Exploring Saskatchewan and Manitoba: A Trip Through Canada’s Heartland

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Discover the captivating provinces at the core of Canada, both of which feature rich cultural, historical, and natural experiences.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba, two captivating provinces nestled in the heart of Canada, offer pristine natural beauty and modern living.

Although many think of these two as simply flyover provinces, they are a testament to the diversity of experiences that Canada has to offer. Whether you’re strolling through the lively streets of Saskatoon, exploring the rich history of Regina, immersing yourself in Winnipeg’s vibrant culture, or embarking on a unique Arctic adventure in Churchill, Canada’s core is sure to leave a permanent mark on your travel memories.

Saskatoon: The Paris of the Prairies

Saskatoon, famously referred to by the Tragically Hip as The Paris of the Prairies, is distinguished by a series of seven artful bridges traversing the South Saskatchewan River and connecting the city’s east and west sides.

Saskatoon’s vibrant arts scene is best explored at the Remai Modern, an iconic museum dedicated to contemporary and Indigenous art. The museum’s striking architecture is matched only by the artworks it houses, including an impressive collection of Picasso linocuts, making it a must-visit for culture enthusiasts.

Another can’t-miss museum is the Western Development Museum, ranked as the #1 attraction in Saskatoon on TripAdvisor. Immerse yourself in the past with exhibits like Boomtown, which focuses on the thriving economic activity in Saskatchewan at the turn of the century, and the Transportation Gallery, showcasing a wide range of transportation modes. There are also galleries highlighting the Whitecap Dakota First Nation, Precious Metals, 100 Years of Saskatchewan History, and more.

For those seeking a serene escape, the nearby Meewasin Valley, a riverfront haven, beckons with scenic walking and biking trails, providing a chance to connect with nature within the city.

Explore the city’s Indigenous heritage at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, which is on its way to becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site. Beyond being a fantastic museum and cultural hub, it boasts the title of Canada’s longest-running archaeological dig site, with a history dating back over 6,000 years—twice as old as the Egyptian pyramids! The park hosts numerous summer events, and in the winter, you can enjoy snowshoeing and outdoor bannock bakes.

When it’s time to dine in Saskatoon, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Black Fox Farm & Distillery offers a picturesque escape just outside the city, and should be at the top of your list. Here, you can pick your own bouquet of flowers, sample award-winning whiskey and gin, and savour an exceptional charcuterie board. Black Fox stands out as one of North America’s few farm-to-still distilleries, where they grow 90% of the ingredients in their products, including honey, haskap berries, pumpkin flowers, and more.

Another option is Ayden Kitchen and Bar, where Top Chef winner Dale Mackay presents a menu of homegrown and globally-inspired comfort food paired with expertly crafted cocktails in downtown Saskatoon. Their cocktail menu impresses connoisseurs, making it an ideal spot for a night out.

With a significant Ukrainian population in Saskatoon, Baba’s Perogies is a popular stop offering handmade perogies. You can witness the perogy assembly line in action and savour an authentic Ukrainian meal.

Choosing where to stay in Saskatoon is a delightful decision. The Park Town Hotel, an iconic hospitality establishment in Saskatoon for over 60 years, has played a significant role in the city’s historical and cultural landscape. The updated (and upscale) rooms feature flat-screens, fireplaces, and river views.

Another option is the James Hotel. Situated in the heart of downtown Saskatoon, this modern boutique hotel also overlooks the scenic South Saskatchewan River. Generously appointed suites offer King beds in all rooms, private balconies, and soaker tubs. The James Hotel Lobby Bar was recently listed among Canada’s 100 Best.

Regina: The Queen City

Regina, the capital city of Saskatchewan, is steeped in history and culture, set against the vast prairies.

Begin your journey through time at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, where you can explore the remarkable heritage of the region, including awe-inspiring dinosaur exhibits that will captivate travellers of all ages. The museum is recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada and comprises five major galleries, including Life Sciences, First Nations, Earth Sciences, Megamunch, and a space for traveling exhibits.

