Wondering about the best things to do in Yellowknife? I’ve got you covered.
Yellowknife has many fun things to do throughout the year. From golfing in the midnight sun, to hikes and paddling in the wilderness, ice castles, dog sledding and world renowned aurora viewing.
If you are planning a trip up north and aren’t sure what to do, our list of top 30+ things to do in Yellowknife will help inspire your northern adventure.
Grab ideas for things to do in Yellowknife in June, July, August and September into the winter months and spring. Like bucket list worthy Aurora Hunting Tours.
But first lets talk about the weather, because that’s a very Canadian thing to do.
Weather in Yellowknife, NT
January and February are our coldest months in the city of Yellowknife, so it rarely snows much, unless it warms up above -20°C. Average temps usually run in the -20°C to -30°C. But we do get colder snaps where windchill can get into the -40’s or -50’s Celcius. So you will need to bundle up well if your visiting Yellowknife in winter.
March is still cold averaging -9°C to -20°C or even colder, depending on the year. It’s also Ice Castle Season.
True Spring doesn’t arrive until end of May when most of the snow is gone, and the ice is melting off the lake. In April & May the weather is variable. It can be sunny and above zero one day, then snowing and -15°C or colder the next. Temps can run from -15°C to highs of 15°C on average.
June weather averages 14°C. It’s a time when the lakes begin to have open waters, people are planting their gardens and the days are some of the longest of the year. It’s also a good time to go camping and beat the bugs.
July to mid August is summer time in Yellowknife, with temperatures averaging 17°C, but can reach highs of 28°C+. Perfect for northern outdoor adventures. Mid August on, is when the aurora really starts being visible again.
The weather in September is cool, averaging highs of 10°C (50.7°F), and lows of 4°C (39.2°F). Northerners are pulling out their wool socks and sweaters and contemplating the approaching long winter season. It’s also a popular time for aurora Tours, so make sure to book your accommodation well in advance as vacancy is low this time of year.
October weather averages highs of 4°C to -2°C. It usually snows by Hallowe’en.
November and December are our mild winter months. There will be snow, and you can expect average temperatures of -7°C to -24°C.
I gratefully acknowledge that the Yellowknife land on which we gather are treaty lands and the home to many Indigenous Peoples, including the Akaitcho Dene, Tłı̨chǫ and Métis.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN YELLOWKNIFE
1. Aurora Viewing In Yellowknife
Yellowknife is one of the best places to see the Aurora in North America.
One of the best times for viewing the northern lights in Yellowknife is from end of August to early October.
The nights are getting longer, however there is still a lot of day time left this time of year. Plus no snow. You’ll have to stay up later than the dead of winter, to watch these ribbons of lights dance across the sky.
Visiting in September is well worth it for the warmer weather (unless you are looking for a true northern winter experience).
To avoid light pollution, head outside the city lights.
Overcast nights and rain can happen. It is recommended to spend at least 3 nights to maximize your chances of seeing the aurora borealis. You’ll need clear skies to see them.
Popular tours include:
- Aurora Tours Cozy Cabin Bucket List – Cozy up in a rustic cabin on this private experience for a midnight snack of bannock and fish chowder, and listen to stories shared by your local host. Enjoy the Northern Lights under the stars.
- Aurora Hunting Tours – Drive to the best Aurora viewing spots to escape the lights of the city.
👉 Check out all our local tips for How to view the Aurora in Yellowknife.
2. Take a Yellowknife Bucket List Tour
This super fun Yellowknife Bucket List City Tour can be adjusted to your groups interests and of course your must-do Yellowknife Bucket List activities.
Your local guide will give you stories, and info on the NWT’s history and culture, while showing you all the best sites. Visit like a local.
It’s a perfect way to get an introduction to our culturally rich area, before going off and exploring on your own.
3. Visit Bristol Monument
Bristol Monument sits at the entrance to Yellowknife, a reminder of the north’s aviation history. This Bristol Freighter was the first wheeled plane to land at the North Pole in 1967.
The monument can be accessed through Frame Lake Trail or off Old Airport road, from the same parking lot as the Welcome to Yellowknife sign.
4. Go Snowmobiling
Northern Canada, where the lakes are frozen 5 – 6 months a year, snowmobiling is a favorite winter time activity.
Grab a snowmobiling tour, where you do the driving if you come without your own. Experience true northern winter sport, while exploring Great Slave Lake, or beyond.
5. Walk Historic Yellowknife Old Town
“Old Town” dates back to the 1930’s, when gold seekers headed north and created a settlement here. Amble this historic area in a self-guided or guided walking tour. Pamphlets available from the Tourist Centre in City Hall.
