Edmonton Newcomers

Edmonton’s famous as Canada’s northernmost major city and folks from around the world and across Canada hear dread tales of our brutal, endless Prairie winters. We thought we’d ask some newcomers who live and work downtown to tell us what it’s really like, coming here to start a new life. Universally they are pleasantly surprised – especially when the days grow longer and the white landscape turns to green.

Name: MÉLISSA HAMBROOK | Age: 25

MÉLISSA HAMBROOK

Where are you from? Drummond, New Brunswick
When did you move to Edmonton? June, 2018
What do you miss most about your home? I miss mostly my family and friends. I also miss the low traffic any time of the day.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? When I first moved here in 2018, my husband and I lived in the Oliver area. I loved the area as it was very convenient for groceries, the farmers market, all the little shops on 124th Street, and I love running so it was close enough to the River Valley trails for a scenic workout.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? Starting my social life almost from scratch. I am a fairly quiet person, so it’s been a big change from what I had in my hometown surrounded by cousins and childhood friends.
Has anything about living/working in Edmonton surprised you? The cold! Coming from the East Coast, people would tell me that the “wet cold” was much worse than what we would have here… but it gets much colder than what I expected – skin burning cold!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? I had heard that Edmonton was a festival city, and that was confirmed my first summer. Taste of Edmonton, Heritage Festival, All is Bright on 124th Street, and the Deep Freeze Festival, to name a few. I would have to say that I expected the public transportation to be better than what it is in a bigger city like Edmonton.

Name: SOKHANA MFENYANA | Age: 20

SOKHANA MFENYANA

Where are you from? Pretoria, South Africa
What’s your connection to Downtown/Oliver? Attending Grant MacEwan studying Arts and Culture.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? Well the cold of course, but I was surprised people take off their shoes when they go in someone’s house. In fact I sometimes think about where I’m going and if I have to take off my shoes. I don’t want to spend an hour in a hallway tying up my shoes.
What differences have you noticed? I have noticed differences in talking to people, in stores, in government offices. In South Africa we talk. We ask “Hi, how are you?” In Edmonton it is more fast-paced. In South Africa everyone you encounter is like a sister, or an aunt, or an uncle.

Name: KELSEY SPEED | Age: 28

KELSEY SPEED

Where are you from? London, Ontario
When did you move to Edmonton? March, 2017
What do you miss most about your home? The fall season in Edmonton lasts about 2 weeks and lacks the gorgeous colours of a true Ontario fall. Being around water – growing up, everyone I knew had a pool or a cottage on a lake, and we spent most of the summer hopping between them, swimming and doing water sports.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? I live in Oliver.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? How long it takes for the city to clear the snow. I walk to work each day, and the sidewalks are always covered in snow or ice during the winter.
Has anything about living/working in Edmonton surprised you? How amazing the summers are here!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? That the winters are super long – although I love snowboarding, so it is worth it!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? That West Edmonton Mall is the only exciting place to go in Edmonton. There are so many unique and fun things to do in Edmonton that do not involve the mall.

Name: LAINIE RËHN | Age: 25

LAINIE RËHN

Where are you from? Red Deer, Alberta
When did you move to Edmonton? July, 2018
What do you miss most about your home? As cliché as it sounds, there’s a certain feeling of connection, comfort and familiarity of living in a small (to me) town that I miss; the nostalgia and safety of somewhere so familiar is really powerful.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? I recently moved to Downtown and have loved living here! I love having access to such great food, retail and fitness facilities, as well as access to some really great events!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? I sold my car when I moved to Edmonton, so I occasionally find the coverage public transportation offers a bit tricky. I’ve had to say no to some plans because it would take me 30-60 minutes to get there, and as a student, Ubering isn’t always in the budget!
Has anything about living/working in Edmonton surprised you? How much different the weather is as compared to Red Deer! The winters here are much colder, and the air is very dry. I miss experiencing Chinooks!
Did you have any preconceptions that were confirmed? That Edmonton is the place for all the good festivals, year-round. There is always something to do/see/eat! Also, living near Rogers Arena, I’ve also been able to confirm that Edmontonians truly love their Edmonton Oilers.
Did you have any preconceptions that turned out to be unfounded? That Edmonton was a boring government city with a big mall. Day in and day out it’s being proven otherwise to me.

