Exploring Yellowknife Visiting Yellowknife

Free things to do in Yellowknife

NWT Diamond Centre

There are many reasons to visit Yellowknife. Business, visit friends and family or an adventurous road trip. One of the most popular though is to view to spectacular Aurora Borealis. If that is why you are planning a trip to Yellowknife, you are not alone. Most of the time the aurora are only visible between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., so what the heck else is there to do in Yellowknife during your stay when you are not sleeping?

Here is a curated list of several free activities you can do while visiting Yellowknife:

Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre

This centre is free to visit and open daily. It is a Territorial Government run museum featuring exhibits on the Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Territories, prehistoric times, early explorers, early aviation in the Northwest Territories and so much more. If open, the Museum Café is an excellent stop for lunch during the week.

Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories

The Legislative Assembly – called “The Leg” (pronounced “Le-dge”) by locals – is where the territorial politics take place. The main atrium, display room, and gallery are always open to the public during regular business hours, while free behind the scenes tours are offered twice daily in the summer and once daily in the winter.

Legislative Assembly Building of the Northwest Territories

Yellowknife City Hall

The Yellowknife City Hall located on 49th Avenue currently houses a temporary Visitor Information Centre, as of this writing. At any time City Hall is open to the public with a few simple displays and information on Yellowknife. Within the Visitor Information Centre you can find more information on different activities and tours.

Yellowknife City Hall

NWT Diamond Centre

The NWT Diamond Centre offers you a look into the history of the diamond mining industry in the Northwest Territories. From the early days of exploration in the late 80’s and early 90’s to the opening of the first diamond mine in the late 90’s to today where older mines have expanded and newer ones have opened. The centre located on 49th Street is open daily.

NWT Diamond Centre

Somba K’e Civic Plaza

This public park is beautiful in both summer and winter. An excellent place for a picnic, walk or photography adventure. The park boasts a large green space, picnic tables, local art installations, and historical elements. During the winter stop by in the evening and marvel at the holiday lights display. During the summer stop by on Tuesday evening for the Yellowknife Farmers Market.

Yellowknife Farmers Market

Buffalo Airways

Buffalo Airways, a workhorse aviation company in the Northwest Territories, became famous after the long-running reality TV show based on the company called Ice Pilots NWT. Known for flying war era DC-3 planes and having a crusty leader “Buffalo Joe”, the company offers free tours of their hanger where you can get up close with the old planes.

Yellowknife Dump

The unsuspecting Solid Waste Facility of Yellowknife is known by many names: The Dump, YK Dump, YKEA (like Ikea but better) or, even, the shopping mall. Famous around the world with its own documentary being produced out of New York and having hosted the Canadian author Douglas Coupland, the dump has something for everyone. The salvage area offers residents and visitors alike a free opportunity to pick over salvageable items.

Yellowknife Dump

Old Town

The original townsite of Yellowknife offers up an architectural and historical blast. Modern homes scaling over the solid rock built beside still occupied prospector shacks with newspaper insulations make Old Town a treasure hunt for the eyes. Self-guided tours are available by way of the downloadable brochure or audio app.

The Woodyard, Willow Flats, and Peace River Flats

By extension still part of Old Town, these three neighborhoods, all with their own unique history

Peace River Flats Yellowknife Back Bay

Frame Lake and Niven Lake Trails

If you are wanting to stretch your legs and find some unique views of the city, jump on either trail and go for a walk or hike. Get on the Frame Lake Trail at the Somba K’e Civic Plaza or Museum and head clockwise to take in the easy to walk paved path that extends around half the lake before turning into a hiking trail. While on the other side of the highway leading out of Yellowknife, in front of the Chateau Nova, enter the Niven Lake Trail, which is now entirely doable with a stroller.

Do you have a free tourism-related activity to add to the list? Leave us a comment or send us a message.

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About the author

Kyle Thomas

Kyle grew up in Yellowknife and is a local entrepreneur, bread maker, and Yellowknife-ophile who is addicted to learning as much as he can about the community and sharing it with anyone who'll listen. In 2009 he developed YkOnline.ca. A website all about living, working and thriving in Yellowknife for residents, newcomers, and visitors.

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