The One Thing Saskatchewan Doesn’t Have

Rollercoasters and Other Fun RidesHave you ever been to Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, England? Well, if you haven’t, you should definitely check out this theme park in the UK. Of all the theme parks I’ve seen in the UK, this one would definitely top my list of spots to see on a holiday. It’s packed full of rides, all kinds of shows to see, great places to eat and grab something to drink including the treats that theme parks are known for. Then, there’s an awesome hotel to stay in right there.

Cool right? Well, Saskatchewan doesn’t have any amusement parks or theme parks…not permanent ones anyway. I’m not sure why, but I’m thinking that I’d have a pretty good idea after trying to get my skin unstuck from the metal roller-coaster after a ride at -40 during a snowstorm would tell me.

We do get rides, but for those, you’ll want to attend Agribition in Regina or one of the local rodeos or stampedes. That doesn’t mean we don’t have any fun rides though.

Kenosee Superslides Waterpark

Instead of the Infusion or the Avalanche roller-coaster in the UK, which do look like tons of fun, you’ll find Twister, Bonzai, and Kids slides at Kenosee Superslides Waterpark. (You’ll find this exciting place close to Carlyle in Southeastern Saskatchewan). Anyway, tons of fun things to do here too, even if you aren’t quite that adventurous.

There’s tubing and the ‘Lazy Canal’ as well as shopping at the clothing store, sports such as volleyball, and all kinds of special events. Then, you can grab something to eat while you’re there, or enjoy some of the other local attractions in the area including the Bear Claw Casino and all of the events and activities hosted there.

Sundance Hot Air Balloon Rides

There’s absolutely no better way to see the beauty of Saskatchewan than from the calm, drifting serenity of a famous Sundance Hot Air Balloon. For around an hour, you can see the best of Saskatchewan from a 1000 feet in the air. There’s no dealing with busy airports, gates, or trying to sit comfortably in the middle seat. You’ll also enjoy the immense peace and quiet of this form of air travel as well.

Sundance offers ride in the morning, the afternoon, and at sunset through most of the year, so you can go when it works best from you. You’ll also want to make sure that you remember your camera so that you can preserve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Horse Drawn Sleigh and Carriage Rides in Beautiful Saskatoon

If you like a touch of the old, a horse and carriage (or sleigh ride) around Saskatoon’s Spadina Crescent is perfect. You’ll enjoy a slow and relaxing tour of the city’s best areas just as Saskatchewan pioneers would have a hundred or more years ago. You can even havea fire and warm up to end your trip off nicely. It’s certainly romantic and the kids will love it. Regardless who you bring along, it will be one of those activities you’ll never forget. Mmmm roasted marshmallows. Anyone else craving marshmallows? Now where was I? Oh yeah…

Sadly, Saskatchewan doesn’t have any full-time theme parks like the UK, but the rides it does have are just as special. Try them out for yourself and see.

(This post also appears on Travel the Prairies at http://www.traveltheprairies.com/saskatchewan/saskatchewan-doesnt-have/)

Great Saskatchewan Oddities and Roadside Attractions

Anyone who travels through Saskatchewan will notice the many oddities and interesting things Saskatchewan residents like to honor. You all know what these are. These are the “World’s Biggest…” that everyone likes to get a picture of or at least you gawk at it as you go by. Some of these look so strange, you just have to stop to find out what it is.

Churchbridge decided to show the world how crazy we really could be and built the ‘World’s Biggest Loonie.’ In reality, it was constructed in order to honor Artist Rita Swanson who designed the 125th birthday coin.

They weren’t the only ones to honor a Canadian symbol. Moose Jaw has the ‘World’s Biggest Moose.’ Mac the Moose is 32′ long, 24′ wide, and 30′ high and is constructed of metal piping and metal mesh. He weighs approximately 10 tons. The town of Eston constructed an 8′ high statue of their favorite prairie resident from Tyndalstone. The World’s Biggest Gopher weighs approximately 3 000lbs and was made in honor of their annual Gopher Derby. The village of Sceptre has the tallest wheat plant in North America while Cabri has a goose with a 12′ wingspan, an 8′ high antelope, and 13′ wheat stocks.

The World’s Biggest Grasshopper can be found at Wilkie and measures 18’x6′ as a tribute to the people of the town. While Govan has the Whooping Crane and Kyle (not far from Cabri) has a big Wooly Mammoth, Porcupine Plain has, well, a porcupine. Quilly Willy (at the bottom of the page) is the town’s 13′ town mascot. Parkside has a Giant Red Lily that stands 26′ high and honors the man who developed the flower.