Name: MICHAEL TAIT | Age: 31

MICHAEL TAIT

Where are you from? Edinburgh, Scotland
When did you move to Edmonton? January, 2020
What’s your connection to Downtown/Oliver? My wife and I were married and lived in Scotland for several years. During that time, she owned and rented out a condo in downtown Edmonton, so when we decided to move here, we moved into her condo.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? So far, the winter! I’m currently not working and looking after my son full-time, so when it’s really cold walking places isn’t an option. Thankfully there have not been too many really cold days! The buses are pretty good as well!
Has anything about living downtown surprised you? I’m very new living downtown but from what I’ve experienced so far I’m surprised how friendly people are and how I can enter into conversations with complete strangers. Everyone seems to have a Scottish relative!
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? Although I’m very new to living here, I’ve visited many times. Over the last 7 years, I’ve experienced nothing but great food and excellent service surrounded by fun, friendly people!

Name: ABDI FETAH (NOT SHOWN) | Age: 23

Where are you from? Somalia
When did you move to Edmonton? February, 2019
What do you miss most about your home? Mostly I miss my family and friends. Before moving here, I lived in Thailand. Some of my friends moved here before me, so I did know a few people, but not many.
What’s your connection to the Downtown/Oliver area? I live Downtown.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered? Starting from scratch. It is very difficult to learn a new way of communicating and a new culture. Also, since I have no experience working Canadian jobs, it has been difficult to find full-time work.
Did you have any preconceptions before moving here? I heard you can make money easily and that life is easy and very simple. I was surprised how difficult it was to find work, and even had to learn how to apply for jobs and write a resume. I had heard that Canada is peaceful and free, and I’ve found that it is true.

Fitness in the core: Coming out of hibernation

Health is more than just being at a good weight and exercising regularly. Overall health means addressing mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Spring is the ideal time to make a fresh start and approach your health from a holistic point of view. Now that the harshness of Edmonton’s demonic winter is nearly past us (it is almost over, right? RIGHT?!), Edmontonians no longer have the same excuses we drag out every winter to avoid exercising, eating well, and getting enough fresh air and sunshine. Here’s how to improve your overall health this spring.

Find Your Exercise Groove

Sure, there are winter warriors who thrive by doing winter sports and actually look forward to the first snow. For those cold weather fitness fanatics, spring is the time to up your game and challenge your body with new and interesting workouts. Maybe you excel at running outside no matter how low the mercury drops, or perhaps you’ve learned to embrace the treadmill when it’s simply too cold out to function.

Kick it up a notch by cycling to work, or training for a marathon. Give Pilates or Spinning a try to challenge different muscles in your body. The point is to set new goals, and challenge yourself. Integration Pilates Studio (10565 114 Street) starts their spring session of courses in April.

It could be your first attempt at establishing a regular workout routine (or maybe it’s the eighth time – no judgement!). Spring represents an opportunity – you can leave the house again! – and a challenge. There will be nice days and there will be crappy days where you still feel housebound. Don’t let the weather be the barrier that stops you from getting your sweat on. Ideally, you’ll develop a routine that is flexible enough that it incorporates both indoor and outdoor activities. If your building has a gym – even a tiny one – use it! You’re already paying for it, and you don’t have to drive or go outside to get there. It’s literally the most low- maintenance workout you can do, except maybe some gentle stretching in your apartment.

If you don’t have access to a gym, sign up for classes at a studio. YEG Cycle offers daily 50-minute Spin classes taught by their team of “Motivators.” Orange Theory has multiple locations in the city and offers a workout that’s different every time, making it ideal for those who get bored easily. If you find yourself skipping workouts regularly, paying for a class or personal trainer in advance and scheduling those workouts can incentivize you to go even when you’d rather enjoy a Netflix marathon.

