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Exploring eclectic Edmonton
Exploring the glories of Edmonton, Alberta
Confession: I have a lot to learn about Canada. We’re always hearing about how “cool” our neighbors to the north are, since we live in Seattle. I’ve been told that they have polar bears and maple syrup; however, I feel like I really don’t know Canada. My naiveté was on full display when we were invited to visit Edmonton, since up until a week before we left, I thought it was a province. Yet low and behold, Edmonton is actually a beautiful city in the province of Alberta. Yes, the very same Alberta that we visited a month before. For shame.
What I lacked in knowledge I made up for in experience. Edmonton is not only home to the largest mall on the continent, but the city hosts more festivals than the 70s. This is a town that knows how to party and it caters to all ages and delights.
West Edmonton Mall (WEM) is a mecca for shopping enthusiasts. With over 800 stores, you’re sure to find something to take home with you. If you don’t feel like popping tags, you can play a round at the indoor mini golf course, scream bloody murder on the roller coasters in the Galaxyland amusement park, stage a mutiny on an exact replica of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria, or even brave the chill of the Ice Palace ice rink. But wait, there’s more. WEM also houses a ropes course, bowling alley, and underground aquarium complete with a touch tank of sting rays.
For me, the icing on the cake was WEM’s indoor water park. World Waterpark boasts the world’s largest indoor wave pool, seventeen twisting water slides, and a zipline that allows you to rapidly glide over the length of the park. Combine that with a climbing wall overlooking the attraction and you have a little slice of water heaven. If we had enough time I would have allotted an entire day at World Waterpark.
Wondering where to rest your head after an exhilarating day at WEM? Never fear, the Fantasyland Hotel has you covered. As the name suggests, this is an Edmonton hotel of dreams with 120 themed rooms at your disposal. We landed ourselves a Roman-themed room and couldn’t have been happier. Our colossal room featured a giant jacuzzi tub complete with two roman statues just begging to be decorated. It didn’t hurt that the hotel was also conveniently located inside the mall.
Viewfinder Tip: To enjoy all of WEM’s attractions and save money, consider buying a multi-play pass at Guest Services.
While WEM is a definite gem of Edmonton, the real diamond in the rough is the city’s immense park system. Edmonton’s river valley parks and attractions combine to form the largest urban parkland in North America. My personal favorite contributions are the parks named after the Famous Five, Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, and Henrietta Muir Edwards. These five courageous women were trailblazers for women’s rights in Canada. We had the opportunity to explore the beautiful Louise McKinney in one of the most entertaining ways possible – on a segway.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: segways aren’t the sexiest form of transportation. But believe me, don’t knock it ’til you try it. These futuristic crafts on wheels are so intuitive that I felt like I was rolling out of a scene in Star Wars. It might have helped that our guide, Pete from River Valley Adventure Company, looked so cool on his. After a brief, yet thorough, safety course, he wound us around the Chinese Garden Gazebo, across the pedestrian bridge, and along the lush riverside pathways. Pete regaled us with stories of the various festivals and events that are held riverside, including the famed dragon boat festival. He also told us the history of the Famous Five parks and pointed us in the direction of the four glass pyramids that form the Muttart Conservatory.
The Muttart Conservatory’s pyramids beckoned us to visit. While we missed its hours of operation by a mere 30 minutes, we were still able to walk the grounds and take in the stunning architecture before us. These iconic pyramids house four different biomes with their own unique plants. The most recent attraction at the conservatory was the blooming of a Amorphophallus Titanum (translation: Corpse Flower). Nicknamed after its putrid smell, these flowers have a bloom period of only two to four days, attracting visitors from all over the province.
If all this talk of putrid smelling plants has you hungry, we found just the spot to satisfy your needs. Tres Carnales (translation: Three Homeboys) serves up some of the most authentic Mexican food north of the border. The menu is simple and straight to the point. You have your choice of tacos, quesadillas, or tortas stuffed with any of the fillings that are listed for the week. I went with the carne con chile tacos, while Chris indulged in the barbacoa tacos. Each taco was topped with a healthy portion of onions, cilantro, and hot salsa that we got from our server. The staff was incredible and we even had the privilege of meeting one of the owners. His passion for good food and delicious tacos was infectious.
Tacos at Tres Carnales
Our trip to Edmonton wouldn’t be complete without partaking in one of the city’s many festivals. We happened to be in town just in time for K-Days, the city’s largest summer festival, and also the delicious Taste of Edmonton. K-days had us panning for gold, eating our fill of deep fried everything, and enjoying First Nation exhibits. The Taste of Edmonton offered hundreds of samples from local eateries that had us waddling off the premise. Needless to say, fun was had.
So what did we learn about Edmonton? It’s a city that values festivals, community, and good food. It’s a whimsical place that caters to all walks of life. It’s also a city, not a province.
Have you ever been to Edmonton?
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Chris and Tawny have had articles and videos published on USA TODAY TRAVEL, BBC Travel, Matador Network, as well as appeared as guest stars on TLC Asia's Fun Taiwan television series. When not on the road, you can find Chris and Tawny nestled in their home in Tacoma, Washington fueling up on coffee and cat cuddles while planning their future adventures. You can follow their travels on their blog, Instagram, and YouTube