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Canada 150: Edmonton

Canadians are known for playing hard in the summers. We like to spend as much time outdoors as we can, which is easy, because the days are long, and necessary, because the season is short.

Also, for the most part, the weather is awesome. Not too hot, not too humid.

One of the ways we play hard is by going to outdoor festivals. We’ve got a few, ranging from the traditional fairs and exhibitions and rodeos to theatre (from Shakespeare to fringe) to music of all sorts, including jazz, blues, and folk.

One of the best festival cities in the country, in my opinion, is Edmonton. And one of the best outdoor music festivals in the country, in my opinion, is the four-day Edmonton Folk Music Festival held every August at Gallagher Park. The park is a ski club in the winter, but in the summer, its hill serves as a natural amphitheatre with spectacular views of the city’s skyline.

The Edmonton Folk Fest is one of the largest and best-attended folk music festivals in North America, and attracts musicians from around the world who, once they’ve played the Folk Fest, are always eager to come back. Celtic, country, blues, gospel, soul, and world music — you name it, they’ve got it. It sells out every year, typically within minutes.

If you’ve never been, you don’t know what you’re missing. Seriously.

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Through My Lens: Lunch Break

Lunchbox Joe

It’s that time of year.

What time of year?

It’s the time of year when we Canadians maximize every second of our short summers by spending as much time as possible outdoors.

Did you know that studies have shown workers are more satisfied with their jobs if they eat their lunch sitting on a park bench instead of in a café or (shudder) at their desks?

This chap is Lunchbox Joe. He’s enjoying his break in Edmonton’s Sir Winston Churchill Square.

Get outside, people!

Edmonton Mural

I’m thinking it’s time for another mural. This one is from Edmonton ― I took this photo last month when I was there over the Easter weekend to visit my family. I like the Greek touch, but I love how the colours blend so perfectly into that bright blue sky the Prairies are known for.

Edmonton Mural

Muttart Conservatory

In my last post, I promised you more about what Edmonton has to offer.

One of Edmonton’s gems, in my humble opinion, is the Muttart Conservatory. These four pyramids have been a landmark in Edmonton’s river valley since 1976. They are an amazing oasis in the heart of the city, particularly in the middle of a harsh Alberta winter. Three of the pyramids focus on plant life from temperate, arid, and tropical climates; the fourth rotates through various seasonal plants. When I was there earlier this month, it was filled with tulips.

My favourite is the arid pyramid ― because I think the cactuses have the most personality.

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West Edmonton Mall

Waterpark

Yup. I’m writing about a mall. Not just any mall. The mall.

I’ve been debating whether to write this post. What is there to say about West Edmonton Mall? It’s big. It’s huge. It’s there.

But then I looked online to see what the Lonely Planet website had to say about Edmonton and laughed when I read, “Edmonton? Is that the place with the big mall?” After I stopped laughing, I realized that the mall does have a world-wide reputation. So, here’s a quick summary for you.

West Edmonton Mall gets 28 million visitors a year. (If you consider that the population of Edmonton is less than a million, that’s means either Edmonton is a city of shoppers or it gets a lot of out-of-town visitors. I suspect the latter.) Last weekend, my niece and I were two of those 28 million visitors. The mall’s claim to fame is not only that it’s the largest mall in North America, but that for 23 years (from its opening in 1981 until 2004) it was the largest mall in the world. That’s no mean feat for Edmonton, considering how many malls there are on this planet.

There’s an amusement park, a water park, an NHL-sized ice rink, a hotel, and, oh yeah, a few stores. Over 800 of them. For those of us urbanites who make it an art form to disparage West Edmonton Mall, we have to remember that Edmonton is a service centre for a vast chunk of rural Alberta. I’m quite sure there are a lot of Albertans who find a one-stop shop most convenient, especially if you have a handful of kids in tow. And a weekend of shopping and water-parking is a nice break from the cold icy winters northern Alberta is known for.

I won’t recommend you go to Edmonton just to see the mall. But if you happen to be in the vicinity, and have never seen the place, check it out. Just so you can say you’ve been in the largest mall in North America.

And then check out what else Edmonton has to offer. For more on that, stay tuned.

Ice rink