We Northerners don't often long for Northern adventures - we've simply made them a part of our normal routine! From thrilling Aurora shows where the night skies fill with light to invigorating Saturday afternoon pond hockey games and cross-country ski adventures, we've found little ways to enjoy the land and culture that surrounds our day-to-day commitments.
But when the call for adventure and excitement builds, we often look outside of the NWT for travel and life-changing experiences. Why? We often forget just how unique our local operators and business-owners are, and we don't consider the spectacular experiences that they offer to both tourists and locals.
This year, the perfect winter vacation is a Staycation with our own spectacular tourism operators. From luxurious remote lodge stays to customized dogsledding day trips, here are the wild adventures, cozy getaways and unforgettable culinary experiences available right here in our own backyard.
Spend a day getting to know the capital city’s charming and quirky Old Town neighbourhood this winter. Start with a lesson in Northern ingenuity by signing up for an Old Town Glassworks workshop—a creative afternoon endeavor the whole family will enjoy. Learn the history of the unique recycled-glass business and studio, as you watch staff turn an old wine bottle into a piece of stunning glassware. Then it’s your turn to design, stencil and sandblast your own work of art to create a completely personalized souvenir.
Feel like getting some fresh air? Just across the McMeekan Causeway from Old Town Glassworks, you’ll find Sundog Adventures, which offers one-of-a-kind Northern experiences from kicksledding, skijoring, bikejoring, ice-fishing, storytelling and more. Take their How To Be a Dog Musher tour to discover dog care tips and to drive your own team. After a fun-filled afternoon on the frozen lake, share your sledding stories or compare glassware creations as you savour fresh fish at nearby Bullock’s Bistro or sample local craft brews at NWT Brewing Co.’s Woodyard Pub. Or hop in a cab and enjoy a night out, relishing a fine-crust pizza or an inventive curry at the uptown Copperhouse.
For a getaway in the city, book a two-night stay at the Explorer Hotel’s Deluxe Room. Perfect for birthdays, anniversaries or a romantic weekend Staycation, guests receive complimentary breakfast for two each morning, one three-course fine-dining experience, as well as a credit at the Explorer’s Trader’s Grill Restaurant. The spacious, comfortable rooms come equipped with a telescope, allowing you to star-gaze and watch the Aurora in your housecoat.
Roughly a 25-minute drive from Yellowknife on the Ingraham Trail, Aurora Village offers unforgettable fine dining and dogsledding adventures at its wilderness paradise. Recognized as one of the world’s premier Northern Lights destinations, Aurora Village also serves up sumptuous and succulent Northern culinary experiences from its beautiful dining hall or to private traditional teepees, which guests can book for groups. Transportation to and from the remote location is provided by the company. Plus, to celebrate its 20th birthday, Aurora Village is also providing afternoon dogsled rides at a special discounted rate this winter.
For a truly Northern ice-fishing experience, join Yellowknife Sportfishing Adventures as you travel to their tried-and-true fishing holes on lakes all around the capital city. They’ll provide a licensed fishing guide and all the gear you need, while you get to catch the fish and have all the fun! Keeping warm and comfortable as you drive out on the lakes in an enclosed ATV on tracks to a heated fishing tent, this experience is perfect for anglers of all skill levels and ages.
To gain a deeper understanding of—and appreciation for—the city you live in, sign up for a cultural Aurora tour provided by B. Dene Adventures. Located on Akaitcho Bay, on the shores of Great Slave Lake near Dettah, B. Dene is home to world-class Aurora viewing experiences. Relax in the warmth of B. Dene’s cabin and enjoy cultural storytelling, as well as hands-on traditional knowledge and arts demonstrations led by expert guides from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation—the people who have called this place home since time immemorial.
You can also witness the magic of the Aurora with North Star Adventures, which specializes in small, intimate, group tours. Join Joe the Aurora Hunter at his teepee camp, far from the city lights, and enjoy the warm, crackling fire as Indigenous guides tell stories about the Northern Lights and traditional ways of life. Joe and his guides will take free professional photos of your group by your teepee with the Aurora shimmering high above or you can use a tripod and learn how to take your own stunning photos.
Another way to enjoy the spectacular Aurora is with Bucket List Tours at the company’s private cabin outside of Yellowknife. Cozy up next to a warm fire and dine on tasty fish chowder (made with fresh local fish) and bannock hot from the oven during breaks in the Northern Lights action. Head back outside with a mug of steaming hot chocolate or tea when the Aurora returns. Bucket List Tours also lets you rent out its cabin for private events, meetings or corporate retreats. Bonfires are welcome!
Itching to leave home for a spell?
Starting in January, journey to Blachford Lake Lodge, 45-minutes by plane from Yellowknife, to relax in your own private cabin and explore a wild, remote winterscape. Hop on a snowmobile, or strap on some snowshoes. Jig for Northern Pike, take a serene skate on the lake or ski the more than 20 km of groomed trails around the lodge. Spend your nights unwinding in the comfortable lounge, with its fully stocked bar, and let staff cook for you. Later, kick back in the hot tub as the Aurora dance overhead.
Or join Yellow Dog Lodge, with world-class ice fishing excursions offered on Duncan and Graham Lakes, at the remote location northeast of Yellowknife. Snowmobile out to the lodge via mapped-out backcountry trails or fly in with the lodge’s airline partner, Ahmic Air, between March 1 and April 15. Guests can stay in one of the lodge’s two snug private cabins or book its deluxe cabin for a tranquil evening after a day of truly blissful ice fishing, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
If you are looking to rent your own cabin for a couple of nights, consider booking with Yellowknife Outdoor Adventures this winter. Roughly 20 minutes from Yellowknife by snowmobile or heated tracked-van, the company’s three cabins on the shore of frozen Great Slave Lake can sleep up to 20 guests. Each cabin features a wood stove, a full kitchen and propane fridge and stove. Book a cabin (or the entire camp!) between December 20 and April 5, while also taking advantage of the company’s snowmobile rentals to explore the lake’s North Arm.
For the ultimate winter Wood Buffalo National Park experience, log off for a long weekend and book a stay at the Pine Lake log cabins. Go for a restorative snowshoe on Pine Lake and then snuggle up next to the woodstove with a hot cup of coffee and a good book. Whether it’s a family trip, a romantic weekend away or a solitary retreat, book one of the two cozy cabins (Aurora Cottage or The Patrol Cabin), available on weekends only, from December 1 to March 31.
For a winter Hay-Cation, spend a night or two at Castaway Cottages, in a cabin all for you on the south shore of Great Slave Lake. Spend a day with Great Slave Lake Tours and third-generation fisherman Shawn Buckley for an intimate ice-fishing adventure, rolling across the frozen water body in his heated Bombardier. The big lake is famous for its biodiversity, so you’ll see a variety of fish when you pull the net: Whitefish, Inconnu, Lake Trout, Walleye, Arctic Grayling, Burbot (Ling Cod) and Northern Pike. Buckley and Co. will be happy to fry you one up for dinner. Just ask. At night, marvel at the mystical glow of the Aurora from one of Castaway Cottages’s dedicated Aurora-viewing tents.
On the outskirts of Inuvik, Arctic Chalet is offering charming log cabin accommodations away from the hubbub of the town to residents and visitors from within the territory alike. Walk the many nature trails, speed through the winter wonderland behind an energetic dogteam or tour the area in a snowmobile. If you’re returning to Inuvik, take the stress out of your quarantining period by spending your 14 days in your own private Arctic Chalet. Staff will purchase your groceries for you and drop off whatever you need, so all you need to do is relax.