Gateway to the North
August 1, 2009
Filed under Destinations
The word “city” often has a negative connotation attached to it: traffic, noise, crowds, tall buildings, no greenery, etc. And, of course, RVers try to avoid cities for all the obvious reasons. Put all those bleak misconceptions away, and turn your vehicle north across the Canadian border, into Alberta, toward one of the most lush, beautiful, friendly and navigable cities on the continent – Edmonton, the provincial capital of Alberta.
Hyperbole often disappoints, but in the case of Edmonton it rings true. Visitors can reach out and touch nature within the boundaries of this city. The North Saskatchewan River, which begins at the Icefield Parkway in Jasper National Park, bisects the town. The area sits in what is known as aspen parkland, which includes prairie on one side and boreal forest on the other. Outdoors folk will discover the largest stretch of connected urban parkland in North America, in which to hike, bike, relax and generally enjoy the verdant beauty of Mother Nature. This stretch of parkland, known as the River Valley, is 22 times larger than Central Park in New York, and offers so much more. Eleven lakes, 14 ravines, 22 major parks, numerous smaller parks, golf courses, downhill skiing, amazing trails and outstanding plant and wildlife grace the acreage here. Add to that splendor the long summer days in which to appreciate these natural experiences (remember, this is north country, where you can view aurora borealis), and you have Edmonton.
The history of this magnificent area includes a role as the back door to the Yukon gold rush in 1898; incorporation in 1904; amalgamation with the town of Strathcona in 1912; earning the title of Oil Capital of Canada in 1947; and becoming known as the City of Festivals more recently for its unlimited schedule of events. One of the more serious challenges facing RVers who decide to visit the area today is when and how long to stay. In addition to the plethora of outdoor adventures and festivals taking place round-the-clock in Edmonton, the city is home to some of the most extensive eating establishments, shopping centers, arts complexes and historical venues in Canada and beyond. In other words, plan on staying a few weeks!
By now almost everyone has heard of the West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping and entertainment centre in the world. Be brave and sample it; walking shoes are a must, as are an appetite and a credit card. More than 800 retail outlets beckon shoppers, and 110 restaurants and cafes tempt them. Children and grandchildren will delight to the Galaxyland, an enormous indoor amusement park; the World Waterpark; the Deep Sea Lagoon; the Ice Palace; and the Dolphin Lagoon. Parents and grandparents will find the nighttime action more to their liking: Palace Casino, Red’s Rec Room, Jubilation Live Dinner Theater and more. For more information on the outlets, call (800) 661-8890.
Twenty to 30 minutes outside of Edmonton in every direction, vacationers will discover different worlds. At Fort Edmonton Park, for example, interpreters in authentic costumes walk the historical streets representing the lifestyles of 1885, 1905 and 1920. At the C&E Railway Museum in Strathcona, railroad buffs can relive the days of steam engines and their delivery of thousands of settlers to this section of Canada. Sample life in another galaxy or two at the Odyssium, Edmonton’s space and science museum where visitors can walk through the Body Fantastic, or along Mystery Avenue, The Greens’ House or Space Place. And lose yourself to the music of the Edmonton Opera and Alberta Ballet at the Jubilee Auditorium. Of course, no one visiting Alberta should miss the majesty of the Yellowhead Highway and Jasper National Park, with views of six mountain ranges from the Jasper Tramway.
RVers have a choice of fine campgrounds in and around Edmonton. See Parks and Resorts below, and check your recent edition of the Trailer Life RV Parks, Campgrounds & Services Directory for additional locations. Also, be certain to read the rules and regulations regarding crossing the border into Canada in the back of the Directory.