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Revist Edmonton as a hometown tourist

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  • Revist Edmonton as a hometown tourist

    Revisit Edmonton as a hometown tourist
    Paula Simons
    The Edmonton Journal


    Tuesday, July 04, 2006

    About 12 years ago, my husband and I moved to Toronto. I was working for CBC Stereo, he was studying creative writing at Ryerson. We didn't know how long we were going to stay in TO. So we decided to treat the experience as a sort of extended vacation. We threw ourselves into the city headlong.

    We went to plays and concerts and festivals and Blue Jays games. We visited the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Casa Loma, Harbourfront and the CN Tower. We shopped at Kensington Market, we strolled the Danforth, hung out in the Beaches, ate dim sum in Chinatown, prosciutto in Little Italy and bagels on Bathhurst. When we left two years later, we figured we'd squeezed more fun out of the city than some Torontonians do in a lifetime.

    But perhaps the best thing about our two-year sabbatical was that we came home to Edmonton with a fresh perspective. We took the tourist's perspective that had worked so well for us in Toronto and applied it to our hometown.

    Before we'd moved to Toronto, we'd never shopped at a farmers' market, never spent much time in Edmonton's Chinatown or Little Italy. We weren't regulars at the art gallery, we'd never gone to a Trappers game or the Folk Festival. When we came back, all that changed. We started exploring our own city, finding places we'd never seen in all our years growing up here.

    And when we became parents, our questing expanded as we sought out inexpensive and welcoming public places to go with a baby/toddler/child.

    So why am I telling you all this? Because I want to present you with a summer challenge -- a holiday homework assignment.

    As I travel the city talking to people, as I read through my mail and answer my phone calls, I'm often dismayed by the number of Edmontonians who don't know their own city, who live and work in one corner or quadrant, and never venture outside their own comfort zone. Often these are the same people who complain about how there's nothing to do in Edmonton -- when, in fact, they don't make much of an effort to do anything, or try anything new.

    Sure, if you stay at home, watching TV or mowing your lawn, Edmonton can be pretty dull. It doesn't help that many Edmonton attractions are lousy at self-promotion, in part because of small marketing budgets, but also because of a kind of constitutional shyness. But that just makes the thrill of discovering them all the more special.

    So here's my proposition. This summer, pick three or four or five local places or events or activities you've never taken in before -- and go have fun there.

    Have you ever had high tea at Rutherford House? Stopped to smell the roses at the Devonian Botanic Gardens? Played the ponies at Northlands? Canoed the North Saskatchewan? Trekked Wild Alberta at the Royal Alberta Museum? Picnicked in Rundle Park? Ridden the vintage street car across the High Level Bridge? Eaten pyrogies at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village? Seen the red pandas at the Valley Zoo?

    Why not make this your year?

    Maybe this is your summer to take in the River City Shakespeare Festival, where the Free Will Players are performing Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew in Hawrelak Park. Or to see your first Fringe play. Or attend your first jazz concert. Maybe this is your summer to spend a night at Fort Edmonton's Selkirk Hotel. Or to ride the waves at the West Edmonton Mall Waterpark.

    Being a tourist in your own backyard doesn't necessarily mean spending a lot of money. It doesn't cost anything to take the kids, or the grandparents, to enjoy the sunny Cariwest Parade. Or to try out the hip new playground in Giovanni Caboto Park or to splash in the City Hall pool. It doesn't cost anything to go on a walking tour of the river valley trails or visit the Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary or browse the art at The Works. Even the Street Performers Festival is pay-what-you-can.

    So if you live in the 'burbs, and rarely get to the downtown or Old Strathcona, why don't take a little holiday in the heart of your city? Churchill Square, Whyte Avenue, 124th Street, Little Italy and Chinatown all await you.

    If you already live in the city centre, you still have plenty of exploring to do. Have you ever been to the St. Albert Farmers' Market? Enjoyed the spice shops and Indian buffets of Mill Woods? Maybe this is your summer to brush up on your francais and visit Beaumont, metro Edmonton's only bilingual community. Or to take in a patio concert at Festival Place in Sherwood Park.

    I have my own "to-do" list for the summer.

    I've never been to a Cracker-Cats ball game. Never visited the Fort Saskatchewan Museum. Never walked over the footbridge that connects Louise

    McKinney Park with the Muttart Conservatory. And I can't wait to ride that new Fort Edmonton carousel.

    So I repeat my invitation. Get out there and find your city. Then, send me a postcard or an e-mail and tell me what you've found. Or suggest a hidden treasure for me, and everyone else, to discover. I'll share your best letters with our readers. So get out there -- on your mark, get set... go.

    [email protected]
    © The Edmonton Journal 2006


  • #2
    I did the exact same thing when I moved back from Seattle - and the experience shaped a lot of my opinions on Promote-Edmonton and also now with C2E...we all should try it.
    President and CEO - Airshow.

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    • #3
      I do this when I come back to Edmonton for holidays. This fall when I move back I will be showing Edmonton off to family from the East and the US. I am looking forward to showing them a bunch of sites. Most of my extended family hasn't been to Edmonton for 10-12 years so it should be a good time to show them a booming city.

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      • #4
        I have always wondered how we can brag about a place if we do not experience it firsthand. This is why I have always visted and participated in as many places, events and festivals as I can in Edmonton and surrounding area.

        I am a two-time resident of Edmonton and have been back now for 22 years yet I am constantly impressed with the diversity that Edmonton has to offer. I am an “Edmonton fan” and not ashamed to say it.

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        • #5
          I think this is a great idea and it was a great article. Some additional suggestions for this "homework assignment" would be in this thread.

          Post something here whenever you experience something new and wonderful in this city!
          Time to grow up.

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