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Yellowknife is the chilliest city in North America – which makes life here downright strange. Visit during a December cold-snap and you’ll experience phenomena seen nowhere else on Earth. Witness sundogs, like icy rainbows, frozen in the sky. Wade through thick, brittle ice fog. Feel your nose-hairs freeze and your eyelashes frost together. See forests flash-frozen, encrusted in rime ice. Walk on lakes frozen four-feet thick, pinging and popping under pressure. And go home, and tell stories about the wonder of it all.

During Yellowknife’s cold, dark, snowy winters, it’s essential to avoid “cabin fever” – meaning we never miss a chance to throw a party. That’s why New Year’s Eve is a ball. Propose a toast at the beloved Woodyard brewpub in Old Town, or dance at the legendary Gold Range downtown. Then, at midnight, pull on your parka and head outside for the fireworks, blazing in the polar night. Popular viewing spots include the top of pilot’s monument or the ice of Houseboat Bay.

“Fat bikes” are built for snow – which means they’re perfect for Yellowknife. These beefy cycles feature oversized, low-pressure tires, allowing you to make tracks on snowy trails and ice-sheathed lakes. Fat bike tours come in many formats. Bundle up for a leisurely ride to view urban points of interest, take a spin on the famous Great Slave Lake ice road, or tackle scenic routes over our rugged, rocky outcrops and scenic boreal trails. 

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. 

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.    

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.

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.

“The lights are on!” That should be Yellowknife’s motto, a cry that echoes night after night, ringing through our hotels, tour buses and Aurora-viewing lodges. When you hear it, pull on your parka, grab your camera, and scramble out into the snow. Now crane your eyes skyward. Ghostly greens and pinks wrap the heavens – slowly twisting, then shimmying, then erupting into a frenzy. You might gasp, laugh, or feel tears on your cheeks. By the time you go back inside your life will be changed forever.

In a secret valley just across Back Bay from Yellowknife’s Old Town, a frozen wonder forms each winter. Mineral-rich waters seep down the steep, dark cliffs of Jackfish Draw, evolving into fangs of ice, glittering white pillars, and surreal caves. Explore these crystal grottos and take photos of the surrounding eerie landscape. Local guides will lead the way.