Old Town’s residential area sits alongside Great Slave Lake, and some of Yellowknife’s oldest businesses.
From funky cabins & fish shacks, to mansions, iconic restaurants (Bullocks, Wild Cat Cafe & Fishy People), float planes and art galleries, there is something to see around every corner.
6. Climb the Bush Pilot’s Monument
Bush Pilots Monument is an ode to bush pilots and their contribution to the north.
“The Rock” in Old Town over looks Great Slave Lake, Back Bay and downtown Yellowknife.
Watch the sun rise or set over the lake, from the best view in town. See float planes lifting off for destinations unknown while colourful houseboats and Joliffe Island hover in the distance.
7. Go Dog sledding in Yellowknife
Dog sleds were once the transportation of choice and survival for Inuit northern communities.
Today dog sledding in Yellowknife is a popular activity to try for visitors.
Speed across the frozen landscape led by a dog team, listening to the panting of sled dogs and the runners scraping across the snow and ice.
There are a few places to go dog sledding in Yellowknife including Beck’s Kennel, Aurora Village, Enodah Kennel and Sun Dog Adventures. Many offer drive your own, and guided tours.
8. Grab a Coffee
Birchwood is a great place to grab a bannock n’ egger, and cinnamon bun with your coffee, to sit awhile.
Barren Ground we recommend for grabbing a great expresso drink to go, along with a brownie or pastry and a bag of your favourite locally roasted beans. They only have counter seating so it gets crowded quickly.
9. Hike Frame Lake Trail
The Frame Lake Trail is a fairly easy 4 km hike you can access right from downtown Yellowknife. It tops our list of things to do in Yellowknife, and we hike this trail multiple times a year. Sometimes we do only small sections of it, sometimes the full trail.
Frame Lake trail passes city hall, the Legislative Assembly, and the new Stanton Hospital.
- The trail from City Hall to Stanton Hospital is fully paved, and you will often see Yellowknifers commuting by bike or walking into the the city centre.
- The west side of the trail is a more rugged nature trail through jack-pine forests, and over rocky outcrops, connecting into Bristol Monument, and Lakeview Cemetary. Be sure to wear good soled shoes, and bring bug spray.
Where: Downtown Yellowknife – Access by city hall or off the parking lot by the Legislative Assembly.
Difficulty: Easy paved path from City Hall to Stanton Hospital. Easy to Moderate nature trail on west side of lake. Family and dog friendly.
Seasons: All season path. Note: Trail isn’t cleared in winter so use with caution.
10. Walk Niven Lake Trail, Yellowknife
Niven Lake Trail is an easy 2 km loop on well packed gravel, around a marshy lagoon. This path is one of the better places in town for birdwatching and seeing the occasional muskrat.
The Yellowknife Ski Club and Back Bay Cemetary are also accessible through trails connecting off of the Niven Lake Trail.
The fall colours really stand out here in the city. Our family likes to explore and take pictures in Niven Lake each year as the leaves start to change.
Where: Access points by Explorer Hotel & Nova Hotel, or off 49th Ave, Niven Drive or Haener Drive.
Difficulty: Easy. Family and Stroller friendly. Dog Friendly
Season: All Season. This is a well travelled path all year round. In winter there is a walking / cross-country skiing oval cleared on the lake.
LOCAL TIP: Take the offshoot trails that head towards the lake for better lake views and benches to sit on.
11. Roam the Prospector’s Trail, Yellowknife
There be gold here! Or at least there was. Gold was discovered out here in 1935, which started off the Yellowknife gold rush, and as a gold mining community.
The Prospector’s Trail is a well marked interpretive trail through boreal forest, where you can learn some of the history of miners, alongside identifying rocks of the Canadian Shield. Grab a leaflet in the campground to learn more.
Prospector’s Trail starts in Fred Henne Park and is a 4km loop. The walk is mostly along dirt paths and rock, with minimal hills. There are pretty views of the city, lake and surrounding countryside.
Be sure to bring rubber soled shoes and bug spray. It can be muddy along the path in September, and there are enough mosquitos to carry you away this close to the lake. Ok that’s an exaggeration (mostly), but bug dope is a must.
Where: Trail Head starts in Fred Henne Territorial Park in Yellowknife.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate nature trail. Family and dog friendly.
Season: All season. Note: Trail isn’t cleared in winter so use with caution.
LOCAL TIP: Stop at the Fred Henne Gatehouse. They have info and maps of the trail. It costs $10 for a day pass to enter the park with your vehicle.
You can also park for free above the day use / boat launch area across from the airport. Hiking in to the trailhead from there will add another 15 minutes each way.
