Canadian prairie road trip day one: Calgary-Saskatoon

The first day of our three-day road trip had to be reworked when we discovered that it is impossible to arrange a one-way car rental from Calgary to Winnipeg. After a half-day spent checking out the appealing Boho mish-mash of Calgary’s Inglewood neighborhood, we nabbed a ride to the airport and checked in for our almost completely full flight to Saskatoon.

The Calgary airport, much like Calgary itself, is bold and busy, with remarkably low-stress security lines. Note to the TSA: please take a look at Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) protocol. Thank you.

The flight was very short, so short in fact that it left me unable to come to any sort of pithy summation of the airline, but I can fairly claim that WestJet flight attendants are unquestionably cheery. WestJet, for the uninitiated, is sort of a Canadian cross between Southwest and JetBlue.

The airport in Saskatoon is bright. It smells fresh and new, and there are hanging plants that give the gleaming space a ribbon of color. Saskatoon’s cab drivers talk about the oil, potash, and uranium resource wealth of the province. That the population is also increasing is a fact so obvious that it comes into conversation almost as an afterthought. We had the good luck of meeting two chatty cab drivers, one a hilariously sardonic fellow who lamented the Disneyfication of Times Square; the other a transplant from Toronto who told us that we had to see the Bollywood film My Name is Khan. The prairie’s legendary friendliness is real, and it’s also catchy.

Saskatoon’s downtown is well-serviced with shops and businesses, though it is utilitarian. The city’s trump card is the South Saskatchewan River, which bisects it. The park along the river is absolutely gorgeous, so idyllic it overwhelms the senses. During our stroll, joggers, bikers, and loungers were taking advantage of the riverside park.

University Bridge across the South Saskatchewan River.
Saskatoon centennial monument.

In the evening we walked across the Broadway Bridge, with its dramatic views of the river and downtown. Our goal: Calories Bakery & Restaurant, a Saskatoon institution that sources much of its menu locally. Our evening there was lovely, with a fantastic menu and a disarmingly charming waiter. The Caprese salad, organized into a tower, was brilliant, as were the courses that followed: duck confit over polenta and slices of cake served to share.

Calories is located in the funky and appealing Broadway neighborhood, which centers on the relaxed and wide avenue of the same name. Stand out Broadway retailers include the Bulk Cheese Warehouse delicatessen (732 Broadway Avenue), a free trade shop called The Better Good (640 Broadway Avenue), and the Vinyl Diner (628B Broadway Avenue), a music shop.

The walk back to downtown, just past sundown, was everything one could want from a summer prairie sky: glorious streaks of red across an enormous expanse of fading blue.

Saskatoon is fresh. As Saskatchewan thrives economically and its biggest city continues to grow, Saskatoon will continue to be a city to watch.

Upcoming events include the Saskatoon Fringe Theater Festival through August 7 and Folkfest (August 19-21).

Read the entire road trip series here.

Some media support for this road trip was provided by Travel Alberta and Tourism Saskatchewan. All opinions belong to the author.