Guide to Saskatoon
Steve Jones
Steve Jones • Jul 15

Guide to Saskatoon

by Steve Jones

Places in Canada that I Love: Saskatoon, The Paris of the Prairies

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to write an article about the part of Canada that I love, and it turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would be.  Not because I couldn’t think of a place I love, quite the opposite, the question was, which area do I love most. So, I decided that I couldn’t possibly write about only one place but that I would have to write several articles because Canada is awesome in every sense of the word.

I was born and raised in Plymouth, Devon, and grew up on Cornish beaches and Dartmoor. These remain places I love and are a fundamental part of who I am.  They are very different from the prairies, but they have left me with a loathing of large cities and a love of wide-open spaces, which is what you find here.

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I moved to Canada in 2001, initially to Winnipeg, Manitoba and lived there for 16 years.  But I am not going to write about Winnipeg because even though I will always love the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, I love Saskatoon more than “The ‘Peg” (at this point I must say to all of my Winnipeg friends, I loved living in Winnipeg but come here and see what I mean).

 Alt Text: A view of the Red River riverside walkway at St Boniface in Winnipeg looking towards the Canadian Museum of Human Rights on the left and the Esplanade Reil Bridge on the right.  In the background are the Winnipeg business district high-rise offices.
Photo 1: Winnipeg, The Forks a National Historic Site and meeting place for 6000 years.

Photo 2: Canadian Human Rights Museum with an unfinished spire, to represent the work yet to be done to secure human rights for all

Saskatoon is the cultural and intellectual capital of Saskatchewan and is in every way superior to the political capital, Regina, 3 hours south.  Saskatoon is built on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Metis, on the South Saskatchewan River.  The name Saskatoon comes from the Cree word sâskwatôn, for the saskatoon berries that grow abundantly here along the riverbanks.  Almost the entire riverbank is publicly accessible and maintained by the Meewasin Valley Authority, providing fantastic places to walk, run, cycle or watch the beavers swim and pelicans fishing.

Photo 3: The South Saskatchewan River, just south of Saskatoon, in Chief Whitecap Park.

Saskatoon was founded in 1883 by John Lake and the Temperance Colonization Society of Toronto. The settlers were hoping to escape the liquor trade in Toronto and build a dry community on the Prairies. Lake was advised by Chief Wapahaska (Whitecap) to start building on the banks for the river at what is now Nutana.

Photo 4: Chief Wapahaska in Chief Whitecap park (Saskatoon Berry bushes in the background.)

Fortunately, Saskatoon is no longer dry; indeed, it is home to the Lucky Bastard Distillery (founded by a lottery winner),  Black Fox Distillery (home of a world champion barrel-aged gin), and the Stumbletown Distillery; 9 Mile Legacy Brewing, High Key Brewing, Shelter Brewing, Prairie Sun Brewing (located in the heart of John Lakes original dry settlement), Paddock Wood Brewing, the Crossmount cidery and Wolf Willow Winery.

The best places to sample these outstanding libations are the bars and restaurants of Broadway and the always popular 2nd Ave downtown. For example, the awesome Poached Bistro/Flint Saloon, a brunch restaurant by day and cocktail bar by night.   Take a quiet cocktail or two at Flint and then stroll across the road to Sticks and Stones for some amazing steamed buns. They are the best I have ever had and regularly run out.

Photo 5 Flint Saloon with Toni and Natalya (with the electric blue cocktail as big as her head)

Speaking of brunch, the Hometown Diner is a must-try. Everything on the menu is good, and they have the most fantastic made-in-house doughnuts.  Speaking of doughnuts, a short journey from the Hometown Diner will take you to two of my favourite sweet treat spots, Darkside Doughnut and Fable Ice Cream (the selection changes constantly, but my favourite so far is the rhubarb cheesecake).

A short walk north from here can take you to the Local Kitchen where you can learn to cook in a commercial kitchen from local chefs in evening classes that are more fun than should be possible, and the resulting dishes are tastier than you thought you could make.  An observant reader will have noted that everywhere is a short walk from else.  It is one of the best features of Saskatoon.  In a country designed for the car (if not a jet plane), this city can be walked.

Photo 8: Elisia making curry under the watchful eye of Chef Jenni

About 3 hours north of Saskatoon is Prince Albert National Park and the small lakeside town of Waskesui.   The Park itself covers 3874 square kilometres and is open all year but is most popular between May and September.  The boreal forest is home to numerous birds, including bald eagles, osprey, flycatchers, and heron and mammals, including elk, moose, beaver, bison, black bear, and timber wolves.  The best wildlife watching tends to occur in the winter months when the weather can be challenging.

Before I close, I feel it would be remiss of me not to talk about the weather.  Saskatoon has what’s called a continental climate with an average temperature of 2.4ºC.  Now that sounds pretty dreadful, but it disguises the dramatic swings in temperature between Winter and Summer.  It can be -35ºC or below, and with the windchill in the coldest months, this can quickly become -50ºC where exposed flesh will freeze in 2 minutes or less.  In the summer, the daytime highs can be 35ºC, the record is 40.5 ºC, the relatively cool nighttime temperatures make the average summer temperature seem less impressive than they are.  The heat warning for the last two day prompted me to write the Gazpacho recipe, which you should make. The advantage of such extremes in weather are great stories to tell and beautiful pictures. So come and visit Saskatoon. It is lovely, and you will love it, but you’ll probably want to move on before winter.

But sometimes it looks like this!

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Steve Jones
Steve Jones

Steve is a recovering public health scientist and academic. He is a Terry Pratchett fanatic (which explains a lot when you know him). He loves Dr. Who and can now watch almost every episode from the sofa not behind it. He has the great good fortune to be the COO of Bright and work with this amazing team. He has travelled a lot often to places with dangerous diseases. He thinks this was fun.

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