From rodeos to music festivals and everything in between, tourism plays a significant role in the Saskatchewan economy generating over $2 billion in travel spending annually and providing employment for 70,000 individuals. On Thursday, March 16, federal minister of tourism, Randy Boissonnault, was in Regina to announce over $5.8 million in new funding from Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan). Fourteen Saskatchewan projects emphasizing Indigenous offerings and experiences were selected as the recipients.
“Saskatchewan is a great place to live and visit. Vibrant cities, down-to-earth communities and unique tourist destinations share the province’s rich culture and natural beauty with visitors from near and far,” explains the Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister for PrairiesCan.
According to Tourism Saskatchewan, “while Saskatchewan’s tourism sector generates essential revenue and employment; it also plays an important role in cultivating our collective pride—it defines how we see ourselves and how we are perceived by people from outside our borders.” Following are 25 things to do this summer that are uniquely Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan boasts two national parks—Prince Albert National Park in the northern boreal forest, and Grasslands National Park in the southwest; 39 provincial parks and recreation sites; and 80 regional parks. Whether it is a day trip, weekend getaway, or seasonal site, stay options range from full service to wilderness.
To make camping more accessible to everyone, SaskParks piloted the Camp-Easy program in 2018 in three provincial parks. Camp-Easy provides a fully equipped camping experience with sites containing a structure equipped with six sleeping cots, a camp stove and propane tank, lanterns, wash bins, camp chairs and roasting sticks. Users need to bring food, blankets and cooking supplies.
In 2019 the program was expanded to include sites with yurts in eight provincial parks. Today, tents and yurts are available in 14 provincial parks.
2. Music Festivals
Saskatchewan Music Festivals can be broken down into two categories—urban and rural. Saskatoon plays host to the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival each year at the end of June, first week of July; and in the Queen City, the Regina Folk Festival in early August is a much-anticipated event.
In the countryside, three small towns illustrate prairie hospitality by welcoming the world. Craven, in the Qu’Appelle Valley, accommodates thousands of visitors to Country Thunder Saskatchewan (previously called the Craven Country Jamboree) each year; Big River hosts the Ness Creek Music Festival in the forest; and in southern Saskatchewan, Bengough puts on the Gateway Music Festival.
3. RCMP Heritage Centre, Regina
The RCMP Heritage Centre is located on the historic grounds of the RCMP Academy, Depot Division. Visitors to the RCMP grounds should not want to miss the Sergeant Major’s Parade or the seasonal Sunset Retreat Ceremonies, which occur Tuesday evenings from July 1 – August 17.
4. Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatoon
Wanuskewin, the nēhiyawēwin (Plains Cree) word roughly translated as ‘seeking peace of mind’ has been a sacred site and gathering place for more than 6,400 years. The park is currently in the process of becoming Saskatchewan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.
5. Cypress Hills
Cypress Hills lays claim to the only lodgepole pine forest in Saskatchewan and is the highest elevation in Canada between the Rockies in the west and Labrador in the east.
6. Ziplining and Aerial Adventures
TreeOSix runs two adventure parks-one in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park and one at Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park. Blue Mountain Adventure Park is located 1 1/2 hours west from Saskatoon near the town of Denholm.
7. Crooked Bush
The Crooked Bush, located near Hafford, is called a botanical mystery by the Friends of the Crooked Bush group and was declared one of the ’54 Wonders of Canada’ by CBC’s ‘Morningside’ show.
8. All Aboard!
The Southern Prairie Railway near Ogema was Saskatchewan’s first full sized tourist railway. Established in 2010, the business offers a number of themed trips. The Wheatland Express in central Saskatchewan near Cudworth began offering train rides to tourists in 2018.
Saskatchewan boasts over 200 museums in towns and cities across the province from large facilities like the Royal Museum in Regina and the Western Development Museum network in Moose Jaw, North Battleford, and Saskatoon, to the small-town pride. The T.Rex Discovery Centre near Eastend, is home to Scotty. Found in 1991, Scotty is Saskatchewan’s first tyrannosaurus rex finding and is the world’s largest T.rex skeleton ever found.
10. Country Fairs and Markets
11. Chariot & Chuckwagon Racing, and Rodeos
From the Saskatchewan Digital Archives, ”There are more pow-wows hosted in Saskatchewan on an annual basis than any other province or state in North America. Saskatchewan Pow-wows can be labeled as the best in North America as our dancers and drum groups are proven champions throughout North America.”
13. Take to the Skies
Wind is a fact in this province but for those who enjoy hang gliding, paragliding, parasailing, and skydiving, Saskatchewan is tops.
The SaskPower Windscape Kite Festival and Long Day’s Night Music Festival is held in Swift Current each year on June 21.
15. Hiking & Biking
There are a number of marked trails for hiking and biking in Saskatchewan, one well known one is the Trans Canada Trail route which meanders through Cypress Hills, Grasslands National Park, Moose Jaw, Regina, Yorkton and Duck Mountain.
Fishing, winter or summer, is a passion for many. Talk to the locals and everyone has their favourite fishing hole and species to catch but there is only one place in Saskatchewan to catch largemouth bass and that is Boundary Dam Reservoir near Estevan. Due to the nearby power plant, the water is much warmer, which makes it possible for the largemouth to thrive. The lake, in some parts, never even freezes.
17. Drive-in Theatres
Saskatchewan is home to five drive-in theatres. The communities of Carlyle, Kyle, Manitou Beach, Pilot Butte, and Wolseley are preserving a piece of history.
18. Sand Dunes
West central Saskatchewan lays claim to two places where you can find sand dunes. The first is the Great Sandhills near Sceptre and the second is within the Douglas Provincial Park near Lake Diefenbaker. The remote Athabasca sand dunes in northern Saskatchewan are the most northerly active sand dune formations on Earth.
20. Dirt track, stock, go-kart, and drag racing
21. Attend a Rider Game (or baseball, lacrosse or rugby)
22. Canoeing & Kayaking
The Churchill River area is known as Saskatchewan’s canoe country. A trip down the Rapid River by canoe or kayak treats visitors to the scenic Precambrian Shield, mountainous terrain, the Church at Stanley Mission, a pictograph site, and the Nistowiak Falls.
23. Grey Owl’s Cabin
Grey Owl’s Cabin is located on the shore of Ajawaan Lake in Prince Albert National Park. Parks Canada documents the historical significance of Grey Owl’s Cabin as, “one of the best examples of a building associated with the naturalist Archibald Belaney, also commonly known as ‘Grey Owl’, and his tame beavers. Grey Owl made a positive contribution to the Canadian National Park Service by promoting and publicizing conservation practices.” The cabin is an easy paddle by canoe or kayak but is a 20 km hike one way. Visitors may register to backcountry camp overnight.
With over 54 registered theatre groups in the province, visitors can take in a performance year-round in just about any part of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon’s Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan offers performances throughout July and August. Outside of the theatre companies in the larger centres, Estevan’s Souris Valley has been around since 1989, offering summer performances and theatre camps.
25. Tunnels of Moose Jaw
Suspected to have been dug in the 1890s, the series of tunnels under the streets of Moose Jaw were home to Chinese laundromats. When Prohibition hit in the 1920s, the tunnels were repurposed by gangsters to store alcohol before being transported to the U.S. via the Soo Line Railroad. It is even rumoured that Al Capone used the tunnels during this time. A popular tourist attraction, today the tunnels attract hundreds of visitors each year.
Honourable mentions: Batoche, Big Muddy, Cochin Lighthouse, and wine, mead, and craft beer tasting.