For information about the territory, in general, or Yellowknife, in particular, contact one of the following: NWT Tourism (P.O. Box 610, Yellowknife; tel. 800/661-0788 or 867/873-7200; www.spectacularnwt.com) or the Northern Frontier Regional Visitors Centre (No. 4, 4807 49th St., Yellowknife; tel. 877/881-4262 or 867/873-4262; www.northernfrontier.com).
A useful phone number for motorists is the ferry information line at tel. 800/661-0750 (NT only), which lets you know the status of the various car ferries along the Dempster and Mackenzie highways. At breakup and freeze-up time, there's usually a month's time when the ferries can't operate and the ice isn't yet thick enough to drive on.
The city's expanding urban center, New Town -- a busy hub of modern hotels, shopping centers, office blocks, and government buildings -- spreads above the town's historic birthplace, called Old Town. Together, the two towns count about 20,000 inhabitants, by far the largest community in the Territories. The real attractions are in Old Town, a section of the city on Great Slave Lake that includes the famous Ragged Ass Road, rustic but livable shacks, and art galleries featuring traditional aboriginal art and furs. Old Town features large modern homes that tower beside the few remaining trappers' cabins. Because much of the city limits are part of the Yellowknives Dene ongoing land claim, residential development has been limited. Houses are surprisingly expensive, and $300,000 trailer homes are not uncommon.
Most of New Town lies between rock-lined Frame Lake and Yellowknife Bay on Great Slave Lake. The main street in this part of town is Franklin Avenue, also called 50th Avenue, where a half-dozen high-rises anchor a small downtown core. Oddly, early town planners decided to start the young town's numbering system at the junction of 50th Avenue and 50th Street; even though the downtown area is only 10 blocks square, the street addresses give the illusion of a much larger city.
The junction of 48th Street and Franklin (50th) Avenue is pretty much the center of town. A block south are the post office and a number of enclosed shopping arcades (very practical up here, where winter temperatures would otherwise discourage shopping). Turn north and travel half a mile to Old Town and Latham Island, which stick out into Yellowknife Bay. This is still a bustling center for boats, floatplanes, B&Bs, and food and drink.
South of Frame Lake is the modern residential area, and just west is the airport. If you follow 48th Street out of town without turning onto the Mackenzie Highway, the street turns into the Ingraham Trail, a bush road heading out toward a series of lakes with fishing and boating access, hiking trails, and a couple of campgrounds. This is the main recreational playground for Yellowknifers, who love to canoe or kayak from lake to lake or all the way back to town.
The Caribou Carnival (tel. 867/873-9698; www.cariboucarnival.ca), in late March, is a burst of spring fever that morphs into a month-long celebration of all things Northern: aurora viewing, film festivals, and rock concerts at the Snow King's (www.snowking.ca) ice castle on Yellowknife Bay, igloo-building contests, and Inuit wrestling. The highlight is the Canadian Championship Dog Derby (www.spectacularnwt.com/wheretoexplore/yellowknife/dogteams), a 3-day, 240km (149-mile) dog-sled race. Summer begins with the chance to tee off at midnight at the Canadian North Midnight Classic Sun Golf Tournament (tel. 867/873-4326; www.yellowknifegolf.com) on June 21, summer solstice. This is no ordinary 18-hole golf course. It is a large, lakeside sand pit that requires each golfer to carry a square piece of artificial turf for teeing off. Ten days later, if you're lucky enough to find a ticket to the Beer Barge on Canada Day (July 1), grab it. Tickets are hard to come by. The highlight is the beer garden and people dressed up in period costumes from the gold prospecting days. Beer Barges were a big deal in the 1950s and '60s, before roads into the territory were built. The Festival of the Midnight Sun is an arts festival in mid-July. There are a one-act play competition, various arts workshops (including lessons in Native beading and carving), and fine art on display all over town. The must-see event of the summer, also in mid-July, is Folk on the Rocks Music Festival (tel. 867/920-7806; www.folkontherocks.com), which features a mix of Northern (Arctic) and Southern Canadian folk, rock, blues, and other genres, plus Native musical performances. Past headliners include Jim Cuddy, Sam Roberts, and Buffy Saint Marie. The Canadian Snowbirds flight team flies into town for the Yellowknife International Air Show every 2 years on the last weekend in July. The air show is organized by the City of Yellowknife (tel. 867/920-5600; www.yellowknife.ca). During the alternating summers, the Midnight Sun Float Plane Fly In (tel. 867/873-4036; www.floatplaneflyin.com) is held. The city is abuzz, with float planes arriving from across North America. And when you're not marveling at a C46 water bomber or Cessna Caravan, you can enjoy any number of outdoor concerts. The fly-in coincides with Folk on the Rocks.