Saskatchewan

Things to do in Saskatoon: City of Art, Outdoor Adventure, and Friendly Locals

Saskatoon is a cultural melting pot with a delectable foodie scene, art and music festivals and a host of friendly locals all happy to share their take on why this city is well worth a trip.

As a tourist, you’ll never be lost in Saskatoon. Open a map on any street corner, and you’ll be assisted by friendly locals offering their help. This city feels like one big, tight-knit community—and that was never truer than when my car battery died just outside of the Delta Bessborough. In no time, people passing by brought my car back to life while sharing stories and local traditions of the great city these good Samaritans called home.

One of my favourite traditions is affectionately known as “Getting Saskatoon’ed” and takes place in the city’s breweries, pubs, and some hotel lounges. In a show of toughness, you drop a shot of Saskatoon Liqueur in a glass of Great Western Original 16 beer and throw it back with vigour. To do it properly, you need to pound your chest and clink glasses with your fellow Saskatoonians, at which point you join their community as an honorary local.

Perhaps the friendly and welcoming vibe that locals give off is just part of Saskatoon culture, or maybe it has to do with the city’s unique heritage. The Saskatoon population is mostly made up of newcomers, so being open and helpful is a way of life in Saskatchewan’s largest city. As one Saskatoonian put it: “We’re all immigrants here,” which is why you’ll find so many proud business owners eager to welcome travellers and put their stamp on Prairie hospitality.

The majority of Saskatoon’s hotels are located on Spadina Crescent E—ideally within the heart of the city. I love how live jazz, modern art, and restaurants are all within walking distance from Spadina, which runs along the South Saskatchewan River. Unbeknownst to outsiders, Saskatoon has recently experienced a boom in contemporary art culture, making it an up-and-coming Canadian travel destination that has held onto its small-town feel. I’ve rounded up the top hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes in this buzzing city.

Things to do in Saskatoon: Live Like a Russian at the James Hotel

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For a family-run boutique hotel, consider lodging at The James on Spadina Crescent E. Run by three generations of the James Peter Leier family, who originally immigrated from Odessa, Russia, this hotel is just as welcoming now as it was when James Leier first opened it in 1935. Whether you’re staying for a week or just popping in for a warm hummus and naan spread at the Lobby Bar, the James makes a cozy stopping place after a day of driving across the prairies.

As soon as you enter the lobby, you’ll get a sense of the high standards that The James sets for your hotel experience. The check-in counter is made from earth-toned onyx—a decorative touch that’s repeated around the hotel lounge’s fireplace. As for the rooms, you have a choice between a room with a breathtaking view of the Saskatchewan River or of downtown Saskatoon, which showcases the city’s architecture nestled between layers of trees. Regardless of which option you choose, your balcony is your own private oasis.

Guests of The James are constantly remarking on the beauty of the Carerra marble bathrooms in each roomt and I can vouch that there’s good reason for it. Return to your room at the end of the night and lie back in your deep soaker tub, perfect for unwinding in a spa-like environment. L’Occitane en Provence toiletries provide the right amount of pampering needed to relax after a day of travel.

The James Hotel

9.3 Excellent (792 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.6 / 10
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Things to do in Saskatoon: Go Gothic at a Historic Railway Hotel

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Discover a treasure just as iconic as The James at Delta’s Bessborough. Opened in 1935, the Bessborough is one of Canada’s nine historic National Railway Hotels, built to accommodate the National Railway passengers. The grand chateau style was a signature of the Railway Hotels and is evident in the Bessborough’s ornate architecture. Inspired by castles in Bavaria, the hotel’s medieval and Gothic façade creates a sense of other-worldly magnitude that helped put Canada on the map for travelling Europeans in the late 19th century. The Gilded-Age opulence continues in the indoor pool room, where guests can float beneath grand vaulted skylights as the snow falls gently above.

