Telus World of Science

Why Edmonton?

Almost every person we met had the same question. Our reflexive answer: Why not?

They’ve seen tourists here, sure. After all, Edmonton is referred to as Canada’s Festival City. And it’s the capital of Alberta, too.

But Edmonton in February? OK, that’s a head-scratcher.

They really wanted to know what attracted us to their slice of North America. The answer was simple: You see, most people looking for the sanctuary of the Eastern Canadians Rockies fly into Calgary or take the train from Vancouver. But trust me, some things are more fun when you do them backwards.

Which is exactly what we did. We flew into Edmonton, and took a day to adjust to the time difference and the cold before heading to the mountains.

So little time, so much to do

Unfortunately we only had that one day to explore the city, and since we were staying at the Fantasyland Hotel in West Edmonton, Old Strathcona’s farmer’s market, Fort Edmonton Park, the Muttart Conservatory and the arresting architecture in City Centre were out. So we decided to stick with the west side of town.

Our first stop was to the Telus World of Science. If you know my kids, then you’d understand why this was an obvious choice. Sure, the Royal Alberta Museum and the Edmonton Valley Zoo sounded like fun. But in this family, science trumps all.

We weren’t disappointed.

Natural science? Check. Human biology? Check. Interactive crime scene investigation exhibit? Check. They even have traveling exhibits, as well as halls with experiments and brainteasers that could keep you busy all day.

We only stayed a few hours before trekking across town for lunch at the Urban Diner. If we had more time, we would have made a beeline for City Centre from there. But instead, we headed back to our hotel and the West Edmonton Mall.

A mall to end all malls

What’s that? You haven’t heard of the West Edmonton Mall?

West Edmonton Mall Sea Lion's RockWe in the States think we’ve seen everything there is to see in a mall. Those of us from Orlando (like, ahem, us) are even harder to impress. But there is nothing like this in North America – at least not yet.

At the West Edmonton Mall you can shop, eat or be entertained. Wait, that sounded too simple. I mean you can do the same thing in Downtown Disney.

The difference – and this is a holy-cow-hold-onto-your-hat-OMG difference – is that this sprawling, glass-ceilinged mall is home to World Waterpark with the largest indoor wave pool in the world, Galaxyland which is the second largest indoor amusement park in the world, the Ice Palace which is a scaled-down version of a National Hockey League regulation sized ice rink and a salt-water habitat with a sea lion and a replica of the Santa María, known as Sea Life Caverns.

They even have IMAX, mini golf, rock climbing, bungee jumping and the Fantasyland Hotel where we stayed in the igloo fantasy room with a replica igloo bed and bunk beds for the kids.

Yeah, that was cool.

But after a day of science exploration and indoor mall adventures we grabbed dinner at L2 (Level 2) before calling it a night. We had an early morning boarding on the VIA Rail to Jasper to start our Rocky Mountain adventure.

So would we do Edmonton in February again? We feel lucky; we came through town during a thaw. High temperatures were just above freezing, which to the locals feels downright balmy. To these Orlando natives, not so much. Maybe we’ll return during the summer to experience one of Edmonton’s famous festivals. But to the question “Why Edmonton” our answer remains — “Why not?”