SASKATCHEWAN, July 30, 2015– Saskatchewan, Canada’s breadbasket, is sandwiched between Manitoba to the east and Alberta to the west, the Northwest Territories to the north, and the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota to the south.
A flight over the landscape unveils an agriculturally rich area—a tapestry of verdant fields, rivers, lakes and farms— all against the backdrop of a huge, blue sky.
This is, after all, the Land of Living Skies, a slogan adopted and placed on all the province’s license plates. Despite its wide open spaces, this prairie province has plenty of places to explore, and a road trip may be the best way to discover the main cities and small towns, myriad foods and off-the-beaten track adventures.
Saskatoon is Saskatchewan’s largest city and a good point for starting your road trip. Rent a car at the airport to begin your exploration.
Constructed during the height of the Great Depression on the banks of the Saskatchewan River, this iconic landmark hotel is the perfect place to stay for a night or two. With your choice of city or river views, The Bessborough offers travelers a luxury experience with elegant rooms and friendly service.
Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan
If you visit during the summer months from July to mid-August, make a reservation for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan. Located just a short walk from the Bessborough, this park-like venue has a repertory theater company performing plays written by the old master. In addition to the main stage, there are other activities here to enjoy such as a medieval feast, workshops, tours, and art displays.
Remai Modern Museum
The Remai Modern, due to open in the fall of 2016, is located in an area known as River Landing along the Saskatchewan River. Currently under construction, this will be one of the only modern art museums in Canada with 230,000 square feet of space to house its permanent collection.
The low-rise building reflects the topography of the prairie and is a spectacular part of the area’s river skyline. One of their most prized treasures will be 197 distinct Picasso linotype pieces, produced from 1954-1962 and making this collection one of the most comprehensive of this type in the world.
For lunch, Capanna Pizzeria is within walking distance of the museum. With one of the only pizza ovens of its type in Canada, the chef creates his own artistic visions of thin crust pizzas in about 90 seconds. They have many unusual varieties such as their fabulous roasted beet, mascarpone and arugula with white truffle oil.
Western Development Museum
After lunch, head over to the Western Development Museum. The 70s-style façade gives way to an interior that features early turn of the century life in a prairie town with an entire re-created street named Boomtown.
Here, you can visit the blacksmith, general store, chapel, and old Royal Northwest Mounted Police Station. There is even a doctor’s office with posted prices offering a variety of services such as finger amputations for a mere $5.00.
Many have commented on the eerily authentic experience as they walk down the street and in and out of shops. Perhaps there’s something to this as two employees once saw an unknown lady in a red 1900s-style dress peering in through the window. Startled and a little scared, they quickly finished cashing out and made a hasty exit.
For dinner, you must try Ayden’s Kitchen & Bar, run by Canada’s top chef winner (2011), Dale MacKay. After learning his trade working for the likes of Gordon Ramsey in the U.K., Mackay is wowing customers with dishes created alongside two other chefs. One of many returners, Mackay grew up in Saskatoon but left. Later in life, however, he came back to his roots to start his restaurant and re-discover his revitalized home town.
Using fresh, locally-sourced, organic ingredients, the menu changes weekly and features items such as grilled asparagus with fingerling potatoes and fried egg, bacon and shallot vinaigrette. Entrees are varied but the Korean fried chicken with onion waffle is one of the most popular.
If it’s still on that weeks menu and you still have room for dessert, order the drumstick sugar cone with caramel and fudge sauce, cashew praline and caramel ice cream.
North of Saskatoon
Wanuskewin Heritage Park
Just north of the main city of Saskatoon, stop in for a visit at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Wanuskewin or living in harmony reflects the spirit and culture of the First Nations Peoples who inhabited this area.
The heritage center features a video and exhibits and six kilometers of trails with many species of birds, mammals and plants native to the valley. If you head uphill, you will be rewarded with a sweeping view and photo op of the Saskatchewan River below.
Batoche National Historic Site of Canada
As you continue to explore this middle section of the province, you will quickly see why it is known as the prairie as well as Canada’s breadbasket. Miles and miles of flat acreage border the roads with varying colors of agriculture, the most dominant being the bright yellow canola plants that make a stunning color contrast against the deep blue sky.
Batoche is a name that many Canadians will know as it reflects a turbulent part of Canada’s historical past. Preserved now for visitors, this was the site where an armed conflict arose between Métis settlers and the Canadian government in 1865.
Approximately 1,200 Métis established a provisional government in the area to solidify their claim to family river lots. After an initial skirmish, the government decided to crush what they viewed was a rebellion and sent troops to Botche. After a battle that lasted two weeks, the Métis were defeated, leaving some to scatter and others to stay under adverse circumstances. Today, you can tour St. Antoine de Padoue Church as well as the grounds that include a cemetery, a rectory, rifle pits, and one of the last existing homes.
Prince Albert National Park, Waskesiu Wilderness Area and Elk Creek Lodge
As you make your way further north along Highway 11 and then Highway 2, the topography slowly transitions from flat terrain to rolling hills covered by trees. The 2-3 hour ride will take you past some beautiful scenery so enjoy the ride.