These might all seem quite normal, but just wait. Rocanville has the world’s largest Oil Can, diamond, and ball cap. Vonda, a small town of only 300 people has the world’s biggest still. That’s right. Moonshine. Cut Knife built the world’s largest Tomahawk in a teepee as a symbol of peace and unity with the aboriginals who live in the area. (It was built in the ’70s that should explain it.)

Now Davidson really got it right in1996 when they build the 24′ Coffee pot with a Cup. That’s my kinda town! The original idea was to portray the town’s friendliness and hospitality. Lancer has bunches of Chokecherries in honor of their annual Chokecherry Festival (Chokecherry jam is fantastic!) and Saint Isadore du Bellvue has a pea plant. Let’s not forget the world’s largest paper clip thanks to the guy who traded his paperclip on Ebay and eventually wound up with a house in Saskatchewan. (You can read the story at http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/)

What made me pull over was Macklin’s World’s Largest Bunnock. When you see it, you’ll get it.

To see the world’s largest Kielbassa (that’s a good one!) and other oddities in the Canadian Prairies, Visit CBC’s Blue Sky post or Tourism Saskatchewan.

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/saskatchewan/saskatchewan-oddities-roadside-attractions/)

The Most Haunted Places In the Canadian Prairies You Can Tour

Haunted Places in Canada

Haunted Places in Canada

©2008AngieHaggstrom

Who knew the Canadian prairies were so scary! Other places have cemeteries, scary houses on a hill, or buildings that others have created to be scary. Not in the prairies though. Nope. No way! The number of real ghosts, ghost trains, and even haunted hotels will leave you with goose bumps. Here is a very short list of some of the scariest places in the country.

Manitoba

Fort Gary Hotel in Winnipeg

How about a night in the beautiful Fort Gary Hotel? To drive up on this beautiful hotel, you would never know its dark secret. Room 202 is the scariest room in the hotel. As the local legend goes, a couple had been staying in the room. The husband had gone out for the day leaving the woman behind. He died in a car accident and his wife was so distraught she hung herself in the closet. Many say that she can frequently be seen in the corner crying, has asked hotel staff to get her a drink in the bar, and some of the staff has even seen blood running down the wall. Famous figures and staff have had things come flying off the shelves and one woman noticed someone get into bed and lay beside her.

Several other places in Manitoba are haunted. A little girl haunts St. Ignatius School today. She died after falling of the rings in the playground. Many say that when you go on the red rings, you can feel little hands trying to pull you off. Even places like the Ruckers on Regent Ave can be a terrifying experience.

Saskatchewan

St. Louis, Saskatchewan

Just outside of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan is the little village of St. Louis. Although the town is friendly during the day, the night brings an eerie feeling across the little town. If you look closely, you will notice what looks like a path where railroad tracks once laid. There is a reason they are no longer there! A terrible accident in the area’s history killed a family. The engineer involved in the death of the family became so overran with guilt he killed himself. A train derailment that occurred here as well killed one of the workmen. Today, they say you can now see the engineer and sometimes the workman walking down the tracks with a light. Others say a ghost train still comes through the area.

Weyburn, the home of one of the cruelest mental institutions in the country’s history, has a place of darkness of its own. Many say voices can be heard in the dense trees surrounding the institution that is still in use today. The top floor of the building has been closed off for years, but cries, footsteps, and a ghostly figure have been noticed there.

Alberta

Banff Springs Hotel

This is one of the most haunted hotels on the planet. Room 873 has since been covered in, but if you look closely, you can find it. The story says that a family was brutally murdered in the room. This was bad enough, but when the staff went to clean the room, they discovered that they couldn’t get the little girl’s fingerprints off the mirror. The noticed other eerie things in the room as well and became so scared they finally blocked off the room.

A set of stairs in the hotel have also been closed in. In this instance, a bride accidentally touched her dress to a candle on the stairs. When her gown burst into flames she panicked, fell down the stairs, and broke her neck. Stories say that she is frequently seen walking through the hotel.

These are just a select few of the haunted places in the Canadian prairies. Some places have only had scary occurrences, but some of these locations have extremely terrifying and tragic stories behind them. So if you are a believer, come out and see for yourself. If you don’t believe in ghosts, the Canadian prairies may just convince you otherwise! If you would like to see a complete list, Shadowlands Haunted Places has a rather comprehensive list of creepy Canadian places to explore.

