Eddie Vedder said that Saskatoon had a real poetic and magical name last time Pearl Jam played here in 2005. Toon town is what this place is called and Toon towners are the people that live here. Sounds pretty magical to me. And if Eddie Vedder said it, it must be true. Thanks to my friends Jame Hethey and Evan Drisner for their local tips for this writeup.
Saskatoon is easily the smallest town on Pearl Jam’s 2011 Canadian tour, although it is the largest in the prairie province of Saskatchewan. It is known for its friendly hospitality and diverse culture. With over 400 acres of riverbank trails and parks, outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and golf are popular in the city that enjoys more hours of sunshine annually than any other in the country, while also being one of the coldest places in the winter. The long and isolate winters here produces some of the best ice hockey players in the world. And while Winnipeg is more of a cosmopolitan, working class city, Saskatoon is a college town with a vibrant atmosphere.
If you’re going to the Pearl Jam show in Saskatoon this September, you are in for a treat. I can tell you, from first hand experience, that these are the gems of the tour. The smaller towns, odd choices for shows, off the normal route type locations are the ones that often turn out to be some of the more intimate and energetic performances from our beloved band. Saskatoon 2005 was one of the best that year and probably my favourite show of that Canadian tour and I don’t see anything preventing a repeat performance. For those making the trek to the middle of the great Canadian plains, enjoy. Just don’t fall asleep at the wheel driving overnight.
Places to see
Mendel Art Gallery
The modern gallery has an ever changing wide range of exhibits including paintings, sculpture, prints, and drawings of national importance. Downstairs is the artist-to-artist showcase, which brings together two unique styles for a great exhibit. There is a conservatory, gift shop, and coffee shop attached. Admission is by donation, with free parking, and it’s located right on the Saskatchewan River. A must stop in Saskatoon!
Ukrainian Museum of Canada
This museum offers insight into the world of Ukrainian Canadians, with an emphasis on traditional clothing and contemporary artwork. Check out the gift shop for pysanka (decorated wooden eggs) and patterns to make your own traditional Ukrainian clothing.
The Old CPR Train Station
The CPR Station is recognized as both a national and a municipal historic site. This elegant train station was built by the Canadian Pacific Rail in 1907 to serve the busy Regina to Edmonton line and remained in service until 1960. While we typically see the “back” of the building today, it was the other side of the building facing the tracks that was originally the focus of attention. The building was extensively restored in 1994 giving it a new lease on life, including being the home of Tourism Saskatoon.
Wanuskewin Heritage Park
Learn about the culture of the Northern Plains Indians at this historic site, with reenactments of native dances, pow wows and games.
Enjoy the sun and the sand at this scenic, natural area with large beaches and a wheelchair accessible trail to a valley lookout. It’s located 8 km south of Saskatoon off Hwy 219 along the river.
Al Capone Tunnels
If you’re up for a little drive, 3 hours south is a town called Moose Jaw or “Little Chicago.” Check out the tunnels where Al Capone supposably hung out at.
Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
If you’re driving towards Alberta for the next shows, go through Cypress Hill park, which offers views of the plains from it’s peak of 1400m (4600ft). The scenery and landscape is similar to the foot of the Rocky Mountains and very pleasant to view.
Places to eat
Konga Cafe – 204 Ave H N
If you love meats, this is the place. The carribean flavours really spices things up as well. You’ll be satisfied with anything on the menu from the Jamaican jerk chicken to the spicy peanut shrimp.
Amigos Cantina – 632 10th St
A longtime local favourite. Serves delicious food 2 borders north of Mexico.
Gibsons Fish & Chips – 1501 8th St E
Great fish n chips with friendly service. What’s better than that?
Saint Tropez Bistro – 238 2nd Ave South
For a little more upscale, Saint Tropez Bistro is a good choice. The place is not small, but the setup creates a small and intimate feeling to compliment its creative dishes.
The Yard & Flagon Pub – 718 Broadway Ave
Not your typical pub food. Try the Elk or Bison burgers.
Saskatoon has a vibrant college atmosphere and the 5 main areas to check out are 8th ave, Broadway, Sutherland, Downtown and the Country bar The Long Branch where toon towners will stand in freezing lines for the chance to party.
O’Sheas is a nice Irish pub with roof top deck. They have good poutine (for the prairies) and great fish and chips. Located in the historic Hotel Senator is Winston’s, a great pub with lots of choices for booze. Closer to the venue, the boys will like the Shark Club. Even the Fox and Hounds on Warman Road is a decent pub.
Saskatoon is as magical as it sounds. Don’t bother with it’s provincial neighbour and capital Regina. The only people that go there are Roughrider fans and grasshoppers.
Have any comments or recommendations of your own? Am I way off on this? Are you from Regina? Please post your comments below.