Yellowknife is a pretty new city. It had developed from a gold seekers’ tent town in the 30s. The first settlement here was a base for numerous gold mines in the area, which appeared after the second world war. In Dene language this northern city is called Somba K’e, which means “where money is”. In less than a hundred years Yellowknife turned from a small, remote community into a cosmopolitan capital of the north. It’s estimated that there are over 150 world languages in use in this city inhabited by 20 thousand people. Today you can still feel the climate of the old good times, although complemented by modern downtown. Indeed it is a place worth visiting. Here is my little list of 6 must see places in Yellowknife:
1. Ingraham Trail is a road going east from Yellowknife. In the summer time it ends suddenly at Tibbit Lake. In the winter it keeps going hundreds of kilometers up north through frozen lakes all way up to diamonds mines. This part of the road is well known from the TV show Ice Truckers. If you are not a fan of this show, no worries. Ingraham Trail has a lot of to offer. There are many lakes and trails along the road, the most popular one being a half hour hike to Cameron Falls. On the Ingraham Trail is located my favorite lake; Prelude Lake. Its water has a nice, deep blue color and stretches across the horizon. There are plenty of small and big islands on the lake, reachable by a boat or canoe. The most famous one is Tango Rock which has a cliff on one side, many meters high. If you don’t have a boat, you can go for a hike on two walking trails along the Prelude Lake.
2. The most important place to see in Yellowknife is Old Town, right next to Great Slave Lake. Here is where everything started. There is a rocky hill in the heart of the Old Town, called Pilot’s Monument. From there is a beautiful view overlooking the colorfull houseboats bay, downtown and an old gold mine; Giant Mine. In the summer you can rent a canoe from a rental company: Narwal, conveniently situated on the shore of the big lake. You can easily transfer a canoe from a rack to the waters (part of Great Slave Lake). In about two hours you can get to Yellowknife River from there. If you have time and strength you can continue down the river to the next lake or even farther. From Narwal, the heart of the Old Town is just around the corner. You can paddle across Back Bay and under a little bridge, and from there you will be able to see houses floating on the water. If you go closer, you will be able to sink into the unique northern-hippie community. There are two tiny, land based, living neighborhoods in the Old Town: Peace River Flats and The Woodyard. They are full of eccentric and quirky houses and old shacks from pioneers’ times. In The Woodyard, there is the famous Ragged Ass Road and recently opened, the only brewery in Northwest Territories.
3. My favorite restaurant in Old Town and in all of Yellowknife is Bullocks Bistro. Rumor has it, it has the best fish and chips in Canada. I can’t confirmed that, because I haven’t tried fish in every single restaurant in Canada. But I have to admit it is the best fish I have ever had. The restaurant has a very unique climate. Tables and walls are signed by people from all over the world. Every inch is covered in funny stickers and pictures. One of them is our wedding picture. Every time we go to Bullocks, we are sitting at the bar. It is a perfect spot for chatting with Renata, the owner of the restaurant, who entertains guest with conversations and cooks right behind the counter.
4. March is my favorite month in Yellowknife. Days are getting longer and the sun is climbing higher and higher above the horizon. Temperatures are usually above -20 Celsius, which feels pretty nice in connection with the arctic sun. The biggest attraction in the city in march is the Snow Castle, built every year by the Snow King and his team. The building starts in November, shortly after Yellowknife bay on Great Slave Lake freezes. They start from cutting out ice blocks, which will turn into windows of the castle. Each year the castle is built according to a different project idea, but every year there is a big room with a stage for artists, a bar made of ice, a few smaller rooms where art is presented and even toilets. Every year there is also a court yard, surrounded by huge snow walls. The main attraction of the yard is a slide made of ice. The source of joy for kids and adults. For the entire month of March, the castle is full of art, concerts and family events. This is the place where Yellowknife wakes up from the winter sleep.
5. Another winter attraction are the ice caves. I can’t explain how they are created. I have asked many people about it, but never got an answer. But maybe because of that tinge of mystery I like this place so much. Ice caves are made of brownish water, which drops from the rocky cliff and creates fabulous formed walls. To get there, you have to walk across the frozen Back Bay, often on powdery, crunchy snow. After getting across to solid ground, you will pass a little cemetery with only a few graves surrounded by white fences. This is the oldest cemetery of white settlers in Yellowknife. Then you have to follow a trail next to a tall cliff to get to the ice caves. There must be a swamp there during the summer because when there is no snow, the ground looks like a brown ice skating ring, which starts melting at -10.
6. Folk on the Rocks is a two days long music festival in Yellowknife in July. Usually this time of year is warm and sunny and the days are still long. It gets dark towards the end of the last gig, around 11 pm. Folk on the Rocks has a few stages. The two most popular ones are main stage and beer garden stage. The beer garden is the only place at the festival where you can consume alcohol. The festival has access to a little sandy beach. If anyone feels like a little refreshment, they can jump into the blue water of the lake. Folk on the Rocks is a family oriented festival with a hippie feeling in it. Everyone will find something interesting there and the people are nice and friendly.
The list above is very subjective and don’t show all places worth to see. Yellowknife has a lot to offer and I am pretty sure that everyone will find here something for himself/herself.