I spent a good hour or so wandering round the five acres of private gardens bordering the South Saskatchewan River. Perfect if you’re after some tranquility, which is readily available despite the hotel’s central location on Spadina Crescent. The gardens are best enjoyed on the patio of the hotel’s Garden Court Café, where you’ll get a savoury meal of bacon, sausage, eggs, and pancakes to fuel you for your day’s outings. Voted Best Breakfast Buffet Hotel in 2018 by the readers of Saskatoon’s local magazine (Planet S), the Delta Bessborough’s Garden Court Café appeals to locals and tourists alike. After your day out in the city, you’ll be happy to return to your plush, pearl-toned room for a snuggly snooze on pillow-top mattresses.

Looking for some pampering?...

The spa at the Bessborough

When your shoes start to bark from all the walking, the Bessborough can provide some well-deserved pampering. The hotel’s on-site spa, Damara Spa, offers a relaxing escape from the bustling city. For a quick pick-me-up, I tried their 30-minute foot massage, which includes a foot soak and exfoliation treatment. Alternatively, you could indulge in a 90-minute body wrap that includes a foot massage at the end. Apple cinnamon, coconut, mango, and lavender-based wraps provide guests with enough options to make sure they’re getting the best hydrating treatment for their skin tone. I found it the perfect way to wrap up a day of exploration.

Delta Hotels Bessborough

Top rated
8.6 Excellent (2173 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.2 / 10
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Things to do in Saskatoon: Make a Splash at the Sheraton

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Travelling families flock to the Sheraton Cavalier for good reason: the hotel has a massive indoor water park included on the premises. Children will have a blast winding down the water slide and playing Marco Polo in the kids’ pool. Thanks to an on-site food joint, the fun doesn’t need to stop when the kiddos get hungry. Burgers, fries, and pizza can be devoured on the deck in between splash sessions.

Parents can rest assured that safety comes first in this complex. Non-slip flooring has recently been installed to keep excited youngsters safe while going from the pool to the slide. Additionally, a red light/green light system directs traffic down the water slide, so there are no unexpected bumps at the bottom. Adults, meanwhile, can spend their afternoons going between the large main pool and the two hot tubs. An indoor patio and outdoor sundeck make lounging possible no matter what the weather.

Retreating to your room in the Sheraton after fun at the water park feels like a warm and cozy retreat, as the earth-tones and white bed linens create a comfort-first experience for guests. When selecting a room with a view, you’ll have the choice between facing garden, city, and river, creating a custom feel to your hotel experience.

Sheraton Cavalier Saskatoon Hotel

8.4 Very good (1842 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9 / 10
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Things to do in Saskatoon: Explore the City

A great starting point for exploring Saskatoon is the Meewasin waterfront trail. This 60+ km trail is frequented by locals who enjoy walking, cycling, and jogging along it while taking in views of the river. Should you choose to make this trail central to your Saskatoon experience, you may want to stay in the Bessborough, which borders the trail with its expansive property. I particularly loved this walk for all the culture it offers along the way.
 
Start your walk by heading south, and the trail will take you through the Kiwanis Memorial Park with its historical monuments, statues, fountains, and pavilions. Continue on past the Broadway Bridge to Friendship Park, where a bronze sculpture of Gabriel Dumont, a prominent leader of the Métis, is a source of pride for Saskatoonians. A few minutes past the Traffic Bridge, you’ll find the city’s hottest new attraction: the Remai Modern Contemporary Art Museum. The success of this museum surpassed the expectations of all involved in its creation, and that’s because Saskatoonians have a hunger for modern art. Fans of Pablo Picasso will enjoy immersing themselves in surrealism as they explore the most comprehensive collection of Picasso linocuts of any art museum.
 
Top Tip:

Why not sample cooking class at the Saskatoon Farmers Market

The Remai is also near lots of boutique shops and markets, including the Saskatoon Farmers Market. Endless stalls of colourful produce line an open-concept, repurposed electrical garage year-round and make an excellent spot to gather fresh ingredients for a picnic on the trail. Local chefs often make appearances and run cooking classes, but if you don’t have time for a class, simply chatting with friendly local farmers will give you some insight into Saskatoon’s prolific food culture.

