I always wanted to go to Saskatoon. I’m a sucker for the flatlands, and when you have a tongue-roller of a name like 'Saskatoon, Saskatchewan' – count me in.
I went recently, thinking I could poll locals for lyric ideas to come up with a new song (it's at the end of the video, above). At the city’s oldest curling club, the Granite Curling Club – which offers lessons to beginners – I heard the city was like a village. Guitar-maker Sheldon Dingwall described the winter as looking like ‘white and blue diamonds.’ I tricked a staff member of the Western Development Museum to help with a reenactment of the city founder, John Lake. City mayor, Donald Atchison – who used to be a goalkeeper – simply described the town as ‘sensational.’ Then I had a t-shirt made. Fun.
If you go, here are the three things I think help make up a perfect day in Saskatoon:
Walk across Broadway Bridge
Saskatoon's city center is surprisingly scenic, with a curving river valley and jogging trails on both sides of the South Saskatchewan. Best way to access is a walk across the Broadway Bridge to the lively Broadway District, where you can play ‘table curling’ (crokinole) at bars like the Yard & Flagon (718 Broadway Ave), see bands at Amigos Cantina, or eat at restaurants, such as Calories (above) – the site where local Joni Mitchell once played her first show.
Have a saskatoon
Settled in the 1880s, Saskatoon is named for a First Nations word for a particularly juicy local berry. The Berry Barn, outside town, has a farm and plenty of saskatoon products, but you can try various ones on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday all year at the farmer’s market in town. Or buy a $5 green-and-white Saskatchewan Roughriders cap knit by a grandma. I did.
Explore First Nations culture
The top attraction in town, and one of Canada’s best First Nations sites, is the Wanuskewin Heritage Center, a 10-minute drive from the center. There you can see various exhibits, eat some First Nations food, and interact with First Nations people. The curator Tyrone Tootossis (above), a Samson Cree originally from Alberta, told me visitors shouldn’t be shy to mingle. That’s what the center is for. And the best thing to do is take your time on the heritage trail around the site, find a spot on the hill ‘and listen to the wind.’ It’s a magical spot.