After a crazy time at the Calgary Stampede it was time to unwind in the city of Edmonton, 3 hours north of Calgary. We have a good friend that lives there so it was a perfect opportunity to check out another Albertan city. We hadn’t heard too many good things about Edmonton from most Canadians but we found it a nice place to visit regardless. The city is very spread out (this means no traffic!) and has the largest mall in North America. We didn’t get to check it out as there was no way I could convince Andrew to visit a mall, let alone the biggest one (his worst nightmare!). However, we took some time to stroll down Whyte Avenue which had a great arty and busy vibe, with some fun restaurants and cool stores. Edmonton is also home to the Edmonton Oilers, a successful ice hockey franchise, and while it was the wrong season to watch them in action, we did get to see our friend play in the social “beer” league which was pretty entertaining.
A great place to visit, only 45km outside of Edmonton, is Elk Island National Park. This place has the highest density of wild hoofed animals in the world after the Serengeti. So we borrowed a car and headed out there for the day. We really wanted to see Bison and we were not disappointed. As soon as we arrived, we found ourselves amongst a large herd of them. We sat in the car and watched in awe as they moved around grunting and interacting with each other. We were lucky that we went early in the morning as when the sun starts to become hot the animals quickly hide in the forest and shade and it is very difficult to see any wildlife. So my recommendation is to go early on an overcast day.
Elk Island National Park is also home to a high concentration of beavers. We saw many beaver built lodges around the many ponds and lakes, however, it seemed a bit too warm to catch a glimpse of these creatures. Unfortunately the bugs and mosquitos also kept us from spending too much time near the water as they would swarm around us immediately. I guess that is the downside to visiting a swampy area in the middle of summer, I suggest spring and fall as better times to visit the park to see wildlife. But we didn’t let the bugs detract from our visit and we attempted a few walks around the many trails in the park. The lakes are beautiful and Astotin Lake is a great place to enjoy a picnic.
Our time in Edmonton was brief, but rewarding. We loved catching up with our friend Tim and probably would never have visited Edmonton otherwise. Every place is what you make of it and Edmonton is a lovely city to spend a couple of days in. Cost wise it is cheap compared to the rest of Canada. We were lucky enough to borrow a car and have free accommodation, but car rental is cheap here (CA$40 a day) and so is accommodation (as cheap as CA$50 a night for double occupancy).