Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Yellowknife
Although situated south of the tree limit, the modern town of Yellowknife is set in a landscape of dwarf firs, birch, and poplar - a transitional zone where northern fir forest becomes treeless tundra. The Northwest Territories capital city is the largest community on the shores of Great Slave Lake, and its name derives from the copper knives long used by the local First Nations.
First Nations people have hunted in the Yellowknife area for thousands of years. Europeans, on the other hand, made their first appearance in the late 18th century, settling permanently only after the gold rush of 1934-5. It was the first such strike in the cold north (average temperature: -6°C), with a second gold rush occurring in 1944. Since then, the community has developed steadily into the nerve center of northern Canada. Gold and diamond mines at Yellowknife are among the biggest in Canada, and have spurred the town's growth. The population figures tell the story: in 1961 Yellowknife had 3,250 inhabitants, today that total has increased six-fold.
There are interesting drives around Yellowknife, one being eastwards along the Ingraham Trail (Hwy. 4) to Tibbitt Lake. Another route follows Hwy. 3 northwest through unspoiled country to Behchoko, also on Great Slave Lake. The same road goes to the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary. The major events in Yellowknife's calendar are the annual Snowking Winter Festival and a dogsled race over the lake, both in March.
See also: Where to Stay in Yellowknife
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre
The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife is the Northwest Territories' museum and archives. It displays and preserves important documents, photos, sound recordings, artifacts, and other materials on the history of the vast northern region. The center is exceptionally interesting. As well as displaying a large mineral collection and finds from the center's archaeological research, the museum explores the culture of the Dene First Nations people in-depth, and traces the pervasive influence of the fur trade, in operation here since at least the 18th century. The center also features changing exhibits.
Address: 4750 48 Street, Yellowknife
Hidden Lake Territorial Park
Hidden Lake Territorial Park is about 50 kilometers east of Yellowknife, on the Ingraham Trail. One of the highlights of the park is the 20-minute walk to Cameron Falls, an impressive sight even when frozen solid in winter. For the more adventurous, there is a longer hike on a less-developed trail to the Cameron River Ramparts Waterfalls, approximately 9 kilometers from the falls.
With the discovery of gold in 1934 and Yellowknife's first gold rush the following year, eager miners pitched tents and built small wooden shacks on the shores of Great Slave Lake. A few of those heritage log buildings remain in Old Town Yellowknife, which hints at the ramshackle frenzy of the 1930s. This is where visitors can walk down Ragged Ass Road and climb to the top of "the Rock" for views from the town's highest point.
Great Slave Lake is a destination for boaters, and the huge body of water is host to one of the world's longest freshwater sailing races, the Commissioner's Cup. The lake is also a home for avid houseboaters, who live in brightly colored houseboats until Yellowknife Bay freezes for the winter. In the peak holiday season, boat tours introduce the lake to visitors. There are also boat rentals available for independent trips.
SnowKing Winter Festival
The SnowKing Winter Festival in Yellowknife is an annual winter event that takes place in March and draws visitors from all over the country. A large castle built from snow is the stage for arts and entertainment. The festivities coincide with a three-day dogsled race on Great Slave Lake.
The Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, appears as dancing, glowing patterns in the skies above Yellowknife. But aurora viewing is a chilly pastime, made much more comfortable by the dogsled rides, heated viewing areas, Arctic-suitable clothing, and hot drinks at Aurora Village.
Northern Arts and Cultural Centre
A 297-seat theater facility, the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre features northern, national, and international performing artists. Productions include a variety of music, dance, theater, and children's performances. It is the premier cultural venue in the Northwest Territories.
Address: 4701 52 Ave, Yellowknife
Where to Stay in Yellowknife for Sightseeing
We recommend these centrally-located hotels in Yellowknife near top attractions like the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre:
- Explorer Hotel: mid-range pricing, convenient location, friendly front desk staff, modern decor.
- Coast Fraser Tower: affordable apartment hotel, spacious rooms, kitchenettes, free continental breakfast, fitness center.
- Chateau Nova Yellowknife: 3-star hotel, contemporary decor, comfy beds, sauna and fitness room.
- Super 8 Yellowknife: budget hotel, great service, clean rooms, free breakfast.