Not what you’d expect: a first look at Edmonton, Alberta

Old Strathcona neighborhood in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (courtesy TravelingOtter on Flickr CC)

Old Strathcona neighborhood in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (courtesy TravelingOtter on Flickr CC)

It’s been awhile since I’ve had to deal with travelling in cold weather; usually I can rock me some carry-on bag packing techniques, but this time I was forced to take a bigger container (and check it and pay for it, grrrrr) because the snow pants and heavy Norwegian sweater beat me down.

As I carried my favorite flip-flops downstairs to put away while I’m gone, I heard that inner Crybaby Traveler voice grousing….

“What are you DOING? Why are you heading to the far north to see Edmonton and parts of Alberta in February? You don’t do any snow sports with your old gimpy-knee-and-shoulder self, you already live in Texas so visiting some other nation’s cowboy country seems redundant, and now you’re having to lug all of these gloves, hats, boots, sweaters….did I mention that the high up there today is 18 degrees F?”

As I drove into Edmonton from the airport yesterday, I was so glad that I’d ignored myself.

Sure, Canada can look a lot like Anywhere USA – there’s a Home Depot, there’s an IKEA, there’s a Wendy’s – until it doesn’t (there’s the Labatt’s brewery!) Plus, any drive in from an airport is better when you see a work truck labeled, “Straight Up Erectors.”

If your nation is going to be stereotyped about its citizens being nice, is that really a problem? Not for a visitor; everyone I’ve met so far is ridiculously super-friendly, from Edmonton airport immigration people to the taxi drivers to the waiter at Madison’s Grill who tried to talk me into dessert to locals online using their Twitter hashtag #yeg (YEG is their airport code) to random sidewalk folks pointing me to an ATM so I can get some loonies.

I just want to type that again ’cause it’s fun. Loonies.

Did you know that Edmonton has a very active theater scene? Me, either. I saw a bit of it at the Citadel Theatre last night; an improv-like production called Blind Date. The lead actress picks a guy out of the audience to be her “date” for the whole play, so it’s different every time. The version I saw had a really sweet guy – an Arctic engineer by trade – and you wouldn’t believe how actress Rebecca Northan, an Alberta native, crafted a believable, funny love story out of a random selection of some dude who specializes in ice.

Still to be explored is a huge park right in the middle of town, a funky/cool historic area called Old Strathcona, the Art Gallery of Alberta, the humongous West Edmonton Mall, and at least one festival (there are gobs of Edmonton festivals going on all year long.)

Have you experienced that inner Crybaby Traveler voice yourself? Did you fight it and how did things turn out? Give us a shout down in the comments!

(Disclosure: I’m a guest of Edmonton Tourism and Travel Alberta on this trip, but impressions and opinions are my own. Plus, I hold the trump card – a photo of host Amy from Edmonton Tourism dancing with a Blind Date cast member who is wearing bunny ears.)

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  1. Rhiannon February 14, 2013
  2. Sheila Scarborough February 14, 2013

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