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Family Matters

5 {Unexpectedly} Fun Family Adventures

September 1st, 2016

By Elvira Berezowsky

The splash pads are closed….kids are back in school…the parks have morning frost on them…Fall in Edmonton is here!  It’s time to look for new and exciting places to explore, with summer behind us.  Here are five places you may not have thought to visit around Edmonton…but will be glad you did!

Devonian Botanic Gardens – devonian.ualberta.ca

“Hey kids!  Let’s go look at flowers!”  You might be forgiven if you don’t expect your children to jump up and down with excitement at these words.  But, spread over 240-acres, the Devonian Botanic Gardens offer so much more than ‘just’ flowers.  The enclosed Tropical House boasts a large variety of butterflies; the perfect place to wander and play hide-and-seek with beautiful winged creatures from around the world. Walking through the Japanese Gardens, find the large prayer bell hidden in the corner and give it a ring.  After walking through the main gardens, or hiking one of the forest paths, families can get lost in the Hedge Maze towards the edge of the garden.  Or continue up the path to “John’s Folly” – the tall castle on a hill overlooking the gardens – to play knights and dragons, and search for fossils in the limestone walls.  Although the main gardens close in mid-October, the Devonian also offers a variety of special programs and events for children and adults throughout the year.  There is a small café, however, a picnic lunch is always a great way to sit and enjoy the changing leaves in Fall.

The Federal Building – www.assembly.ab.ca

While many people may have played in the spectacular fountains on the promenade of the refurbished Federal Building, few actually venture inside this beautiful historic structure.  When you walk through the doors, a spectacular living wall of plants greets you, drawing you up into Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre towards the back of the building.  To your right, the Agora Interpretive Centre invites families to learn about Alberta’s political history through hands-on exhibits.  Make a giant photo-collage of yourself, look through the photo “pods” at images from around Alberta, dress-up as officials from the Legislature, and take your picture in the Speaker of the House chair.   Head back to the main hall and check out what is new and interesting in the changing Borealis Gallery.  In the Pehonan Theatre, experience a 4-D immersive movie about the history of Alberta.  Then finish your visit by browsing original Alberta art in the Alberta Branded gift shop…and pick up a candy stick for the road.

Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) – www.youraga.ca

Many parents shy away from taking their kids to the art gallery because they themselves feel that they don’t “know” about art.  The fact of the matter is, art is for everyone.  If you like something you see…that’s great….if you don’t like it…that’s okay too.  All the information you may need can be answered, either by reading the tag for the artwork, or talking with one of the helpful and knowledgeable Interpreters in each gallery.  One of the great features of the AGA is the BMO World of Creativity gallery.  This changing exhibit space is completely hands-on and allows children to explore art in a very tactile way.  And even though the main exhibition spaces are strictly “no touching”, there are still some fun ways for the family to interact with the work on display, without actually putting your fingers on the art.  Try these three games as you make your way through the rest of the building:

  1. Tell me a story.  Have your children make up stories about what they see in the art on the walls, or what the sculptures are doing today.
  2. Name me.  Everyone in your group can make up a name for the artwork based on what they see in the piece.  Then, read the name the artist gave the artwork and see if everyone agrees with their choice.
  1.  Can you find me?  A game of eye-spy with the art.  Have your family sit near several pieces of art and try and find different elements ‘hidden’ in the art.  You may be amazed by what you find.

Historic Highlands Community – edmontonhighlands.ca

Nestled in Edmonton’s Northeast, historic Highlands community is a beautiful area of the city to experience, especially in the Fall.  Start your journey in the small shopping area at 112 Avenue and 65 Street at Mandolin Books & Coffee Company.  Grab a latte (or tea) for yourself and an Italian soda for the kids and browse the amazing selection of used books.  Venture a few blocks west to Be-A-Bella candy store and gifts to treat yourself to some bulk confections or imported goodies.  Use the energy from your sugar high to venture eight blocks east to the Highland Park and Community League to play on the old-school metal merry-go-round and newer wooden structures.  Then head south towards Ada Boulevard for a walk to see all of the beautiful historic homes and mansions along the ravine.  Enjoy the long sugar-crash/play-exhaustion nap your children will take on the way home.

The Muttart Conservatory -  muttartconservatory,ca

Another beautiful venue that is more than just pretty flowers.  The four pyramids of the Muttart are home to three different biomes – temperate, arid, and tropical – as well as a fourth changing feature space.  Wander through the glass pyramids and find all the sculptures hidden among the foliage, count the koi fish, and see if there is fruit in the trees (Figs!  Peaches!  Bananas!).  Hand your camera to the kids and let them look through the lens at the bold and beautiful colours; you may just end up with some new art for your walls!  Then grab a delicious lunch at Culina Muttart, eat under the blown-glass sculpture by artist Keith Walker at centre court, and look for the animals hidden in the Alex Janvier mural surrounding the area.  The Muttart also offers programming for children and adults throughout the year.

Elvira Berezowsky is an Edmonton writer, arts-educator, and mom who particularly loves “Family Adventure Days” with her husband and kids.

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