Yellowknife is the only city within the Northwest Territories so it makes sense that it’s also the capital. Majority of people head there for the Northern Lights (a fantastic reason) but there’s so much hidden charm within this small city itself. From the people, the monuments to the funny road names – you’ll enjoy your time here.
If you would like to know “How to spend a few days in Yellowknife” click ‘read more’
In this article, you’ll find: (click to be taken there)
The Basics: How to get there.
Getting Around: Transport Options
My Top Choices: What you should see.
My Recommendations: Where to eat & drink, What to listen to & read.
Where to Stay: Where I stayed or where friends stayed.
What I did: My diary entry.
Other Recommendations: Things we missed.
All my posts have a key:
⏰ Opening Hours. 📍Location 🕒Distance
💰Cost 🎫Ticket 📝 To note. 🎒What to bring.
🛍️Shopping / Stores ♿ Accessibility 🌱Vegan / Veg Options.
- Yellowknife has Sunday Alcohol Restriction laws.
- Power outages are a common thing, and often it’s the birds to blame. (article.)
- Yellowknife has released a free PDF Old Town Walking Tour, so if you’re super into the history and architecture this will be your best resource!
- Yellowknife Online has everything on Yellowknife that you may need to know.
Getting to Yellowknife.
Depending on where you’re flying from, WestJet and Air Canada are the main two that fly to Yellowknife (via Calgary or Edmonton..)
I have personally found that WestJet is cheaper majority of the times.
The most common drive is from Edmonton, which is 19 hours. It will take you through the Frontier Trail, MacKenzie Highway and Yellowknife Highway.
Use Roadtrippers if you do decided to drive, it’ll map your route and allow you to discover amazing things along the way.
🚕 Pop-a-ride: If you do pick to drive – make sure to add it to Pop-A-Ride (affiliate) and you’ll earn cash from other passengers going your way!
|Route A||Borden / Forrest|
|Route B||Frame Lake / Northlands|
|Route C||Old Town / Niven|
There are 3 routes in Yellowknife and do not run on Sundays.
💰Adult: $3.00 | Student/Child: $2.00
Click here for the Transit Schedule (Jan, 2019.)
⏰10:30 – 17:00
📍4750 48 St, Yellowknife,
💰Free, donations accepted.
The staff are wonderful, will help out with any questions you may have. If it’s your first time, they’ll give you a quick overview of the levels/rooms within the museum. They host both permanent and temporary exhibitions, educating you about the indigenous history and community. It also gives details on the economy, geography and animals surrounding the NWT.
Ragged Ass Road
⏰ 24 Hours.
📍Ragged Ass Rd
📝 Take Hamilton Dr all the way down to Brock Dr to see everything.
Ragged Ass Road is the most known, most famous within the town. You can probably guess why. A nickname that stuck after three drunk men were discussing how living on the street has made them all essentially ‘‘Ragged Ass Broke.’ It’s a colloquial term for ‘dirt poor.’ The sign has been stolen so many times, it’s hard to count.
If you start at Hamilton Drive, check out the example of a Stromatolites – the oldest known Fossil (today, they are nearly extinct), The Ragged Ass Road sign, what seems to be a permanent lemonade stand and the Wilson Island Balls in which nobody knows what they’re for.
Bush Pilots Monument
⏰ 24 Hours.
📍3513 Ingraham Dr #3511, Yellowknife, NT
♿Not accessible for wheelchairs – 100+ steps.
Dedicated to the memory of three aviation pioneers who died in 1932. It’s a beautiful viewpoint which gives you a 360 view, including Great Slave Lake, Back Bay and Old Town. Clear evenings, especially during Aurora phases, is incredible. Take a walk through Raccine Park nearby to read signs on the history of Yellowknife.
♿ not the lookout.
McAvoy Rock displays a Dene drum, a symbol of both the sun and the circle of life. With over 1500 signs and symbols, children’s drawings and phrases in the eleven languages of the Northwest Territories.