For social butterflies who like fresh air, try Coffee Outside, Edmonton’s outdoor coffee club. They meet every Friday between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. at Ezio Faraone Park, regardless of the weather (within reason – they’ve moved their meetings indoors occasionally when the temperature gets too close to minus 30. They’re not monsters). “We’ve been not just a community of cyclists but also people who enjoy each other’s company,” Dr. Darren Markland, the organizer of the weekly meet-up, says of the unique club. Follow @coffee_outside on Twitter for updates.

The City of Edmonton recently rolled out a new campaign called Live Active, meant to encourage citizens to learn about and use the city’s recreational facilities and numerous parks in all seasons. The new initiative launched Feb. 2 at Rundle Park, drawing hundreds of snowshoers, skaters, marshmallow roasters, and sledders. The City also created a list of 97 ways for people to be active year- round, and encourages participants to share on Twitter with the hashtag #LiveActiveYEG.

Quick Tip: Find an exercise mate. Hold each other accountable. Or post your fitness goals on your social media accounts and rely on community encouragement, or the opposite, to keep you motivated!

Stretching: Worth the time?

What the expert says: “There’s no real compelling research to show any benefit or detriment to stretching, regardless of before, after or at all in terms of health or performance. Some of the best ways to warm up prior to a workout would include doing big joint ranges of motion through compound movements such as lunges, long deep squats, push ups, and other types of active mobility that can have the benefits of moving the muscles, but also increasing the blood flow into them and make them contract to produce force for the more challenging exercises to come in the main workouts.” – Dean Somerset, CSCS, CEP, MES, Exercise Physiologist and Personal Trainer at Evolve Strength Downtown.

You Are What You Eat

Winter means we often don’t pay much attention to healthy foods. The pervasive cold doesn’t exactly spark a craving for greens, and finding fresh fruit at a decent price can be Mission Impossible. And the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas usually equals parties, drinking, deep-fried appetizers as well as sugary treats Mom only makes for the holidays.

But spring – oh, spring! Spring offers a rebirth of better eating habits. But remember, what works for someone else might not work for you. And, let’s be honest – the easier something is, the more likely we all are to do it. If, like many people, you find yourself struggling to put in the work required for healthy eating, you do have options. Like to cook but don’t have time to shop or prep? Or maybe you’re just bored with all of your usual meal staples. Sign up for a meal plan service, which takes most of the work out of eating well. MealPro is an Edmonton- based meal delivery company that allows you to customize your menu. These vacuum-sealed meals take the guesswork out of portion sizes and calorie counting. Easy As Pie is another company that delivers ready-made meals in Edmonton.

If you want to do the cooking yourself but find yourself short on time for shopping (or maybe your fruit and veggie supply keeps spoiling before you can eat them), try The Organic Box, an Edmonton owned and operated company that works with local producers to deliver boxes of fresh goodies. And, their catalogue lists where each item comes from, so you can make conscious decisions as a consumer. Another time-saving method is ordering your groceries online and having them delivered or picking them up at the store. Save-On Foods, Real Canadian Superstore, Loblaws, Spud.ca, and EdmontonGrocer.com all offer online shopping. If you prefer to pick out your potatoes and peaches in person, shop at Edmonton’s Downtown Farmers’ Market, now indoors year- round, for the freshest available fruits, vegetables, and locally-sourced goodies.

Quick Tip: Need some nutritional guidance? Book an appointment with a nutritionist or ask your doctor to refer you to your Primary Care Network. The Edmonton Oliver PCN provides free, personal nutrition counselling, plus group classes for those who could use some extra support for their weight management. (11910 111 Avenue)

April is the Cruelest Month

Our own mental health is often the first thing we throw under the bus when we get busy, or life gets stressful. But it’s an important piece of the overall health puzzle. Now, don’t automatically assume that once winter starts to crawl back into the hell-hole from whence it came, that your mood will automatically lighten. Poet T.S. Elliot once called April “the cruelest month,” because the blooming flowers and lighter days can provide a stark contrast to your actual mood.

