Last year I made a blog resolution to write more about Regina, but as you have probably noticed, I haven't been doing that. This has been a super busy year for me and I didn't get that many adventures done around the Queen City. To remedy this problem, I teamed up with the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District to explore some of the coolest places in the Downtown Regina.
The last few years has seen a massive change in Downtown Regina. What for many decades was a cold, stark, banking-core of the city, is now cool again. From quirky restaurants to knickknack stores to fun hangout spots, there's plenty to do downtown any time of the year. While this article is Christmas-oriented (sorry, but have you checked the calendar?) you can explore these places any time of the year.
1. Boards & Beans - 1840 Rose Street
One of the coolest hangout places in Regina right now is Boards & Beans. This board game cafe opened just over a year ago and is packed full of hundreds of board games for you to enjoy. From simple games to complicated sagas, Boards & Beans claims to have a board game for everybody.
In a time where people are glued to their smart phones, tablets and computer screens, Boards & Beans offers an off-screen experience. Sitting down with friends, having a coffee, pop, and yes, even a beer and playing a board game is a great way to unwind, kick back and relax. The past year has seen a huge community form around Boards & Beans, and the owners will be more than happy to refer to them as their family. The owners take an effort to learn everybody's names – along with the instructions to every game – to make sure your visit to Boards & Beans is memorable.
Not only is Boards & Beans becoming a popular location around Regina, it's getting noticed by other cities too. It's not uncommon for mysterious gifts to arrive at their establishment, being sent by various indie board game companies that would like them to try out their games. Many of the games are quirky, funny or downright hilarious so you're bound to find something unique every time you visit.
Boards & Beans also has about a dozen adult themed board games. Those include classics like Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens and many more. Ask the staff to retrieve them from behind the counter first, as the content can sometimes be inappropriate.
On New Year's Eve, Boards & Beans will be hosting a "Murder Mystery". You need to sign up in advance and they ask for you to come dressed up in 1920-themed clothing. This is the perfect way to close off the year, so be sure to sign up soon, since spots are limited.
If you know somebody who loves board games but you're not sure what to get them for Christmas, Boards & Beans has gift cards for sale. If you get a $50 gift card, you also get a free Boards & Beans t-shirt.
2. Fresh & Sweet - 2500 Victoria Ave
Fresh & Sweet's mantra is to sell healthy, fresh, locally provided food whenever possible. With a wide variety of dishes, snacks, desserts and treats, Fresh & Sweet is the perfect place for a lunch meeting, a date or even a study session.
Fresh & Sweet is operated by Valley Girl's Catering, a catering company that started out of the Deer Valley Golf Course. They own several restaurants around Saskatchewan, including Fresh on Hamilton on the other side of downtown and at the Sherwood Forest Golf & Country Club. This gives you plenty of opportunity to try their delicious food wherever you go. Their most popular weekday dish is their "apple bacon gouda grilled cheese", and their most popular weekend dish is their "breakfast plus" platter with chocolate chip banana French toast. It sounded so appetising that I visited this past weekend to try it out for myself.
Gluten-friendly food is very important to me so it's something I always ask about when I'm reviewing a restaurant. While I don't have celiac disease, I know people who do or people who have trouble digesting gluten. I know it can be challenging finding places to eat, so I do my best to support both the businesses and the people who are looking for them. I'm happy to say Fresh & Sweet is one of these locations. Several of their breakfast bowls can be made gluten-free and they have gluten-free toast which can be substituted into any of their breakfast platters.
When asked what makes Fresh & Sweet such a cool place, the owner told me it's their staff. Anybody and everybody is welcome into Fresh & Sweet and their staff is full of diversity. The staff includes people from all walks of life – from students who had their first job to those who have worked for decades. There's a chance you may even see some funky coloured hair when you visit this location. Fresh & Sweet encourages their staff to embrace who they are, and this positivity is then returned to the customers.
If you are what you eat, then make it Fresh & Sweet.
3. Mortise & Tenon - 2421 11th Avenue
For those of us whose woodworking skills ended in shop class, the term "mortise and tenon" probably means very little. But, for those who have a little more knowledge in how wood is put together – or those of us who have time to use Google – then you'd know "mortise and tenon" is a woodworking joint that secures two pieces of wood together.
Now that we have the name out of the way, you're probably not overly surprised to discover Mortise & Tenon is a wood working store. Owned by two couples, this wood working store quickly became a general store and boutique. Every item in the store is handpicked by the owners who use "90 percent of the stock" in their own homes. The items in this store are practical, but also very unique. There are winter sweaters that say "Stay Home Club" on them, homemade get-well-soon cards, paintings of various Regina locations, homemade cheese making kits and even a plethora of nerdy-knickknacks.
