Touring the legislative building is always a nice thing to do when you're in a capital city - especially because it's free! The Saskatchewan Leg building is very similar to the Alberta one, but the tour is not as entertaining. One interesting thing you'll get to see on the tour, however, is the Confederation table in the library (it's been cut, but it's the real one - or what's left of it!). Tours run every half hour
Wascana Centre is a 930 hectare urban park, surrounding a 120 hectare lake located in the heart of Regina. It's a great place to go if you want to kick back with a book for a couple hours, have a picnic, or go for a walk or rollerskate around the lake.
The museum exhibits the Mounties' history and exploits. The RCMP and their predecessors the NWMP (North West Mounted Police) were well respected in Canada's north and west.
The museum is a little disjointed. You get a taste of the various issues, but for instance, wandering through the museum, I could not find out when or why the police force name changed from NWMP to RCMP (1920). Actually I re-read the web site after updating this account, and it is better at stringing together the various chapters of RCMP history than the museum is.
It would be more enjoyable to take a tour (even after walking through it before) so you could confirm questions. The tour is held six times a day during the summer, but only at 1:30pm during the rest of the year, so we missed it. Also, you can only visit the RCMP chapel (next door to the museum) if you attend the tour. We read that this chapel is Regina's oldest building. Try to make one of the tours if you can.
There is no cost to enter the museum, but donations are accepted.
As we were walking through the museum and gift shop on a soggy October morning, a class of future RCMP (all sexes, shapes and sizes) jogged by in the rain. Note there are five different photos of various museum displays taken on our last visit.
Very nicely layed out museum with a lot of interesting and educational information about the history and current role of the RCMP - I learned a lot! Exhibits have a lot of artifacts on display. There's a "detective" section and dress-up photo opportunity for kids (ok, ok, we tried on the red coats too...). The museum isn't overly large; expect to spend 1-2 hours there. Nice gift shop with the usual knick-knacks. Guided tours of the surrounding buildings are available as well for those interested in learning about the training facilities (all RCMP cadets from around Canada come to the "depot" in Regina for training).
The IPSCO Steel Mill outside Regina is a strange place - great chimneys belching smoke combined with massive loaders, trucks and trains hauling heavy chunks of steel here and there, yet just outside its factory area it has a Wildlife park and children's play area complete with waterslides and a kiddie train!
I stumbled upon the place in October, 2007 when I attended an electrical safety course in their attached convention centre. During lunch break I was astounded during a walk outside to find herds of Bison, large Elk and small German Black Deer roaming around in a nearby fenced-off area! Doing some research on the place later on, I came across an official government report rating all the zoos and animal compounds in Saskatchewan and I was glad to see that this one at least got high marks! This photo shows a couple of the animals shedding their thick winter coats on a pleasant 19 C day in late-May, even if the wind was gusting to almost 60-kph.
The second photo gives some idea of why they need these coats! It was taken 'out of season' a few months earlier on a February afternoon as the Bison were relaxing in their large fenced-in grounds on a -18 C day with a -29 C windchill. With the park closed, the nearest I could get was the nearby highway, so I parked my car and hiked across a field through the snow until I reached the Wildlife Park. As I neared the fence, the Bison all ran together and turned in a line to face me with a big bull near the centre - they were ready for any possible attack! The last three photos were taken in late-June as young Bison and their mother relaxed, as well as a group of cute German Black Deer that rushed over to check us out as soon as we appeared beside their enclosure!
The Park is open May 22 to Sept 6, 11 am to 7 pm (free admission) and the pool is open June to August on Weekdays 1 pm - 7 pm and Weekends 11 am - 7 pm.
Located in a yard beside the IPSCO Steel mill on the northern outskirts of Regina is a relic of one of the world's major steam locomotive types - Canadian Pacific Railway engine #3101. One of only two engines of this 'Northern' type ever operated by CPR, its wheel arrangement of 4-8-4 (4 dolly wheels at the front end, 8 huge driving wheels under the boiler and 4 smaller wheels at the back-end supporting the firebox) turned out to be the most efficient way to combine power with speed.
This engine was built in Montreal in 1928 and operated on the high-speed passenger service between Montreal and Toronto. The engine and coal tender weighed in at 535,000-lb and all that weight over the 8-traction wheels allowed it to single-handedly pull all the passenger cars up out of the Don Valley in Toronto without assistance. Once on the level, the 80-inch diameter traction wheels allowed a top speed of about 80-mph!
