You wouldn’t usually encourage your child to eat ice cream out of a dog bowl, but when the bowl contains 14 scoops of ice cream, six sundae toppings, two bananas, whipped cream, and a cherry on top, how can you object? Watching my 11-year-old daughter, Perdy, try to plow through the tasty mega-treat at Homestead Ice Cream and Novelties in Saskatoon with two friends was pretty hilarious, and surprisingly they almost managed it.
We had spent a couple of hours kayaking the South Saskatchewan River with a guide from CanoeSki, paddling against the slight current on our way back to shore, so they’d had time to build up an appetite.
It had been a fab afternoon in glorious sunshine, with our guide pointing out the river birds we spotted.
Before that, we’d explored the reimagined stores, funeral parlour, offices, and other assorted buildings that lined the street of the 1910 Boomtown exhibit at the Western Development Museum. Learning how locals lived and died more than a century ago included a spell dressing up in historic attire and getting our portraits taken at the replica photo studio there. It had been a packed day, with still more to come, and we were lapping up everything that Saskatoon had to offer, cramming as much as possible into our three days in the city.
Ice cream aside, we ate a lot of excellent food in Saskatchewan’s biggest city. When asked her favourite restaurant in the city, Perdy was split between the Greek food at The Cave, a locals’ favourite owned by the same family since 1973, and the locally fished trout sushi and bulgogi steam buns we had at Sticks and Stones, a superb new restaurant opened by Dale MacKay, winner of Top Chef Canada‘s first season in 2011.
The Cave is a trip, built with concrete moulded to resemble a series of caves that divide the restaurant into a labyrinth. Place mats have a map printed on them, which is essential for finding the restroom, and manager George Kosmas, whose father built it, says growing up there was fun. “My sister and I used to turn all the lights out and play flashlight tag,” he says. The massive portions of comfort food make this a popular spot with families, and the retro vibe is fun.
Other memorable meals included brunch at The Hollows, which specializes in hyper local and nose-to-tail cooking (they even make their own soap from the fat of the animals they butcher) and is housed in a barely changed historic Chinese restaurant.
The noodles at hipster Asian joint The Odd Couple were delicious, and we gorged on macarons at the delightful Little Bird Patisserie and Café. Even the breakfasts at Aroma Resto Bar at The Radisson, where we were staying, were locally sourced and amazing. (Note: The Radisson Hotel Saskatoon is a sweet place for families with great staff, a central location, and indoor water park that my child loved.)
We spent our first morning in Saskatoon on and by the water, first taking a cruise on the Prairie Lily Riverboat and admiring the fancy houses along the shore and the soon-to-open new Remai Modern art museum. We then rode the Ferris wheel and carousel at the PotashCorp Playland at Kinsmen Park, and the children enjoyed the ziplines at the huge new playground there.
Exploring the hip Riversdale neighbourhood, we enjoyed browsing stalls at the farmers’ market, picking up trinkets at the cool indie boutiques, and wanted to buy everything in the Hardpressed Print Studio store, whose printed tees and shirts were super cool (my daughter settled on a shirt with western red lilies on it, which made a great souvenir of our trip, as they are the provincial flower).
We stopped at Mana Bar to play vintage arcade games (they bill themselves as an e-sports bar and have a massive collection of games and consoles), and my daughter charmingly informed me that my, “Life must’ve sucked,” when I said we used to have to wait for a fair to come to town when I was a child to play those games.
I reciprocated by kicking her butt at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I loved at her age. Riversdale had a great mix of interesting new businesses to check out, and we didn't really have enough time to do everything we had wanted.
At The Local Kitchen, we cooked our own supper with Chef Scotty (Scott Dicks) as part of a family cooking class. Chopping and prepping our own entrée of salmon and creamed kale was so much fun. When half of the children refused to eat the salmon (mine included), Chef Scotty happily cooked up a massive plate of bacon for them to chow down on (meaning double portions of salmon for the lucky adults).
My daughter also got to experience her first “nightclub” when we were in Saskatoon. The Apex Trampoline Park is huge, and turns into Club Apex after 9 p.m. on Friday nights, complete with live DJ and disco lights. It was pretty wild bouncing around with herds of enthusiastic children, and then stunt jump off a three-metre-high platform into a soft mat. It looked super fun until I did it and felt like I was suffocating in Jabba the Hutt’s fleshy folds and struggled to free myself. No longer the cool mom, I watched from the sides until my daughter finally ran out of steam.
Just outside the city we got to explore the beauty of a prairie summer at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, where we walked trails through ancient grasslands and sites of archaeological importance.
The park is a National Historic Site, as it represents almost 6,000 years of the history of the Northern Plains First Nations. We learned traditional games and participated in a tipi raising with interpreters and elders at the cultural centre there, and outside watched a Powwow-style dancer put on an incredible display under the hot sun.
We’d seen so many different sides of Saskatoon in three days, but left knowing there was still so much more to see (and wished we’d booked a week there). The city surprised us, and we can’t wait to get back there one day.
The writer was a guest of Tourism Saskatoon. It did not review or approve this article.