By: Eva Kristinova (University of Regina, Canada, Mitacs Research Internship Scheme 21-22)
This is the post I have been looking forward to the most! Because whether it seems like it or not, there is a lot to do in the largest city of Saskatchewan (and beyond), even if it is comparatively small by European standards. The best thing about spending the summer in Regina is that there are plenty of festivals and events to attend, and even Canadian national holidays to celebrate. Here are a few of my favourites!
THE ROYAL FLORAL CONSERVATORY
This small but impressive greenhouse on the outskirts of downtown is a collection of native and exotic plant species. Access is free, although donations are welcome, and trust me, once you meet the pair of wonderful ladies that run the place, you will feel more than happy to donate. The collection is run and taken care of entirely by volunteers, but closes quite early into the summer, so make sure to check it off your list sooner rather than later.
THE SASKATCHEWAN LEGISLATIVE BUILDING
Honestly, one of the most enjoyable learning experiences here is exploring the history of Canada, which offers an interesting blend of themes ranging from colonisation, northern exploration, and the path to self-governance. This is why a tour of the seat of Parliament is another must-see. Besides some interesting-looking portraits of all the governors of Saskatchewan (they each get to choose their own style and artist after their terms) the walls of the central rotunda are decorated by the most amazing paintings of indigenous culture and local natural sights. The library is also accessible to the public (and is very comfortable to work in) and as a bonus, you get free postcards at the end! (Make sure to take advantage of those because souvenir shops in Regina are VERY few and far in between). And once you’re in that part of town, I recommend you go see the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, just a few minutes down Albert Street with the largest completed skeleton of a T. Rex and a very nice movie about its discovery. Oh yes, and that one is free too!
Now let’s move on from the non-moving sights to the festivals and celebrations. If you arrive before 1st July, prepare yourself for a day of celebration akin to 4th July in the US, because the former is the biggest national holiday – Canada Day!
While the programme might vary year by year, I’m pretty sure certain things stay constant, so here’s what I’ve experienced. The lake by the university gets reeeally busy, not the least because the path around leads all the way to the Legislative Building, where most of the action happens. There are live performances, local product vendors, a beer lounge, food trucks and did I mention the fantastic fireworks in the evening? But if you find yourself in a different part of time, no worries. A few blocks north of downtown is the Government House (which is very much worth a free visit on other days as well) with its own set of activities. It is much easier to find out more about indigenous culture and meet some of the Métis people here too. On our visit with a few friends, we found a whole separate pow wow celebration of Buffalo Day just a few streets down!
RCMP AND SUNSET CEREMONIES
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police plays a significant role in this part of the country, and you will probably hear a lot about them in any city or small town that you visit across the province. But if you come to Regina, you’re in luck because it houses the largest (and to an extent, only) RCMP training academy in Canada. The museum is located just next door, and besides more fascinating history, contains one of the only entities that you might call a real souvenir shop in the city. Besides, even cadets in training need to know their history, so if you’re lucky enough, you might just meet some of them during your visit.
In the summer, the academy also hosts Sunset Ceremonies every Tuesday, which are great displays put on by the officers and their famous horses, and include a firing squad. I don’t know about you, but that definitely sounded cool to me.
Another great thing about the summer is that it is (Canadian) football season! Rather similar to its American counterpart, the games are always a great local event to experience. But don’t worry, no brawls or anything like that usually. Even in a cut-throat competition, Canadians always seem to stay polite and civil. And if you need more persuading (which you shouldn’t), then a personal recommendation from some of the players themselves might do it. That’s right. The Roughriders football team usually stays directly in the university dorms, and I promise you, they are completely chill about making some international friends.
If your project allows it, or if you have some time to spare, it is very much worth it exploring beyond Regina as well. The friendly Study Abroad team of the university organises some trips, but pooling and renting a car with some of your fellow Mitacs researchers, or even just taking the bus are also viable options. The only downside – distance is not your best friend here. As for where you should go, I can totally help there: Saskatoon! Ok, there are more places to visit, but honestly, if you are looking for a lively city, you are not likely to find a better candidate. Despite all the government institutions being in Regina, Saskatoon is actually the official capital of the province, and I would say it shows. If you are looking for a smaller peaceful town, but nothing too remote, Moose Jaw is a great bet. On the other hand, if you’re planning to escape the “city” life and spend some time in nature and in more indigenous communities, you cannot go wrong with Fort Qu’Appelle (home to the federally recognized Treaty 77 Reservation grounds). There are, of course, other places you might want to take a look at (Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg), but I can only speak to what I saw. But hey, definitely check them out if you have more time than I did.