The Aurora only happens in winter, right? Anyone who says this hasn't looked up. Our brilliant, billowing Northern Lights start to blaze in mid-to-late August – as soon as the nights grow dark enough for the colours to pop. You might have to stay up a little later than in January, but it’s worth it: Late-summer nights are warm, meaning you can remain outside ’til dawn, gawking up at the celestial dance. Contact our Aurora-watching operators and lodges for more info on our summer Northern Lights.

Old Town throngs with visitors and locals all year ‘round, but to experience it at its most dynamic, hike or bike down the big hill for the annual Old Town Ramble & Ride, happening in early August. An “eco-friendly” three-day street fair, this offbeat festival showcases all that’s weird and wonderful about the neighbourhood. The winding, one-lane roads close to motorized traffic, the lake ripples with paddlers, the restaurants and craftshops fill to the gills, and fun reigns supreme.

Under the midnight sun, flowers and plants flourish – growing to outlandish sizes and glowing with surreal brilliance. To glimpse of our botanic marvels, sign up for a city garden tour. You’ll be guided through numerous local gardens and opulent properties featuring distinctive boreal species at the height of the summer bloom. The tour ends with tea and dessert at the Wildcat Café.

Rustic, scenic and fun, Yellowknife’s Old Town is Canada’s coolest neighbourhood. Here, amidst the shacks and mansions overlooking Great Slave Lake, the city’s golden past is on rich display. Pick up a walking-tour brochure or audio soundtrack and explore the area’s funky heritage structures, famous cabins and dramatic lookouts. Or sign up for a guided stroll, during which you’re interpreter will regale you with tales of Old Town’s wild, wooly, and sometimes sordid past.

If you’re rarin’ to ramble, Yellowknife has walking-trails galore, and plenty of hiking guides to lead the way. Hike the four-kilometre path around Frame Lake, traversing jackpine-studded Precambrian outcrops and past the architectural marvel of the Legislative Assembly building. Learn about Yellowknife’s golden history while strolling the Prospector’s Trail at Fred Henne Territorial Park. Or tackle the track to Cameron Falls, where the virgin Cameron River squeezes through a rocky slot and gushes over a 15-metre-high escarpment.

Yellowknife was founded on gold, but today, diamonds are the city’s best friend. We’re the hub of Canada’s booming diamond industry, with three rich mines digging millions of diamonds from the nearby Barrenlands. Visitors can buy Northwest Territories gems at local shops or watch rough stones transform into gleaming jewels at a downtown centre. Seal your relationship with a sparkling Yellowknife diamond, considered among the purest in the world.    

While in Yellowknife, don’t miss the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. One of Canada’s premier museums, it highlights Arctic history, art and science in a range of intriguing, interactive galleries. Also, be sure to tour the Legislative Assembly Building, showcasing the distinctive Indigenous and pioneer culture of the Northwest Territories.  Wanna stay indoors? Browse our art galleries, buy Northern books, and dine on the catch of the day in one of the more than 30 restaurants in Yellowknife.    

Buffalo Airways is an airline like no other. Made famous by the reality-TV show Ice Pilots NWT, Buffalo’s fleet includes vintage aircraft like DC-3s, DC-4s and C-46s – classic, piston-driven workhorses, all manufactured around World War Two, which ply the Arctic skies on supply runs and rescue missions. The airline’s founder, “Buffalo Joe” McBryan, may well be the most famous bush pilot in the world. See his fleet at the Buffalo Air Hangar near the Yellowknife airport. 

For the best vista in Yellowknife, head for Bush Pilot’s Monument. Perched above Old Town, this scenic site is accessed via 80 or so stairs that lead up the backside of a towering outcrop called The Rock. Make the climb in early morning to watch the sun wink over Great Slave Lake, or come to see the dusky midnight. The view is out of this world: sailboats slinking across Back Bay, floatplanes lifting off for points unknown, colorful houseboats bobbing by Joliffe Island, and historic shacks and mansions rising all around.  

In Yellowknife, all that glitters isn’t gold. It’s diamonds, too. Yep, we’re a city with a story that sparkles – founded by prospectors and enriched by more than 80 years mining. You can “dig” our past by visiting the many mining-themed exhibits at the Prince of Wales museum, by touring the NWT Mining Heritage Society’s rustic outdoor displays near Giant Mine, or by doing a walking tour of the historic shacks, shops and sites of goldrush-era Old Town. Guided tours are available.

