Divided by the meandering South Saskatchewan River, with each side flanked by verdant parkland and historic neighbourhoods, the city of Saskatoon is pleasingly symmetrical on the eye. Those who delve under the veneer also find a major regional cultural and economic hub, helping make it one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations.
A large university community also lend a youthful vitality and richness to the city, ensuring that it is always at the vanguard of culture. But Saskatoon also keeps a firm eye on its past, evident in the numerous monuments and historical landmarks to be found here. For those planning a visit, we’ve picked out 12 of the most unique things to see and do.
1. Shakespeare by the River
Since 1985, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan has been a summer cultural paradise on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River. In July and August the company features two of Shakespeare’s greatest works, a tragedy or history play along with a comedy, performed in repertoire by 12 of Saskatchewan’s finest actors. Other festivities include Medieval Feasts, Community Stage entertainment, talk back sessions, post show chats, Sunday Tea and more. Gates open 5pm daily for a happy hour at the licensed Sir Toby’s Tavern with riverside deck. This year, featured performances will include the music infused comedy Twelfth Night and the gritty and devilish Richard III.
2. Western Development Museum
This museum is an entertaining and educational way to immerse yourselves in a bygone era, with superbly-curated displays depicting how life in the Prairies has evolved over the last 100 years. The arrival of emigrants to the region is recalled in a sensitive and informative fashion, while this year has also seen the introduction of ‘Game Changers’, a fascinating exhibition on the past, present and future of video games, examining how audio, storytelling, graphics and gameplay have developed down the years and will continue to be reshaped over the coming decades.
3. Broadway Street Fair
Saskatoon’s finest street vendors along with the city’s ultra-talented arts community come out in force for this hugely popular annual fair which features amazing sidewalk sales, musical entertainment, dance stages, arts and crafts displays, and a whole host more. Held along the city’s Broadway Avenue, the event is ideal for anyone seeking great value souvenirs or gifts to take back home, with no end of options to be found at the sidewalk sale. And for a delicious bite to eat, there’s expanded restaurant outdoor patios dotted all along the Broadway. The fair is also hugely popular with families due to its array of kiddie-friendly activities, including a petting zoo, pony rides, a super slide and a dunk tank. But whatever your age, there’ll be something to keep you happy and entertained.
4. LB Distillers
Whisper it quietly, but the initials of this popular micro distillery actually stand for “Lucky Bastard”. But don’t be put off by the profane language – the founders of this hugely successful drinks producer have opened up their premises for those keen to explore and learn more about the art of their trade. Visitors can enjoy complimentary tastings and tours of the production area, observing the spirit-making process and talking to some of the workers here whose toil creates such popular products as Lucky Bastard Vodka, Lucky Bastard Whisky, Gambit Gin, Knock on Wood Amber Rum, and Saskatoon Liqueur. And if you happen to be in a watering hole around town, be sure to look out for some of these names as you’re sure to get a nod of approval from the bartender when you order.
5. Cinergie Festival
With its large French-speaking communities, it’s no surprise that Canada’s cultural output has a strong Francophile focus. In Saskatoon, the Festival Cinergie is dedicated to promoting French language films from across the world through a diverse programme of events and movie screenings spanning a wide number of genres, including comedy, drama, animation, and romance. There are also regular special guests including renowned filmmakers, giving visitors the chance to meet some of the industry’s most talented and influential figures. Held across five days in early May, it is a hugely popular festival and well worth a visit if you happen to be in town while it’s on. And if you don’t’ speak French, don’t worry, as all the movies shown are subtitled.
6. Buds on Broadway
If you’re after a raucous night out in Saskatoon, Buds on Broadway is an energy-pumping live entertainment venue known to locals as the “home of rock and blues”. Located on the historic Broadway Avenue, it is one of the city’s most popular and well known nightspots, featuring a roster of nightly music shows along with regular stand-up comedy acts, that are enjoyed by a friendly, vibrant crowd of local regulars. For any keen musicians among you, there’s also live jamming sessions on Saturdays afternoons to early evening. The atmosphere is great, the booze is cheap and the performances are top class.
7. Saskatoon Farmer’s Market
Housed in a former electrical warehouse in the city’s Riversdale district, the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market draws large crowd of locals and tourists alike, who come to enjoy its rich variety of vendors, in-house restaurants and specialist health & wellness store. Open all year round, even during the harsh winter months, the venue also hosts various events and social engagements, including weddings and trade fairs, but it is during market days that it is as its most vibrant, with a huge array of locally sourced products and wares on display. For a unique shopping experience in Saskatoon, this is a superb choice.
8. Museum of Antiquities
Housed within the University of Saskatchewan, this impressive museum features a giant collection of artefacts and statues, all celebrating the artistic accomplishments of the ancient world from approximately 3000 BC to AD 1500, with a focus on Greco-Roman antiquity. Fans of Classical art will find plenty to enjoy here, with the collection recently expanding into the art of the ancient Near East and Egypt. This museum is ideal for soaking up some culture on a rainy day, and the sheer diversity of art on display will ensure that even the kids won’t get bored.
9. Persephone Theatre
For a great night out at the theatre, visitors to Saskatoon are blessed with a superb venue on their doorstep that offers superb live performances across a range of genres. One of Canada’s largest theatres, Persephone Theatre has a long and distinguished history of supporting the arts in Saskatoon, and stages a richly diverse programme of events throughout the year. Families are also well catered for here, with a number of kiddie-friendly shows making a regular appearance, mneaning you can bring the kids for a matinee performance and still have plenty of time to enjoy the rest of your day.
10. The Forestry Farm Park and Zoo
Canada’s diverse wildlife is famous around the world and this superb park and zoo presents the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with many of its most exotic inhabitants, some of which can’t be found in any other zoo anywhere in the world. A National Historic Site, the park also boasts carefully crafted gardens, restored heritage buildings and a naturally-themed playground. For families keen to introduce their kids to the world of ecology and wildlife, it offers a stimulating learning environment, with plenty of informative displays dotted around the site.
11. Wanuskewin Heritage Park
When it comes to learning about the indigenous communities that once resided in this part of Canada, the Wanuskewin Heritage Park is as good as it gets. The park offers visitors the chance to discover the traditions and everyday lives of First Nations people who gathered to hunt bison and collect food and herbs. During the various trails available here you’ll get to see past bison kill sites, tipi rings, medicine wheels, camping areas and plenty more. Whether you’re a family or a couple, the park makes for a superb day out, offering the chance to explore the best that Saskatoon’s great outdoors has to offer.
12. The Twisted Trees of Alticane
Nestled just over an hour’s drive north of Saskatoon, in the small town of Alticane, is this striking grove of Aspen trees with a remarkable – and truly unique – twisted appearance. For visitors it’s a bizarre experience seeing these quirks of nature that look like props from a horror movie, and large numbers come here each year to simply gaze at them in wonder. You can wander around them, getting as close as you like, although for the best view standing a little further back is recommended. And be sure to bring your camera, as friends back home may not take your word for just how weird these trees are.