Your destination will be the Elk Ridge Resort in Prince Albert National Park. If you’re looking for a bit of luxury in the wilderness, this is it! A four-season resort, Elk Lodge boasts one of the top 27-hole championship golf courses in the province.
The resort is constructed like an upscale mountain lodge with rooms overlooking the golf courses and surrounding forest. They have all the amenities you would expect in a luxury resort and their on-site restaurant, Copper, serves palate- pleasing fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Summer activities include hiking, biking, horseback riding, dining, and viewing nature at its best. In addition to being surrounded by spruce, birch, tamarack, and balsam trees, you might spot some wildlife including deer, elk, bison, moose, and otters.
At the nearby Waskesiu Township, there are shops, restaurants and even a sandy beach. You can stroll around the nearby shops but make sure you stop in at the local bakery for one of their delectable cinnamon buns.
After leaving Elk Lodge, you will be traveling south to your next destination—Manitou Springs. This is about a 4-hour journey and make sure you have a camera to capture some of the rural scenes along the way: lone tractors, grain silos catching the morning light and blue and yellow fields of canola and flaxseed plants. South of the town of Waka along Highway 2, you will notice what can only be described as possibly the world’s longest train. On the right side of the road are 20+ kilometers of various types of train cars just sitting in on the tracks—never moving.
Manitou Springs Hotel Resort & Mineral Spa
As you come to the town of Watrus, cut across Main Street to your next destination— Manitou Beach and the Manitou Springs Hotel Resort & Mineral Spa. This property sits on the banks of what has been dubbed The Dead Sea of Canada.
Both the lake and indoor pool are highly mineralized with magnesium, sulphate, potassium, and sodium, which make it possible for visitors to float, just like in the Dead Sea in Israel. Travelers come here from all over the world to soak in the waters with many reporting relief of physical symptoms such as skin conditions and arthritis.
Nearby is the famous dance hall where patrons can dance the night away on the signature horsehair floor. Even though this is a small resort town, it has one of the few surviving drive-in theaters left in North America where you can take in a movie under the stars.
Hotel Saskatchewan Radisson
Continue heading south and in two hours you’ll reach Regina, Saskatchewan’s second largest city. The Hotel Saskatchewan Radisson, located on Victoria Avenue, is rated #2 on TripAdvisor and offers luxury accommodations in the heart of the city.
Regina is seemingly on the cusp of becoming a foodie destination with a number of fun culinary options from which to choose.
With the downtown area converted into a trendy semi-pedestrian mall, there are food trucks and street vendors as well as restaurants within an easy walk from this central location.
Twenty Ten City Eatery features fresh, innovative cuisine in a pleasant, modern setting. Try their spiced chicken burger or the Mosaic Salad. At Crave Kitchen and Wine Bar, executive chef Jonathan Thauberger uses seasonal ingredients from local purveyors to create tasty traditional European fare. His charcuterie plates are a local favorite.
The English tradition of afternoon tea is also alive and well here. Tea is served on various days at set times at the Hotel Saskatchewan Radisson (306 -237-4311) and also at Government House (631- 571-7123). The latter, built in 1891, is the restored official residence and museum of the Lieutenant Governors of the Northwest Territories. Their Victorian Tea is sold out months in advance so call as early as possible to make reservations.
If you are a fan of microbreweries, you will love Regina. Originally having started as a home brewing community with what were known as ale clubs, this movement has grown over the years to include five breweries with some also serving food. Locals have their favorite hangouts such as Rebellion, Bushwakkers and Brewsters. Pop in for a pint.
RCMP Heritage Center
Since 1873, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been a stabilizing force in the history and development of the nation. Their Academy’s Depot Division is located here in Regina and is a popular tourist destination.
During your visit, you will learn about the RCMP’s integral role in law enforcement through their various exhibits, audio tours and multi-media presentations.
With more than 2,200 acres of green space, Wascana Park is almost three times the size of Central Park in New York City. During the summer especially, locals flock to this park to enjoy the sunshine as well as cycling, kayaking on the lake or strolling through the various colorful gardens.
If there is one thing that Canadians love, it is their sports teams. Here in Saskatchewan, it’s their football team known as the Roughriders. As game day approaches, the characteristic green and white team colors are seen everywhere in town as loyal fans display their team spirit. Plan on sharing in the fun and excitement if you happen to visit during one of the game days.
Canadians are proud of their rich heritage and many red and white flags with the maple leaf symbol are flying in front of houses and businesses. You will find that same spirit in Saskatchewan as you drive from location to location and experience the charm, friendliness and beauty of this prairie province.
Saskatchewan Tourism: http://tourismsaskatchewan.com
For directions to the areas mentioned in this article, it is recommended you rent a vehicle with GPS and carry a good map or two. Some roads are paved and some may be unimproved gravel. You may also have to cross on a ferry or two. Additionally, some roads may be closed during winter.