Up here, you’ll catch plenty of fish – just be careful the fish don’t catch you. Our legendary lakes produce the largest sport fish on Earth. In the profound, mysterious depths of Great Slave are trout that crush the scales at 25 kilos or more. Meanwhile, slithering through the weeds of warm shallow bays and lazy rivers, hard-fighting pike regularly grow to 18 kilos. Whether you fish at a luxurious local lodge, head out on a day-trip with an expert guide, or cast your line from a dock in Old Town, Yellowknife fishing will get you hooked. 

At first glance, Yellowknife’s rough-and-tumble landscape seems better designed for floatplanes and snowmobiles than for leisurely two-wheeled cruising. But look closer and you’ll find we’re a pedal-pusher’s dream. Our flowing outcrops provide a Moab-like playground for technical rock-riders. Our sands and swamps invite “fat-bikers” to conquer the terrain. And the Ingraham Trail, linking a chain of shimmering lakes out Yellowknife’s back door, is a bike-packer’s paradise.   

Every Tuesday evening throughout the summer, the park in front of city hall fills with hundreds of visitors keen to experience the Yellowknife Farmers Market. Equal parts social gathering, shopping extravaganza and Subarctic feast, the market features wild produce, fresh fish, Northern jams, artisanal crafts, and food carts operated by local restaurateurs. Enjoy springs rolls, sushi, bannock, or butter chicken as you relax on the shores of Frame Lake.

Before bush planes and pick-up trucks came north, our superhighways were rivers and lakes – and paddling was how we got around. Even today, the most iconic way to experience Yellowknife is by canoe or kayak. Rent a boat from one of our friendly local operators and launch yourself into adventure. Kayakers ply the waters of funky Houseboat Bay and trace the rocky shores of Great Slave. Canoeists head for the Ingraham Trail, day-tripping on the sun-dappled Cameron River or doing multi-day paddles on lakes like Tibbett, Prosperous and Prelude. Guides can take you on paddling tours lasting from a day to a week.

Believe it or not, Yellowknifers are golf-crazy. The Yellowknife Golf Club offers clubs, carts, a cool clubhouse, and a scenic 18-hole course that’s, well, in the rough. Our Subarctic wilderness isn’t the best for growing lush fairways, so we make do, teeing off from artificial turf and avoiding hazards like jackpines and gold-flecked bedrock. If you want to hit the links beneath the midnight sun, and you don’t mind ravens trying to steal your ball, this is the wildest place you’ll ever shout “fore.”

Just a few generations ago, the lakes and rivers of the Northwest Territories were highways for the Voyageurs – brave fur-traders, often Métis, who gathered the beaver pelts of the Northwest frontier. Today you can relive the Voyageur experience during a floating dinner-theater tour on Yellowknife Bay. Travel in the grand canoes of the coureurs des bois, then pull ashore for a feast of soup and bannock while enjoying old-time frontier music and dramatic presentations of northern historic events.

With the sun beating down round-the-clock, the Northern summer can get downright hot. As the temperature climbs, head to the water for a brief, brisk dip. Yellowknife’s Fred Henne Territorial Park features the city’s favourite beach – a busy crescent of glittering sand on scenic Long Lake. Prelude Lake Park, too, has delightful swimming. Or, for the truly bold, find a secluded outcrop on Great Slave Lake and dive in. You’ll cool off in no time. 

Situated on the deepest lake in North America, and surrounded by countless other fish-filled, outcrop-flanked, island-strewn waters, Yellowknife is a boater’s Shangri-La. Sign up for a guided boating tour of Yellowknife Bay, where you’ll bask in the sun, learn about the area’s ecology and history, and take hundreds of photos. Prefer to head out on your own? The marina at Prelude Lake rents pontoon and fishing boats, perfect for angling and exploring. Several Yellowknife outfitters also offer fishing-boat rentals on Great Slave Lake.

Yellowknife’s environment is as untouched as when the world was new. Local naturalists are eager to show you our wonders. Let an expert guide point out boreal flora and fauna on the path to dramatic Cameron Falls. Take a tour to the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, home to some of the last wild bison on Earth. Go birding up the Yellowknife River or along the shoes of Great Slave. Discover Yellowknife’s Shield Country geology during a guided hike on the Prelude Nature Trail. Or visit a Barrenlands lodge where herds of caribou roam.