Visiting Alberta in April is the shoulder season for its tourism industry. However, there are always interesting things to discover. Edmonton’s largest attractions are Fort Edmonton Park and West Edmonton Mall. Fort Edmonton Park was closed but the Fort itself is open for school group tours. Luckily, as a visitor from the East Coast, the Administration for the park let us tour the grounds by car. The park is a true gem. It incorporates various stages of Edmonton’s history from history streetscapes to a modern-day fun park for the kids. Fort Edmonton Park is spread over 158 acres and is seamlessly divided into four sections, each representing an era in time:
- 1. Fur Trade Era. Throughout Canada, most of the “forts” are operated by Parks Canada and many were for military purposes. Fort Edmonton was the area’s first European settlement for fur trading and operated by the Hudson Bay Company.
2. 1885 Street – The Settlement Era. When people moved out of the fort, the town began to take shape. The street features the general stores and establishments of the era. Some buildings on the street are original while others have been recreated.
3. 1905 Street – The Municipal Era. The section of the park isn’t overtly obvious. The street represents the boom and bust of a growing city, and more modern than the previous section. It features the street car and Masonic Hall.
4. 1920 Street – The Metropolitan Era. This area represents Edmonton during the First World War. Here the attraction hosts special events at the Hotel Selkirk, and movie nights at the Capital Theatre.
We were lucky enough to tour the facility by car. Once the site officially opens, visitors can take street car that will stop at the various sections. Wear comfortable shoes and give yourself lots of time (the day) to explore everything in the park.
The next day, I toured West Edmonton Mall. As the largest shopping mall in North America, it really does have everything under one roof: Skating rink, amusement park wave pool, bowling, movie theatre, hotel, restaurants, and an underground aquarium. My first thought was this mall must be a Mecca for the single parent with kids. While visiting the pool, the rolling waves and deck chairs brought me back to the beach and I felt the need for a cocktail. Luckily, there is a bar on site. In the mid afternoon, by the replica wooden ship, we watched the marine stage show with its resident seals. Store wise, some stores are huge compared to stores in other malls. However, the stores also mostly all chain so you may not find any Albertan artisan gifts here.
My next stop was Calgary. I stayed in an AirBnB condo. The condo was lovely, but l was not informed it was located across from an addiction centre. As a woman travelling alone, this was something I didn’t think about checking out in the area. I will take note for next time. I had looked for grocery marts and other points of interest. There were lots of street people hanging around in various stages. However, only once did I feel uncomfortable. Downtown Calgary is a walkable city. The work group I met with loved craft beer and we had great time tasting Alberta and British Columbia beer at the Craft Beer Market. The tasting trays are always a great choice to decide which beer you like and you can share with friends.
My last stop was Canmore. Canmore is an hour’s drive from Calgary. Past the mountains and hiking trails, Canmore is nestled in the Canadian Rockies. Canmore began as a coal mining town and has evolved into a town appealing to winter athletes, mountain hikers and vacationers. Canmore is one of those story book picturesque places to escape to for the weekend. Old buildings are mixed with new. The air is fresh and crisp and everything is just pretty. There are interesting stores with local product and pubs. We had lunch at the Grizzly Paw Pub. The pub is owned by the local Grizzly Paw Brewery. We sampled the local beer with our lunch and afterwards purchased beer and t-shirts in their retail store. Upon exiting the town, we drove by the Brewery which now offers tasting tours. On the drive back to Calgary I saw a herd of elk and the famous wild horses of the Prairies. If doing a day trip, leave early in the morning, and be open to detours and surprises. Take your hiking boots, (I saw two mountain goats) and mind the bears!