By Alexandra Evans
If you’re like me and want to explore Canada outside of Vancouver, Montreal, or Toronto, consider Edmonton, the capital of Alberta!
After speaking to a friend of mine who is a native, I have outlined some of the top destinations in Edmonton for tourists and vacationers:
West Edmonton Mall (WEM)
This shopping center, located in Summerlea, is the largest mall in North America. It has everything! Miles long, it is arguably impossible to hit every single destination in one day.
On a given day, you might want to hit the shops, another member of your party might want to go bowling, and other might want to wait until the evening rolls around to check out the nightlife. If you are traveling in the summer (when the temperature is usually 30+ degrees Celsius) with children, you may be contemplating a trip to a water park or amusement park. Maybe you’ll want to see a movie or two, or go ice skating in the winter, or play mini golf, or wander through a maze.
You’re in luck, WEM offers each of those activities and more (including live concerts!), so go wild!
This is how my Edmonton-born friend describes the city in one word. A few of the upcoming events include, but are not limited to, The Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival (self explanatory), Winefest Edmonton (wine tasting), Wildfire Improv Festival (The Canadian Improv Games, Rapid Fire Theatre’s own TheatreSports tournament: the Nosebowl and the WildFire Junior), Serca Festival (Irish-Canadian culture appreciation), and the Mom, Pop & Tots Fair for expectant parents.
Depending on what time of year you are visiting, themes can vary, though as you can see there is a wide array of events which will disappoint neither children nor adults alike.
Rogers Place – Home of the Edmonton Oilers
I love all sports, and adding ice hockey to my repertoire was the best decision I have made regarding fandom. For nine years, Edmonton was home to the greatest player in National Hockey League history, Wayne Gretzky. His legacy is honored; be sure to take a picture with his statue outside of the arena!
With a passionate fan base, top tier players (such as 2015 first overall draft pick and team captain, 21 year-old Connor McDavid), and adjacent to the ice district and delectable eateries like Mercer’s, Denizens, and Blue Plate Diner, an Oilers game would be an exciting stop on any tour, especially for diehard sports fans.
I don’t want to spoil the experience of a live hockey game by writing everything here. You will just have to immerse yourself in orange for an evening or two to discover the hype.
Are you a plant enthusiast? Looking to refresh your memory of biology? This botanical garden is comprised of several pyramids of thousands of different species of plants. Each facility has a different theme (arid and tropical, to name a few), symbolizing different biomes.
Each pyramid is described by EdmontonAttractions.com as follows:
“The jungle-like environment of the Tropical Pyramid is lush, green and fragrant, while the air is humid and warm. The plants come from tropical rainforests, tropical evergreen forests or tropical grasslands, and are often showy and bright.
The Arid Pyramid showcases plants from the hot and cold dry areas of the world, spanning five continents. They share an ability to thrive in environments with dry air, irregular moisture and wide day/night temperature fluctuations..
Changing with the seasons, The Temperate Pyramid best represents plants from those parts of the world closest in climate to Edmonton. Carefully controlled environmental conditions allow the plants to go dormant in winter and burst into spring growth. The result is dramatic seasonal changes that are a feast for the senses.
The Feature Pyramid exhibit changes completely several times per year providing new experiences for visitors. Uniquely themed displays and fabulous seasonal celebrations highlight the creativity of the Muttart staff.”
Side note: all food from the Conservatory’s cafe is locally sourced.
Elk Island National Park
If you are looking for some peace and quiet, consider checking out the home of buffalos, bisons, elk, coyotes, and more than 200 species of birds. These “meadows” are located approximately one hour outside of the city of Edmonton.
Yes, you read that, bisons! The species was on the verge of extinction, but thanks to Elk Island territory, it was brought back to life. Visitors can learn about the history and legacy of the species, as well as how it managed to survive on these grounds. Additionally, visitors have the opportunity to see the bison and buffalos up close from the safety of their vehicles. The woolly creatures will stand directly in the middle of the streets, allowing drivers to slowly approach them and gaze in awe. Executives call this phenomenon “the buffalo traffic jam.”
Additionally, visitors can upon the grassy fields and stargaze at Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve. There is not a cloud in sight! Other activities include, but are not limited to, ice skating, cross country skiing, kayaking, bird watching, photography, sailing, and hiking.
As you can see, the activities are very widespread. One day you can end up at an ice hockey game, an urban shopping center the next, and the middle of nature the day after that. Sound idyllic?
Edmonton is also only a two and a half hour drive from Calgary; if you have been on countless cross-state road trips like I have, this commute should be nothing.
Thank you for reading! As I wrote this, I began contemplating booking a plane ticket to Edmonton for my next vacation. Hope you felt the same way!