The nearby legislative grounds offer both historical significance and serene beauty. Built between 1908 and 1912, the Provincial Legislative Building is an architectural marvel and one of Regina’s most iconic structures. It holds National Historic Site of Canada designation and Provincial Heritage Property status. The building and its grounds are open for exploration, with free daily tours providing a glimpse of the impressive interior. It’s beautifully situated within Wascana Park, offering a scenic backdrop to this historic site.

Wascana Centre is the heart of Regina, boasting captivating scenery and top attractions. At its core lies Wascana Lake, a picturesque spot for walks, jogs, and bike rides. It features charming water fountains, bridges, winding trails, and shaded pathways, offering a serene urban escape.

Keep the chill vibes going with a visit to the Regina Floral Conservatory, an indoor oasis offering a blend of tropical and seasonal environments. This weatherproof haven showcases lush greenery, aromatic scents, and the soothing sounds of a waterfall. Although unassuming from the outside, it transforms into a vibrant display of blooming plants, succulents, and trees from around the world inside. The conservatory rotates its plant displays throughout the year, ensuring a fresh experience each visit.

Travellers looking for a more lively experience can head to the Mosaic Stadium, home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team. The Roughriders enjoy passionate fan support, courtesy of Rider Nation, and their games are filled with energy and excitement. Join over 30,000 enthusiastic fans and immerse yourself in the thrill of a match, especially on warm summer nights. It’s an unforgettable sports experience and one of the top attractions for sports enthusiasts in Saskatchewan.

If you do visit in the summer, be sure and swing by the Regina Farmers’ Market, which runs on Saturdays in City Square Plaza and features fresh produce, artisanal goods, and street food. Saskatchewan’s role as Canada’s breadbasket ensures you’ll find the freshest and finest local produce here. Stroll through the stalls, sample delectable treats, and experience the lively atmosphere of this vibrant market.

Regina’s dining scene is a delightful mix of flavours and atmospheres. The Avenue Restaurant offers a fusion of comfort and luxury, perfect for discerning palates. For the finest steaks in town, The Diplomat Steakhouse is a culinary haven you won’t want to miss. Bar Willow Eatery is a local treasure, dedicated to celebrating the bounty of Canadian ingredients with a focus on regional flavours.

For accommodations in Regina, you are slightly limited. The Hotel Saskatchewan, Autograph Collection, stands as an elegant historic gem, providing a blend of luxury and timeless charm. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Conference Centre offers a more contemporary option with all the modern comforts you could desire.

Winnipeg: An Innovative Canadian Capital

Winnipeg, centrally located in Canada, is a cultural hub with a diverse range of experiences to offer.

Immerse yourself in history and culture as you explore the Exchange District, a 20-block area filled with enchanting restaurants, charming boutiques, and vibrant art galleries. This national historic site, with its elegant brick facades, will transport you back in time as you soak in the rich heritage of the area.

Nearby, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, housed within an architectural masterpiece, takes visitors on a journey through the realm of human rights. As the world’s only museum solely dedicated to human rights awareness and education, it reflects both global and Canadian perspectives. From the immersive entrance leading to the Tower of Hope, where you can enjoy panoramic city views, to the multi-sensory exhibits that explore human rights concepts, it’s a cultural landmark that can’t be missed.

The museum is located in the Forks, where two rivers meet, a dynamic area that offers a vibrant atmosphere. Here, you can savour diverse culinary delights, enjoy live music, and partake in various festivities along the riverbanks. The Forks Market is a vibrant hub for culinary delights and handcrafted goods, set within renovated early 20th-century rail stables. Located at the confluence of the Red River and the Assiniboine River, The Forks is the heart of Winnipeg, offering a diverse array of experiences.

Established in 1904, Assiniboine Park is Winnipeg’s verdant heart and a beloved community gathering place. This 4.5 square-kilometer park offers year-round outdoor activities, from scenic walks and bike rides in the summer to cross-country skiing and ice skating in the winter. Home to the Assiniboine Park Zoo, which features the Sea Ice Passage with underwater views of polar bears and seals, the park is also set to unveil the highly-anticipated biodome, Canada’s Diversity Gardens, in the summer of 2020. Whether you seek leisurely strolls or wildlife encounters, Assiniboine Park has something for everyone.

