Moose Jaw is a traditional Prairie town situated smack dab on the Trans-Canada Highway. Most folks cruise right on by, trying to make a straight shot between Regina and Calgary (I’m looking at you, Alberta.) But that’s a mistake. There’s so many historic and therapeutic things to do in Moose Jaw, you could easily spend the weekend. Here’s a look at the best things to do in Moose Jaw.
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Take a Dip in One of the Best Hot Springs in Canada
Canada’s largest concentration of geo-thermal mineral water is found just outside of Moose Jaw. These hot springs are piped into the indoor-outdoor pool at Temple Gardens Mineral Spa. One of my favourite things to do is soak my cares away in these pools, where you don’t have to be a hotel guest to access.
The water composition of these hot springs is similar to that in Bath, England, and because of the heavy concentration of minerals (loads of Epsom and Glauber’s Salts), you’ll emerge feeling like a wet noodle. Also located inside Temple Gardens is Sun Tree Spa. Head here for a massage, facial or the Sun Tree Wild Rosehip Prairie Wrap as I had. Pure bliss!
Moose Jaw Tunnel Tours
If you’re coming from Regina, you likely learned all about cops at the RCMP Depot, but what about the robbers? In Moose Jaw, you can literally go underground and explore subjects polite society would rather keep secret. Tunnel tours are the city’s leading attraction and for good reason.
Moose Jaw is famed for its labyrinth system of underground tunnels. They were originally developed for use by steam engineers, to make it easier and safer for them to get from boiler room to boiler room. Who wants to get blasted by harsh prairie winter blizzard when you’re sopping wet? Tunnels of Moose Jaw is an attraction that takes history underground on guided theatrical tours.
There are two tours. One is the Al Capone connection, the other tells the tale of Chinese migrant workers in the earlier part of the last century. On this, the Passage to Fortune tour, you’ll experience just how tough life was for these new Canadians working in horrid conditions.
Weaving your way through the underground maze, the discomfort starts with the living quarters, where three would sleep in a narrow bunk. You’ll be led by gruff period actors through hidden rooms and secret passage ways, all while imagining how difficult life must’ve been for these labourers.
The tunnels don’t stop there. They tied themselves inextricably to Chicago in the 1920s, a city rife with corruption and gangsters. The Chicago Connection tour reveals how Moose Jaw (AKA Sin City of the Prairies) served as a safe heaven for the richest man in America and public enemy number one: Al Capone. What was this famous American gangster and bootlegger doing in Moose Jaw? Slide into Miss Fanny’s Club and morph from a well-meaning tourist into a thirsty bootlegger to find out.
You see, during the time of prohibition in the United States, gangsters looked to Canada for their supply of alcohol. The railroad connecting Chicago to Moose Jaw via Minneapolis ensured that. Not only was Moose Jaw a capital place for Capone to escape when the heat was on, but the city’s tunnels were an ideal spot to squirrel away barrels upon barrels of whisky.
After hanging out in the underground speakeasy, you’ll make like a bootlegger on the run, hiding out in secret rooms and escaping through the tunnels. The Tunnels of Moose Jaw are proof that what lies beneath the surface is often more fascinating than what’s above ground.
Moose Jaw Attractions
Probably the biggest and certainly the largest of all the many Moose Jaw attractions is Mac the Moose. This massive outdoor structure vies to be the world’s tallest moose, but sadly has been usurped by Norway’s Storelgen moose. In the battle for the biggest moose attraction, Mac’s antlers are currently under repair, but they’ll be back soon, as should his world title.
One of the best attractions in Moose Jaw for families is the Burrowing Owl Interpretive Centre. A quick stop here not only stretches the legs but is sure to put a spring in your step. I mean, who wouldn’t be entranced by these wee owls that are too cute for words? You can meet many owls at their outdoor enclosures, but keep your eyes peeled for other prairie wildlife in the neighbouring fields.
If you’re a transportation buff, then a visit to Western Development Museum is for you. Indoors you can suss out exhibitions on airplanes, boats and classic cars. While outdoors lies a steam locomotive you can hop aboard.
Moose Jaw Restaurants
There are some surprisingly good restaurants to eat at in Moose Jaw. My favourite place for lunch is the Gallery Cafe. Set inside the Yvette Moore Gallery, this restaurant makes pretty much everything from scratch. Their biscuits, soups and desserts taste just like grandma made them. And their Saskatoon berry iced tea is out of this world.
Another Moose Jaw favourite is Nits. Don’t be fooled by the name! This Thai restaurant has folks driving out to it from Regina. It’s authentic Thai food with many menu items you may not be familiar with. Do yourself a favour and order Meing Com, an appetizer of shredded coconut, onions, peanuts and dried shrimp that you bundle into Thai laves before dipping in sauce.
Moose Jaw Hotels
Of course, there’s Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa to stay at. It’s probably the most well known of all the Moose Jaw hotels because it’s attached to their mineral pools. Some rooms have had a recent reno, but not all. But every guest room at this hotel is spacious and comes equipped with a mini-fridge.
There’s plenty of chain hotels in Moose Jaw, but they’re all pretty cookie cutter. For a stay with character, consider the Grant Hall Hotel. Like Temple Gardens, it’s situated downtown, within easy walking distance of all the main attractions. The Grant is a boutique hotel, so guest rooms are individualized and tastefully decorated. It’s has its own dining room and a tricked out Sunday brunch.
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Have you ever been to Moose Jaw? Where are your favourite spots to hit up in Saskatchewan?