Our trip began with a flight on Continental to Houston and then on to Calgary. A very light breakfast and a light lunch were served on the two flights. The plane was full en route to Houston, but nearly empty on the way to Calgary. That allowed us to spread out on three seats! We rented a hybrid Camry through Thrifty, a green car that uses less fuel. We like it, but had to wait for 30 minutes. Our drive began in the beautiful prairies of Calgary, past farms, ranches, herds of cattle, some horses grazing, and a town with the fascinating name of Gasoline Alley before settling in at the Ramada in Red Deer, an attractive town with lots of shopping and restaurants, and parks in the area. Our room is very nice with a coffee maker, fridge, Wi Fi, and Jacuzzi tub, in addition to a full bath. Breakfast is included in the price of $119 Canadian or about $110 American. Dinner was a celebration of being here in Canada! At Tiffany’s, Greg chose the steak and prawns, while MaryJo ordered the scallop with mushrooms and tomatoes, both served with the vegetables du jour. We both had a salad as an appetizer. A basket of rolls complemented the meal. Greg added a glass of red wine and MaryJo, white, for a total bill of $80 Canadian, or about $75 American. The meal was excellent!
o After breakfast, we pointed our Camry towards Edmonton and the West Edmonton Mall. www.westedmall.com On the way, we were a little hungry, so we stopped at Fay’s Diner, at the rest stop between Red Deer and Edmonton. We had the best bowl of Hamburger Noodle Soup! It was a chunky soup that really filled us up! With two waters, it was about $9!
This is a special occasion for us, so we’ll be spending tonight at the Fantasyland Hotel at the Mall. The West Edmonton Mall is the largest mall in North America, with the largest indoor waterpark. The West Edmonton Mall has Chinatown, Bourbon Street, Europa Blvd, amusement park, ice skating rink, and many other attractions and shopping and eating opportunities. For our special occasion, we chose the Polynesian Room, with a waterfall over the Jacuzzi tub, and a bed that looked like a boat. The décor featured bamboo and a mural. It’s a romantic room. There is a full bath, coffee maker, fridge, and Wi Fi. Packages are available. This room’s price is $ 413 per night Canadian, with taxes, or about $385 American. Other theme rooms feature the Wild West, ancient Rome, and the Canadian Railroad, among others. We saw many, many families there with several children. The mall itself is a child’s dream come true. We strolled the mall with its hundreds of fine stores. We had lunch on Bourbon Street. Lunch at Hudson’s Canadian was Teriyaki Chicken Citrus Salad and Chicken Wings and cost $23 Canadian or about $21 USA. World Waterpark is a fun place to spend an afternoon. For hotel guests, admission is complimentary. For others, it’s $36.95 Canadian and $29.95 for children. A small refundable fee will allow towel rental, and there are lockers for a $7 charge. Family locker rooms are great for guests with small children. There are many slides and a wave pool, as well as snack bars. After splashing in the pool and sliding down such slides as the Sky Screamer and Tropical Typhoon, we were ready for the event of the day! The Bungee Jump! We climbed to the 106 foot platform, received instructions, and were expertly strapped for our tandem jump over the pool. We stepped off the platform and were flying! What a rush! The people in the pool were cheering, and we were having a wonderful time. It’s a real thrill and we can’t wait to do it again! Tandem jumps are $135 without video, and $155 with. ($145 USA) Video coming soon. Dinner was at Café Europa. It was a fine dining experience! We chose soft shell crab appetizers with a spicy remoulade; a pork chop with sweet and sour onion jam; and an AAA tenderloin; Dessert, shared, was Chocolate Velvet. Bottled water was complementary. The bill was $105 Canadian. ($97) A bottle of Jackson Triggs Merlot added $33. Hotel guests receive a 10% discount. A fine staff helped make the experience memorable. For example, the chef came out twice to see if we were enjoying the food. There are so many dining establishments, there is bound to be something for every taste and every traveling family. It will take at least a day to see the mall. If budget permits, three to four days will allow a full experience.
This is also a most exciting day! A final stroll around the West Edmonton Mall, a visit to the Ukrainian Cultural Village, a driving tour/hike in the Elk Island National Park, a side trip to Fort Saskatchewan, and dinner at Khazana, a Tandoori Indian restaurant made this day lots of fun!
A final exploration of the WEM gave us some good exercise this morning. We checked out Galaxy Land, the amusement park, and some other areas that we had missed. What a great vacation destination: amusement park, waterpark, mini golf, seal show, shopping eating, casino! A light breakfast at Starbuck’s cost $12. Then it was time to check out of the Fantasyland Hotel. We had a very good experience with them until this point. We called about 10:00 a.m. for the valet. We waited until 11:00 to get our luggage downstairs and into the car.
HINT: Call around 9:00 if you want to get started. Waiting to go is no fun.
