Little Holiday on The Prairie: What to Do In Saskatchewan
It’s probably not the first place you’d think of for a vacay, but maybe it should be. As our editor-in-chief, Beth Thompson, discovered,
a summer in Saskatchewan offers endless possibilities for fun.
Why you should visit this summer
People who live with a lot of winter sure know how to make the most of summer. That’s my takeaway after spending a week last August in Saskatchewan – Canada’s rectangular province – which is easy to draw and hard to spell,as the locals like to joke. Don’t let its plain shape fool you, though. There’s a lot happening around these parts that is anything but boring.Saskatoon is thriving with eclectic and buzzy neighbourhoods chockablock with new beginnings.
The latest revitalization is happening in Riversdale, a once-forgotten part of town that’s now flourishing with trendy juice bars (Thrive), coffee shops (Drift Sidewalk Café) and indie boutiques (Hardpressed Print Studio). Is it the famous prairie winds ushering in the change? More likely, it’s the fact that Saskatoon boasts the youngest median age (34.5) of any Canadian city – a demographic that is imbuing its urban core with a new sense of purpose and energy. Hot new restaurants? Check. Hip retail? Check. Cool kayaking? Wait, what? Yes, the South Saskatchewan River cuts right through the city, and it, too, is enjoying a renaissance, with shoreline developments, outdoor festivals and a variety of water sports.
But if your idea of a summer getaway is more about getting away from it all than getting into it all, Saskatchewan can make that happen, too. Simply head north toward Prince Albert National Park: Its three major lakes – Waskesiu, Kingsmere and Crean – can satisfy any adventurer’s lust, offering opportunities for camping, fishing and canoeing, not to mention trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Note to adventure newbies: There are a variety of kids’ summer programs and guided tours available for just about anything you’re interested in, from Howl Like a Wolf for the kids to Learn to Fish chartered tours for the family.
Here are our recommendations for how to make the most of a week in this prairie paradise.
The Bessborough – or The Bess, as the locals call her – is the grande dame of prairie hospitality. Opened in 1935, this historical landmark includes 225 guest rooms, a pool, fitness facilities and manicured waterfront gardens. Tip: Be sure to ask for a river- or garden- view room. Book ahead for a treatment at the Damara Day Spa, where you can enjoy the Grotto Giusti Mud Body Wrap, followed by the Vichy Shower Treatment. Total pampering!
Stock car racing. Yes, for real! At Wyant Group Raceway, you can try your hand on a legit NASCAR track. Equipment and instructions are included in the $30 session, but you need to book ahead, as spots and times are limited.
For lunch, try the pretty Calories Bakery & Restaurant. Since opening in the Broadway District 30 years ago, much has changed in the ’hood, but the focus on fresh local food and international wines has never wavered.
Located in the heart of the city, Ayden Kitchen & Bar is a must-stop for dinner. There’s a reason why owner and chef Dale MacKay won the first Top Chef Canada: He creates amazing dishes. Start with the Sausage Platter with Kennebec Fries, but don’t leave before you’ve tried the Baked Diefenbaker Trout with Prawns and Coconut Tom Yum Broth.
A Visit to Saskatchewan’s Countryside
For lunch, a visit to Prince Albert National Park wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Waskesiu, a pretty lakeside resort town complete with the requisite souvenir shops, ice cream parlours and local museums. Soak up the town’s fun vibe at Mackenzie’s Dining Room in The Hawood Inn, where comfort-food classics dot the menu.Ask for a window seat to enjoy the people-watching opportunities and try one of their fun cocktails.For dinner, check out Copper at Elk Ridge Resort. A wall of windows ensures that everyone has a stunning view, and the massive stone fireplace keeps everything cozy. Try to make it there on a Monday, when the kitchen cooks up prime rib, complete with Yorkshire pudding.
Elk Ridge Resort sits on the eastern edge of Prince Albert National Park, a short drive from Waskesiu. Not that you’ll want to leave the resort: Spacious rooms, a spa and a breathtaking 27-hole golf course that’s carved out of the forest make it a great getaway for couples and families.
While you’re there, retrace the steps of Grey Owl (former author and conservationist Archibald Stansfeld Belaney) by trekking to his cabin on Ajawaan Lake, just north of Kingsmere Lake. There are several ways to get there: You can hike in from the town of Waskesiu (about 20 kilometres) or take a guided boat tour from Waskesiu Marina. Be prepared for some portaging, in addition to a three-kilometre hike to the cabin, where you’ll enjoy a lunch and learn before making the return trip. Prices start at $90 per person.