It can be risky business when you revamp a beloved icon like the Hotel Saskatchewan, located in the heart of Regina’s downtown core. The historic property has been part of the city’s DNA since it opened in 1927.
It was a grand beauty built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in just 11 months. It soon became home to weddings, romantic getaways, family brunches and celebrations over cocktails. It was not just a hotel, but also a gathering place for the community.
Time is not kind to older hotels. When new owners took over Hotel Saskatchewan in 2014, it wasn’t looking its best. It needed extensive renovations to the tune of US $4.5 million. Renovations kicked into high gear, addressing everything from public spaces to guest rooms, lounge to dining room. But Regina locals were concerned. Though they understood it needed to be updated, they didn’t want the landmark to change too much and lose its history and timeless elegance.
After all, the Hotel Saskatchewan is steeped in history that is very much a part of the city itself. This is where visiting royals stayed – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, Princess Anne and Princess Margaret. It has seen prime ministers, corporate big shots, and celebrities walk through its door. Liberace, Justin Bieber and The Rolling Stones all slept here. Through the decades, the hotel has managed to survive fires and almost certain meetings with the wrecking ball.
In October 2016, a new chapter began. The property’s transformation was finally complete. The ‘new’ Hotel Saskatchewan, part of the Marriott’s Autograph Collection, is lighter and brighter, featuring white marble flooring and light blue inlaid carpet pieces in the lobby, a huge new bar, running down the length of the lounge, next to the windows overlooking the park, and guest rooms that retain classic touches while boasting an elegant, contemporary look.
That said, the key details that have always made this property unique, from ornate sconces to crown mouldings, are still front and center. The stunning antique chandeliers sparkle brightly along the main floor and the vintage ornate brass mailbox gleams near the elevators. It appears that the revamped property has managed to strike the right balance between new and old – enough to satisfy both guests and locals.
Visitors these days enjoy modern perks in a historic setting. The guest rooms are winners. Dressed up using luscious textures, rich shades of gray and accents in blue, they are cozy spaces where unwinding is easy. Sleeping in isn’t a problem, thanks to drapes long enough and thick enough to block out the morning light. On a king-sized bed, six generously sized pillows ensure you’ve got support to prop yourself up for a night of TV watching or working into the wee hours on your laptop.
There are also smart touches like a small shelf affixed to the wall, perfect for leaving keys. A hook half way down means women can hang their purses near the front door and grab them upon exit. Table-side lamps have built-in plugs so you can charge up electronics overnight.
With rooms this comfortable, it’s tempting to stay in and soak up the luxury. But don’t. Regina offers so much to explore just outside of the hotel’s front door. Pretty Victoria Park is a fitting place for leisurely strolls or people watching on a bench. Next to it, the outdoor Regina Farmer’s Market offers the best of Saskatchewan-made items (from honey to artisan bread) every summer. (Starting in October, it moves indoors.)
Within blocks of the hotel, there’s plenty of great dining to be had. The Capitol whips up well crafted cocktails (like the Black Tea Whisky Sour) that pair well with a nicely curated menu of tasty appetizers and mains that include tender pork ribs with chimichurri sauce, ceviche, baked chicken empanadas, duck confit and steak.
Meanwhile, Flip Eatery and Drink goes whole hog when it comes to making items in-house, from tacos to ketchup, for its eclectic lineup of globally influenced fresh fare, like Mexican fideo noodles with shrimp and hearty braised short ribs.
Another local favorite is Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar. It’s the type of place where you want to linger for an evening, sipping wines from a well thought-out list and watching beautifully plated dishes land on your table, showcasing many ingredients sourced from farms in the region, whether it’s prairie cherries, lentils, pike, Saskatoon berries or bison. Knowledgeable servers help diners make good choices, from mains to cocktails.
If you’re committed to staying in, the hotel has Circa 27 on-site. Its breakfast buffet is stand out, thanks to a generous array of dishes that run the gamut from roasted potatoes and yogurt parfaits, to creamy scrambled eggs and pastries. The dining room’s new look has given it an airy, welcoming vibe where guests feel at home whether they are arriving in jeans and a T-shirt or a business suit.
If you’ve over-indulged – and in a city with a strong, emerging culinary scene you can easily – hit the fitness center on-site, or opt for some pampering at the day spa on the lower level.
A hotel, even a beautiful, renovated one, isn’t worth its salt, if it isn’t backed up by good service. The Hotel Saskatchewan has that, too. Front desk staff doesn’t just point you to the elevator; they take you and make sure you know where you’re going. And the doormen offer cheery greetings any time you approach, ready to hail cabs, provide directions or recommendations on how to spend your day.
It’s that kind of service that makes this hotel a true classic, sure to be treasured for many more years to come as it heads toward its 100th anniversary in 2027.
Michele was hosted by Hotel Saskatchewan, but as always, her thoughts and opinions are her own.
Photos courtesy of the Hotel Saskatchewan.