Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta, has many opportunities to discover its history. From the Provincial Historical Area of Strathcona to the Royal Alberta Museum and Fort Edmonton Park, these activities are great for all ages.
Strathcona Area along Whyte Avenue
Although hip shops and funky cafés line the popular Whyte Avenue, Strathcona is the historical core of Edmonton. Designated as a Provincial Historical Area last year, you can find buildings from as far back as 1891. According to the Old Strathcona Business Association, the street today would still be recognizable to inhabitants of the early 1900’s pioneer city.
As workers laboured away at the new railroad tracks, the inaugural train screeched into the station in 1891. Residents soon began constructing the town by building the Hotel Edmonton, which still stands as the Strathcona Hotel, a saloon and dwellings. By 1899, Strathcona was incorporated as a town and in 1907 a city was born. It wasn’t until 1912 that Strathcona joined Edmonton to become one city. Today, modern cars belie the once 100-foot wide streets where carriages used to park in the middle so horses could turn around. But the spirit of the original pioneer city has been preserved by the Old Strathcona Business Association and the passionate people who remind each generation of what came before them.
Fort Edmonton Park
Fox Drive and Whitemud Drive
This expansive attraction is great for small children up to seniors. Costumed interpreters greet guests in the historic buildings that are set up in their period glory. Walk through the 1846 fort, 1885 street, 1905 street and 1920 street and literally step into a world of yesteryear. Stores have been furnished accurately down to the smallest detail and staff behave as if not of this era.
Families can picnic in the park and children can play as they did in the early 1900’s. Couples are able to romance each other if they stay at the on-site Hotel Selkirk (1-877-496-7227), a fully restored hotel in 1920’s style grandeur, and hire a carriage or sleigh ride through the park. The site grounds are wheelchair accessible and a restored steam train carries those who don’t want to walk. Bring good walking shoes and see Edmonton as it was over 100 years ago.
Royal Alberta Museum
12845 102nd Avenue
Also a major hit with kids, this museum takes boring out of learning and replaces it with interactive fun. See indigenous bugs up close and touch a tarantula, ogle precious minerals and gemstones, see carefully recreated wildlife through large glass windows, and learn 11,000 years of aboriginal culture.
Special exhibits are ongoing: check out the Dragons: Between Science and Fiction this June 14 until mid-September. Because only a tiny portion of the museum’s artefacts are on display at one time, repeat visits are interesting and can reveal treasures like the trendy Parisian monkey fur dress or the extraordinary hand carved Chinese statues.
Recommended Edmonton Hotel
Right in the downtown core is the Union Bank Inn (10053 Jasper Avenue, 1-888-423-3601), a Canada Select property. The exterior was built in 1911 as the Union Bank of Canada and has kept its façade. Inside, choose from the heritage tower, where all rooms are uniquely decorated in themes like Monroe, Bogart and Gershwin, or the contemporary wing with a modern interior.