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Fun Things to Do in Yellowknife During Winter

by Kat
Pure white snow in Yellowknife, Canada

During the winter season (mid-November to mid-April), many tourists flock to Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories to see the northern lights, spending their nights scanning the skies.  What a lot of people don’t know is that during the daytime, there are plenty of exciting things to do in Yellowknife. Make the most of your time in this winter wonderland by trying some of these activities during your stay.

Visit the Dettah Ice Road

Every winter, Great Slave Lake freezes over and the ice becomes so thick that huge trucks can drive over it! Snow is cleared to form a 6.5 km long ice road that connects Yellowknife to the community of Dettah. Lying down on the ice road and taking photos is popular among tourists.

The ice road that connects Yellowknife and Dettah in the Northwest Territories

Visit the Bush Pilot Monument

The Pilot Monument is dedicated to the bush pilots and engineers who passed away as they delivered supplies and people to remote villages and mining camps during the 1920s and 30s. It is also Yellowknife’s most popular lookout, providing spectacular views of the Old Town and Great Slave Lake. You can spot log cabins left over from the days of the gold rush.

View of Great Slave Lake from the Bush Pilots' Monument in Yellowknife

 

Posing in front of the Bush Pilots' Monument in Yellowknife

Explore Old Town Yellowknife

Here you can find several art galleries, gift shops and the popular Bullock’s Bistro.

Visit the Ragged Ass Road sign

Ragged Ass Road is a residential street. It got its name after one of the residents, Lou Rocher, joked with his friends that they were “ragged ass broke” after a tough prospecting season. That night, they put up a Ragged Ass Road sign, which has become one of Yellowknife’s most famous tourist attractions. Over the years, many signs have been stolen so city officials have since welded them to their posts.

Ragged Ass Road street sign in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, CanadaThe above four places can be visited either on a tour or on your own (if you have a car and are used to winter driving). I took this tour.

Go Snowshoeing

At Aurora Village, you can go snowshoeing on some trails in a nearby forest. You will learn about herbs used for healing, local wildlife, and how to start a campfire.

A traditional teepee surrounded by snow covered trees at Aurora Village in Yellowknife

Go Dog Sledding

Before modern vehicles, Aboriginals used to travel across the land by dog team. In Yellowknife, there are several companies offering dog sled rides. I took a dog sled ride at Aurora Village and enjoyed the experience. The ride was about 15 minutes long. If you want to try driving a dog team rather than have someone else drive you, that option is available at an extra cost.

 

Dog team at Aurora Village in Yellowknife

If you are lucky, you can meet some puppies!

 

Visit Aurora Village in Yellowknife and meet adorable puppies!The above two activities are part of Aurora Village’s Winter Experience Tour, which includes hotel pick-up and drop-off.

Visit Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre

This is the official museum of the Northwest Territories. Here you can learn about Aboriginal culture as well as the history and wildlife of the area. The displays from the Northern Frontier Visitors Center (which was closed recently) have been moved to this location.

Polar bear at the Northern Frontier Visitors' Center in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

See the Snow Castle at the Annual Snowking Festival

Every March, a month-long festival is held in a castle built from snow. The castle has a courtyard, café, auditorium, and ice sculptures. The festival features theatre, hockey games, concerts and art exhibits. Construction of the castle begins on January 1 every year, so even if you visit before March you might be able to watch the castle being built. You can check event times and ticket prices here.

Snow King's castle

Photo via Anson Chappell on Flickr

Take a tour of the Buffalo Airways Hangar

Buffalo Airways is an airline that mainly flies WWII-era propeller planes around Northern Canada. It was featured on the reality TV show Ice Pilots, which lasted six seasons. If you make an appointment, you can take a free tour of the Buffalo Airways hangar at Yellowknife Airport from Monday- Friday. You can book a tour by calling 1(867)765-6023 or emailing info.buffaloairwear@gmail.com

Buffalo Hangar

Photo via Anson Chappell on Flickr

Go Snowmobiling

In the Northwest Territories, snowmobiling is a popular activity. Many companies offer guided snowmobiling tours for beginners. You can even take aurora viewing snowmobile tours at night.

Go Ice Fishing

Watch an ice fishing demonstration and try ice fishing on an ice fishing tour. I took a tour with Great Slave Lake Tours. Shawn and the guide who took us out on the lake were both friendly and informative. We rode on the lake in a Bombardier (an ice fishing vehicle) to a spot where fishing lines and nets had already been set up. The guide gave us a chance to try pulling in the fish. After we had collected a few fish, the guide prepared delicious fresh sashimi! Next, we went to a warm fishing hut on the lake, where we were served a seafood lunch. Outside the hut two chairs were set up in front of two fishing holes. We sat holding fishing rods in the holes for a few minutes, but didn’t catch anything. Ice fishing requires a lot of patience or setting up nets overnight!

A Bombardier ice fishing vehicle on Great Slave Lake in Yellowknife

Ice fishing tour in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Travel blogger Memoirs of a Globetrotter tries ice fishing in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Watch the Sunset

I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen while in Yellowknife from the pathway near the Prince of Wales Heritage Center. As the sun went down the sky turned pink and purple.  During winter, the sun in Yellowknife sets very early due to its northern latitude. When I was there, it set at 4:30 pm, but on certain days in December and January it can set as early as 3:00 pm!

Beautiful pink and purple sunset in Yellowknife

Yellowknife is known for being the best place in Canada to see the Northern Lights, but it also boasts many amazing winter activities such as dog-sledding, ice-fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and more!

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9 comments

Roxanne Reid October 7, 2017 - 4:06 am

Ah yes please, I’d definitely want to go dog sledding and snow-mobiling. Just love your pics, especially of the puppies and Ragged Ass road 🙂

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My Travel Tricks October 7, 2017 - 4:23 am

Wow that really looks amazing!! Love all the snow and always wanted to go on a sleigh like you did! Seems like an incredible experience, so jealous!

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Ania October 7, 2017 - 6:16 am

I’m originally from Toronto, Canada, and I’ve always been fascinated with the Canadian North. I’ve been living in Europe for the past 3 years, but now that I am moving back, visiting the territories is a must. Thank you for sharing all the incredible things one can do in Yellowknife! Saving all the details for the future!

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Lisa October 7, 2017 - 7:30 am

I love Canada but have only explored in summer. A winter trip is definitely on my list.

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Jill at Reading the Book October 7, 2017 - 12:44 pm

As a European, I’ve never really thought of visiting Yellowknife, and I assumed it would be too cold in winter! Our Northern Lights spots are normally Iceland or Scandinavia – but this looks like a different experience altogether, and with plenty of great things to do which are uniquely Canadian. And those puppies…!

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Amy Poulton - Page Traveller October 7, 2017 - 5:29 pm

This looks so cold, but so beautiful! Would love to explore more of Canada. Thanks for sharing!

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Dashin' Ash October 10, 2017 - 7:04 pm

I went to Yellowknife last February, it was such a cute place with AMAZING food and drink. I’m all for encouraging people to visit!

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Katya December 2, 2019 - 1:09 pm

How cold was it and did you see the Northern Lights?

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Sophia Grace December 28, 2017 - 1:41 am

It’s such a amazing, I just come back to a short trip & my trip was also on snow! I miss my trip while reading your this post. It’s really a good post 🙂

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