By Tina Albo:
I was driving down the river valley this morning on my way to work, and I happened to catch a glimpse of our downtown skyline. I’ve always loved the way the skyscrapers and unique buildings looked, even from a distance across the North Saskatchewan River. While people hardly come to Edmonton to admire its architecture like they would with Paris or London, we have our share of attractions that could give neighboring cities a run for their money.
West Edmonton Mall
While a mall itself is hardly anything to note, Edmonton is home to what was once the biggest mall in the world. Boasting over 300 stores, a movie theater, a waterpark, and an amusement park, West Edmonton Mall has something for everyone. In recent years, there have been many changes to the structure, yet it still holds the same charm it had when I was younger.
Believe it or not, West Edmonton Mall still has a pirate ship anchored in its man-made lagoon. The towering ship, christened the Santa Maria, has been a fixture at the mall since its inception. People from all over the world can still pay the Santa Maria a visit and maybe get their photo taken on it. If you’re planning an event, it can be hosted aboard the ship for a price. As it is, one can never go wrong with a pirate ship.
The World Waterpark is another mall staple and a great way to spend an afternoon. While it’s not as exciting as going to an actual beach, being at the World Waterpark is the next best thing in a prairie city. There are quite a few daunting water slides, an intimidating zip line, and a wave pool that will make you feel like you’re floating in the ocean. The man-made beach is kept at the right temperature, giving the entire area a tropical feel.
For all the adults looking for a more sophisticated experience, Bourbon Street is the place to be. It houses several elegant restaurants, a couple of pubs, and a comedy club.
The Sherlock Holmes pub has been a mainstay in this area for a long time and is one of the best places to go for a pint and excellent food. There’s live music every weekend, and you can catch English Premier League football whenever you like, if that’s your fancy. As far as I know, it’s an Edmonton-only chain (they have another location in our downtown area), so one could say this particular watering hole is as Edmonton as you can get.
The Comic Strip is not your average comedy attraction—it’s featured some of the best and funniest comedians in the world and hosts a stand-up competition each week for the average Joe. Notable comedians such as Rob Schneider, Dave Coulier, Bob Saget, and many more have graced its stage and left Edmontonians in stitches. I strongly recommend you visit this venue at least once on your trip.
Jubiliations Dinner Theater is another go-to at West Edmonton Mall. Keeping up Edmonton’s tradition of showcasing the arts, Jubilations is an experience you just can’t miss. The food is excellent and the productions are top notch, all original and highly entertaining.
You shouldn’t just take my word for it . . . see it for yourself. West Edmonton Mall is an attraction you must not ignore on your travels here.
I mentioned this particular area of Edmonton in my last article. While it’s a venue for one of our biggest summer festivals, Whyte Avenue is an attraction unto itself. Not only is it a place where people can gather to do pub crawls and take in the Edmonton nightlife, but it's also a mecca for unique and interesting patrons to hone their style.
Whyte Avenue is home to many unique, independent stores that cater to everyone. Whether you are looking for a Gothic corset or exploring your theatrical style, there’s a place for you.
In addition, there are several body modification parlors that can help anyone find the right tattoo or piercing. One place I highly recommend is Pitbull Tattoos, as their customer service has been the best I’ve ever experienced. Not only are they discreet, but they also work with you to create the best designs.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from living in Edmonton, it’s that the best food comes from the most unique restaurants; and most of these restaurants call Whyte Avenue home. It doesn’t matter what you’re craving as you traipse along the avenue, you are sure to find it here. Some of the most notable restaurants would be DaDeo, Ampersand 27, The Almanac, and Chianti. All boast creative menus and delicious food in a unique atmosphere. Whether you’re looking for comfort food, elegant dishes, or more traditional ethnic foods, coming to Whyte Avenue is the best decision you could make.
Edmonton River Valley
For the nature lover, Edmonton boasts some of the best scenic views a city has to offer. While we're not an Oceanside city, the valley surrounding the North Saskatchewan River has a certain charm to it. In the spring and summer months, the lush greenery and the sound of the flowing river make this area a beautiful place to be. You can enjoy the view from the top, where the downtown area sits, or you can make your way down the outdoor stairs to get closer to nature. In addition, there are running trails, a golf course, and a pedestrian bridge that crosses the river so that you can make your way to Whyte Avenue by foot. If you’re looking for a scenic place to take your morning jogs, look no further!
William Hawrelak Park
Located just across the North Saskatchewan River, William Hawrelak Park is a hidden gem among the hills of the south side. Although many festivals take place at this gorgeous, scenic venue, you can still enjoy yourself on quieter days.
Nestled among high trees and grassy green hills, this particular park is a great place to enjoy nature at its finest. There are forest trails that beg the eye to follow, as well as natural wonders that one wouldn’t expect in a city.
William Hawrelak Park is also a great place to camp for the day, as they have several places where you can set up a barbecue without making a mess. While the burgers and hot dogs are grilling to perfection, you can relax on the finely manicured grass or take in a game of Frisbee while you wait.
In the winter months, when it becomes a frozen paradise, you can dust off your skates and make the frozen man-made pond your rink. Every year, this is the place where children learn to skate and people come together to play a pickup game of hockey. While it’s not as big as the ice surface at Rogers Place (where the Edmonton Oilers have made their home), the icy trail made by the pond extends around a good bit of the area and gives a stellar view of the city in its colder months. Either way, this natural wonder is a place that you must see for yourself.
While there is even more to experience here in Edmonton, I would need infinite time and paper to be able to list everything my city has to offer. In light of everything I've mentioned (and the things I haven’t), I urge you to come and visit here while you can. You’ll be glad you did.