👉 Check out all the Yellowknife things to do in Winter
12. Experience Cameron River Falls
Cameron River Falls Trail is an all season, well marked 2 km hike (roundtrip, within Hidden Lake Territorial Park. The terrain is rocky and uneven, and you will be walking up and down fairly steep hills, so good shoes are a must.
Guided hikes to Cameron Falls are available year round if you are interested in learning about the history, and geology of the area.
Your efforts will be well rewarded with a stunning view of the 15 metre falls as they tumble down the Cameron River. Don’t stop at the lookout!
Keep heading up the trail, and over the footbridge to a prime picnic spot beside the river.
September, heading into Fall is a particularly pretty time to visit Cameron Falls. Make sure to bring a camera to capture the changing scenery.
For the more adventourous, you can continue your hike upstream 8-9km to the Cameron River Ramparts. While the trail is not well developed, the route and river is fairly easy to follow.
Cameron River Falls area also provides access into the Lower Cameron River Canoe Route, one of the Ingraham Trail Canoe Routes.
Where: 47 km east of Yellowknife, along the Ingraham Trail.
Difficulty: Moderate. Family Friendly (if prepared for rugged terrain and an up & down hike) & Dog Friendly
LOCAL TIP: Cameron River Ramparts is a great alternative if you want an easy, short (15-20 minute) hike to some beautiful small falls. Check out our full walk through of Cameron Falls Trail Hike & the Ramparts here.
To get there, drive 5-10 minutes further along the Ingraham Trail. Keep an eye out for the sign and parking lot on the left side.
13. Hike Prelude Lake Trail
Prelude Lake is a scenic, family and kid friendly interpretive trail.
This 2.5 km loop will teach you all about the local flora and fauna as you roam over sand and bedrock, and through muskeg areas. There are also many lake view points along the way.
This path is a fun thing to do with your kids. My daughter has been hiking this trail since she was 5 years old, with no problem. She loves scrambling over the rocks, and looking for special treasures to being home.
Access to the trailhead is outside the gatehouse of Prelude Lake Campground, which means parking is free. Bonus!
Where: Located 30 km along the Ingraham Trail from Yellowknife (Take Prelude Lake Campground road)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate. Family & Dog friendly.
14. Golfing At Midnight in Yellowknife
For an unforgettable experience, visit Yellowknife for the summer solstice and tee off at midnight for the Midnight Sun Golf Tournament.
The Yellowknife Golf Course features 18 holes, meandering around sand fairways, Jackpines, and sandy putting greens to the calls of ravens.
The Yellowknife Golf Club has weekly theme nights, tournaments, and youth programs.
15. Biking (Fat Bikes, Mountain Bikes, Rentals & Tours)
Mountain biking, bike tours, fat bikes, rentals and more. Biking is a possibility in and around Yellowknife.
You can take guided fat bike tours in winter, or just rent them and try them out on your own.
Whether you want to head out on the road along the Ingraham Trail, mountain bike over granite rock on the Prelude Lake Trail, or take a spin at the Sand Pit, there is something for all skill and adventure levels.
Fat Bikes are a thing here in Yellowknife, especially in winter. With 7 months of winter, northerners have to come up with ways to stay active and sane over the cold months.
INSIDER TIP: The Yellowknife Mountain Bike Club uses Trailforks for mapping out the local bike routes.
16. Fish on Great Slave Lake
Yellowknife is the jumping off point for fly-in fishing lodges, day trips with a guide or DIY fishing adventures. Head on down to Old Town and cast a line off the Dock.
In winter ice fishing is a cool and unique experience to try at least once in your life.
Great Slave Lake is well known for its abundance of monster sized lake trout and northern pike. Other fish species around Yellowknife include Pickerel, Lake Whitefish and Arctic Grayling.
Be sure to buy your sport fishing license and follow the NWT fishing regulations.
17. Take a Float Plane Tour
Have you ever wondered what it was like to be a bush pilot or to fly in a float plane? Now is your chance.
Whether you choose a flight seeing tour over the area, or head out to a secluded lake or lodge for fishing, taking a float plane is a cool thing to do in Yellowknife, Canada. Air Tindi and Ahmic Air offer a variety of options.
Soaring above the vast northern wilderness will open your eyes to the beauty of our landscape as you float over houseboats, bays and island filled lakes.
18. Paddle Yellowknife’s Back Bay
Rent a canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP) and head on out for a paddle on Back Bay.
19. Go Camping in Yellowknife (and nearby)
Summer time is prime time for camping in the north. However, camping in Yellowknife , and close by is possible May until early September.
