Later this year, the Royal Alberta Museum, Western Canada’s largest museum, will open in its new home, an impressive $375-million facility—that’s nearly double the size of the old space—in the heart of downtown. The RAM covers everything from the province’s military and political history to its unique archaeology and geology. Notably, it also boasts the largest public collection of early fur-trade artifacts from the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company posts in Western Canada, with some pieces dating back to 1790.
The river valley funicular
Edmonton’s popular river valley just became more accessible thanks to the new, cable-propelled, glass-enclosed funicular that connects the valley to the edge of downtown, moving up to 20 people at one time. The funicular starts at the top of the riverbank just south of the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald and then moves to a promenade, about halfway down, that overlooks the valley. From here, there’s a bridge leading to a lookout point that offers views of the river or the downtown skyline.
This large, Islamic-inspired garden (one of only two in North America) will open in the spring at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden, located just outside the city. The completion is planned to coincide with the Aga Khan’s (the hereditary spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslim community) Diamond Jubilee Celebration later this year. This serene, 12-acre garden will have native plant species, secluded forest paths, water features, wetlands and stonework, including a central courtyard called a chahar bagh.
The highly anticipated, 25-acre ICE District, a massive sports and entertainment district in the city’s downtown, finally came together in 2016 with the opening of the state-of-the-art Rogers Place arena. The new home of the Edmonton Oilers anchors the area, but there are plenty of shopping and dining options, plus a bustling public plaza for events and festivals.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Edmonton 58 times a day from 16 Canadian, seven U.S. and five international cities.
At nearly 600 kilometres long, Calgary’s urban pathway system was already the largest in North America. But the recent completion of the Rotary/Mattamy Greenway route added another 138 km and encircles all of the city, connecting 55 neighbourhoods and making it the world’s longest multi-use urban pathway. Visitors to Calgary can take advantage of the walking, cycling and cross-country ski trails or explore the city’s many wetlands and parks, including Fish Creek Provincial Park.
The Calgary Zoo is getting some new residents in May. Four giant pandas—two adults (named Da Mao and Er Shun) and two cubs (Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue)—are on special loan from China and will reside in the zoo’s new Panda Passage habitat for five years. This is a particularly big deal for the Calgary Zoo, since the last time they had giant pandas was for the Winter Olympics in 1988.
This formerly gritty, inner-city neighbourhood has been undergoing a massive transformation over the past few years. The recently launched Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre (which features collections and exhibitions highlighting Canada’s music history), is a main anchor of the neighbourhood, while St. Patrick’s Island, a large urban oasis with public art instillations, an outdoor amphitheatre, fishing cove and playgrounds, also draws locals and visitors. Development on the East Village will continue throughout 2018—the city’s first Alt Hotel is scheduled to open in the spring.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Calgary 118 times a day from 24 Canadian, 12 U.S. and 13 international cities.