There are various ways to keep your mental and spiritual health game on point. Just like physical fitness and healthy eating, the path towards success relies on you finding what works for you. For some, self-care means face masks and bubble baths. For others, it’s taking time for hobbies, like reading, making art, or baking. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety, depression, or simply want to talk to someone about how you feel, counselling is an option, no matter your income bracket. Edmonton Oliver Primary Care Networks offers mental health courses and workshops if you feel comfortable in a group setting. Edmonton’s Momentum Walk-in Clinic provides solution-focused counselling on a sliding-fee scale – plus, you can see someone without a long wait period. The Boyle-McCauley Health Centre has two registered provisional Psychologists on their psychological team, which provides “therapeutic support for individuals and families with multiple systemic barriers to accessing mental health services,” according to their website.

Chances are, you’ve already heard of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which focuses on changing thinking patterns. But do you know about Dialectical Behavourial Therapy? It’s a type of therapy that focuses on problem- solving and acceptance-based strategies. Redtree Psychology, located in Grandin, offers both CBT and DBT, along with many other types of therapy.

Quick Tip: Ninety minutes in a sensory deprivation tank can make a world of difference to your stress levels. You are literally forced to unplug. It’s also a good way to relax tight muscles and improve sleep. Try Modern Gravity Float Studio (10945 120 Street).

Does where you live have an impact on your overall health?

What the expert says: “We are unlikely to be successful in our quest to be healthy and fit individually if we go it alone in an unsupportive environment. We need to make collective efforts as a society to make our community environments healthier and supportive of our individual health efforts. For example, can we walk, bike and take transit regularly to get to places? Is healthy food nearby, available and affordable? Are we surrounded by less unhealthy food? Can we be less sedentary in our buildings because the stairs are available, easy to find, safe and pleasant to use? Do we have office furniture like standing desks that helps us be less sedentary throughout the day? Do our restaurants give us information like calories on menus so we can make healthier food choices since many people now eat out often?

Besides intentions to change our individual behaviours, citizens need to let our decision-makers and policy makers know they want – and expect – healthier amenities in their neighbourhoods; they need to let developers know they want healthier buildings and residential developments when they are looking for places to buy or rent; they need to let the restaurants and stores they spend money at know they want healthier food options. There are things that can be done to make our daycares and schools healthier for our kids. But these things won’t happen unless we know what’s worked in other places and then make it known that we want and expect these things too in our own communities.” – Dr. Karen Lee, MD MHSc FRCPC, Associate Professor, Division of Preventive Medicine, Dept of Medicine, University of Alberta, and author of Fit Cities. www.drkarenlee.com

Best in the Core

Each year the Yards staff and board members sort through a myriad of great things to do, places to eat and sights to see in Edmonton’s downtown and beyond. We try to bring you experiences we love; food that brings joy, new experiences for readers to try, and great places to go. And if there’s something we missed, let us know! Tell us on social media, snail us a mail, or even collar us in person. We’d love to hear from you.

Best Place to Be Seen

JW Marriott Lobby Bar (Photo: William Frost)

WINNER: JW Marriott Lobby Bar
High ceilings, gleaming marble bar, and a variety of seating arrangements ranging from cozy to comfortable-group, make this the ultimate hangout when you’re in the mood to be noticed. Signature cocktails, charcuterie and cheese boards, and fresh seafood to please all of your senses. Hit up Happy Hour every day 3 – 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close. (10344 102 St, 780.784.8580, Braven – The Lobby Bar)

RUNNER UP: Edmonton Downtown Farmers’ Market (new location)
The Quarters on the east edge of downtown is the new home of the farmers’ market, and it’s still a hot destination every weekend. Pick up everything you need while staying warm regardless of the weather. (YEGDT Market)

RUNNER UP: Archetype
With four custom designed workout studios for yoga, HIIT, spin and boxing classes, plus specially trained coaches, this is more than a gym – it’s an Instagram-worthy lifestyle. (10344 102 St Suite 501, 780.784.8585, Archetype)

RUNNER UP: Alex Decoteau Park – Dog Off-Leash
You and Fido are sure to make new friends at this popular off-leash park–bring a ball and show off your pup’s fetching skills. (10230 105 St, Alex Decoteau Park)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best Brunch

OEB Breakfast Co.

