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By: Zdenko Kahlina
It’s time we learn to love our great capital city
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of people having nothing good to say about the city that I’ve come to love, a city that has so much to offer and so much to see, from the farmer’s markets of downtown and Old Strathcona, to the endless pathways of the tranquil river valley. Edmonton, the rightful ‘City of Champions’ may need time to grow on you, but once it does, there’s no turning back.
Endless summer festivals, a bustling arts community, a variety of sports recreation, and that big mall that everyone seems to attach to the overall vision of Edmonton… these are amongst the many aspects that make E-town so damn special. Winter tourism in Edmonton is pretty darn cool! It’s something that dramatically impacts our winter economy, and is closely linked to how we tell our winter stories about our home. We love the connections between our city and the great winters!
For all those haters who refuse to bask in the glory that Alberta’s capital has evolved into, then perhaps they need to delve deeper into Edmonton’s year-round offerings, or just pack up and get out, because I – and I’m sure thousands of others, have had enough of the backlash towards our diverse metropolis.
That doesn’t mean that we’re gonna sugar-coat everything that we do and everything we see; we’re gonna fill you in on our personal experiences, whether they were good or bad, but we’re gonna try and focus on the positive. Our main goal is to showcase just how many things there are to do and see in the city of Edmonton, one of the most cultural towns in all of Canada, which has been proven time and time again. Now with that said, let’s take a look into all the places, the shops, the food, the events, and the people that make up the best city in the nation!
Fort Edmonton Park
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that most areas in the world have fabricated “historical” sites dating back a couple of decades (the relatively obscure region of Korea where I live has just such a site. How many of you now want to visit there?) Not to mention that, in many places (eg. Europe, Japan) no one is ever more than a day’s drive away from REAL historical attractions, many of them dating back to Before Christ.
Fort Edmonton Park is one of Canada’s many living history villages. Staff in period costume portray and interpret life in the time periods portrayed within the park. The park consists of four distinct eras in Edmonton’s past. The fur trade era is represented by a reconstruction of the 1846 Hudson Bay Company’s Edmonton House, which originally stood from 1821-1915. The settlement era of 1885 shows the transformation of Edmonton from a fur trading outpost to a village of about 350 people.
The metropolitan era of 1905 represents the birth of Alberta as a province, portrayed on 1905 Street. The state of Edmonton after the Great War is highlighted on 1920s Street. Fort Edmonton Park began construction in 1969. The reconstruction of the Hudson’s Bay Company fort was completed in 1974. 1885 Street evolved soon after, comprised of both original and reconstructed buildings, and then 1905 Street. The newest street, which is still under construction, is the 1920s Street. The latest addition to the 1920s Street is a representation of the 1926 Johnny J. Jones mid-way.
William Hawrelak Park
Great park to go for a scenic tour or have a picnic or even a BBQ. Great place to take in a festival or 2. Edmonton is wonderful that but specifically Hawrelak Park. Play some soccer, throw a frisbee, or grab some weiners and do a BBQ. This place is the most popular Edmonton Park for warm summer days. Even in winter there is ice skating on the huge man-made lake. This park is one of the best things about Edmonton.
Indeed, an impressive structure, especially when viewed in conjunction with its river-valley locale. The iconic image of Edmonton, imho. I’m not sure, though, how exactly we would sell it as the kind of tourist attraction for which people would be willing to shell out a few grand to come and visit. “The Muttart! It’s got a lot of trees and plants! And it’s shaped like a pyramid!!”
The Francis Winspear Centre for Music is located in Edmonton’s Arts District and is home to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. We are so fortunate to have such a world class performing arts centre in Edmonton. The acoustics are fantastic. We can be proud of our symphony. The Winspear is truly a great venue in which to hear any kind of music. If you have a chance to hear the giant pipe organ – it is truly a treat. The Winspear is on an LRT line station, but parking nearby can be difficult.
