The coolest city in the Prairies is also one of the most underappreciated by both domestic and international tourists. Sure, Saskatchewan is not quite a stone’s throw from the likes of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Prince Edward Island but, without question, there is something quintessentially Canadian about the province wedged between Alberta and Manitoba. Doubly so for Saskatoon, the most populous city in Saskatchewan since surpassing provincial capital Regina a few decades ago.
The nickname “Paris of the Prairies” is partly the product of that most famous Canadian export - wry humour - and partly a consequence of a lively arts and culture scene that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the mid-sized city punches above its weight. Indeed, the birthplace of such Canuck luminaries as Gordie Howe and Joni Mitchell envelops a bevy of standout attractions for inquisitive visitors to explore.
A Saskatoon tour must include such highlights as the Mendel Art Gallery, Western Development Museum, Meewasin Centre, Saskatoon Railway Museum and University of Saskatchewan campus. Festivals abound in the city throughout the brief summer season and range from Shakespeare to avant-garde theatre. Saskatoon is within range of several extraordinary provincial and national parks as well.
Saskatoon’s Top 10
10. University of Saskatchewan campus contains a few architectural gems.
5. Saskatoon Railway Museum enthralls young and old alike with vast exhibits of old rolling stock.
9. Forestry Farm Park and Zoo is a national historic site on the edge of the city limits.
4. Meewasin Valley Centre is a museum devoted to the natural and cultural history of the city.
8. TCU Place is the dominant convention and arts centre in Saskatoon.
3. Delta Bessborough is a grand Château-style railway hotel and a prominent city icon.
7. Ukrainian Museum of Canada preserves the legacy of a vital early immigrant community.
2. Western Development Museum chronicles a prodigious chunk of Saskatchewan history.
6. Wanuskewin Heritage Park is a national historic site and First Nations cultural interpretive centre.
1. Mendel Art Gallery and Civic Conservatory is the foremost museum and cultural centre in Saskatoon.
- Delta Bessborough Hotel – A 10-story historic landmark built starting in 1928 by the Canadian National Railway.
- Wanuskewin Heritage Park – Visitors to this small museum and historic re-enactment site can learn about the Northern Plains Indian culture.
- Marr Residence – A two-level home that was once a Northwest Resistance field hospital in 1885 and is the oldest building in Saskatoon.
- Saskatoon Western Development Museum – A place where visitors can see what life was like from the late 1800s through 1910.
Saskatoon Art & Culture
- Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan – Summer event where the local professional theatre performs Shakespeare’s classics under large awnings.
- SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival – A mid-June through early July jazz fest here in Saskatoon centred on beer, jazz and friends.
- Folk Fest – An August festival offering more than 20 culture-themed pavilions with art, plays, food, song and dance.
- Mendel Art Gallery and Civic Conservatory – Both fine art and contemporary offerings are located in this small, permanent collection.
- Broadway Theatre – A great place to view independent films in a vintage setting.
- Midtown Plaza – A large mall with more than 130 typical stores including department stores, eateries and specialty shops.
- 8th Street Area – Quaint shops, eateries, bookstores and a great selection of boutiques can be found on the East side.
- Saskatoon Farmer’s Market – Operating every Saturday, this indoor market offers homegrown food, art and a variety of items.
- The Trading Post – Traditional aboriginal crafts, beads, moccasins, handcrafted items, art and gifts.
- Broadway – To find shops from quirky to fabulous, head down Broadway for a little people watching and souvenir seeking.
Gay & Lesbian Saskatoon
- Diva’s – An intimate club offering an energetic dance floor and regular events. There is an annual fee.
- Avenue Community centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity – Third Avenue location that offers information for the GLBT community.
- Out of the Closet – A GLBT pride shop that offers great products as you browse the aisles.
- Pride Festival – Event in early June includes an entire week’s worth of art, dancing, a parade and partying.
- 302 Lounge and Discotheque – Modern bar and dance club is the place to be gay and loving it in Saskatoon.
- Camping – There are two RV resorts and several primitive campground areas.
- Fall Foliage – When the leaves start to turn in autumn, the trees become a vibrantly colourful backdrop to fall bird migrations.
- Meewasin Valley – A 60km trail offering a great place to hike, cycle, jog or take a canoe tour.
