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June 21 is a big deal here. Firstly, it’s National Aboriginal Day, when Yellowknifers gather to honour the city’s Indigenous heritage. Aboriginal music, dancing, art and food are on proud display – Métis jigging, Dene dancing, Inuit throatsinging, bannock and dryfish, you name it. Secondly, June 21 is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year before the darkness begins to creep back. Solstice celebrations include street fairs, outdoor music concerts and more, lasting into the bright, nightless wee hours.

In Yellowknife, golfing is a round-the-clock sport. That’s especially the case during Yellowknife’s biggest tournament, the Midnight Sun Classic, held annually for the past 70 years on the weekend closest to summer solstice. Open to everyone from pros to duffers, you can sign up on your own or come with a team of four. You’ll have a ball in the endless daylight, and the course is cool too: fairways of glacial sand, jackpine “roughs,” and sly squawking ravens keen to steal your ball. 

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.

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. 

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.

Back in Yellowknife’s freewheeling pioneer days, the arrival of the first barge of spring was reason for a raucous party. Why? Because, after months of frozen isolation and cabin fever, the barge brought beer – glorious beer! – to the thousands of thirsty miners. Nowadays each June, visitors and locals dress up in old-timey duds, gather on the Great Slave Lake docks, and re-enact the arrival of the beer barge, cheering its arrival with music, storytelling, speeches, and of course, beer.

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.   

The “shore lunch” is a Northern specialty. It’s when an angler lands a juicy trout, pike or whitefish, filets it on the lakeshore, and fries it over an open fire with spices, garnishes and a bit of secret magic. From lake to plate in half an hour! Up here, shore-chefs are so proud of their skills that they’ve made a contest out of it: Yellowknife’s annual World Shore Lunch Competition, where you can watch these culinary masters at work – and sample their catch du jour.

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.

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.    

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.

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.