High Level Bridge and Streetcar
The views of the city and the river from this trolley car are absolutely amazing. This is also the best way to get from the farmer’s market to downtown. The streetcar takes about 20 minutes to get from Whyte Avenue to downtown. Great for the Fringe festival. It’s inexpensive and the staff clearly loves what they are doing. The view from the High Level Bridge is fantastic.
This little train ride in the middle of the city was like a dream come true for our 7 year old, and we liked it too! We actually took it twice in the same summer and had a different car each time, which was cool too. Its $5 each person, and about 30-40 minutes round trip. You could get off and visit the legislature buildings, but we just rode it around for fun. The views off the high level bridge were great and being in the old cars was a thrill for our little dude. The guided tour part of it was good as well – not too much, but we learned some cool stuff. Having lived in Edmonton as for most of my life I found some of the historical stuff good to hear, and made the ride even better.
Most cities outside of Saudi Arabia have a bar strip, so does Edmonton. The Old Strathcona district is a collection of shopping, dining and entertainment venues each with own associated costs; there are no additional savings at this attraction. The Old Strathcona district participates in the Edmonton Attractions Pass program to highlight that it is an area of interest to visitors and locals alike. The Old Strathcona district is both eclectic and historical, and well worth taking the time to take a stroll through…
Royal Alberta Museum
It’s been a while since I’ve been there. Apart from the touring exhibits, what sort of must-see attractions does it have which would make someone from far away come all the way to Edmonton? That’s not a rhetorical question, I really don’t know.
Do a Google on New York State House. Then do one on Utah State House. Then do Delaware. Continue on with all 50 states (or as many as it takes to get the point), and then come back here and tell me how the Leg is a unique attraction that will capture the imagination of tourists the world over.
The oldest hotel in Edmonton – The Fairmont hotel Macdonald
Elk Island National Park
Okay. Full disclosure. I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually been there, at least not knowingly. But I know the general area, and I know what it’s like, and I gotta say: If the average international tourist is looking at a brochure outlining the parks in Alberta, where do you think he’s gonna rank Elk Island in relation to Banff and Jasper, as a must-spend-two-grand-to-see-it location?
I take a back seat to no one when it comes to appreciating the valley. Used to live just on the edge of it, in fact, and would only ever want to live within a half-hour’s walk, tops. Something tells me, though, that it’s the kind of thing you HAVE to live in or around to really develop an interest in it, since it kind of interweaves itself with your ongoing lifestyle. But I’d be interested to hear suggestions about how to make it a more must-see attraction for the global tourist community.
Okay, I might have to concede some ground on this one. Because I’ve had people(North Americans and Europeans) in Korea mention the mall when I tell them I’m from Edmonton. And someone e-mailed me a documentary(albeit a critical one) about WEM from Dutch TV. So, apparently, it does register on a global scale.
But it’s interesting, because the general theme of the tourism boosters is that the city needs to promote its attractions more. Well, as far as I can tell, WEM is pretty well promoted as it is. So I’m not sure it needs much more, and in any event, I don’t know if the city government should be in the business of publicizing that particular private sector initiative more than it already is.
I agree with whomever said that the best bet for Edmonton tourism would be to market ourselves around Alberta and western Canada. And to somehow “anchor” ourselves to some other locale in the general area. I’m not exactly sure how that would work though. It seems that you could convince someone who was already visiting Edmonton(for whatever reason) to drive three hours and see Jasper. I don’t quite see the pull going in the opposite direction.
The Aviation Museum!
And yes we are a tourism destination and have become quite a renowned one. June 4th the Alberta Aviation Museum was honored to host the head of the Canadian Air Force, Chief of Air Staff Lt. General Andre’ Deschamps as well as the Chiefs of Air Staff from Peru and Columbia and their entourage.
It was great visit and frankly we knocked their socks off with the collection, interactives, education programming and flight simulators. The best part to me was when the International guests “asked” to come to see the museum.
Have a good and healthy season.
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