WINNER: OEB
This all-day breakfast spot has risen well above the classic eggs benny fare with its exquisite breakfast poutines featuring everything from philly-style beef short-rib and brown butter hollandaise to lobster and shrimp scrambled eggs. Sides include duck-fat fried potatoes and chicken blueberry sausages. It’s open every morning and serves breakfast all day so Tuesday morning can be the new Sunday brunch. (10174 100A St, 587.520.0936 or 110240 124 St, 780.250.0788, Eat OEB)

RUNNER UP: Blue Plate Diner
After faithfully patronizing this restaurant for 15 years in the warehouse district, fans were devastated when co-owners John Williams and Rima Devitt announced they were leaving 104 Street, but their new larger location near 124 Street does not disappoint. They’re also running brunch every day of the week. Try the Blue Plate Breakfast–it comes in a large and a small size for $14 and $9. The new space houses a bar and a spot for coffee drinkers. (12323 Stony Plain Rd, Blue Plate Diner)

RUNNER UP: Yellowhead – Drag Brunch
Once a month Yellowhead Brewery runs Drag Brunch. You purchase tickets for one of two seatings at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. and for $30 you get an all-you-can-eat buffet brunch. It’s an all-ages venue but patrons are warned there could be use of adult language and subject matter. (10229 105 Street NW, search Eventbrite for Yellowhead Drag Brunch)

– Jodine Chase

Best Below Ground

Prairie Noodle Shop

WINNER: Prairie Noodle
You cannot get more underground than the radical mix of Alberta flavours and ramen. The wizardry of Chef Eric Hanson and the crew of the locally owned shop is featured in seasonal menus, but they are constantly exploring their passion for original and inviting cuisine. This winter, experience their latest creation or savour a ramen bowl with one of the shop’s sensational umeboshi eggs. (10350 124 St, 780.705.1777, Prairie Noodle Shop)

RUNNER UP: Cavern
Descend to Cavern for a morning caffeine injection, a stimulating lunch meeting, or to snag some triple crème brie for your evening. Visit this charming space to get cultured. (10169 104 St NW, 780.455.1336, The Cavern)

RUNNER UP: The Shoe Shine Shack
Get your kicks collecting sneakers? Have them detailed at this subterranean secret. Shane and his team offer dazzling results while you wait–or drop your dressier shoes off for a polish and do curb-side pickup. (10359 104 St NW, 780.236.5428, The Shoe Shine Shack)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best Reason to Download an App

WINNER: Ritual
A must for any downtown foodie this app helps you find walking-distance deals at restaurants and coffee shops. Skip the lines and pre-order meals, or be the office hero by mastering the group-ordering function. Collect points for all of your actions (bonus points if you choose from the Wellness Menu), and earn reward money to cash in at any of nearly 30 spots. ritual.co/

RUNNER UP: What’s the Deal?
Never again miss a Caesar Sunday or a Taco Tuesday with restaurant specials all in one place. Find local deals sorted by day of the week or location. What’s the Deal

RUNNER UP: Lime/Bird Scooters
E-scooters mean going out for lunch and making it back on time for the afternoon meeting. Cover a lot more ground downtown while revisiting your youth. Just try it. Lime | Bird

– Miranda Herchen

Best (reason to visit) Lobbies

WINNER: Hotel MacDonald
Stop into the lobby of downtown’s 100–year–old railway hotel at any time of the year and you’re in for a treat. There’s always something on display–sometimes it’s a Lego replica, other times you’re greeted by Smudge, the hotel’s canine ambassador. At Christmas time, the replica gingerbread hotel is not to be missed. (10065 100 St NW, Fairmont Hotel MacDonald)