⏰ Mon – Sat 11:30 – 21:00 | Sun: 16:00 – 21:00
📍 3534 Weaver Dr, Yellowknife, NT
🌱vegetarian option is a Salad + Fries.
Going to Bullocks Bistro is an experience in its own right – you’re hit with the line of people (sign up sheet for a 20+ minute wait), and you’ll smell the food before you’re even seated. The walls are covered in photos, airline tickets, banknotes and written text left from people all over the world.
Fish comes from the lakes nearby, every day and the menu follows the seasons. The recommendation is the pan-fried fish with salad + fries.
ARTICLE: How Bullocks Bistro Keeps Reelin’ Them in.
⏰ Tues – Sun: 08:00 – 15:00 | Mon 8:00 – 11:00
📍 3505 McDonald Dr, Yellowknife
🌱vegetarian + vegan friendly
Located in Old Town you are able to watch the float planes on Great Slave Lake. I went for coffee and brunch, grabbing the vegetarian burrito which was pretty good/filling. Known also for their Cinnamon Buns (which I did not try because cinnamon is gross but if you like it, you’ll probably like the buns.)
⏰ Mon – Fri 07:00 – 18:00 | Sat 11:00 – 17:00 | Sun Closed.
📍5021 49 St, Yellowknife
🌱non-dairy milks available.
With a relaxed atmosphere, background music and fast wifi – this place is a hang out for both visitors and locals alike. Stick with the hot drinks, such as a latte or london fog if you’ve never tried the Canadian drink.
⏰ mon 17:00 – 24:00 | tues – fri 11:30 – 24:00 | Fri 11:30 – 01:00
sat 11:30 – 01:00 | closed sun
📍 3905 Franklin Ave, Yellowknife
📝 Monday – Thursday they have nightly specials from 5pm.
In a town known for being founded by miners, you might think a brewery would be out of place – but perhaps in this case, the exact opposite. People seem to come together at NWT; they’ve got a good atmosphere, friendly staff and the concentrate on quality.
⏰ mon ~ fri 10:00 – 18:00 | sat + sun 12:00 – 17:00
📍 3510 McDonald Dr, Yellowknife
The Old Town Glassworks store has been creating mugs, lamps, magnets and a range of other items from recycled glass-wear from 1994.
You can take a workshop for $60.00 CAD + GST which is 2 hours which includes your own personal piece of glasswear.
“In the spring of 1977, Annie, a flighty artist, and her twelve-year-old daughter, Delilah, trade the cherry blossom trees and beaches of Vancouver for rugged and remote Old Town in Yellowknife, surprising Delilah’s father by showing up on his doorstep.
As she adapts to her new surroundings, Delilah befriends Will, a local Dene man and her father’s business partner. But Annie’s capricious nature undermines Delilah’s elusive sense of belonging when Annie leaves Old Town for an artists’ colony without saying goodbye.” – Goodreads.
“Over the past decade, the North, or at least the idea of it, has slowly made its way back to our consciousness, a notion that the North is synonymous with a lawless, rugged freedom. But at first glance Yellowknife, NWT is actually a somewhat disappointing modern capital city. There are tall buildings, yoga pants, a Walmart and a lot of government jobs. None the less, if you dig a little deeper, you do find that alternative off-grid reality.”
- Vice: A Portrait of Life in Yellowknife’s Shack Community.
- CBC: Where the streets now have names: Young Yellowknifer posts street signs on Frozen Bay.
WHERE TO STAY
While in Yellowknife, I was staying at a friends.
I would suggest for the best option, use Airbnb (affiliate for $ your next visit if you haven’t signed up.)
WHAT I DID
After leaving Blachford with a friend, we decided to check into the Visitor Centre in which they’ll let you know the things to do/see/eat in Yellowknife, based on your interests. You’re able to get a certificate of “Order of Arctic Adventurers, North of 60* Chapter” which means you’ve crossed the 60th Parallel as well as a small pin of Yellowknife.
I was staying at a friends house on Latham Island which is a majority dominated residential area, with the north end of the island established in the 1950’s as being home to the Yellowknives Dene/First Nations people.
