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In the heart of Alberta, surrounded by unblemished prairie land, is the provincial capital of Edmonton. Having prospered from its oil industry, Alberta boasts some incredible recreation facilities, including the world’s largest shopping mall and an illustrious theatre. The outlying areas of Edmonton, including a beautiful national park, are perfect for outdoor exploration, camping and wildlife watching.
The Muttart Gallery, a construction of glass pyramids, houses a remarkable display of flower and plant life; while the Devonian Botanic Garden is adorned with thousands of species of exotic plant life. It takes at least a full day to explore the garden as the nature trails seem to stretch interminably.
The opportunities for hiking, cycling and cross-country skiing are better here than in most places in Canada. The city’s park system is huge and is spread all over the massive wooded river valley.
Just south of the river is Edmonton’s historic district, Old Strathcona. Here you’ll find many of Alberta’s student crowd hanging out in the myriad cafés, restaurants, galleries and boutiques. Nestled in 23 hectares of verdant parkland is the Alberta Legislature Building, which is worth a visit to see its beautiful surroundings.
The ultra modern ‘pedways’ (air-controlled underground walkways) lead downtown. Downtown Alberta offers up first class hotels, delectable restaurants, busy shopping malls, a library, City Hall and the great Citadel Theatre. If the malls prove to be too contrived, then you can head to High Street or Old Strathcona for some shopping.
The country’s largest planetarium can be found in the Odyssium, a building which also contains an IMAX theatre and observatory. Alternatively, Fort Edmonton Park affords the visitor a look at life back in the pioneer days, with re-creations of streets from different time periods. The gigantic Citadel Theatre runs shows all year round, and bookings should be made in advance.
For those with a propensity for social drinking, or even a penchant for country and western, Alberta will definitely be enjoyable. There are numbers of bars downtown, and while many are dedicated to cowboys and country music, others cater to patrons with different musical tastes.
The major suburbs in Edmonton are: Acheson, Ardrossan, Beaumont, Devon, Enoch, Fort Saskatchewan, Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove and St Albert.
Edmonton International Airport is served by carriers from all over Canada and the USA, plus several from European destinations, making worldwide connections simple. Flight time from Winnipeg is 1 hour, 45 minutes; while the flight from Chicago is about 4 hours. Additionally, it takes 1 hour, 30 minutes to fly to Edmonton from Vancouver.
The airport is located 29kms south of the city on Highway 2, and transportation into the city by bus or taxi is plentiful. The average cost is $35 one-way by taxi, or $11 one-way ($18 return) by Sky Shuttle.
Edmonton straddles the inter-provincial Yellowhead Highway, which provides easy automobile access from Winnipeg through Edmonton to British Columbia. Calgary is 282kms to the south on Highway 2.
VIA Rail Canada serves Edmonton as part of its Trans-Canada train service. Farther west, the train takes you through Jasper and the stunning Rocky Mountains as it passes into British Columbia.
Greyhound buses link Edmonton to various Canadian and US cities.
Whether you are driving yourself or using public transportation, getting around Edmonton could not be much easier. Most streets in Edmonton are numbered, with avenues ascending east to west, and streets south to north.