What comes to mind when you think of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan? Probably not a must see destination. Well guess what, the Paris of the Prairies really is a must see. In fact,when the New York Times released their list of the top 52 places to visit in 2018, Saskatoon came it at number 18. Even more surprising, it was the only Canadian city to make the final cut.
When I first took the job as the Saskatchewan Rush’s TV and in game host and reporter, I didn’t really know what to expect. The first thing that came to mind when I thought of Saskatoon was I better bring my warmest winter jacket. Yet after a few trips, I soon found out why it is so easy to fall in love with Saskatoon.
What makes this place special?
This city offers so much to see and do. Located right on the Saskatchewan River there are beautiful hiking trails to explore. There is an extensive art and culture scene, which has grown even more with a brand new modern and contemporary art museum, Remai Modern. The local cuisine scene offers a variety of must visit restaurants. Oh and there is a professional lacrosse team called the Saskatchewan Rush which sells out every game. 15,185 members or Rush nation come to cheer on their first place team every home game. Today, I get to take you behind the scenes as I head to Saskatoon for this week’s Rush game.
When I arrive in Saskatoon, I head straight to our downtown Radisson Hotel. I love staying here because it overlooks the river. In the summer this is a spot for boat rides and kayaking. In the winter it is covered in a layer of snow and offers picturesque walks and outdoor skating.
I don’t have time to explore because I need to get ready for our first shoot of the day at Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Saskatoon has a rich Indigenous culture, which we had the chance to learn more about at the park. In fact, there have been archaeological finds that pre-date the pyramids of Egypt.
Today, the players and myself are treated to an amazing history lesson. After our lesson our skills are put to the test in a game of double ball. Similar to lacrosse where they use a stick and get this, two bison testicles attached by a string. After we head out back to see the beautiful plains. There are even teepees for summer camping. Today it is a little too cold for that. Before we leave, we are treated to a performance from a traditional dancer.
Once the shoot is done we head to dinner. Saskatoon has so many quaint local restaurants that it is hard to pick just one. Tonight we decide to stop into The Rook and Raven. A cross between a pub and fine dining, the menu has endless options. What I love about this spot is its laid back feel but uncommon decor. Oh and while you are here you need to get Saskatoon’ed. Confused? I was too at first. Basically a shot with part Great Western Brewery’s Original 16 beer and part Lucky Bastard Distillery’s Liqueur. Once you complete the shot, you get a card showing your status as an honorary local.
I wake up with butterflies in my stomach because it is game day, but I can’t get too excited just yet. There is still plenty of work to do.
I start the morning with a delicious breakfast at Poached, which doubles as a cocktail bar at night. Sitting at my high top, I once again see why this town gets compared to Paris. While here you have to try the PB&J hot chocolate with a shot of expresso is a must.
Walking back to the hotel, I am so giddy over all the Rush jerseys I see out and about. This city really does love their team.
Next stop, axe throwing at Timberjaxe. The owners say the goal of Timberjaxe was to bring some good old fashion fun to Saskatoon, and they have done just that. The rustic design makes it one of the best looking axe throwing centres I have seen. While we tried to keep it all fun and games, with professional athletes in the house there is bound to be some competition with bragging rights on the line.
Now it is time to head to Sasktel Centre and start getting ready for game time. The Minnesota Vikings cheerleaders are in town for tonight’s event so it is sure going to be a show. For me, the greatest moment of the entire weekend is when the lights go down and I know it is time for the pre game show to start. I walk out on to the field with my co-host and look out onto 15,180 screaming fans. Well, that and when we score a goal and everyone in the arena takes part in our goal tradition of pounding your chest.
I know lacrosse isn’t the most mainstream sport, but all it takes is seeing the excitement, intensity, and none stop action in one game to get you hooked for life. The Rush do such a good job on putting on a show. From pyro acts, to a DJ spinning the tunes the fun never stops. It also doesn’t hurt that our team is currently first overall in the league.
After the game the adrenaline is pumping, but I have to try and get some sleep because I fly out early the next morning. The weekend always goes by so fast and I am never ready to leave. There is so much I still want to explore here. Then I get my schedule for the next game and see that I get to go to the art gallery, and I start counting down the days until I am back. This Prairie city has stolen my heart.