We’ve been trying to explore more of Canada in recent years, and get to know the country we live in a bit better. Having not been to Saskatoon in far too long, we decided to hop in the car and make it a road trip - it’s only 6 hours from Calgary, and the route goes through Drumheller, so there’s an opportunity to stop and spread our legs in the Royal Tyrell Museum en route.
The drive was not as flat and boring as people make it out to be - I love rolling fields and big skies, and stopping in tiny farm towns along the way. There’s not a lot of options when it comes to road food, so pack some snacks if you’re taking this route.
Saskatoon is a wonderfully family-friendly city; with a population of 300,000, it has a slower, calmer pace - there isn’t much traffic, it’s easy to find a parking spot, they have an amazing food scene, and you won’t be jostling for space on the bike paths or at the splash park. It's a great place to go exploring with the family.
Where to stay: Tourism Saskatoon did a blog post about which hotels have the best waterslides - one of the highest rated (by kids!) is at the Radisson, which is located downtown, right on the river and bike path, and within walking (or short driving) distance of all kinds of fun places. They have a great pool and enormous waterslide - my 11 year old approved of it as well.
About a block away, the Delta Bessborough is probably the most recognizable of the Saskatoon hotels - it has a smaller pool but tons of charm; whether or not you stay there, you’ll want to stop at the double decker bus ice cream shop in front of the Bessborough for a cone, shake or hot dog - take it for a stroll along the Saskatchewan river.
What to do: Wanuskewin Heritage Park is a must for families - a gorgeous space with about 6k of walking trails, they aim to advance the understanding and appreciation of the evolving cultures of the Northern Plains indigenous peoples and their relationship with the land. The park has two buffalo jumps, beaver lodges and dams, and the longest-running archaeological dig site in Canada. It has been a sacred gathering place for thousands of years; today you’ll find cultural programs, tours, dance performances and workshops - you can even sign up to go on an informative medicine walk, or make bannock over an open fire.
If you’re in the area on June 21, join them for their national aboriginal day celebrations. In the restaurant, the chef serves up local and indigenous specialities including Saskatchewan whitefish, bison burgers, bison and rabbit stew, and grilled bannock with honey butter, strawberries and cream, served strawberry shortcake-style.
If you visit during lacrosse season, it’s worth getting tickets to see the Rush play a game - with a dedicated fan base, it’s an action-packed game with a faster pace than hockey that’s just fun to watch - especially when the home team scores.
We even stopped in at the Local Kitchen to do a cooking class that was geared specifically toward families-it's an amazing space, where they hold all kinds of dinners, classes and food-related events. This particular Sunday brunch class was taught by a local chef, and all the participants were kids with a parent. We tied on aprons and made brunch together, then sat down to eat before heading out for more exploring.
And if you want to relax and learn a bit more about the city, hop on the Prairie Lily Riverboat for an easy 1 hour cruise, or even a brunch or dinner cruise.
Just across the street from the Prairie Lily dock downtown is the Kinsmen playground, which is spectacular - it has a small-scale train you can ride on, and the ultimate (not scary) zipline. A family could easily pack a picnic and spend the day here.
Where to eat: There have been some great new restaurants opening in Saskatoon over the past 5 years — Odd Couple makes some amazing modern Asian cuisine that’s perfect for sharing (try the bacon fried rice and various stir-fried noodle dishes), and if you want to keep moving, the Saskatoon farmers’ market has plenty of tasty offerings from local vendors.
The trendy Riversdale neighbourhood on the outskirts of downtown has plenty of coffee shops and interesting eateries to pop into - try Little Bird Patisserie for some amazing pastries and breakfast/lunch items - and if you want to stop for a pint or flight at 9 Mile Craft Brewery, kids are allowed, too. And of course if you want real peroghies, they have the very best at Baba's Peroghies - along with the world's only peroghy drive-thru.
(The baking at Little Bird was unreal.)
(Odd Couple was a hit with our 11 year old - we loved everything!)
With so much to explore, Saskatoon is a manageable road trip and a great, approachable destination for families - you'll get hooked on summer Saskatooning.