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/canada/most-haunted-places-canadian-prairies-tour/)

Mutant Fish Found Close To Alberta Oil Sands Says CBC

Imagine your children go to the dock to go fishing and catch a fish with two mouths. This is precisely what the CBC reported yesterday( see pic and news story here). The news giant said the fish came from Lake Athabasca in Wood Buffalo National Park. The fish appears normal except for the fact it has two mouths – one underneath the other. Interestingly, it was found only a fewbefore days from a water quality conference in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.

Read the rest here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/canada/mutant-fish-found-alberta-oil-sands/

Canada’s Oldest Culture: Western Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples

Canada's First Nation's People - True Canadian Culture

Canada’s First Nation’s People – True Canadian Culture

©2008AngieHaggstrom

One of the most prominent things you’ll notice as you travel in Saskatchewan and Canada is its rich Aboriginal culture. Having lived on the continent for more than 12 000 years their stories and dances aren’t just entertainment. These dances and songs have been performed for thousands of years and tell of the world’s creation.

Dance

Aboriginal dance is one of the most well known examples of this rich culture. Amazing, brightly colored costumes are generally handmade and decorated with quills, beads, and other religious and sparkling symbols in a traditional fashion. Although slightly different from the original costumes, the time and care put into each one is truly stunning. Some of these costumes can weigh more than 100 pounds when complete. Traditional dances include the round dance and several native dances and competitions throughout the season often called the Powwow Circuit from May to September. These are massive celebrations and frequently have large cash prizes.

Art

Aboriginal art is unique to each band and reflects the nature and daily activities around them. Animal spirits, flowers, and hunting scenes are all common in traditional works. More modern art still has threads of their original culture, but display more of the artists soul and some even addresses modern issues. Beadwork, leather, and carvings are just a few of the items frequently made. Religious items such as medicine wheels and dream catchers are also popular cultural items.

Housing, Language, and Education

Many First Nations People do still live on reserves, but they do NOT live in teepees. Like others in Canada, they live in homes, in communities, and speak English or French. Traditional teepees are generally reserved for special festivities and informational purposes. First Nations People attend schools, some of which may include traditional teachings and stories. A majority of the history is passed from elders to children through story. Each tribe has its own language unique to their area.

First Nations People are not like they are portrayed in movies. They are real Canadians like everyone else you see in the country with the added benefit of a rich and colorful heritage. Take the opportunity to experience this genuine Canadian experience. You’ll be glad you did.

If you would like to learn and see more, visit the Virtual Aboriginal Trade Show

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(This post can now be found at: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/canada/canadas-oldest-culture-western-aboriginal-peoples/)

You Know You’re From A Small Saskatchewan Prairie Town When…

Life in a Small Town

Life in a Small Town

©2008AngieHaggstrom

Have you ever had one of those days where the true realization of your life comes at you in one of those head smacking moments? I’ve had one of those days and it ‘gots me ta tinkin’ about how living in a small town Saskatchewan is almost like living in your own little world.

I never truly appreciated the separate culture this little town had until my first time living in the ‘big city’ (slightly more than 700 000 people, but massive compared with the 2 500 that live here). Everyone dressed different, talked different, did funny things, and looked at me as if I was an alien. In truth, I was.

My little town is unlike anywhere else in the world. Unlike the big city, we have strange traditions. When you see someone on the street, your first instinct isn’t to look away or size up the other person. Nope we smile and wave. It is often accompanied by phrases such as ‘hi, how are you?” even if you’ve never seen that person in your life. Urban dwellers tend to look at you and attempt to figure out whether you have a mental condition or are just trying to get close enough to pick their pockets.

Spurs, cowboy, hats, and pickup trucks are almost like the town uniform. A majority of the time, there are dogs in the back of the truck, and after you live here for a few weeks, you will know their names, where they like to be rubbed, and know who they belong to. In the city, you learn very quickly NOT to pet the puppy.

I can walk down any street in town and many of the houses and vehicles will be sitting unlocked, windows down, and possibly even the keys in it. Now this is becoming less frequent with the influx of new people to town, but it is certainly not rare. On many occasions I’ve left to take something over to someone’s house to be told to just ‘open the door and set it on the kitchen table.’ In the city, I wouldn’t leave the apartment without at least one can of mace and I didn’t even go to get my laundry from down the hall without taking my keys.