There are generally fewer bugs at the beginning and end of the season. It can also be cool, so pack warm clothes and appropriate gear. Local campgrounds are usually open until Sept 15th.
There are 3 main drive-in campgrounds close to Yellowknife. They are:
- Fred Henne – Sits on Long Lake, right on the edge of Yellowknife. With a popular Summer beach. Sites include75 Powered, 40 non-powered, 6 tent pads.
- Prelude Lake Campground – Only a 30 minute drive from YK, it has a boat launch, playground, hiking trails, sandy beach and day use area. Popular with boaters. There’s 75 powered, 40 non-powered, 6 tent pad sites.
- Reid Lake Campground – Is a 60 minute drive from YK on the Ingraham Trail. Here you’ll find a quieter campground, with small sandy beach area, boat launch. It includes 74 non-powered sites (includes 11 tent pads)
Cell Phone coverage is pretty reliable up to Prelude Lake Campground, but less so about 20km past there.
LOCAL TIP: Book your campsite early, especially for weekends, as these campgrounds are popular destinations and fill up fast. Booking typically opens up beginning of May, and you’ll want to get in there as soon as it opens up.
20. Visit Yellowknife Farmer’s Market
Head on down to Somba K’e Park (beside city hall) Tuesday’s from 5:15pm – 7:15pm for the Yellowknife Farmer’s Market.
Over 30 vendors offer local food, crafts and music. It’s a chance to socialize with “Knifers” and eat a delicious dinner overlooking Frame Lake.
Held from June to September each year, the market supports local food and ecological sustainability. The market promotes waste reduction and composting, and requires all disposable items used by vendors to be compostable.
We love our small farmer’s market. I hope you do too.
21. Visit the Snow Castle
If you are here in March, you must checkcheck out the Snowking WInter Festival and the Ice Castle.
Each year volunteers spend thousands of hours creating this amazing structure on Great Slave Lake.
Expect everything from live musical performances, & kid friendly plays, to art exhibits, fashion shows, snow sculpture contests, ice slides and more. Something for the kid in all of us.
You can take a virtual tour of last years snow castle here.
It’s also close to the Dettah Ice Road, so take a drive on the frozen lake while you’re there.
Visiting the ice castle is one of the most fun & unique things to do in Yellowknife, Canada.
22. Take a Canoe Trip from Yellowknife, NT
Canoe trips are another fun activity, if you’d like to camp off the RV route or want to experience one of the many lakes the Yellowknife area has to offer. For a day or a week, we have something to match your experience level and time frame.
The following are popular canoe routes:
Day trips for paddlers with experience:
- Hidden Lake – suitable for 1, 2 or 3 days
- Lower Cameron River – 1 day trip from Reid Lake to Powder Point
Longer canoe trips (2- 5 days):
- Tibbett Lake Loop – easy 2 day trip which starts and finishes at the end of the Ingraham Trail.
- Powder Point to Cassidy Point– 2 to 3 day basic paddling trip. A caution, there is the possibility of high winds and waves due to paddling the large Prelude and Prosperous Lakes.
- Pensive Lakes – 4 -5 day trip for advanced paddlers from Tibett Lake to Cameron Rapids
- Upper Cameron River – Challenging 2 day trip from Tibett Lake to Reid Lake campground. Be prepared for rapids (or to portage).
- Jennejohn – 5 day excursion through the wilderness from Reid Lake through to Dettah on Great Slave Lake. This route is for canoeists who are experienced in traveling by map, compass and GPS. Wind can be dangerous on Jennejohn, Reid and Great Slave Lake.
23. Swim in Long Lake
Swim at Long Lake (if you are brave). There’s still ice usually in May and part of June.
Long Lake is a favourite local swimming and boating spot, right off Fred Henne Campground.
Expect a boat launch area, sandy beach and playground, with plenty of room for the kids to roam. It gets very busy on weekends and holidays.
WHAT TO DO IN YELLOWKNIFE, INDOOR ACTIVITIES
So now that you’ve exhausted the many Yellowknife outdoor activities available, let’s move to indoor Yellowknife attractions.
If you are visiting in early Spring, or in September, Yellowknife can have rainy, overcast days, so it’s a good idea to have some indoor attractions in your back pocket.
Not to mention our winter is cold. So you’ll need some places to warm up in on occasion.
24. Visit Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre
The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is our museum and archive. It is where you can go to learn about the culture and history of the Northwest Territories.
Exhibits range from landscape dioramas that show the strong connection northerners have with animals and the land, to exhibits that showcase the history, language and culture of the Indigenous people’s whose land we live and play on, and more.
Check out the current exhibits online.
