The situation may be familiar to you. There is an after Christmas lull in the whirlwind of your life and you have guests that must be entertained. Whether they have come home for the holidays or are visiting E-town for the first time, you can’t give visitors the Edmonton experience without hitting some tourist highlights!
Edmonton is a hard city to show to visitors, because there is a very delicate balance to be struck. Our attractions, for the most part, aren’t the biggest or the best known in the world, and we can get self-conscious about our humble little city. A lot of local ink and screen space is expended about becoming “world class” but even the most fervent Edmontonian will admit the average citizen of the world doesn’t know Edmonton, much less what makes us a special place. Heck, even my spellcheck keeps questioning my use of “Edmontonian!”
Maybe we don’t want to show off because a) it isn’t polite and b) we don’t want Toronto to make fun of our ambitions and say they are “adorable.” Well shake off your tour guide inhibitions, because there is fun to be had. You know there is. Come with me, if you will, on a little journey of the town we call home!
Alberta Legislature Grounds: The seat of our provincial government is exquisitely pretty. That isn’t a biased statement, it is pure objective fact. And at Christmas time, the attractiveness is off the chart. All the trees are clad in festive lights and it feels a little magical to stroll through the grounds. Bonus points if you remembered to bring a thermos of hot chocolate. The skating rink on the grounds is a lovely place to work off some of the shortbread you’ve been scarfing like nobody’s business. It’s also where my husband proposed to me, so I love it.
Art Gallery of Alberta: My favourite building in Edmonton is the Art Gallery of Alberta. Its modern design is stunning. The swirling metal façade was fashioned after the Northern Lights and that makes it the perfect Edmonton landmark, but the boldness of the building wouldn’t be out of place in Berlin or Barcelona. Go take some pictures already! The inside is also wonderful, and to top it off, there’s art IN the building too!
Hipster streets: It’s true, our hipsters might not be Vancouver calibre hipsters, but they’re ours, and they are easy to make jokes about. Because no one will ever admit that they are one, no one ever gets offended. And that is why I love hipsters. And in Edmonton they love 124th Street, Whyte Ave. and the 4th Street Promenade, as 104th Street downtown is trying to be known (a bit like giving yourself a nickname, but who am I to judge?). These are the coolest streets in Edmonton. Sure, some places have entire neighbourhoods of charm and awesome, but I prefer to think of ours as “concentrated.” For a long time, the 124th Street District had been “up and coming” but I think it is safe to say it is here. The shops, galleries and restaurants you find in this trendy area are well worth spending your afternoon touring. Old Strathcona, anchored by Whyte Ave. is fun, day or night, for a bit of Edmonton flavour, and you won’t go wrong doing a shop/wine and dine tour on “the Promenade.”
Fairmont Hotel MacDonald: Our river valley is a wonderful thing to behold. And the best place to behold it is from the Harvest Room in the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald. The “Mac” hosts a popular afternoon Royal Tea and Tour Saturdays and Sundays. You can enjoy tea, finger sandwiches and assorted dainties before taking part in a tour of the historic “Chateau on the River,” and give your guests a little taste of the royal life.
TELUS World of Science: One of the things I find difficult about entertaining visitors (and really, life in general) is keeping my kids interested while amusing the adults. The TELUS World of Science is an excellent option for all concerned. Between all the galleries, everyone in your party can stay entertained and even learn a thing or two!
West Edmonton Mall: Yes, we know, it’s an Edmontonian imperative to be blasé about “the Mall” but underneath your too-cool-for-WEM demeanor, you have to admit, a mall with a roller coaster and waterslides and mini-golf and the world’s largest indoor lake and EIGHT HUNDRED stores, is actually pretty amazing. Here’s a fun fact you can show off to your visitors: It would take three 24 hour days to visit each shop and service in the mall that covers an area equivalent to 48 city blocks. Okay, that was two fun facts.
And there’s always lots of fun on Family Fun Edmonton. Don’t forget to check our calendar, we won’t steer you wrong!
We have a great city, aren’t you lucky you get to share it? Shake out the duvet on the hide-a-bed, you’re going to be having guests a lot more often when word gets out…
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