The World's Largest Resource for the Cart, Kiosk, and Temporary Retail Industry
by Yvonne Jeffery
Canada.com

Edmonton – More than 800 stores, 100 restaurants, 48 city blocks worth of space, the continent’s largest indoor waterpark and the world’s largest indoor amusement park. There’s only one place on the planet these numbers could describe — West Edmonton Mall.

In the last year alone, new arrivals have included Calvin Klein (clothing from the designer), Geox (the shoes with the breathable soles), Lucky brand jeans, Mandarina Duck (Italian retailer of handbags and travel bags) and the Make Up Store (Sweden’s first to open in Canada).

I can’t help but admire the vision that plunked the world’s largest mall on the edge of Edmonton in 1981. In case you’re wondering why Edmonton, well, it provided a great reason to travel to the city, which just happens to have been the site for Canada’s first shopping centre, built in 1955 (it was Westmount Shopping Centre).

Think of it as a legacy.

And it’s not just shopping — the mall comes with an entertainment quotient that’s hard to beat. Recent additions include Caribbean Cove, a 6,000-square-foot interactive water play area at the World Waterpark — if you want to get really, seriously wet, try the giant tipping bucket that spills 1,200 litres of water at once.

Over at Galaxyland, you can spin, flip, drop and twist on almost two dozen different rides, designed for a range of ages and tolerances.

If you’re still looking for things to do, try ice-skating, mini-golf, 10-pin bowling . . . let’s just say that you’re unlikely to be bored.

Shopaholics will be in heaven, however. To make it easier, choose one of two options: simply start wandering and give yourself over to the call of retail serendipity or chart your course using a mall map.

If specific stores are on your list, my advice is to use the map option. Otherwise, you could miss one of your gems tucked down a side aisle.

West Edmonton Mall is great, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that shopping in Edmonton starts and ends there.

I headed over to the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market recently and discovered that the city is embracing this once-a-week market with enthusiasm. Where steam engines from the Calgary and Edmonton Railway chugged into town more than a century ago, the market provides a cornerstone to the restored Old Strathcona district (oldstrathcona.ca), itself centred on the historic buildings of Whyte Avenue.

The market takes place every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 10310 83rd Ave., and showcases more than 130 local growers and artisans. From fresh vegetables to funky jewelry and from goat milk’s soap to bison meat, the fare changes with the artists and the seasons.

It’s one bustling place, though, so if you have a shopping list of ingredients, make sure you get there early — and bring a cooler, along with your appetite.

(You can eat your way around the stalls, thanks to generous samples of salsas, cheeses, preserves and more.) With the squeaks of balloons being shaped into animals and even armour, and the scent of kettle popcorn being made, it makes for a great family excursion.

Use the market as a place to start exploring the Old Strathcona neighbourhood, which was declared an historic area last year.

Theatre companies, antique stores, repertory cinema and boutique hotels can be found along Whyte Avenue and the surrounding streets — along with great dining and shopping.

Try the French Meadow Artisan Bakery Café for breakfast, lunch or just a quick pick-me-up.

For dinner, there’s Italian at Chianti Cafe & Restaurant and Greek (including belly dancing on Friday and Saturday nights) at Yiannis Taverna, just for a start.

For shopping, there’s something for everyone — European fashion and modern decor at Modecor, designer collections for women at Callidas, natural bath and body care products at Wild Prairie Soap Company and art, jewelry and pottery from Canada and around the world at Wares on Earth. Be warned, shopping in Edmonton easily deserves a long weekend’s getaway all on its own.

For more dining, head north for A Taste of Edmonton, running July 18 to 27 at Sir Winston Churchill Square (eventsedmonton.ca).

More than 30 of the city’s top restaurants offer their best at this annual festival.

Cultural cuisine, meanwhile, is on offer at the 33rd annual Heritage Festival (heritage-festival.com) from Aug. 2 to 4. It has 60 pavilions of food, music and culture.

For more shopping, try the 124th Street (124stbrz.com) and High Street areas, close to each other and downtown, for specialty stores, fashion designers and art galleries.

And head to Dots (11825 105th Ave. N.W.) for discount clothing.

If you’re looking for a guided tour anywhere in Edmonton, contact shopping guru Judy McDonald (sophiesrubies.com) — she’ll tailor the tour to your retail wishes.

from Canada.com © 2008

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