Crossing the Trans-Canada Highway? Passing through all ten of the Canadian provinces between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, it’s one of the longest roads in the world. While you may already be familiar with Canada’s coastal–or nearly coastal–cities, there are lots of overlooked places in between. Saskatoon, in the prairie province of Saskatchewan, is one of those cities.
Surrounded by wheat fields, Saskatchewan’s largest city is nicknamed the “Paris of the Prairies” for its Art Nouveau architecture and six bridges crossing the South Saskatchewan River. Saskatoon is known for its sunshine, mining, and Western flair. The area was inhabited long before Saskatoon became a city in the early 1900s. To get a feel for First Nations culture, visit the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, where you can see how the indigenous people lived, follow trails, watch a performance at the amphitheater, and observe archeological digs. Go from pre-settlement history to 1910 Boomtown at the Western Development Museum, an indoor re-creation of what the city looked like 100 years ago. Then see the modern city aboard the Prairie Lily, a river cruise.
Now that you have a feel for the city, it’s time for lunch. Go to The Yard & Flagon Pub’s rooftop patio for views of the city, an icy beer, and an elk burger. Then stop by Homestead Ice Cream–an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, complete with a jukebox–for a maple walnut cone. Walk it off on the other side of the river at the Mendel Art Gallery, which showcases local and national artwork. The conservatory’s zen garden is quiet and peaceful.
At this point, you’d usually be disappointed with an aging hotel room after a long day of exploring. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised in Saskatoon. Condos along the riverbank have been turned into a modern hotel. The chic rooms have deep soaking tubs and balconies with either Meewasin River Valley or city-and-river views. It’s across the street from the Meewasin Skating Rink and next to the riverside Meewasin Valley Trail, so you can spend the next morning partaking in seasonal activities. But tonight, sip Rob Roy cocktails at the lobby bar before heading out to see the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra or jazz music at The Bassment.
Your journey along the highway may continue, but at least now you’ll be on the lookout for Canadian gems. Manitoba, here you come.