Regina

 

I would use this to get around: Your itchy little feet. Regina is a pretty, quiet city with tons of parks and gardens and virtually zero elevation gain, thanks to it being situated smack-dab in the middle of the Prairies. Most of the things I liked best about Regina were found just by wandering around so, if I were you, I’d be sure to set aside some time to mosey between activities and attractions. And if you’ve got a skateboard or a Segway stashed away somewhere, even better.

I would stay here: Hotel Saskatchewan. When I arrived, a bride and groom were having their photo taken at the front entrance to the hotel. This is always a good sign, I think. And certainly, the couple have impeccable taste as the Hotel Saskatchewan proved to be elegant and charming from the front entrance right through to the bathroom of my spacious suite. I’ll admit that it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea in terms of decor (think floral patterns and lots of mahogany) but I’ll also admit that my hobo-chic taste would never inspire a high-end hotel under any circumstances, so I think it’s safe to say that folks looking for a luxury hotel in Saskatchewan’s capital region should definitely hit this. The place is naturally full of amenities and services, including a spa, salon AND barber shop, two restaurants for your fine-dining pleasure and an in-house patisserie with the best coffee and croissants you’ll find for at least 1000 kms on either side of Regina. Those of you with furry friends (I’m talking about dogs, just so we’re clear) will be happy to know that Hotel Saskatchewan is also pet friendly. They do charge a $50 cleaning fee, but it was totally worth it to snuggle up with my road-weary golden retriever on a king sized bed and watch Canada win Olympic bronze in something-or-other.

I would eat here: The Willow on Wascana. Beautiful spot, obviously on Lake Wascana, with a locally-focused menu and an impressive wine list. It’s not cheap, but Regina is full of pubs and pizza joints so this is a really nice option for those looking to take it up a notch. The restaurant is a little bit tricky to find but very much worth the hunt, if only for the duck tacos ($14.00).

I would drink here: Cathedral Freehouse. I had been kind of disappointed with the lack of TGIF action in the city as I wandered back to my hotel after supper, until I stumbled upon this spot and hit the happy hour jackpot. Almost every table in the bar was full, including a large patio out back, and there was a band getting ready to work through their sound check. The clientele ranged from hipster to hippie and from solo thirty-something travel writer to nervous fifty-something couple on what I’ve decided was their first date. They’ve got a solid looking menu with specials every night of the week, and the beer list was so tempting I had to stay for a few drinks just so I could try all the local brews that caught my eye. Since you asked, I don’t mind telling you that my hands-down favourite was Regina’s very own Bushwakker Brewing Co. Dungarvon Irish Red.

I would do this: Hit up the Regina Farmer’s Market. Located downtown at the northern edge of Victoria Park, the market is full of friendly folks who can’t wait to chat about who you are, what you do, where you come from and when you’ll be back. It’s a small affair, but perfect for a post-brunch walk about town. I’d also recommend making an effort to plan your trip around the Regina Folk Festival, if at all possible. It runs mid-August every year and has really come into its own, this year showcasing the likes of such talent as Emmylou Harris. There’s also a cool little venue called the Artesian on 13th, which is an old church that’s been converted into a live performance space used by improv groups and local theatre troupes. If I were you, I’d check it out.

I wouldn’t do this: Leave town without filling up. If you’re driving, heed my warning: The Prairies are seriously lacking in rest stops and gas stations compared to the rest of Canada. Twice while driving across the country I’ve had to turn around in Saskatchewan and head back the way I’d come because I was getting dangerously close to an empty tank of gas with nary a service station in sight. (Once would probably be enough for most people, but I tend to be a bit slow on the uptake). Of course, if you’re not driving out of Regina, my words of wisdom don’t apply. In that case, I guess the only thing I wouldn’t do in Regina is eat yellow snow.

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