“It feels like we’re in England!” These words come from my nine-year-old son, half Brit by descent, and I can’t disagree.
As we sit enjoying a gorgeous, sunny afternoon taking in all the pomp and ceremony of the Sergeant Major’s Parade at Regina’s RCMP Training Depot, our environment has undoubtedly taken on an other-worldly feel. A number of red brick buildings with flags waving proudly, a cenotaph and an eternal flame mark the perimeter of the grandiose square where this event takes place daily as an attendance-taking exercise of the officers currently in training for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Everything is steeped in ceremony, from the leader of the marching band who heads the parade with a sceptre bearing the names of fallen officers to the proud commanding officers who bark official-sounding orders and right down to the little details like the cadets’ shoes.
“Everything is earned here at the Academy” our guide explains. “A cadet arrives in street shoes and must run everywhere until he or she earns the right to wear boots.” Poor sods. We rounded off our informative tour of the training depot with a saunter around the equally engaging RCMP Heritage Museum. According to an informal poll of my three children, the highlight of this experience was a toss-up between the RCMP dress-up clothes and the hands-on crime scene investigation exhibit.
After a fill of Regina’s favourite pizza and Mediterranean food at the stylish Copper Kettle, it was time to cheer on the Queen City’s WHL hockey team, the Regina Pats. The Brandt Centre is tucked alongside the new (and impressive) Mosaic Stadium which, on this particular night, was playing host to a particularly raucous Regina Rams game. After a long search for a parking spot, we made it to the Rams game with no time to spare. My son, who was looking forward to this more than anything, was a little disappointed when we missed the opening face-off.
Not being much of a sports fan, I didn’t much share his excitement, BUT between drive-by blimps, oversized mascots, kiss cams and karaoke (which amused our four-year-old to no end), I was reminded of just how exciting Canada’s game can be! One can’t help but get caught up in the pump-up tunes, the fast-pace, the bright white lights, the angry men in the penalty box and the excitement of a goal. All in all, the experience was a win for everyone…except the Pats.
Saturday morning, we headed to the new location of the Regina Farmer’s Market. My kids were not overly thrilled with the prospect of shopping for vegetables (parsley and celery root!!!) until they arrived and discovered the Kids Corner where they were able to take part in crafting and storytelling! The puffed wheat squares, I’m sure, did something to bolster their spirits too while I enjoyed collecting what I love the most at farmer’s markets… Stories. Some Golden Prairie Wild Boar bacon with a side of an exciting anecdote about being charged by a 200-pound angry animal? Yes, please! And with that, some honey-licious booze to take home from the Prairie Bee Meadery that I’m told is lovingly prepared in small batches and flavoured by only local ingredients? Give me ten. And to finish, perhaps some Howland’s honey from the fine bees at Good Spirit Lake drizzled over a Kürtös Kalács, a Hungarian Chimney Cake baked rotisserie-style until the sugar caramelises on the outside.
Not needing much for lunch after our indulgences, we grabbed a light bite and a latte from the trendy Tangerine and headed to the heart of Regina—Wascana Park. Now, if you’ve never been to the Queen City, THIS is where you will get the Regina-feels. Wascana Lake is surrounded by a lovely (and HUGE) expanse of urban park which is all the more impressive for the stately Provincial Legislature building which is nestled on its western shore. There are kilometres and kilometres of trails to explore, many attractive bridges, and the odd play structure for kids to climb. We happily whiled away a couple of hours enjoying the fresh air, sunshine and vistas of Wascana Park before nipping inside the nearby Royal Saskatchewan Museum. Here we explored fascinating and certainly family-friendly exhibits that uncovered the secrets, history and natural wonders of the province. In the life sciences gallery, the kids loved spotting the hidden fauna among the many award-winning dioramas of the different climate zones of Saskatchewan. But, no doubt, for the junior members of our family, the highlight of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum was the dinosaurs! The earth sciences gallery was impressive, full of giant reptiles and fossils, and inevitably led us to delve into some of life’s most significant questions… Are dinosaurs real? Did they live here? Do they still live here? And can we get one for a pet?
After several hours on our feet, we were more than ready to retire to Board Game Bistro for some hot chocolate and board games. My youngest loved doing a puzzle with her Dad while I schooled the older kids at UNO and stuffed my face full of popcorn. Being nerdily-inclined, I could have happily stayed all evening (there were LOTS of games to choose from) but, alas, the call of the hotel pool was too great for the kids to resist!
I’m probably not the only parent who has inwardly cringed when someone asks her kids about their holiday to such-and-such, and they reply with elaborate stories about the hotel elevator and pool. However, on this particular occasion staying at the Regina Travelodge, I understood, if not shared, their enthusiasm. The Soaked! Centre, according to my son, is the second best water park he has EVER SEEN (just behind West Edmonton Mall, in case you’re wondering)! I’m not sure I would go that far, but it is very impressive! With a pool, family sized hot tub, and a trippy soaking feature that drips water in the various shapes and letters (think ‘GO ROUGHRIDERS’ raining down from the sky), the kids amused themselves for hours. I especially appreciated the two zero-depth waterslides which precluded me from the unpleasant task of being splashed in the face ten times while waiting for my turn to catch a slippery preschooler on her way into a more traditional catching pool! As is always the case after a few hours in a swimming pool, the kids crashed into sleep, and I wasn’t far behind them.
Sunday before heading off, we had the fortunate and fancy experience of dining at the Skye Café and Bistro for brunch. So often, I find that restaurants I like are not the kind of restaurants that my kids like and vice versa. The Skye Café and Bistro is one of the rare exceptions to that rule. I indulged on the Savoury Waffles served with cajun fried chicken, my husband on a Skye Bowl full of Moroccan spices and pulses while the kids were happy to chow down on pancakes and chicken fingers. For me, this was the meal of the weekend–tasty, meticulously presented and served in the sophisticated comfort of the Skye Café. It didn’t hurt that the restaurant was beautifully situated right next to Wascana Lake and also, conveniently, the Saskatchewan Science Centre and last stop on our Regina adventure. The Science Centre is an absolute must for families visiting Regina. Highlights for our kids included the old hair-standing-on-end trick which was part of a stage show performed by the Centre’s staff as well as the Panda IMAX show.
The only thing left was to hit to the road with some handcrafted Do Si Donuts from Happy Hi Coffee. The kids were asleep before we hit the city limits thanks to our jam-packed weekend of family fun in Regina. But I promise I saved them a doughnut.