Hotel MacDonald (Photo: Mack Male)

RUNNER UP: EPCOR Lobby
Epcor is using the spacious lobby of its building in the core to showcase artists with permanent installations, visiting shows, and musicians. The lobby is a welcoming public space with free wifi and collaborative seating which makes it a great gathering place. The rotating exhibit space features local artists, complementing the massive permanent sculpture of a Grizzly bear feeding on salmon, by Edmonton born artist Dean Drever. Over the lunch hour there are sometimes musicians. The lobby boasts the country’s only Bösendorfer Oscar Peterson Signature Edition Piano, one of twelve in the world. (10423 101 St NW, EPCOR Lobby)

– Christopher Sikkenga

Best Day Trip

WINNER: The University of Alberta Botanic Garden
Although closed for the season, from Dec. 6-8 the Garden hosts the Luminaria, lighting the paths with thousands of candles. And the events calendar of the former Devonian Garden highlights upcoming date nights, operas, tea ceremonies, festivals and more. Come spring, beauty and magic await. Explore the first Indigenous Garden in Canada and wander through the five-acre Alpine Garden. Find serenity in the Kurimoto Japanese Garden and meditate in the breathtaking new Aga Khan Garden. (51227 AB-60, 780.492.3050, University of Alberta Botanic Garden)

RUNNER UP: Bruce Hotel Steak Dinner
For more than 20 years the hamlet of Bruce has been the answer to the age old question “Where’s the beef?” Make a reservation for you and your arteries chop-chop! (104 Main St Bruce, AB, 780.688.3922, Bruce Hotel)

RUNNER UP: Blindman Brewing
With wheat and barley surrounding Lacombe, there’s no better place to have a local, craft beer. The taproom is all about savouring local flavours and sampling their award- winning ales. (3413 53 Ave, Lacombe, AB, 403.786.2337, Blindman Brewing)

– Christopher Sikkenga

Best Indoor Oasis

WINNER: The Citadel
When the weather outside is chilly and unwelcoming you can take refuge in the forest of the Citadel. Get closer to the sun seated near the second floor pond or sink into the cozy solitude of the flora below. The lush environment is a wonderful escape from the day’s task list. Grab a coffee in the cafe or contemplate the sculptures populating the space. (9828 101A Ave, 780.425.1820, The Citadel Theatre)

RUNNER UP: City Hall
The striking architecture and pale stonework provide a glowing space for quiet reflection. Plus, there are numerous displays on local history and pieces from the City of Edmonton Public Art Collection. (1 Sir Winston Churchill Square, 780.442.5311, City Hall)

RUNNER UP: EPCOR Tower
Food can be a comfort for many and is what makes this spot a sanctuary. Wind down in Epcor Building lobby that houses Buco Pizzeria and the enticing sandwiches of MilkCrate. (10423 101 St, Epcor Tower)

— Christopher Sikkenga

Best Date Night

Tzin Wine and Tapas

WINNER: Tzin Wine and Tapas
This wine bar keeps things intimate with room for only 24. With its renowned wine list, there’s a pairing for any of the delectable small plates. If you can’t decide on what to share, Executive chef Corey McGuire makes things easy with his carefully selected “feed me” option of multiple tapas, complete with dessert and wine pairings. Reservations recommended. (10115 104 St, 780.428.8946, Tzin)

RUNNER UP: Partake
This warm, French-inspired restaurant is known for its welcoming atmosphere where guests can take their time enjoying rustic small plates, a rotating wine and vermouth list, and specialty cocktails–one of which is purple. (12431 102 Ave, 780.760.8253, Partake)

RUNNER UP: The Lobby Bar
Inside the JW Marriot, the newly opened, living-room style bar has signature–and stiff– cocktails, a daily happy hour and daily drink specials to go with small-plate creations. (10344 102 St., 780.784.8580, Braven)

– Miranda Herchen

Best Grab-n-Go

Farrow, 10240 – 124 Street (Photo: Maxwell Poulter)