With the coming of diesel engines, the two CPR engines were transferred to western Canada in 1954 but were retired by 1957. The Ipsco Steel mill actually bought #3101 in the early 1960s to cut up for scrap metal, but they had a change of heart and instead completely refurbished it in 1965. Now surrounded by a steel fence, it is starting to show signs of deterioration. Its sister locomotive, #3100 is presently on display in Ottawa's National Museum of Science & Technology as part of a historical display of Canada's railroad history.
This seat of the Saskatchewan government is located in a very beautiful open expanse of lawns and the man-made Lake Wascana. The surrounding Wascana Park, at 2300 acres, is one of the largest in North America and is almost three times the size of Central Park in New York City. Title to this land was transferred to the City of Regina in 1906, enabling the development of this wonderful piece of wetlands located in the middle of the city. We enjoyed one sunny and hot afternoon of strolling around both the Legislative building and the park in 2001 but have had many more chances in 2008 now that I'm working in Regina!
Wascana Park has walking and biking trails throughout, as well as a number of small islands located in Lake Wascana. These photos show some of the sights we took in as we explored its grounds, which are also a paradise for water birds. The Mallard ducks in the 3rd photo were enjoying a little cruise on the lake not long before we noticed a Willet (4th and 5th photos), a bird I had never before seen. They are a type of large Sandpiper that range from central North America to the Gulf of Mexico and very sensibly spend their winters in Brazil.
The Legislative Building, built for the Saskatchewan provincial government, is no small structure - in fact it is larger than those for Ontario or Quebec. This strange fact arose from the fact that they building was designed based on a provincial population explosion that was taking place at the turn of the century in 1900, later to be dampened by the Great Depression.
Today, this English Renaissance-style building, completed in 1919 with its 53-m (174-ft.) high dome, presides over a province whose population boom did not continue. Nevertheless, it is quite an imposing structure and well worth a visit. The exterior consists of Tyndall limestone quarried in nearby Manitoba while the interior features various types of marble from all parts of the world, including the main stairway (Quebec, Canada), floors (Vermont, USA), baseboards (Ireland), walls (Italy) and pillars/columns (Cyprus). The 2nd and 3rd photos show some of its beautiful surrounding grounds and were taken in June, 2008.
While in Regina, you should visit the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Museum, located on the grounds of their Training Academy Depot. There are many interesting artifacts and exhibits regarding the history of this famous force down through the years.
This organization was formed in 1873, just a few years after Canada became a country in 1867, as the North West Mounted Police. With the lawlessness and Indian troubles of the American West starting to creep into the Canadian Prairies, the government decided that a 300-man paramilitary force was needed in the West to maintain Canadian sovereignty and to uphold the law. One of their first law enforcement actions occurred in 1874 when Americans trading whiskey to the Indians were forced out of their Fort Whoop-Up in present day Alberta. Later, as the Sioux nation under Chief Sitting Bull (victor over Gen. Custer and his troops) were gradually driven off the lands that had been deeded to them by the American government, the first remnants of the tribe arrived (in 1876) at the 'medicine line' dividing Canada from the USA. A small contingent of the scarlet-coated Mounties met the thousands of Sioux and assured them that they would be protected in Canada as long as they kept the peace and did not raid into the USA. The Sioux kept their word and stayed in Canada until 1881 when the decimation of the herds of migrating bison in the American west finally deprived them of their food supply. Gradually they returned to the USA to live on reservations as they gave up their nomadic way of life. By gaining the trust of the Canadian native tribes during their early years in the west, before settlers arrived, the NWMP avoided the sort of Indian Wars that plagued the United States. The NWMP officially became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1920 since, by then, they were carrying out policing duties across the country.
It was a -22 C January morning (with a -32 C windchill factor), so I decided it was time for indoor entertainment - namely, to see what the Royal Saskatchewan Museum had to offer. As it turned out, I spent a couple of enjoyable hours wandering around two floors that were featuring the Province's natural landscape/wildlife and aboriginal customs on the first floor, as well as a display on climate change and worldwide development on the 2nd floor.