My seven year old loves the kids area complete with a teepee and canoe to hang out in. We like to spend our afternoons here on cool days in winter and rainy days in the Spring / Fall.
Where: 4750 48th Street – downtown Yellowknife on the shores of Frame Lake
Hours: Open Tues to Sun 10am-5pm. Admission by donation.
25. Tour the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly
Learn all about the Northwest Territories consensus government, and the traditional values of the people of the NWT, while touring the Legislative Building.
Designed to reflect the natural surroundings and highlight the openess of consensus government, this architectural beauty sits along the shore of Frame Lake.
Where: 4517 48th Street, along Frame Lake in downtown Yellowknife
Hours: Free Guided tours available Sept. 1 to June 1 Weekdays at 10:30am. July 2 to August 31 Weekdays at 10:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm
26. Explore the NWT Diamond Centre
Yellowknife, is considered the “Diamond Capital” of Canada. Just as gold mining declined around Yellowknife, diamonds were discovered north of the city.
At the NWT Diamond Centre enjoy an exhibition and short video on diamond exploration, mining and manufacturing in the north. Followed by a diamond cutting and polishing demonstration..
If you believe diamonds are a girl’s (or a person’s) best friend, you can also end your day by purchasing quality loose diamonds or jewellry from their shop.
Where: 5105 49 St, downtown Yellowknife
Hours: Tues to Sat 10am to 5:30pm Call 867-669-6203. Free admission.
27. Tour Buffalo Airways
Buffalo Airways, a long-time northern business has been operating WWII aircraft since 1970. Most noteably their DC-3 planes. You may also recognize them as home to “Buffalo Joe” and the iconic tv show “Ice Pilots”.
The hangar tours showcase their fleet and are available during the week by appointment. Merchandise from their tv show can also be purchased in their gift shop.
Where: 108 Berry Street, Yellowknife, NT
Hours: Hangar Tours are by appointment only. No tours on Mondays. Call 867-765-6023 to book. Free.
28. Take a Workshop at Old Town Glassworks
Old Town Glassworks is a workers cooperative creating beautiful glassware, out of recycled materialsm rescued from the shores of Great Slave Lake. Each piece has designs from northern artists etched into the glass.
They offer a shop featuring many glass designs; glasses, lamps, magnets and more, perfect for last minute gifts.
Or for a unique souvenir, consider taking one of their 2 hour workshops, where you can stencil and etch your own piece of glassware to take home.
Where: 3510 MacDonald Drive, Old Town
Hours: Tuesday to Friday 12 – 5:30pm and Saturday 12-4:30pm. Closed Sunday & Monday
29. See a Show at Northern Arts & Cultral Centre (NACC)
Take in a show at the Northern Arts & Cultural Centre.
There goal is to encourage the development of the performing arts from all cultural traditions, and is an outlet for local & travelling musicals, plays, musicians and more.
30. Grab a Beer at the Brew Pub
The Woodyard is a favourite hangout for locally brewed beer, fried chicken sandwiches, and patio in the summer.
They even have family dining Saturdays from 12 to 7pm.
Sip local, award winning craft beer from the NWT Brewing Company, at the Woodyard (aka “The Brewpub”).
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN YELLOWKNIFE, CANADA
Once you’ve had your fill of touring and outdoor adventuring it may be time to find some other things to do in Yellowknife, Canada. Such as nourishment for body and soul, tasty snacks and activities.
- Buy an actual book from The Book Cellar, for a relaxing evening read.
- Eat lunch at the historic Wildcat Cafe.
- Let your tastebuds dance with the most delicious traditional Ethiopian food at Zehabesha (Mahiberawi combo platter on injera is our fav)
- Visit one of the many city playgrounds (Somba K’e, Forest Park, Josephine Walcer Park)
- Head out for the best pizza in town at the Copperhouse Eatery & Lounge
- Listen to Cabin Radio, for the most up to date local news, stories, music and more.
- Stop for delicious fish meal straight from Great Slave Lake, at Bullock’s Bistro.
Final Thoughts: What To Do in Yellowknife, Canada
For a town of only 20,000 people, there are a surprising amount of things you won’t want to miss during your visit to Yellowknife.
Whether you travel north in summer for the warmer weather or during the winter for the ice and snow, Yellowknife has many family, kid and adult friendly activities to offer, for all levels of adventure seekers.
Related family friendly destinations
- Planning a family trip to Niagara Falls
- Cool camping gift ideas for kids
- 3 Day itinerary in Victoria, BC
- Lovely seaside town of Parksville, BC or the garden city of Victoria, BC on the west coast of Canada.
30+ Best Things To Do In Yellowknife
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