11 SEP 2019: Regina got the capital, Prince Albert got the penitentiary and Saskatoon got the university. But Saskatoon is so much more than a vibrant city full of young scholars. Saskatchewan’s “City of Bridges” is also City of Festivals. Name your pleasure and there’s probably a festival you’ll want to attend. A few examples: Blues, Ukrainian, Children’s, Jazz, Shakespeare, Reggae and World Music, Fringe, Fiddle Fest and Rib Fest.

Some have dubbed the city the “Paris of the Prairies.” Sorry, Saskatonians, I think that might be pushing the envelope, but it begs the question: do Parisians refer to their city as the “Saskatoon of France?”

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for welcoming western hospitality and a good time in what might be the Potash Mecca of the Prairies, here’s where to save and splurge.

The “Cheap Thrills” Save List

Java Jolt
Downtown Saskatoon isn’t exactly chock-a-block with funky coffee joints and serious baristas, but walk ten minutes from the downtown core to the Coffee Collective aka Coco (220 20th Street W) and you’ll score a first-rate latte or cappuccino and good light fare for breakfast or lunch.

Oprah’s Choice
Chef Enzo Pilletieri at Taverna Italian Kitchen & Bar (219 21st Street E.) knows the secrets to great Italian food: passion, finest ingredients and mama’s recipes. When Oprah Winfrey was in Saskatoon doing her show in 2012, she and her entourage dined at Taverna. She claimed it was her best meal in Saskatoon.

Beauty on a Budget
Get a shampoo, cut and style for as little as $15 at M.C. College Salons & Spas (228 21st St. E.). The beauty school students also do very reasonable manicures, pedicures and spa treatments for a fraction of what you’d normally pay. Open Monday to Friday.

The “You Only Live Once” Splurge List

Down by the River
The Delta Hotels Bessborough, on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, was originally built as a Grand Railway Hotel in 1935. The Bessborough has recently been renovated and the rooms are bright and spacious. Ask for one with a view of the river.

The James Hotel, Saskatoon’s only boutique property, adjacent to Bessborough is also a nice find if you’re looking for a more intimate setting. Rates include full hot breakfast daily.

Benes and Martinis
Poached Breakfast Bistro (259 2nd Avenue S.) transforms from a sophisticated brunch place by day to Flint Saloon cocktail bar at night. Try the eggs benedict over crab cakes. White table clothes, fresh flowers and smart service and décor elevate Poached several notches above your basic greasy spoon.

Sole Mates
Bricker’s Shoes (216 21st St. E.) doesn’t have the greatest window designer but they do have a fantastic selection of women’s shoes and experienced sales people, so you can step out in style in Saskatoon. This year they celebrated their 80th anniversary.

Go Native
Long before boutique hotels and designer shoes, nomadic tribes roamed the Northern Plains. At Wanuskewin Heritage Park, northwest of Saskatoon, visitors can hike a series of trails where the First Nations people set up their tipis, chiseled their arrowheads, foraged for prairie sage and wild licorice and hunted bison. You can easily spend a few hours here or stay overnight in a tipi. Sit around an open fire while listening to First Nations traditional stories and snacking on muskeg tea and bannock. At the restaurant you’ll have a chance to sink your teeth into a bowl of hearty bison stew, wild rice salad and a slice of Saskatoon berry pie. Wanuskewin is also a site for summer Pow Wows.

Who’s Counting?
Calories Bakery and Restaurant on funky Broadway has been acclaimed by both Air Canada’s En Route and Western Living magazines as one of the best places to eat in Canada. What started as Saskatoon’s first cappuccino café and bakery now serves full meals from breakfast to dinner. The chefs have perfected everything from flaky croissants on the Sunday brunch menu to moules frites. Be sure to save room for the decadent desserts; this is no place to count calories.

Prairie Hooch
LB (Lucky Bastard) Distillers got its name because one of the owners won a lottery. They make the only gin in the world containing Saskatoon berries, premium vodka and eaux de vie from various fruits. There are waiting lists for their craft whisky. Bowman's Bacon Bettah Bitters puts pizzazz into Caesars and Manhattans. Contact them about free tours and tastings.

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Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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