Regina is a city of unexpected and surprisingly affordable, awesome things to do. What’s so great about this city is so many of its main attractions not only showcase iconic Canadian institutions, they do so without charging you an arm and a leg. You’ll pay half of what you would in a larger metropolis and line-ups are non-existent. Unless of course, you’re at a Saskatchewan Roughriders football game, but that’s an entirely different ball game! Here’s a look at the top things to do in Regina, whether you’re here for a couples retreat, family getaway or back in town to visit family.
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Landing on the moon, taking a rest in a bird’s nest, riding a unicorn: what do all these experiences have in common? They sound pretty epic, right? When you’re having fun, you’re also pretty likely to experience joy. Yep, there’s a science behind joy and you can be part of that experiment at JoyLab, inside the Saskatchewan Science Centre.
JoyLab is a tricked out installation of 12 selfie stations filled with colourful props to enhance Instagram-ready moments. Not only will interacting in these spaces likely make you feel happy, but seeing your adorable pics when you scroll through your feed later is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Amp up the feel good factor with lunch or brunch at Skye Bistro, situated inside the science centre. Tuck into a kaleidoscope of colour while munching on so good fish tacos or any of their gorgeous salads.
Prohibition Tea at Hotel SK
Hotel Saskatchewan is one of those grand dame hotels, built in the 20s during the American prohibition. You can get a taste for that roaring decade at Circa 27, inside Hotel SK. It’s one of the most beautiful hotel lobby bars I’ve ever imbibed in. What you want to do is show up a few minutes before 5 p.m. for a daily ritual saluting those hard prohibition times. A bell will be rung, a toast made and shots of whisky are served all round. Then it’s time for tea, prohibition style.
Enhance your experience by ordering the Prohibition Tea. Heads up: what comes out of the teapot isn’t your typical Earl Grey, but rather a delightful, citrusy vodka cocktail. Served in an unassuming teacup, your reputation is sure to be preserved. Two savoury crostini and a beignet compliment the Prohibition Tea and ensure you’re the envy of the other patrons.
Meet Scotty, the world’s largest T- Rex at Royal Saskatchewan Museum
The reigning star at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum is Scotty, currently the world’s largest T-Rex specimen ever recovered. Scotty, found in Eastend, Saskatchewan is legit larger than Sue, the famed dino at Chicago’s Field Museum. Sorry Sue, you ain’t nothing on Scotty’s 5 tonne skull.
Come to pay your respects to Scotty at the CN T. Rex Gallery, but stay to learn about the traditions and history of Aboriginal Peoples and their relationship to the local land in the First Nations Gallery. Saskatchewan is rich with geological and mineral resources, not to mention giant reptiles and other extinct creatures, and more natural wonders can be explored inside the Life Sciences and Earth Sciences Galleries.
Tableside Martinis at Avenue Restaurant Regina
If you don’t get a fin de siècle feel when walking into Avenue restaurant, situated in Regina’s old Canada Life Assurance Building, I don’t know when else you would. Avenue is a restaurant that respects the past, while celebrating the bounty of the region. This is the spot to get a taste for the Prairies while noshing on old school beef wellington, fresh walleye and local asparagus done up tempura style. But the thing not to miss at this top notch Regina restaurant is their tableside martini service.
As good as the food is, it’s their tableside martinis that really stand out. Order it and a well stocked bar cart will be wheeled to your table. Then, a mixologists will run you through a dizzying array of martini and alcohol options. I opted for the Vespa martini with vodka not gin, and was delighted to find its served up in super chic, narrow, coupe-style etched stemware. Shaken, stirred, whatever your bailiwick, all martinis are poured with panache. If you want to learn more about how to prepare this classic cocktail or simply appreciate dinner with a side show, but sure to order them.
RCMP Depot and Museum
To become a Royal Canadian Mounted Police, cadets must go through a rigorous six-month training program that takes place at the RCMP Academy Depot Division in Regina. From May to September, visitors can take guided walking or driving tours to understand what it really takes to become a Mountie and there’s an RCMP museum to visit, too.
Cruising past cadet dormitories, the officer’s mess and horse stables feels like you’re inspecting a military outpost. It also makes you question what year it is, as so many aspects of Canadian history are layered into RCMP traditions.
The highlight of the tour is the Sargent’s Major Parade, originally used to mark attendance during the Great March West in 1874. The tradition continues promptly at 12:45 p.m. on weekdays throughout the year. And yes, there’s a real, honest to goodness Sergeant Major bellowing orders at the cadets throughout the 30-minute spectacle. The Sunset Retreat Ceremony is also worth scheduling in, as is a tour through Heritage Centre, where the history of this iconic Canadian institution is revealed.
Regina Art Gallery
If you’re into art, a visit to the MacKenzie Art Gallery is a must. Even if you’re not, you’re sure to appreciate the outdoor installations dotted throughout the streets and parks of Regina. There aren’t all that many art galleries in Regina, but with all the public installations you’ll feel quite cultured.
Take a self-guided walking tour of the gallery’s outdoor sculpture garden or suss out their permanent collection: Walking with Saskatchewan. My personal favourite was the Victor Cicansky exhibit on until October 23, 2019. This dude is a total national treasure, and if you’ve never admired his ceramics, take this as your cue to do so now. Before leaving the MacKenzie Art Gallery, treat yourself to a house-made pop tart in the Craft Services cafe.
For some, Regina is synonymous with one major thing: football! While the Saskatchewan Roughriders are a respectable team in the Canadian Football League, their fans are in a league of their own: Rider Nation. The Saskatchewan Roughriders are the only professional sport team in Regina, and you’d be hard pressed to find another city in Canada with such unwavering support for their team. Keen to bleed green? Time your visit during a home game, so you can experience the phenomenon first hand. Tip: watermelons sell out early, secure yours quickly so you can fashion a melon hat and blend in with the locals.
Once upon a time, Regina was barren grassland with no trees and little water. The city is now lush and green (350,000 hand-planted trees will do that for ya), and is filled with plenty of parkland. Smack-dab in the centre of Regina lies Wascana Centre, an urban park that’s one of the largest in North America. Here you’ll find 15 km of trails anchoring Wascana Lake. It’s a choice spot for walking, running and biking. In winter, this park is well traversed by snowshoes and cross-country skis.
Since I visited in summer, I was super keen to get on the water. Kayak, canoe and stand up paddle board rentals are easily had through Wascana Marina Rentals. They allow kids over 12 years to go out on their own, and the younger set is fine to join in, so long as they’re in a double kayak or canoe. Anyway, it felt pretty terrific gliding across the sparkling water, past the gorgeous Legislative Building and all the miles upon miles of parkland.
Since you’re stopping by Hotel Saskatchewan for Prohibition Tea, it seems a shame not to overnight here. Forget Regina! This is one of my favourite hotels in all of Canada. If you appreciate the finer things in life, you’ll love the old world charm oozing out of this former grand railway hotel. Accommodation here means spacious rooms with massive windows that capture the endless Saskatchewan sky. You’re well placed, too. Across the street from the main entrances lies leafy Victoria Park, where you can snap up local provisions at the Regina Farmer’s Market.
Have you ever been to Regina? What are your favourite things to do there?
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Travels with Baggage had the best time exploring Regina in partnership with Tourism Saskatchewan. As always, my opinions (and crap grammar) are my own.