For decades, massive box-stores controlled the economy of cities. Now that's changing, and small boutiques and general stores are regaining in their popularity. Mortise & Tenon is one of these places. With their goods personalised for our unique Saskatchewan culture, and many of the items being made locally, you can find unique products here that can't be found anywhere else. By supporting local craftsmen and artisans, your money spent here isn't only helping the local families that run Mortise & Tenon, but also the countless entrepreneurs that help make this city such a wonderful and creative place. Some of these companies are Glorious Bastards Co., Pottery By Raelynne, Naked Kitty Naturals and Lazy Bones Knits.
Not only does the company sell locally made products, but it's also constructed of locally made products. Upon walking in, you'll find the floor is completely covered in plywood, and you'll see the back wall is lined with recycled barn timber from nearby farms. With smaller farms dying much like smaller general stores, this connects Mortise & Tenon with all those who work hard at what they love to make ends meet for their family.
4. Smith & Best - 2062 Cornwall Street
The owners of Smith & Best were so inspired by the wide variety of unique and quirky general stores they found throughout England and Scotland that they opened one up back home. They started up their own chiropractic clinic and sold natural, handmade products from around the world.
This year the company split locations, with one being the chiropractic clinic and the other being a general store. While you can still find neat trinkets at the chiropractic clinic, the biggest draw here is a mysterious, white, egg-shaped pod sitting at the back of the office. This pod is a sensory deprivation chamber, which is as space-age sounding as you might think. The chamber blocks out all senses so that the body can fully relax. If you sleep inside the pod, a 45 minute snooze is about as refreshing as a four hour nap. A lot of Saskatchewan Roughriders come into the pods after a game so their muscles can relax, but so do a lot of average people. The chamber helps with relaxing the muscles, destressing, tension removal and healing the body. You can float in the pod with the light on or off, and with your own music playing. You can also either "float" with a bathing suit on or in the nude. The staff encourages people to float naked so that the feeling of their clothes doesn't disrupt the experience of floating in a void.
I've heard about these sensory deprivation chambers before, but I've never tried one. Since I couldn't talk about Smith & Best without mentioning the giant white egg purring in the room, I took the plunge. I went in for an hour and opted to lay in darkness, without music and without clothes. As somebody whose mind is always racing, I found it difficult to settle down, which the staff said is expected during the first float. Eventually, after an unknown amount of time – since time is immeasurable without the senses – I fall asleep. The salt water kept me buoyant and made it impossible to roll over, and with the water and air temperature the same as my skin, it felt like I was surrounded by nothing at all. It was a unique experience, and one I encourage everybody to try.
I was also very impressed by their general store. Located in the same space as Sara Lindsay at 1856 Hamilton Street, the general store focuses mostly on men care – from razors, to gels, to shampoos – all made from natural ingredients like seashells and seaweed. The store also sells beer growlers from Portland, handmade axes from Norway and homemade leather footballs from New Jersey. For all of your male shopping needs, "Smith & Best - The Male Room" is the perfect place to visit for the guy in your life – and with Sara Lindsay in the same space, it's the perfect place for any couple to get their shopping done.
While this list is short, there are still plenty of awesome places to check out downtown. No longer is downtown the place where you want to avoid, or where there's nothing cool to see. Thanks to the people over at the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District, and to the countless entrepreneurs throughout the city, downtown Regina is thriving and is becoming one of the best places to visit in the city.
What's your favourite place to visit downtown? Tell me about it in the comments below!
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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
Since I am Saskatchewan born and raised, it always bothered me when people said there's nothing to do in my home province. If you're looking for culture, history, food, beer, sporting events, community or a touch of quirkiness, Saskatchewan is the best place to visit!
If you've been following my blog for awhile now, you'll know I could write a whole article about places to visit in Saskatchewan (actually, I have written it). For sake of brevity, I handpicked some of my favourite places, but there are many that I left out. Are there any places you'd add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
Several months ago Ford Canada approached me to review their 2017 Ford Explorer. I wanted to see how it handled grid roads, so I took it to a variety of ghost towns, abandoned houses and empty villages around Saskatchewan. I had a lot of fun with the article, and I guess Ford liked it too because a few months later they invited me to go out to the Sunshine Coast to try out a few other vehicles.
There were a few differences between this trip and the one I did around Saskatchewan. The first difference was that this was in the wooded forests of British Columbia and not the flat prairie of Saskatchewan. Instead of having the vehicle for a week, this would be a 2-day trip from Vancouver to the Painted Boat Resort and back again. Also, instead of traveling solo, I'd be travelling with several lifestyle and travel bloggers from across Western Canada – including the 2015 Saskatchewanderer Ashlyn George from The Lost Girl's Guide to Finding the World.
The vehicle we got on the way up to the resort was the same red Ford Explorer I tried out earlier this year. This worked out great for me as I was already very familiar with the vehicle and its quirks. On the way back Ashlyn drove a white 2017 Ford Edge.