This huge skeleton of a Giant Bison caught my attention early on - they became extinct about 21,000 years ago, shortly before Mammoths also breathed their last. Standing almost 9-feet tall and with a horn width approaching 7-feet, it would have been quite a sight to see. The RSM displays were excellent, blending stuffed animals and skeletal remains into either a 3-D backdrop or making the entire room appear to be the creature's natural habitat. The 2nd photo shows a room depicting life in the ocean during the dinosaur age - this time a giant Mosasaur appears to be swimming overhead with its jaws open (a replica of its real skeleton is laying on the seabed beneath it). With lengths reaching 50-ft., these ferocious air-breathing killers were among the forerunners of lizards and snakes.
The 3rd photo is a cutaway view of a Beaver lodge and its pond, showing how the hollowed out part of the lodge is actually above the water level (at lower left a beaver is swimming toward its underwater entrance). All these displays had great replicas and descriptions of the other birds and animals included in them and the sound track of related nature calls reminded me of my canoe trips in New Brunswick! Finally, a photo of the RSM from the parking lot - a rather non-descript building, but a museum that has won awards for the excellence of its displays. There is no charge for entry, but donations are accepted.
Regina offers also a casino to its visitors (and locals) which is located in a historic Union Railway station, very close to the city centre.
We ‘visited’ the casino on our way (indoor) to the Cornwall Shopping Centre, which is connected with the casino. Entering the main hall through the brass doors, was still just like entering the railway station with a schedule board with the arrivals and departures of the trains on the day the station closed in 1990. In front of the building are still an old steam loc and passenger wagon (part of the restaurant).
(Nowadays it is also possible to visit the Union Station on a guided tour; see for more info: www.cnttours.ca )
After visiting the gift shop of the casino we walked through the impressive halls with the slot machines. And although not counted, there must be hundreds of them. Even in the morning a lot of people were already playing.
Wascana Centre is a huge area (more than 900 hectare) south of the city centre of Regina. A lot of ‘must see sights’ are located in or close to Wascana Centre; among them the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Legislative Building and Saskatchewan War Memorial.
Wascana Centre offers also a couple of parks, as Candy Cane Park, a family amusement park, Wascana Park with swimming pool and bandstand and Waterfowl Park with a bird sanctuary. In the parks are picnic areas and walk- and bike ways through the landscaped gardens and parks. We made (in autumn) a very nice bike tour around the lake and along Wascana River (see 'sports travel' tip).
Wascana Centre is also the place for big events and special occasions. During our first visit (June 2003) Regina’s centennial celebrations took place along the borders of Wascana Lake.
The Legislative Building in Regina is situated in the Wascana Centre and from the staircase we had a wonderful view of the skyline of downtown Regina with its skyscrapers. It has been built between 1908 and 1912 and has typical a neo classical architecture. The building is one of the oldest and at least the most impressive building in town with its 265 rooms.
Legislative Building houses the ‘parliament’ and the legislature of Saskatchewan. Most impressive is the view to the top of the dome, more than 50 metres high. There are beautiful painted ceilings and historical pictures and art works can also be found in the building.
It is only possible to visit the Legislative Building by guided tours. These tours are available every day and of course (in Canada) in French and English and conducted every half hour and free of admission charge.
The Legislative Building also houses the Cumberland Gallery, with Native Heritage art.
The Royal Saskatchewan Museum is a 'must starting point' before exploring Saskatchewan (and Regina). It shows a lot of the interesting history of the province and its inhabitants.
There are a couple of different parts in the museum:
- In the Earth Sciences Gallery you will find erspecially the geological history of millions of years.
- Life Sciences Gallery shows the flora and fauna of saskatchewan and other parts of our world
- First Nations Gallery with the history of SK's First nations (for us, coming from Europe, the most interesting part of the museum; see also 'local customs tip about a Powwow).
Besides these gallerries the museum offers one or more temporary exhibits.
Admission: by donation
Opening hours: see website
Visit the (new built) RCMP Heritage Centre and see with your own eyes the history of this famous police force. From their foundation in 1873 till recent operations, exhibited in various displays and videos. If you want to look like a mountie, just dress yourself in one of the red uniforms (and take a photo).
For opening hours and admission fees: take a look at the website.
Try to be there at 12.45 pm (from Monday to Friday) to see the 'Sergeant Major's Parade' in the Drill Hall or on the Parade Square (www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/depot).
On Tuesday evenings (July till mid August) visitors are welcome to the Sunset Retreat Ceremony at the RCMP Academy. The ceremony starts at 6.45 pm (www.academy.rcmp-grc.gc.ca).