Story by Shel Zolkewich
MOOSE JAW, SASKATCHEWAN — Twenty years ago, if you found yourself overnighting in Moose Jaw, you had done something terribly wrong while planning your cross-Canada road trip. Today, if you don’t spend at least one night in The Jaw on that road trip you’ve done yourself a disservice.
Two decades ago, this city of 35,000 was facing the same fate as so many others — a downtown in its death throes. Then the movers and shakers got together and took a chance. They outlined a plan that began with a big-ticket mineral spa. The Tunnels of Moose Jaw followed, showcasing the city’s role in the Prohibition era. Next came a casino. Latest numbers show the city now has more than 440,000 visitors a year. So what’s so great about Moose Jaw? Read on.
Temple Gardens Mineral Spa: In 1910, drillers tapped into a source of hot, mineral-rich water below Moose Jaw. By 1932, an indoor pool (called the Natatorium) was built to tap into the resource. The pool fell into disrepair in the early 1970s and the well was capped, temporarily ending Moose Jaw’s love affair with therapeutic dips. In 1996, the doors opened on the Temple Gardens Mineral spa, built on the site of the Harwood Hotel and named after the Temple Gardens Dancehall (that no longer stands).
It was time, once again, to take to the waters. The mineral-rich water bubbles out of the ground at 45 degrees Celsius and gets pumped into the vast indoor pool at Temple Gardens. Because it’s so high in minerals, the water magically relaxes muscles, eases joint pain and re-hydrates your skin. It just feels really good. The indoor pool leads to an outdoor pool, surrounded by lounge chairs and tables, twinkling lights in trees and a coffee shop. Yes, you’re in Moose Jaw. Rooms start at $159 a night.
Tunnels and Trolleys: Make like a bootlegger in 1929 and zigzag through the tunnels beneath legendary establishments in The Chicago Connection tour ($14) . Find out what it was like to be a Chinese immigrant ($14) in Moose Jaw’s early days on the Passage to Fortune tour. Above ground, hop on the Moose Jaw trolley ($15), a replica 1911 electric streetcar, for a tour of heritage building and over 40 murals. At night, join the ghost tour.
Good Eats: Moose Jaw’s Asian roots are healthy; you’ll find Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese treats on practically every corner. If you need a coffee, tuck into one of the Jaw’s funky shops along Main. Breakfasts don’t get much better than at Veroba’s (under $20 for two). Don’t miss the hashbrowns dotted with green onions. Or the eggs Benedict. Or the hearty oatmeal. Step up dinner with a visit to funky Kergano’s (entrees start at $26) for local eats with a touch of quirkiness or reserve a table at the mansion for steak, prime rib and seafood at the venerable Hopkins Dining Parlour.
Get Dressed: Be prepared for a credit-card meltdown and a wardrobe update. Main Street offers retail therapy with no driving. Super stylish shops include The Hibiscus Boutique for swimwear that you’ll need at Temple Gardens, Guys & Dawls for big-city street looks, Gemmell’s Shoes for top brands like Naot and Hunter’s Men’s Wear for the sharp-dressed man.
A MAP OF SOME OF THE BUSINESSES MENTIONED IN THE ARTICLE