thing, and there are over 400 geocaches hidden around Saskatoon! If you’re not familiar with this fun global activity, geocaching involves individuals using GPS to find hidden ‘caches’ around the world. These cache’s contain little logbooks whereby the seeker enters the date and time in which they found it. Sometimes there’s even treasure hidden in the boxes!
13. Live Theatre at the Red Barn
Saskatoon is home to a large community of farmers, artisans and performing artists. Live theater is everywhere, but few take place in such a unique venue as the Barn Playhouse. Entertaining locals and visitors for the past 25 years, coming here feels like you’re being transported back in time to the pioneer days. Take in some Shakespeare, hop on a wagon ride through the fields or enjoy the taste of the prairies at any number of summer and winter festivals that take place here.
14. Place Your Bets at Marquis Downs
One of the most thrilling things to do in Saskatoon is to spend an afternoon at Marquis Downs, Saskatchewan’s premier destination for Thoroughbred and Standardbred horse racing. Every Friday and Saturday afternoon, 3500 spectators are invited to place their bets, and witness some of the most exciting horse racing in Canada. Several ‘stake’ races occur here including the Lily Sales Stake and Heritage Day race where the purses range from $3,000 to $100,000.
15. Spend an Evening with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra
The Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra has come along way from its humble beginnings in 1927. If you are looking for an excuse to get gussied up, and listen to exquisite interpretations of the most famous composers of all time, this is a great adult activity.
16. Saskatoon Forest Park & Zoo
Who would have thought you could find Chinese Red Pandas and Madagascar Ruffed Lemurs on the plains of Canada? Well, they’re not exactly indigenous to this part of the world, but they are just a sampling of the rotating exhibits you can find at the Saskatoon Forest & Park Zoo. This zoo was once a modest tree nursery, and over 100 years, has grown to become one of the most important ecological sites in the province. This National Historic Site has shipped over 147 million ash, maple, elm and willow trees to countries around the world. But more interestingly, its home to Saskatchewan’s only accredited zoo.
17. Ukrainian Museum of Canada
Founded in 1936, as a tribute to the thousands of Ukrainian families who immigrated to the Province of Saskatchewan, this small but significant museum narrates their long journey. Ukrainians brought their agricultural skills and helped develop Saskatchewan into the bread basket that it is today. Here you will find fascinating artifacts like clothing, artwork and various personal items donated by Ukrainian families.
18. Saskatchewan Railway Museum
You cannot appreciate Saskatoon without paying homage to its rich railway roots. This city would not have grown into the thriving industrial capital it is today without the railroad. In the grand spirit of community, this museum is run by volunteer students, railroad experts and members of the Saskatchewan Railroad Historical Association. The museum has a unique collection of streetcars, locomotives, railcars and various railroad memorabilia. The museum is only open during the summer months.
19. Visit the Mendel Art Gallery
An integral part of the Saskatoon art scene, the Mendel Art Gallery first opened in the early 1960’s and currently houses a permanent collection of regional, local and national works. The collection boasts more than 7500 works and is the provinces largest public art collection. Located on the western bank of the beautiful South Saskatchewan River, this is also the future site of Saskatoon’s first major children’s museum.
20. Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival
Hit the town in any major Canadian city, and you’ll find that we can’t get enough of live music! Whether we’re seeking solace on those dark, wintery nights, in ac cozy jazz club, or feel the grass between our toes at a great festival, Canadians love music. The Sasktel Jazz Festival is eagerly anticipated by Saskatoonians annually. Like any other large jazz festival, this event attracts the best of the best including artists like Wyclef Jean, Erykah Badu, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and BSRK. This event happens at the end of June and into early July.
21. The Potash Corp Fringe Festival
Music and comedy are undoubtedly two of Canada’s greatest exports, Who doesn’t love Jim Carrey, Mike Myers or Russell Peters. We’re great at not taking ourselves seriously, and at the Fringe, this is just one of the many ways to showcase our talents, and share in the love of theatre with artists from around the world. Once upon a time, in 1947, eight up and coming theatre companies were turned away from the Edinburgh Festival of Music and Drama. These passionate and innovate artists decided to showcase their talents just outside, or on the “fringe” of the Edinburgh Festival. This exploded into a massive international movement, and Canada is now home to some of the largest Fringe Festivals in the world.
22. Go Shopping in Midtown
Saskatoon is bursting with funky second hand stores, upscale boutiques, and mainstream fashion pit-stops. If you ask a local where to shop, they’ll tell you either Broadway or Midtown. Be sure to check out local favorites like Turning the Tide, Saskatoon’s best independent bookstore. If you’re looking for a unique title, you’ll find it here.
23. Go Camping in Antelope Lake Regional Park
There are plenty of amazing sites to see just a few hours from the heart of the city. Saskatchewan’s love affair with nature and commitment to the preservation of land and its ecosystems are the precise reason you need to make some time to get out of the city and enjoy some of the province’s most beautiful parks. Antelope Regional Park is a short drive from Saskatoon, and the perfect place to bring the family. Here you’ll find a manmade beach and swimming pond, a trout pond and the comforts of a great camping spot like showers, fire pits and picnic tables.
24. Go Dogsledding!
What would a trip to Canada be without a proper introduction to one of our most adventurous outdoor activities. You can find dogsledding outfits all across Canada, but here on the prairies, its still done in the traditional manner. You won’t find any lapdogs among these hearty canines, their only desire is to run and pull. Dogsledding in Saskatchewan allows visitors to transition from spectator to active participant. Learn to mush and drive a team on a short day tour, or test your will against the cold, and try doing an overnight excursion.
25. Catch the Big One
The province of Saskatchewan may be landlocked, but it’s home to some 100,000 rivers, lakes and the most pristine freshwater fishing on the planet! Seasoned anglers are familiar with the bounty Canada’s lakes and rivers offer, and there are plenty of outfitters that are itching to show off their province. From walleye, lake trout, Arctic grayling and Northern pike, and whether you’re ice fishing or fly fishing, you won’t go home empty handed, or without a boatload of amazing stories to share.