This year our national neighbors to the north celebrate their 150th anniversary and we’ll be celebrating with them as they do. Each month we’ll focus on one part of their magnificent country and share it with you. From sky-high trees and brown bears in British Columbia to kitchen parties and codfish-kissing in the Maritimes, our toast to Canada will give you well over 150 reasons to make this the year you take the trip. This month we’re getting artsy and riding high in Saskatchewan.
Canada 150: Saskatchewan
The prairie provinces get a bad rap. The image of flat lands and roaming buffalo often sends tourists rushing for the Canadian coasts, but the fact is Canada’s middle ground holds just as many reasons to visit as the rest of the country. A mix of rural outposts and cosmopolitan cities, Saskatchewan has a youthful vibe that makes it among the country’s most cutting edge when it comes to new ideas and innovative eats. Add its connection to First Nations’ culture and you’ll see why Saskatchewan is one of the best places to start your historical understanding of Canada’s roots.
The Cities: Saskatoon and Regina
Amidst the beauty of rural Saskatchewan, you’ll also find several surprisingly cosmopolitan cities. If you’re coming from the U.S., you’ll likely land in either Regina and Saskatoon. Make some time to stop and explore—from incredible restaurants to innovative artists to friendly people, these two cities offer a glimpse into the heart of the country. And when spring weather brings longer days, locals know exactly how to make the most of the extra time.
Family Fun in Saskatoon: Saskatchewan’s largest city is also one of its most intriguing for families. Start at the Saskatchewan Western Development Museum, which offers an introduction to the history of the province through art and artifacts.
Then, head over to the Saskatoon Farmers Market and the Splash park at River Landing (36 acres of park, paths, and amenities) where you’ll find plenty of ways to enjoy a sunny afternoon. The Wanuskewin Heritage Park offers the perfect introduction to First Nations’ history and lore, and it’s the place to book a Tipi sleepover, participate in a dream catcher craft session, or join a guided tour.
Canadian Icons in Regina: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) are true Canadian icons—the red jacketed, hat-wearing, horse-mounted division is equal parts law enforcement agency and symbol of Canadian pride. And Regina is where they are born. The RCMP Academy welcomes visitors for events like the Sunset Retreat ceremony (July and August only). Head over to the RCMP Heritage Centre for the Sergeant Major’s Parade, the Musical Ride virtual reality experience, or a tour of the exhibits showcasing the RCMP’s history and legacy.
Regina is also a great city for eating. Restaurants like The Capitol (with high end cocktails, tapas, and satisfying entrees in a speakeasy atmosphere) and Flip Eatery and Drink (where you’ll find local, sustainable fare) are only a sampling of the scene.
Why May is the Perfect Time to Go to Saskatchewan
Weather: Spring offers the best opportunities to explore both indoors and outdoors across the province. Fantastic weather means hiking, biking, and paddling enthusiasts can enjoy the variety of trails and river walks. It also allows for indoor adventurers to explore galleries, enjoy restaurants, and dive deeper into the land’s cultural heritage with fewer crowds.
The Rodeo: The annual rodeo takes over this month with a full-scale rodeo event sanctioned by the Canadian Cowboys Association. Expect bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, team roping, and more. Tickets are $20 for adults ($10 for kids under 12) and family packages are also available.
Vesna Festival: Dive into this festival that celebrates the sights, sounds and tastes of the Ukrainian culture. Dinner and entertainment are included in your ticket and you can expect to enjoy yourself late into the night.
Why It’s Great Other Times of Year
SaskPower Windscape Kite Festival: Each June, the skies above Swift Current fill with kites from around the world. From handmade gems to stunt kites, the free festival welcomes all. Bring your kite with you or join a workshop and create your own. A children’s tent provides entertainment like balloon sculpting and face painting, so the fun can continue even when little arms get tired.
Saskatoon Pride Festival: This year marks the 25th anniversary of the LGBTTI2QQ event. Celebrate at dances, film screenings, bingo, and other activities that are open to all between June 3 and 19.
Distinct Distilleries: Saskatchewan may be the best place to celebrate World Gin Day on June 10. Start at the multi-award-winning Black Fox Farm & Distillery, started by agriculture professionals John Cote and Barb Stephanyshyn-Cote on their farm a few minutes away from Saskatoon, where they grow 90 percent of the ingredients used for their spirits. Then head to Lucky Bastard Distillers, where handcrafted award winning spirits and liqueurs are as tasty as their owners are fun to be around.
Country Music Awards: Saskatoon will host the Canadian Country Music awards this September and you can expect a full week of activities leading up to the main event. International and local artists will be in town for a host of fanfest sessions and songwriter discussions. Tickets are on sale now for the September 10th show.
If You Go Don’t Miss …
Metis History: Visit the Saskatchewan Trails of 1885 sites including Batoche National Historic Park (the last battlefield in the Northwest Rebellion and a Parks Canada site), which offers hands-on activities and events for the entire family from May to October.
The Remai Modern: Everyone is eagerly anticipating the 2017 opening of the Remai Modern, Art Gallery of Saskatchewan, later this year. The museum will be the largest of its kind in the country, and will house the world’s largest collection of Picasso linocuts as well as almost two dozen of his ceramics. The building won an architectural award before it was even built, and is included in the New York Times’ 2017 list of museums you need to go to this year.
Prince Albert National Park: Prince Albert National Park in northern Saskatchewan offers everything from wilderness walks to kayak explorations and water skiing adventures. Beaches, lakeside communities, and comfortable cottage-like stays round out an experience that is a perfect introduction to Canada’s national park system. Die-hards should head for Grey Owl’s cabin. The multi-day trail route to the cabin can be accessed by foot and canoe and will lead you through bogs, forests, and meadows before you arrive at the former home of famed conservationist, infamous imposter, and beaver fanatic, Archibald Stansfeld Belaney.
Less strenuous, and always popular with locals looking for a getaway, Waskesiu Lake offers classic beach stays and options that include motorized water activities, cycling trails, and typical camper fare.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Canada 150: Visit Alberta for Stars, Stories, and the World’s Wildest Wilderness
- Canada 150: Ocean-Floor Adventures and Maritime History in New Brunswick
- Canada 150: Bliss in British Columbia
- Canada 150: Churchill Polar Bears and Winter Fun in Manitoba
Heather Greenwood Davis is a lifestyle journalist and a National Geographic Travel columnist. Follow her on Twitter @greenwooddavis or keep up with her family’s adventures on GlobeTrottingMama.com.