Perched just north of Great Slave Lake, Yellowknife is the opportunity hub and capital city of the NWT. With the resources of a bustling city, warmth of a community and adventure of the wild, Yellowknife has something for everyone.
Do you crave the excitement of cultural festivals? Are you seeking the solitude of quiet hiking trails and undisturbed lakes? Are you ready to experience wild winters and energetic summers?
If you arrive in winter, the cold weather may be an icy shock – temperatures have plummeted down as far as -51 degrees Celsius. But don’t be too put out – there’s more to do in winter than shovel snow. Here are just a few options locals enjoy: snow shoe, dog sled, toboggan, bon fire, ice fish, ski, and snowmobile. In winter or summer, be sure to check out Ingraham Trail where some of the best lakes, trails and wildlife are hidden.
The Snow King’s Ice Castle attracts a lot of attention from Northerners and visitors from around the world. Since the first ice castle, 15 years ago, the design has continued to get more and more elaborate. Fireworks mark the opening of the castle in March and nightly events include live music, art displays, ice sculptures, usually an ice-slide or skating rink, good company, and an ice-café inside.
The Caribou Carnival is held in March while Frame Lake is still frozen solid, Yellowknifers scamper onto the ice to enjoy kite skiing, snow volleyball, beer gardens, pancake breakfast, Hawaiian luau, maple sugar shack, snow sculptures, food vendors, games, teddy bear hospital, Dene hand games, fireworks, dogsled races, and tea boiling.
Though rooted in tradition, the city enjoys the amenities of any southern city (recreation facilities, sports, restaurants) and has complete internet, cable, satellite and cell phone service. With several high-rise buildings the sky-line might even trick you into believing this is a city larger than 20,000 people. One difference you might notice is that grocery prices tend to be a bit higher than southern provinces. A loaf of whole wheat bread goes for $2.49, while two litres of 2% milk is $2.59. Housing costs are perhaps the most intimidating expenses in the capital city. One bedroom apartments can cost up to $1,500 while two bedroom apartments are usually between $1,200 and $1,650. Don’t let these costs sway your decision - to balance these expenses Yellowknife has an employment rate higher than the national average and the highest weekly wages in Canada.
The short but vibrant summers can reach +32 degrees Celsius and are spent camping, boating, canoeing, kayaking, water skiing, wake boarding, tubing, sea-dooing, hiking, biking, and fishing. Summer is when the city really comes alive and Yellowknifers know how to celebrate!
From late May to early July, twilight lasts all night; in the midst of this is the June Summer Solstice. The solstice marks the longest day of the year and is celebrated with the Raven Mad Daze festival. This street festival takes over downtown Yellowknife and residents enjoy food stands, games, live music, talent acts, art/craft stands, and bargain shopping. A strange, yet popular, Raven Mad Daze tradition amongst younger festival-goers is shaving cream fights – be careful as you walk through the crowd so you don’t bump into any of these coated kids!
Folk on the Rocks is a weekend music festival that began in 1980 and features multi-genre musical acts. Throughout the weekend, faces get painted, arts and crafts are set up for sale, and vendors sell everything from buffalo burgers to samosas to burgers and fries. Local and world-wide talent take to the stages through the day and long into the night with the glow of the midnight sun over them. The festival features local talent as well as musicians from around the world including: Buffy Sainte-Marie, the Trailer Park Boys, The Weakerthans, African Guitar Summit, Mad Bomber Society, Gob, Sloan, Sam Roberts and Hawksley Workman.
Set in a natural amphitheatre of sand overlooking tree-lined Long Lake, the stunning outdoors is a backdrop for six stages of live music, workshops, and beer garden. To cool off during the hot weekend, go for a dip in the lake or out on a boat for some water sports.
When exploring Yellowknife don’t forget to visit Dettah and N’Dilo– two small communities on the edge of the city. Dettah, meaning “burnt point” has been a traditional Dogrib fish camp for hundreds of years and hunting, trapping and fishing continue to dominate the economy. In the summer, make the 27 km drive along the Ingraham Trail and in the winter take the shorter 6 km drive across the frozen Yellowknife Bay ice road!
N’Dilo is located on the tip of Latham Island and focuses on with a multitude of cultural events where residents learn about Dene arts, customs, and history.
Make sure you plan ahead before visiting these communities. Though both communities are home to about 200 residents, there are no overnight services, restaurants or stores. Looking for a memorable place to grab a bite to eat? Try the summer-only Wildcat Café, Yellowknife's original log restaurant, located in scenic Old Town. Try muskox, buffalo, caribou or Arctic char while soaking up the sun on the outdoor patio.
Bullocks Bistro is a popular place to enjoy a pint and locally-caught fish like whitefish, trout and pickerel. The unique atmosphere of the heritage building makes the dining experience unlike others. Make sure you arrive early to get a seat and enjoy the eclectic decorations and scribbling on the wall.
Just looking to quench your thirst? The Gold Range Bar is one of the oldest and most colourful drinking establishments in the NWT. With live music and interesting characters you can always count on having a good time at the “Strange Range” but remember, this tough and tumble bar is not for the faint of heart!
Come explore the land of the midnight sun, the photographer’s paradise, the adventurer’s gateway…Yellowknife is waiting.