Hotels in Saskatoon

134 Hotels
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Things to do in Saskatoon: Indulge in the Food Scene

Breakfast and brunch are served in style at Poached Breakfast Bistro on 259 2 Ave S. This casual and somewhat eclectic breakfast bistro has a developed a large fanbase in Saskatoon since it opened in July 2010. Take a seat next to the exposed brick wall while filling up on eggs benny dripping with house-made hollandaise sauce. For something on the sweeter side, try a gourmet option like French toast with caramelized apples and pears, or any of the changing items from Chef Chad Venne’s fresh menu.

For a quick bite to eat, anyone can swing into The James Lounge for a selection of charcuterie and artisan cheese boards. Delicacies like double cream brie and thinly sliced capicola keep foodies like me coming back for more. Light Euro-inspired fare is also available and includes favourites like beef carpaccio with truffle oil. Enjoy a range of vintage cocktails thanks to the bar’s vast selection of scotches, bourbons, and ports—my recommendation is an Old Fashioned, complete with maraschino cherry.

For a heartier meal, try the Scarlet Craft Kitchen in the Sheraton Cavalier for a range of American comfort food. Arrive hungry because you’ll get to choose between eight craft burgers to satiate your appetite! The restaurant’s signature dish is The Greatest of All Time Burger: a goat cheese, pickled onion, and bourbon-bacon jam masterpiece created by the head chef. Travelling families will enjoy this casual dining joint, as kids can fill up on cheesy thin-crust pizzas while parents enjoy boozy milkshakes.

Saskatoon may be far from the Pacific coastline, but quality seafood can be enjoyed in the Delta Bessborough. Authentic Japanese cuisine has put Samurai on the radar of local foodies who appreciate quality sushi. Their best advice: keep the sake flowing as you feast on generous heaps of salmon sashimi, expertly-wrapped Dynamite Rolls, and mouth-watering Unagi. The atmosphere is fun and energetic thanks to the live sushi bar and hibachi grills positioned at each table, where chefs whip up teppanyaki meals right in front of you. And if you’re staying at the Bessborough, you’ll be just an elevator ride away from your room, a retreat of luxury bed linens for the perfect landing pad after indulging in Saskatoon’s food scene.

Hotels in Saskatoon

134 Hotels
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Things to Do in Saskatoon: Dive into the Nightlife

If you believe that drinks always taste better with live music (as do I!), you’ll want to check out Saskatoon’s underground jazz club, The Bassment. Pair tapas with beer and wine while listening to the best jazz the city has to offer. Despite the small size of the venue, big names like Joey DeFrancesco have played at this all-ages establishment. Check out their monthly calendar for shows scheduled during your stay, keeping in mind that Fridays are often reserved for the club’s charitable programming. In exchange for three non-perishable food items, you’ll be treated to local jazz musicians who light up the room with the club’s grand piano.

For a more intimate setting that’s conducive to good conversation, SixTwelve Lounge in the Sheraton is the place to be. I found time almost came to a standstill at this romantic and unique venu. Candlelight and tufted booths are perfect for cozying up to enjoy a nightcap, but don’t expect a traditional drink menu.

SixTwelve is famous for their creative cocktails, offering their own twist on all the classics. Mojitos are enhanced with cucumbers and blackberries, and Caesars are augmented with house-infused bacon and pepper vodka. These off-beat creations are the reason why SixTwelve was voted the Best Lounge in 2010 by the readers of Saskatoon’s local magazine (Planet S).

While there’s no question that the Bassment offers the best live jazz and SixTwelve has the most imaginative cocktails, Crazy Cactus offers a truly authentic Saskatoon experience. You’ll need to stretch your legs and head downtown to get to this popular and rowdy watering hole. As soon I walked in, I immediately got a sense of the bar’s laidback atmosphere from the quirky décor. To get in the action, you’ll need to embrace your inner Saskatoonian —this is one of 10 bars where you can pound your chest, throw back a shot and Get Saskatoon’ed.

Hotels in Saskatoon

134 Hotels
from 65
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