Oh yeah, I also learned that when they advertise a one room apartment for rent in the city newspaper, they aren’t kidding. I wasn’t sure how to take that surprise. I thought the only thing ‘one room’ today were the old school houses that sit abandoned just outside of town.

I will admit that a part of me is homesick for the city lifestyle. Even though shopping isn’t my thing, I miss the opportunity to spend a night at the symphony or an afternoon ‘museum-hopping.’ I miss the chance to don a nice gown and dine out for the evening, or put on some party wear and go to see my favorite rock band.

When I begin thinking about how much I miss my life in the city, I think about what I missed while I was there. In my little town, I can walk down the street and recognize almost everyone I see. There is nothing more welcoming than that. When I looked at my small town, I realized that there is no other place in the world better to raise my son. He has the chance to learn about life on a smaller scale before being thrust into a swift moving world of strangers.

This being said, I have nothing against cities or city schools. I simply feel the support and love as well as the torment and heartaches I experienced here made me who I am and I would like to give my son those same opportunities – to grow up innocent.

This whole internal city/country struggle did bring to mind a few sayings we often joke about here. What is scary is how true some of them are…

You know you’re from a small town in Saskatchewan when:

  1. You and a few friends have spent at least one evening going cow-tipping.
  2. The ‘in’ thing to do is to spend the evening driving laps around town. This consists of driving around a five-block radius.
  3. All of the local parties are at ‘the bridge,’ ‘the dam,’ or ‘the tree.’ (There is only one of each in the area and everyone knows where they are.)
  4. You get into trouble downtown and your parents found out about it in the first 15 minutes.
  5. The entire town takes holiday for rodeo weekend.
  6. One of the biggest school events of the year is taking everyone to the bucking horse sale.
  7. When you tried to skip school the principal, who also happens to be your neighbor, knows whose house you’re hiding out in.
  8. Going on a date = a burger run (You drive an hour to pick up a burger and fries from the Burger King drive-thru and head home. On a second date, you might stop at the pool hall on the way back into town.
  9. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and “Teen Spirit” are played at every dance in town.
  10. You know more than the local newspaper about what’s going on before the paper is even printed.

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/saskatchewan/small-saskatchewan-prairie-town/)

First Solar Heated Community in Canada – Another First for Alberta

Great Green Attractions in the Canadian Prairies

Great Green Attractions in the Canadian Prairies

©2008AngieHaggstrom

If you travel to Okotoks, Alberta to see The Big Rock or Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, you may notice another unusual sight in the area. The Drake Landing Solar Community consists of 52 1500 square foot houses and 800 solar panels shining proudly from garage roofs. This is a first for North America, but the Okotoks community is even greener than you think.

The 1.5 MW collected by the community’s solar panels heats a series of pipes carrying glycol to a water heating and storage area. Then the hot water is kept underground to supply the entire community with hot water and heat during the winter. In all, the system looks after all but 10% of the heating and hot water costs of the community.

Community design and the housing itself takes environmental concerns into account as well. The first thing you may notice about the community is the proximity of the houses. Each home in the community sits close to its neighbors. The not only cuts down on the amount of piping to upkeep and repair, but it also helps to eliminate heat loss through the piping.

To conserve the heat produced by the solar panels, the underground storage cells and homes have high-rated insulation. Each home constructed in the city used only local resources and recycled materials. The community practices recycling, conservation, and other green initiatives. The total energy savings is estimated at 110.8 GJ and should eliminate 5.65 tonnes of green house gas emissions per year.

The Drake Landing Solar community isn’t the only green first in Canada. Wind farms have also begun to spread across the prairies. Makes sense when you have the amount of winds we have here. Gull Lake Saskatchewan is home to Saskatchewan’s first wind power project. The $22 million dollar project consists of 17 massive wind turbines on the bench located on the south of the Trans Canada Highway. They generate in excess of 11 megawatts of electricity.

Mcgrath Alberta is home to 20 turbines that produces enough energy to run 13 000 homes with the 30 megawatts they produce. The Chin Chute Wind Power Project in Taber, Alberta supplies the energy for another 14 000 homes with 20 turbines producing 1.5 megawatts each.

While these may not exactly be tourist attraction, they are definitely one of those things you wonder about when you see them from the highway. Canada isn’t the greenest country in the world, but it is great to see the situation improving. Come to think of it, who is the greenest country in the world?

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/first-solar-heated-community-canada-alberta/)