- A Taste of Saskatchewan – Along the riverside in late July, Saskatoon offers an entertaining festival to celebrate the best restaurants in the city.
- Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo - Small zoo offering a nice collection of animals, mostly common North American species.
- Catch a Saskatoon Blades Hockey game at the Credit Union Centre.
- Spend an afternoon racing, golfing or playing miniature golf at Wilson’s Entertainment Park.
- Experience skiing cross-country, toboggan sledding, skating and other winter sports.
- Hike one of four nature trails at Beaver Creek Conservation Area.
- Fish up a giant off the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.
Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan is a pre-eminent tribute festival to the works of the Bard. The annual event takes place in July and August on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.
Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra is one of the oldest orchestral ensembles in Canada. Performances take place in Sidney Buckwold Theatre.
Saskatoon Fringe Theatre Festival is a free-for-all, unpredictable cluster of live events in late July, early August that lures close to 50,000 spectators to the city.
Saskatchewan Jazz Festival features a diverse lineup of acts at Bessborough Gardens and venues around the city every summer.
Saskatoon Folkfest boasts an eclectic programme and bookends the city’s summer festival scene in mid-August.
When To Go
Saskatoon has a humid continental climate with short, warm summers and very cold winters. The average low temperature from December to February is a frigid -4°F (-20°C). Factor in the flatland prairie windchill and intermittent blizzards and winter can feel most inhospitable.
Despite the occasional thunderstorm then, it makes sense to visit the city sometime from late May to early September. Summer temperatures range from 50°F (10°C) to 77°F (25°C) and give locals ample excuse to let loose. July and August is the pinnacle of Saskatoon’s busy festival season.
Saskatoon John G. Diefenbaker International Airport is a modest hub that serves 1.2 million passengers a year with direct flights to and from the likes of Toronto-Pearson, Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Chicago-O’Hare, Denver and Minneapolis/St.Paul.
Saskatoon is on The Canadian Via Rail route that runs between Toronto and Vancouver.
By car Saskatoon is 162 mi/260 km from Regina, 382mi/615 km from Calgary, 497 mi/800 km from Winnipeg and 994 mi/1,600 km from Vancouver.
Saskatoon operates a good public bus system and is very bicycle-friendly.
When most people think of tourism in Canada, a few places immediately come to mind. Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Vancouver always crack the shortlist, in addition to recreational wonders like Whistler-Blackcomb, Mont Tremblant, Banff and Jasper National Park. Needless to say, however, Canada is a gigantic country with a surfeit of other worthwhile destinations as well, from Newfoundland to the Yukon Territory. The handsome city of Saskatoon definitely falls into that category.
Although the capital of the Prairie province of Saskatchewan is Regina, Saskatoon is home to the most populous urban area. The compact metropolis of 235,000 people is known as "The Bridge City" and “Paris of the Prairies” and unfurls a handsome cityscape set amid vast plains and Aspen parkland. A few hills, valleys and the South Saskatchewan River also define Saskatoon’s notable urban topography. The city’s Western Development Museum is a foremost point of interest and recreates the early 20th century frontier and pioneer boom era. The facility contains a superlative array of exhibits that bring back the bygone era in vivid fashion. Other landmarks to consider in Saskatoon include the Mendel Art Gallery, Railway Museum, Meewasin Centre and heritage Bessborough hotel.
Attractions & Activities
- Western Development Museum
- Mendel Art Gallery
- Ukrainian Museum of Canada
- Saskatoon Railway Museum
- Meewasin Centre
- Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan Festival
- Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra
- Saskatoon Fringe Theatre Festival
- Saskatchewan Jazz Festival
- Saskatoon Folkfest
Restaurants & Nightlife
- Saskatoon Station Place
- Saigon Rose Restaurant
- Manos Restaurant & Lounge
- Las Palapas Resort Grill
- The Yard & Flagon Pub
- Double Deuce Bar & Grill
- Cluricaune’s Irish Pub
- Winston’s English Pub & Grill
- Dino’s Bar and Grill
- Hose and Hydrant Brew Pub
Saskatoon has a humid continental climate, with very cold winters and warm summers.
- Winter (November to March) -22-0°C
- Spring (April to May) -2-18°C
- Summer (June to August) 10-25°C
- Fall (September to October) -2-18°C
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