At Edmonton's Jurassic Forest, visitors get a taste of prehistoric times. // © 2011 forest: Brittney Le Blanc
Fave Five Family Activities
While Edmonton is known primarily as Canada's "Festival City," it also offers year-round and seasonal attractions and activities that are suitable for all ages, especially multigenerational families, from grandma and grandpa to the grandkids. The capital of the province of Alberta has something for everyone in the family -- from the largest mall in North America to a 40-acre prehistoric nature preserve.West Edmonton Mall
To say that the West Edmonton Mall is large would be an understatement. This mall is Edmonton's version of the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minn. -- except it's even larger than its U.S. counterpart. The West Edmonton Mall measures some 5.3 million square feet, with more than 800 different retailers and attractions, including two hotels and more than 100 different dining venues. The mall also holds records for having the world's largest indoor amusement park, indoor triple-loop roller coaster, indoor lake, indoor wave pool, parking lot and permanent bungee tower. Needless to say, families could spend an entire day -- or more -- in the mall alone and many do. The mall estimates that it receives more than 28.2 million visitors per year.
This spring, the mall, which originally opened in September 1981, is undergoing a multimillion-dollar facelift to update its facilities. Improvements include three new water slides to the World Waterpark, a massive indoor waterpark that is open year-round. During my visit in February, the waterpark was packed to the brim with visitors dressed in bathing suits and swim trunks -- a far cry from the wintry attire being worn outside. A new rope course is also being installed.
Thrill-seekers should head straight to Galaxyland, which offers more than 23 different rides including massive roller coasters. In March, Galaxyland will also welcome its newest ride, the Cosmic Revolution. The mall also houses a bowling alley (Ed's Rec Room), an underground aquarium (Marine Life), a National Hockey League-size ice-skating rink (Ice Palace), a miniature golf course (Professor WEM's Adventure Golf), bumper boat rides (Deep Sea Derby) and an IMAX 3-D theater.
Clients who want to spend more than one day exploring the mall may want to consider booking a stay at the Fantasyland Hotel (located inside the mall) or the West Edmonton Mall Inn (located across the street). The 235-room Fantasyland Hotel is currently undergoing renovations. It is best known for its inventively themed rooms, some of which feature decor that echoes the Wild West, the islands of Polynesia or the streets of Hollywood Boulevard.Jurassic Forest
For anyone who has ever wanted to walk among life-size dinosaurs without the fear of a terrifying "Jurassic Park" experience, Jurassic Forest will thrill kids and adults alike. The 40-acre prehistoric nature preserve opened last July and features giant, life-size dinosaurs depicted just as they might have interacted millions of years ago. Some of the featured dinosaurs include the Albertosaurus, the Stegosaurus, the Edmontonsaurus, the Triceratops, the Tyrannosaurus and many others. Moreover, the eco-friendly park was built in an old-growth forest and features indigenous flora and fauna throughout its facility. Activities at the park include 1.2 miles of discovery trails, an outdoor playground, an interactive exhibit hall, a gift shop, a cafeteria and a party room. In the summer, clients may choose to enroll their children in various summer camp programs. For $45, parents can also enroll their children in the park's Junior Explorers Club, which teaches kids about the dinosaurs and the importance of preserving the environment. The park closes for winter and, as of press time, the forest's website says it hopes to reopen for 2011 by the middle of May. Edmonton Attractions Pass
Beginning in April, agents can also purchase Edmonton Attractions Passes for their clients, giving them discounted access to some of Edmonton's most popular and family-friendly attractions. There are two types of passes: the Ultimate Pass gives the ticket-holder year-long access to 15 different attractions at a cost of $60, and the U-Pick Pass, a seven-day pass good for four attractions, priced at $30. Youth passes are also available for a slightly lower cost. Participating attractions include: the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Valley Zoo, the Devonian Botanic Garden, the Leduc #1 Energy Discovery Centre, Fort Edmonton Park, the Muttart Conservatory, the Northlands neighborhood, the Old Strathcona neighborhood, the Telus World of Science, the West Edmonton Mall, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, the Alberta Legislature, the Prairie Gardens and Adventure Farm, the Royal Alberta Museum, Capital EX (an annual 10-day festival of games and attractions held every July) and the Alberta Aviation Museum. Agents are encouraged to purchase the passes for their clients online at Edmonton Attractions.com.
So, whether Edmonton-bound clients want to explore the great indoors at the West Edmonton Mall or the great outdoors of Jurassic Forest, they're bound to find what they're seeking in their family vacation.