Winter on the Prairies. A phrase so frigid and chill-inducing that even Santa Claus shakes in his boots at its mere mention. Listen, if you live anywhere in Saskatchewan, you understand how difficult the coldest half of the year can be.
I used to be one of those people who would hibernate and lose myself in hours of Xbox and Netflix and wait for the snow to melt. I still do a lot of those things throughout the winter, but over the last three years, something special happened. I began to embrace the snow and the ice and all of the wonderful winter activities and facilities that Regina has to offer. It drastically improved my mental health, shifted my perception of this amazing city, and I actually get excited at the prospect of snow and freezing temperatures because it means that I get to do different activities that I can only do in the winter.
Here are my favourite things to do during winter in Regina:
For me, the worst part of winter is early November to late December. There's minimal snow, temperatures aren't cold enough to freeze the ice rinks, and it's too chilly for crisp autumn walks. I call this “Saskatchewan Purgatory”.
Once the holiday season hits, get ready for winter fun! My parents never put me into hockey growing up, but I bought my first pair of skates in decades and a hockey stick a few years back and I haven't looked back. One of my favourite places in the entire world is the Leslie Park outdoor ice rink (3700 Victoria Ave). In my eyes, this is the 'Taj Mahal' of Regina outdoor rinks. I have dreams about this place. Located in the beautiful Cathedral neighbourhood in the shadow of Mosaic Stadium and the Brandt Centre, the local community association takes great pride in their rink. Nothing beats practising slap shots with a few pals. I've even written a (fictional) song about getting stood up for a date here. A mild winter evening skating laps while huge snowflakes float peacefully to the ice and muffle the sound of freight trains rumbling by will enchant you, and you'll be back before long.
Another very popular outdoor rink that is perfect for people without skates, looking for a unique after-work activity, or who might be staying in a hotel downtown is the rink on the City Square plaza. What better way to get some fresh air then to borrow some skates (free of charge) and rip a few laps in the heart of the city. It’s a quick walk from the rink to hit one of the great downtown bars such as The Fat Badger (1852 Scarth St), Beer Bros (1821 Scarth St), The Capital (1843 Hamilton St), The Cure (2323 11th Ave), or O'Hanlons (1947 Scarth St) for a post skate beverage!
There are other great outdoor rinks scattered throughout the city, so get out there! Grab a thermos of coffee or hot chocolate and a few pals and get out on the ice.
Cross-country skiing has also been a relatively new pastime of mine. The Regina Ski Club does a great job of grooming the cross-country ski trails throughout the park system in Regina. My two favourite spots within city limits are Les Sherman Park close to the Neil Balkwill Arts Centre (2420 Elphinstone St) and the trails near the Saskatchewan Science Centre (2903 Powerhouse Dr).
If you're going to the Saskatchewan Science Centre trails, I'd suggest spending a couple of hours warming up and exploring the exhibits before grabbing some delicious food at Skye Cafe & Bistro, also located in the same building as the Science Centre.
These two ski trail systems offer great opportunities to learn how to ski before heading out to some of the beautiful rural trails in nearby White Butte (near Pilot Butte), Moose Mountain Provincial Park, or Duck Mountain Provincial Park. Buy or rent some skis from a great local business such as Fresh Air Experience (532 Victoria Ave) and give cross-country a shot this winter! It's quickly become one of my favourite winter activities in Regina.
Regina Floral Conservatory
I went to the Regina Floral Conservatory (1450B 4 Ave) for the first time in my life this past winter for an album listening party. I absolutely loved all of the beautiful flowers and plants inside the conservatory. As a certified “Plant Dad”, I give the Regina Floral Conservatory “2 plant tables filled with non-dead house plants” out of 2.
The facility is volunteer-run, they frequently rotate their gardens, and they're also in the middle of fundraising to build a state-of-the-art, new facility in Wascana Park. Pick the most frigid, freezing day to go and lift your spirits with beautiful flowers. Don’t forget to donate to support their fundraising efforts to construct their new conservatory! Regina needs a place like the Floral Conservatory to remind us that summer, gardens, and greenery are all right around the corner.
MacKenzie Art Gallery
The Mackenzie Art Gallery (3475 Albert St) is one of my favourite quiet and thoughtful places in the world. Not gonna say too much more about this place other than that you should make frequent visits throughout the winter. Go for a coffee at the Craft Services Cafe, contemplate at the art, check out the plants in the atrium, and feed your soul. I am very grateful that this gallery has faithfully served Regina for decades.
There you go, my tips for surviving and thriving in of the most disorienting, isolated, and harsh winter environments in the world. Enjoy and embrace this season and I promise that you won't be disappointed. Thanks for visiting Regina, and we'll see you next time!