Saskatoon, Saskatchewan's largest city, is the business and science hub of the province, located 140 mi/225 km northwest of Regina. You might start your tour by walking along the riverbank and over University Bridge to the University of Saskatchewan with its lovely greystone architecture. The university is also home to the Diefenbaker Canada Centre, which is dedicated to the life and times of former Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker (there are several interesting exhibits, including a political cartoon gallery). He is buried just outside the front door.
Also lovely is the restored College Building, including Convocation Hall, the permanent home of the Amati Quartet in Residence, which performs on four rare, 17th-century instruments—two violins, a viola and a cello—crafted by the Amati family of Cremona, Italy, and collected by the late Stephen Kolbinson, one of Saskatchewan's first homesteaders. The musicians play classical string quartet repertoire and conduct a series of four concerts every year at Convocation Hall.
The Gordon Snelgrove Gallery, on the main level of the Murray Building (main library), exhibits the work of the university's senior art students and professional artists from Saskatoon. The Kenderdine Art Gallery, located on the second floor of the Agriculture Building, maintains the university's permanent art collection and organizes exhibits of other works. While visiting the gallery, ask about the more than 1,000 other pieces of art exhibited throughout campus.
The University of Saskatchewan is also home to the Canadian Light Source, Canada's only synchrotron and one of 42 worldwide (there are five in the U.S.) The CLS is Canada's national subatomic particle accelerator, which produces a brilliant light used to view the microstructure of materials. Synchrotron light is used for a broad range of studies, including developing new drugs and vaccines, crop production, the role of soil minerals and bacteria in the capture and storage of carbon, and nanotechnology. This huge facility, larger than a football field, is open for scientific, educational and public tours. To arrange a tour, phone 657-3500.
The local branch of the Western Development Museum is Boomtown, an indoor living museum that re-creates Saskatchewan in the 1910s with shops, a train station and a cafe. Other attractions you might consider are the Mendel Art Gallery and Civic Conservatory (an admirable collection of local and international art) and the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, which does a nice job of displaying the ornate crafts and enduring culture of the country's Ukrainian immigrants.
The Mendel has one of the most beautiful locations in Saskatoon, overlooking the South Saskatchewan River north of the downtown core. The gallery displays contemporary and historical art, with exhibitions changing quarterly. The permanent collection includes more than 5,000 local, regional and national works. The gallery gift shop contains a variety of unique items, and the Museo Cafe provides a relaxing place to view the scenic river valley. The Civic Conservatory is attached to the Mendel Art Gallery and provides a soothing retreat at any time of year. The conservatory maintains a permanent collection of orchids and tropical and arid plants, as well as seasonal flower displays.
Saskatoon has literally dozens of excellent art galleries. Among the most interesting is The Gallery at Art Placement Inc., a commercial art gallery located downtown. The gallery represents established Saskatchewan artists and western Canadian painters. A block away, the Darrell Bell Gallery carries works of Saskatchewan professional artists and contemporary Canadian arts and crafts.
Pacif'ic Gallery and the Fine Art Cafe carries an enchanting selection of artwork and fine art photographs. The former grocery store, located in the Temperence Street Triangle, is worth the trip, if only for the opportunity to sip coffee or enjoy a grilled Italian sandwich on the quiet patio.
Clay Studio Three, located in the alley west of Broadway Avenue and Main Street, features locally produced, handcrafted pottery. In fact, wandering the Broadway district is one of the more enjoyable ways to spend a morning or an afternoon. The area is teeming with one-of-a-kind shops, cafes, neighborhood pubs, bicycle shops, theaters and other interesting places. A popular walking tour of Saskatoon includes the Broadway-Nutana district, which visits heritage buildings throughout this historic neighborhood where Saskatoon had its origins.
If you have time, see the historic Delta Bessborough Hotel—known affectionately as The Bezz—standing like a grand Loire castle on the riverbank downtown. The Saskatoon Zoo and Forestry Farm Park features more than 200 native bird and animal species. Beaver Creek is a conservation area with an interpretive center and self-guided tours. Along the river, you'll find the Meewasin Valley Trail, a 12-mi/19-km hiking and biking trail that passes eight parks and scenic overlooks along its route. Take a river boat tour from the dock at the Mendel Art Gallery. There are also plenty of lakes and recreational areas in the vicinity. Saskatchewan Place is the city's sports, trade and entertainment facility.
Annual events in Saskatoon include the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival (June), Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan (June-August), Saskatoon Exhibition (competitions, entertainment—July), and Folkfest (multicultural celebration—August). Saskatoon's colorful Farmers Market runs every Saturday.
Just north of the city, the Wanuskewin Heritage Park is worth a visit. This cultural center consists of 20 archaeological sites connected by a trail along riverside bluffs. Some of the sites date back 6,000 years. Visitors can learn how to build a tepee and tan a hide. Learn about the First Nations peoples who have lived in the area for centuries, or experience early plains life first-hand by sleeping overnight in a tepee.
Everyone who has time should make the trip to Batoche National Historic Park, roughly 55 mi/90 km northeast of Saskatoon. This was the site of the last battle of the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, where Louis Riel's Metis insurgents were forced to surrender (Riel was subsequently hanged). The park includes the ruins of the Metis village, a church and a museum. A few minutes beyond Batoche is the little French village of St. Isidore-de-Bellevue with marvelous wood carvings on display in the Cultural Centre and tourtiere (a French-Canadian meat pie) on the menu.
An hour east of Saskatoon, Little Manitou Lake is said to be three times saltier than the ocean—it is impossible to sink. Its mineral waters are thought to have restorative powers and were sacred to Native Americans (Manitou means God). The lake town of Manitou Beach is home to the Manitou Springs Resort and Mineral Spa.
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