It feels as though we are visiting an old friend. Thirty years ago, Edmonton, Alberta served as our young family’s weekend getaway destination. Living in a small town in Western Canada, an escape to the city of Edmonton revived our toddler parent frayed nerves. Now standing awestruck in the middle of the frosty Edmonton Ice Castle, we wonder what kept us away all these decades.
When we moved back to Calgary, although Edmonton was only three hours north, we rarely made the drive again.
The magic castle
If a princess appears before me here at Canada’s largest ice castle I shall not blink an eye. The two acre frozen wonderland in Edmonton’s Hawrelak Park is a fairy tale in the making.
“It is a mix of playground, art piece and engineering feat,” explains Kyle Standifird, one of the owners of Ice Castles. “The staff grow 8,000 – 10,000 icicles every day. Placing the icicle rods as continuous framing, spraying water over that frame creates ever changing magic. The ice castle walls look different each day.”
With a galaxy of LED lights twinkling inside the ice, hubby and I wander the maze, crawl through castle tunnels and squeal and giggle speeding down the ice slides. Just ask the knight in the red cape standing guard.
Tips for the Edmonton Ice Castle
Purchase tickets on line. Your ticket will give you a specific time to enter. Be on time. Dress warmly and wear insulated boots as you will be walking in a base of snow and ice. The ice castle is open from the end of December until the middle of March, weather permitting. We timed our visit so we could also catch one of the city’s winter festivals.
Arriving at the Ice on Whyte festival my inner child is jumping up and down in anticipation. Should I watch the professional ice carvers or try ice sculpting on my own? Ride the giant ice slide or climb into the massive fur trader Voyageur canoe? Walk through the museum tent or have a craft beer? That inner kidlet will definitely want hot chocolate after all of the above! This year the festival runs January 26-29 and February 2-5 and the End of Steel Park in Old Strathcona.
Following Ice on Whyte, The Silverskate Festival runs for 10 days in Hawrelak Park, Feb10-20 this year. The festival location next to the Edmonton Ice Castle means double the magic.
Tips for the Edmonton winter festivals
Snowshoe, skate and be on the lookout for bison
My eyes glue themselves to the car window as we drive east of Edmonton to Elk Island National Park. With the highest density of hoofed mammals in the world, this is the pinnacle of Canada’s bison conservation story.
Today the snow is crunchy and hard from wind and sun so hiking boots and poles are all we need to explore the still serenity. Discovering that ice trails cleared by park staff circle the island I will be packing my skates for the next visit.
Tips for visiting Elk Island National Park
Snow shoes can be rented at Elk Island Park Visitor Center. Guided tours, including those in the moonlight, can be arranged through Haskin Canoe. Dress in warm layers. Bring a back pack to carry a bottle of water and layers you may want to discard once you get moving. Stay at least 30 m(100ft) away from any bison, elk or moose.
Roll over winter on a fat bike
It is a sad day in late autumn when we hang up our road bikes. Snow and ice leave the narrow wheels helpless. With Edmonton sporting more than 400 km (248mi.) of paved and single track trails, fat wheeled bikes are just the thing to put a smile on a winter cyclist’s face.
Tips for fat biking
Fat bikes can be rented at Revolution Cycle. A great way to explore the city is on a guided tour. Breaking with my usual advice do not dress too warmly. I overheated very quickly. Bring a backpack to hold extra layers and a bottle of water.
Now grab your mittens friends and click on the video below. We can’t believe it took us so long to rediscover Edmonton. What were we thinking?
INSPIRED TO VISIT EDMONTON? PIN THESE TO YOUR PINTEREST TRAVEL BOARDS
We have partnered with Travel Alberta and Edmonton Tourism to bring you this article. All giggles, squealing and opinions are as always our own.