Sean, we're coming to Yellowknife because we'd love to see the northern lights, but what can we do to enjoy the days and get a feel for the slow life of your beautiful, northern city?
Sleep. That's what.
Just kidding, of course! Let's get started!
THE CITY LIFE
On the edge of downtown (a 20 minute walk, or two minute drive from my guesthouse), you'll find the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre - an excellent resource for all things Yellowknife. The staff are seriously great, and very well informed. There are many locally made, along with overseas made, gifts, souvenirs and everything else under the sun (or aurora), including a really, really neat interactive display on the aurora and space weather. Just behind the visitor centre is the Prince of Wales Heritage Museum which is worth the stop - even if, like me, you don't reaaaally like museums. The attached cafe is actually a great, highly rated lunch spot. The Legislative Assembly, also a short walk from the visitors centre & museum, offers an excellent free tour (I know - again, if you're like me, it sounds just a little dry, but it's worth the hour - seriously) on weekdays, but you will have to get yourself out of bed early for it at 10:30a. Downtown Yellowknife is also home to the NWT Diamond Centre if you're curious about the diamond mining up here or are in the market for one (a diamond, not a mine).
And then, there is old town - which is where I really fell in love with Yellowknife. It's super quirky, it's artistic, it's authentic.... It's 'Yellowknife' to me. It's a good place to just wander - wander down some of the side streets there (including Ragged Ass Road), check out the architecture, the painted pallets and rocks on the side of the road, walk up the big hill in the middle to Pilot's Monument for gorgeous sweeping views of Yellowknife and Great Slave Lake.
Handicraft shops and experiences in old town are abundant and definitely unique. The Down to Earth Gallery is filled with all local artists' work. You can find everything from recycled glass making workshops at friendly Old Town Glassworks, to creating little dream catchers at Mother Earth Rocks.
NATURE IN THE CITY
Literally just down the street from the guesthouse is beautiful Niven Lake with a well maintained and easy (except for the rocky section closest to the guesthouse) trail. The birdwatching here outside of the winter is wonderful and it's a peaceful spot for a small picnic on your way home from the Independent grocery store with a few snacks.
The Frame Lake Trail accessible from behind the visitors centre, or the western edge of downtown is a stunning, approximately 9km, trail, beautiful both in the summer and the winter. From downtown, make a day of it and enjoy warming up over at Tim Horton's on the other side of town. If you're here through the winter, you can always walk across the lake on the way back as a shortcut.
Go for a wander on Great Slave Lake and you'll find a few different little islands you can hike up too.
If you're thinking of hiring a rental car, especially in the fall, then oh my goodness, you'll definitely want to head out on the Ingraham Trail. But you'll want to head out on the Ingraham Trail regardless.
This begins just 3 kilometres from the guesthouse, and will take you about 70km north east of Yellowknife through the countryside, all our rock - billions of year old rock, and forest. There are countless lakes on the way out - all worth pulling over at to enjoy the serenity and crisp air of, but some of the more notable ones for hiking are Vee Lake, Prelude Lake, and the Cameron Falls area. At the Cameron Falls car park, about 46km along the Ingraham Trail, there begins a trail that is about 20 minutes in to Cameron Falls, and this is worth the time for sure. I think it's easy to spend all day around here, bring some lunch and enjoy. Further on, you'll pass a few forest fire burns areas literally on the side of the highway - at about KM 56(ish?) and 62. Then not long after you'll come to the end of the road (literally), and you'll also see on the left side where the ice road to the diamond mines in the winter begins.
Without a rental car, I would highly reccomend looking into a few different tours to get out this way.
Still a favourite of mine is My Backyard Tours for how genuine, educated and caring their guides are. Rosie also guides smaller groups through the wilderness and is an enthusiastic wealth of knowledge. And one day when I can bank my sleep, I'll finally book a tour with each of them.
EAT YK. (but don't actually)
I do often hear from guests about how the restaurant scene here has exceeded their expectations, and it's something Yellowknifers are really proud of, so here's a little look at my favourites.
• Bullock's Bistro is my favourite place to eat in Yellowknife, and maybe the world. Everyday they receive fresh fish from Great Slave Lake, and whatever is caught, is on their menu with salad and fresh fries via a potato press hanging off the wall inside. You may have to queue, but for me, it's always worth it. Go when you have time and you're ready to enjoy a new experience (probably completely unlike anything you've had before).
• The Fat Fox Cafe opened over the summer, and, as the owner Jeremy put it, tried to do a soft opening but failed miserably because of the immediate and unwavering popularity of everything from their curries and homemade soups, to the coffee (the cardamom latte!!!), all their constantly changing fresh baking, and of course the homey atmosphere. If you want a place to snack through a cosy afternoon or watch next door neighbours bump into one another, look no further, I promise you.
• The NWT Brewing Co/The Woodyard serves it's own brews and a small but delicious menu of food (The portobello & fish burgers... insert heart eyes emoji). The atmosphere in here is great and you'll always find it packed with locals. It may not be the place for a romantic evening whispering into your lover's ears though - it can be a little bit loud - not rowdy loud, but atmosphere loud.
• Zehabesha - for when you're craving something different and definitely delicious - you'll find our much loved Ethiopian restaurant in town (What? Doesn't every city of 20,000 have an Ethiopian place?). The food is wonderful, staff - genuine, and portions - generous.
The Dancing Moose Cafe (part of the Bayside B&B) in old town where they do have a wonderful breakfast and brunch in a small dining room that overlooks Yellowknife Bay/an ice runway in winter. (A warning about the hours here - they have been a source of frustration for a few different guests, and at the time of writing (16/Sept/2016), the hours listed on Google don't seem to be reliable or accurate.)
Elke's Table on 47th is a new Mediterranean/German restaurant receiving a lot of positive attention.
The Black Knight Pub downtown is a staple for a really good, quick meal at a fine price point.
Downtown, you of course won't find a lack of pubs or familiar fast food joints to choose from, along with the downtown Independent (grocery store).