Across the river is St. Boniface, Winnipeg’s French district, home to one of the largest francophone communities in Western Canada. This neighbourhood provides a captivating window into Winnipeg’s French heritage, featuring iconic attractions like the St. Boniface Museum, housed in the city’s oldest building, and the picturesque stone ruins of St. Boniface Cathedral. With over 35 designated historic sites, charming boutiques, and cozy cafes, St. Boniface offers a delightful blend of culture, history, and local charm.

After all the time spent on your feet exploring, you can relax at Winnipeg’s Thermëa Spa, which offers a unique Nordic-inspired wellness experience in the heart of the city. Immerse yourself in thermal pools, rejuvenate in steam rooms, and relax in hot saunas. This spa provides a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle, allowing you to unwind and rejuvenate in a calming environment.

As you consider where to stay in Winnipeg, The Fort Garry Hotel, Spa, and Conference Centre, a historic hotel ideally located downtown, will make you feel right at home. The Fairmont Winnipeg, situated at the iconic intersection of Portage and Main, offers luxury, culture, and breathtaking cityscapes all in one.

When it’s time to dine, Winnipeg has an array of culinary gems. Deer + Almond, an eclectic restaurant led by Chef Mandel Hitzer, consistently ranks among the city’s finest. If you happen to visit in winter, don’t miss the chance to dine at Hitzer’s acclaimed pop-up series, RAW:almond, which takes place on the frozen rivers and brings together chefs from around the world.

Churchill: An Arctic Expedition

Churchill, Manitoba, also known as the “polar bear capital of the world,” awaits travelers seeking an Arctic adventure like no other.

Churchill is a destination that rewards adventurous souls. The town is renowned for its polar bear sightings, and with beluga whales in the summer and the mesmerizing Northern Lights all year round, it offers a diverse range of experiences to delight even the most seasoned traveller. Because Churchill is located directly beneath the auroral oval, it experiences extremely high auroral activity, and the subarctic winter skies tend to be cold, clear, and dark, which is the perfect combination to view Northern Lights.

Nestled in Churchill, the Itsanitaq Museum may be small in size but is big on significance. It stands as one of our top recommendations for experiencing Indigenous culture in Manitoba. This museum boasts an impressive collection of Inuit carvings and artifacts, offering a window into the rich heritage of the region. While the museum is open year-round, please be aware that its hours vary by season, so it’s advisable to check the schedule before planning your visit.

Situated on the opposite bank of the Churchill River from the town, the Prince of Wales Fort is a National Historic Site that offers a captivating glimpse into history. Originally established as a log fort in 1717, it later evolved into a monumental stone structure. While it was briefly captured by the French in 1782, it was returned to the Hudson’s Bay Company the following year. Today, you can wander through the fort’s remains, allowing your imagination to transport you to the bygone era when it was inhabited.

With abundant access to Canada’s renowned game meats such as elk and moose, as well as a distinctive array of local flora, the chefs in Churchill have been truly inspired to craft delectable dishes that are seldom matched elsewhere. The Tundra Pub offers unique dishes such as bison tacos, elk meatloaf and Arctic char, and is also the city’s primary spot for nightlife.

The main draw in Churchill is undoubtedly the opportunity to witness polar bears and beluga whales. Lazy Bear Expeditions offers tours that bring you up close to these incredible creatures in their natural habitat. For an authentic Arctic experience, consider staying at the Lazy Bear Lodge or explore Churchill Wild’s luxury wilderness eco-lodges, including the Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, which provides a unique accommodation experience and stands as one of the best vantage points for wildlife viewing in Canada’s north.

Bluesky Bed and Sled offers guests the opportunity to learn about dog sledding and even get out on the tundra with the dogs themselves. With cozy rooms and delightful homemade breakfasts, it’s an extraordinary way to explore the Arctic landscape.

Andrew Taylor

For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.

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