I decided to make a loop up from the Air Tindi Base to the 1939 Bank of Toronto (which is someone’s house now… so maybe don’t go walking in their yard….) If you continue, you’ll see the Otto Drive Park Lookout and can come back down to Otto Lookout and finish at Sundog Trading Post Cabin. It wasn’t that exciting, and probably give it a miss if you’re not nearby – but I hadn’t listened to any new podcasts for two months so I needed (NEEDED) to spend at least an hour or two walking around and catching up.
Crossing over the bridge, and narrows, you can make your way to Old Town Glassworks, passing McAvoy Rock and up to the Gallery of the Midnight Sun, which sells souvenirs of all sorts but it’s most popular selection are the shirts, totes and road signs for Ragged Ass Road. Although, be warned if you buy a shirt try not to wear it on a plane or you may be asked to remove it… CBC- WestJet apologises after asking man to remove shirt. I figured my Dad would probably like the shirt. He’ll just have to wait at least 5 months to actually get it. On the way back, I asked strangers to take photos of me at Bush Pilots Monument (say what you will, every tourist in Yellowknife knows how to take a photo.)
Within all of Yellowknife, you’ll see historic buildings and most often than not, a ‘Yellowknife Heritage’ engraved plaque sign letting you know an overall history. The best way to see all these historic buildings is to take the mentioned Old Town Walking Tour. I personally didn’t do the tour, I opted to just walk around myself – check out the view at the Point and walk into the city for a veggie burger, check out the Bookstore and spent too long in a chemist looking at makeup (I had previously left my whole makeup bag on a flight because you know, I’m an idiot.)
Now, unlike most places, a recommended spot is the Yellowknife City Dump. They’ve even coined the term ‘YKEA’ because so many locals do it. It’s the thing.to.do and John, who I was staying with, assured me that I couldn’t leave before going there and finding something. I found some hair dye, carried it around for 7 weeks before realising that dying your hair is effort and I don’t want to do the upkeep for that so it was given to a fellow traveller.
I spent my last day visiting The Garden of Hope, located near the Yellowknife Visitor Centre and shore of Frame Lake. Grabbing coffee with a pal at Javaroma .
While in Yellowknife, they were holding their Annual Farmers Market in which you can meet local vendors and listen to local artists. Walking back to grab a feed at Bullock’s Bistro, we placed our names on the list and grabbed a beer at the NWT Brewing Company. Yellowknife often has blackouts, and generally will wait 30-45 minutes to see if the power will return – this happened while waiting to get into NWT. It was an odd experience to see a whole bar’s lights go off.
My final day was spent catching up with another friend for brunch at The Dancing Moose Cafe and then catching a flight to Vancouver for my 12 hour layover before Mexico!
The only negative about my time in Yellowknife was that the Northern Lights didn’t appear the time I was there. Yeah, yeah, I saw them while volunteering at Blachford, but I never got a photo with them because I kept putting it off for the last moment. If travel has taught me anything when you want something; food, a pic, souvenirs you get it at the time because you never know what will happen.
- Cameron Falls : A 1.2kilometre (one way) trail that takes to a lookout to see a 17-metre waterfall, river and canyon. There is an option to continue for another 9km to the River Ramparts Waterfalls.
Travel blog for Summer here and Winter here.
- The Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly (website)
⏰ Mon – Fri 07:00 – 18:00 | Sat-Sun 10:00 – 18:00
Free guided tours are available during business hours.
- NWT Diamond Centre (website) Free diamond polishing demonstrations Mon, Wed & Fri: 14:30-15:30.
- The Wild Cat Cafe: one of the “iconic buildings in Yellowknife.” Read the article & history of “Then & Now: The Wildcat Cafe.”
- Zehabesha Traditional Ethiopian Restaurant: Article: Eating Ethiopian in Yellowknife a tasty surprise.
Have you been?
What did you see / eat / do?
Let me know below.
As always, stay cool.
– The Cultural Crossroads of Yellowknife.