Once we were finally on the road, the first stop was the Ukrainian Cultural Village. http://culture.alberta.ca/museums/historicsiteslisting/ukrainianvillage/default.aspx
On the way, we saw a bison by the roadside! Did you know that Ukrainians helped shape the culture of Edmonton? The village was not only lots of fun, but very enlightening. It’s a living history village, so the guides role play the part of a person living in the village in the early 1900’s. They wear the same type of clothing, speak with a Ukrainian accent, cook on wood burning stoves, and act s though a person in that time from Ukraine would. Play along! When one woman asked me if I had a stove like hers, I told her, “No, mine is electric.” She acted very confused, and answered, “You are from the city. It is different in the city!” We were there at lunchtime, and many of the villagers were having lunch. One family was eating a salad, potato soup, and pierogies. Pierogies, if you don’t know, are a dough pastry filled with such foods as potatoes, or cheese and potatoes, or sauerkraut. There were pigs and chickens on the farms, fully functioning churches, grocery store, hotel, sod house, and other buildings and business that would be found in the time and place represented. We learned that the grocery store didn’t sell produce, meat or milk because the villagers had their own gardens, cows, and farm animals. Canned and dry goods, cloth, and soda pop were sold. There is a snack bar on the grounds. We shared a plate of pierogies filled with cheese, for only $7.50 Canadian. Excellent! We really think the $11.81 Canadian admission is a bargain! The village is about 25 miles east of Edmonton. This is a first class family trip! Active learning at its best! Allow at least a half day for this village.
Elk Island National Park was a chance to look at scenery while driving slowly and maybe seeing some animals. We did see a bison, close up. We also saw some geese and prairie dogs. There were some beaver dams. While we didn’t see as many animals as we hoped, the scenery was pretty, and we did go for a short hike. There are several short walks suitable for young chcildren, or those who don’t walk long distances. Admission is $15.60 Canadian for two. A café at Astotin Recreation area serves lunch. For $22.40 Canadian, we each had a scrumptious bison burger and a Canadian beer. Bison is leaner than beef, has no additives and we think it tastes much better! Try it yourself and see what you think! We ate outside with a fine view of Lake Asotin. Depending on interest, allow anytime between a couple of hours to a full day.
A side trip to Fort Saskatchewan showed us the historic town. It was a pretty place. A farm market was going on, Thursdays from 4:30 to 6:30 in the afternoon.
We checked into Days Inn Downtown, within walking distance to the center of the city. The room is clean, comfortable, and has basic amenities such as coffee maker, Wi Fi, fitness center, and TV. It’s a good place to stay to see the sites of Edmonton. The charge was $113 with taxes. Breakfast at the adjacent restaurant, Albert’s, was $21.
o Khazana was our dinner choice. www.khazana.ab.ca
We like Indian food, and wanted to experience more, since foods is a major part of culture. We were not disappointed. Nan, or Indian bread, was served with spicy yogurt and spicy plum sauces. Greg had the Chicken Vindaloo and saffron rice. MaryJo’s choice was Karai Chicken, a clay pot meal, with saffron rice. Both were spicy and delicious! A serving of Indian ice cream, kalfi, was the perfect end. The cool creamy dessert quenched the fire. Dinner was $48.50 Canadian or about $ 44 USA, without wine. A bottle of Australian wine was $34 Canadian. Our server, Sanjay Kumar, was so kind as to invite us into the kitchen, where we met the chef and saw the nan (bread) being made and baked in the clay pot. We sampled some, and it was very flavorful! Sanjay also explained how some of the other foods were prepared. We felt honored to be given such a treat! The décor was a tasteful Indian, and music from India was being played. On Saturday night there is live entertainment. A buffet is offered on Wednesday and Sunday. We recommend that you try Khazana. We think you will be delighted!
This has been a quality day. We’re lovin’ Edmonton!
Our last morning in Edmonton, sadly! We visited Chinatown and relished the architecture found there. Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese businesses are represented. The second stop was John Janzen Nature Center, where we benefited from a short nature hike and a visit to the exhibits. allow about an hour for the center. Several children were enjoying crafts. Our next visit was Fort Edmonton Park. www.fortedmontonpark.ca
This is an exciting trip through time featuring different eras in Edmonton history. A steam train ride took us back to an 1846 Hudson Bay Fort and Native Encampment. Costumed guides help history come alive in various sites. A native we spoke with told us about the Cree Indians, a servant talked about her life in the Rowand House, a three story home for just 5 people. This is a great contrast to the one room that whole families shared. A fur trader explained his job. Then it was on to 1885, when Edmonton was a busy town of 385. The horse and wagon and stagecoach were the modes of transportation. Next time – 1905! Newer homes have electricity! A young couple who came from Chicago had a gramophone playing music. The growth is so fast that families are living in a tent city until a house can be built. The street car carries people down Main Street. In 1920’s Edmonton, we visited the Ukrainian Book Store, and spoke with the postman at the Post Office. Families were playing mini golf 1920’s style, and an ice cream parlor offers refreshing treats. A Midway just outside of town has rides and games from the carnivals of the 1920’s! Not often can we travel through so many time periods in just one day! Snacks are sold in various places, and there is a gift shop. The admission for all this is only $27 for two! Spend the whole day!
West Edmonton Mall- the World’s Largest Mall
Bunjee Jump at West Edmonton Mall
Ukrainian Culture Center – Alberta, CA
Searching for Bison at Elk Island N.P.
City of Edmonton and Chinatown
Fort Edmonton – Traveling back in time.
Edmonton Historic Villages, 1885 and 1905
Edmonton Historic Village, 1920