Look north, way north, and you’ll find the city of Yellowknife. The capital of the Northwest Territories, this spot is nestled between tundra and lake shore, making it the perfect place for adventure and exploration.
Whether you’re keen to get outside — the wilderness isn’t far from the city — or want to explore downtown, Yellowknife is a perfect introduction to Canada’s North.
Here are our recommendations on what to eat, see, and do in Yellowknife.
With unique, local ingredients on hand, Yellowknife brings all sorts of dining options to the table.
If you like something that’s both refined and rustic, Bullocks Bistro is for you. This cabin-like establishment is full of kitschy decor (think bumper stickers slapped on walls and friendly “so-and-so was here” graffiti) and serves up awesome food. In fact, locals and travelers like this spot so much, they often come several days in a row! Around since the 1920s Bullocks is known for the local meat and seafood they serve, making this the perfect spot to have a true Northwest Territories experience. Just be sure to bundle up as this popular spot often has a bit of a wait.
Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery
Looking for a cold one? Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery, pouring NWT Brewing Company, has you covered. Being the only craft brewery in the Northwest Territories, you know you can get a top-notch cold one alongside cosy comfort food here. Besides a sleek and rustic vibe, this place is known for their tasty eats including brunch on Saturdays and pizza night on Wednesdays. Experience true Northern charm here.
Thorton’s Wine and Tapa Room
High-quality food can be found anywhere and Thorton’s Wine and Tapa Room is proof! This little spot located next to a bowling alley may not look like anything special, but rest assured they dishes boast and the decor inside will blow you away. Service and quality here are the best in the area, many claim, and some every compare Thorton’s to a Michelin star dining experience. Come on the weekend for brunch or spend an evening enjoying what they’re known for: delectable tapas and a stunning selection of wine.
Whether you’re looking for natural wonders or urban attractions, here are some things to add to your Yellowknife “must-see” list.
Heading to Cameron Falls is definitely worth the hike considering it’s one of the most Instagrammable destinations we’ve come across. The trail to get to them is suitable for all levels and is only about 20 minutes from the parking lot, making this an awesome place to plan a picnic in the summer months. That said, these falls are beautiful year round — whether you spot them frozen in the winter, or reflecting the fall colours come autumn. Hike, pack a picnic, and enjoy some of the wilderness Yellowknife is known for.
The Northern Lights
You can’t go to Yellowknife without seeing the Northern Lights. In fact, the Northern Lights are so vivid and prevalent in the area that the Northwest Territories are, according to the Canadian Space Agency, the best place in the world to spot them. Be sure to time it right — the lights are best seen in the autumn and winter — and choose the right experience for you. Check out Aurora Village, where Indigenous culture meets luxury making for the perfect spot to watch colours dance across the night sky.
History buff? There’s something for you in Yellowknife. Part of the original townsite, Old Town is as interesting as it is picturesque. Jutting out into Great Slave Lake, this spot is home to history, culture, and community. Stroll popular Franklin Ave. and strike up a conversation with a local. If you’d like a bit more structure, take a self-guided tour with this brochure, or plan a tour with a local guide and really delve into the details that make this area so special.
Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly
Politics might not be for everyone, but this special space is worth a visit. A beautiful building architecturally, the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly is also home to stunning artwork and all of the important decision making in the territory. What makes it more interesting is that the Northwest Territories has looked to the local Aboriginal people to shape their consensus government — a rarity in most places. Tours are offered most days to give you the full experience.
Set out to explore in the natural or urban wilderness.
Great Slave Lake Fishing
Head to the deepest lake in North America and enjoy some of the best fishing around. Home to Northern pike, Arctic grayling, and trout, Great Slave Lake is the perfect spot to cast a line. In fact, 5,000 trophy fishermen come each year to experience this clean, cold lake. Plus, with 24-hours of daylight in the summer months, there’s even more time to hook a big one. If you’re not into fishing, Great Slave Lake still provides ample adventure.
Snowking Winter Festival
It’s not surprising that this northern city knows how to do winter. Each January, a snow castle is built on Yellowknife Bay. But it’s so big and so intricate that it doesn’t actually open until March! With slides, windows, turrets, and more, it’s worth the wait, especially since it becomes a hub for winter activity. Swing by to take in a concert, browse art shows, check out snow sculptures, cheer on a hockey game, or relax at a movie screening. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure to bundle up!
Yellowknife Farmers’ Market
Locals know best, and Yellowknife locals choose farm-fresh produce and the community that brings it all together. Every Tuesday from June to September, Yellowknife comes to life with a bountiful market. From local produce and goods, to crafts and live music, this is the place to immerse yourself in a local’s routine. Grab dinner, sit at a picnic table, and enjoy some tunes while you bask in the midnight sun.
NWT Diamond Centre
Did you know that the Northwest Territories is known for their diamonds? Well now that you do, you probably want to learn more and the NWT Diamond Centre is the perfect place to do so. Check out an interpretive exhibit that introduces guests to the technology behind the mining and browse photos of the breathtaking mines. Experience the beauty of diamonds mined, cut, and polished in the area through video and jewelry displays. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a diamond polishing session. If you’re really lucky, you’ll take a glittering, Canadian diamond home.
There’s no bad time to visit Yellowknife, especially considering all-day sun in the summer and the Northern Lights in the winter. Plan your next trip up north and discover the community and wilderness it’s known for.