WINNER: Farrow 124 Street
Best known for their creative rotation of sandwich options, you’ll find lots to love here (including a vegan choice), like the Grick Middle, complete with a fried egg from Four Whistle Farms, bacon, smoked cheddar, rosemary aioli and greens. Factor in fresh baked goods such as cronuts, muffins, brownies, and puff tarts plus coffee made from premium beans and you have the perfect lunch to go. (10240 124 St Suite 6, 780.249.0085, Farrow Sandwiches)

RUNNER UP: Culina 2 Go
Fresh food made from locally sourced ingredients, available in individual sizes for lunch and family style sizes for dinner. Don’t forget about breakfast to go on the weekends! (12019 A 102 Ave, Oliver Exchange Building, 780.250.7044, Culina Family)

RUNNER UP: La Mision Burritos
The food you love but faster: the popular restaurant Rostizado holds a burrito pop-up on their patio daily between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (10359 104 St, 780.761.0911, La Misión Burritos)

RUNNER UP: Tiffin
Build your own plate with one, two or three items, plus rice or noodles. Choose family style or a signature dish, and throw in some made-to-order samosas for good measure. (10404 Jasper Ave, 780.424.4829, Tiffin | India’s Fresh Kitchen)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best Reason to Leave the Core

Italian Centre Shop

WINNER: Italian Centre Shop
For 60 years, the late Frank Spinelli’s business has been the city’s primary one-stop shop for specialty food items from Italy, Europe and around the world. It’s much more than pasta and gelato. The store features a deli with a selection of more than 200 cheeses and 100 meats for all your charcuterie needs. With three locations, including the landmark shop in Little Italy, a good cannoli is never far away. (10878 95 St, Italian Centre Shop)

RUNNER UP: IKEA
The wonderland of affordable furniture and household accessories is worth the visit, even if you don’t buy anything. Stock up on essentials under $10 and dig into a plate of Swedish meatballs. (1311 102 St, IKEA)

RUNNER UP: Jollibee
This is a must-try-at-least-once restaurant where sweet-style, loaded spaghetti meets crispy chicken and a Big Yum. The pineapple juice is an essential accompaniment for the Filipino fast-food chain’s favourite features. (3803 Calgary Trail, 587.405.1333, Jollibee Canada)

– Miranda Herchen

Best Ways to Volunteer

WINNER: Oliver and Downtown Edmonton Community Leagues make important contributions to the vitality of the core. Like to gather with your neighbours? Can play a role supporting your league to host events bringing neighbours to get together? Are you an urban planning wonk? Lend your skills to your league’s efforts to bring the voices of residents to the planning and development table. Start with a membership if you haven’t joined already and benefit from perks like free access to the downtown Y or the Rogers community rink once a week, membership in the community tool library, and discounts on admission to city community rec facilities. (Oliver Community League | Downtown Edmonton Community League)

RUNNER UP: NEXTGEN calls on those ages 18-40 to take the city’s future into our own hands by creating a city that attracts and gives voice to the next generation by connecting people, places, communities, and ideas. Volunteer for working groups or events like Pecha Kucha Night, bank hours, and get tickets to Sonic Field Day events. (Edmonton’s Next Gen)

Best Public Service

WINNER: 24-Hour Mental Health Service at Royal Alex
In June a new 24/7 mental health service launched out of the Royal Alex, The program offers support to those struggling to navigate the sometimes complicated variety of mental health and harm reduction services on their own. A team of healthcare professionals offers a centralized point of contact for service access. Seek out services by phone at 780.424.2424 or visit Anderson Hall at any time. (10240 Kingsway, 780.735.4723, Royal Alexandra: Addiction & Mental Health Access 24/7)

RUNNER UP: Business Link
Do you have a business idea? Business Link can help turn your business dreams into reality. This non-profit team supports entrepreneurs to start and run their small businesses. They have specialized units for Indigenous and newcomer entrepreneurs and can provide advice on everything from creating a business plan, to legal and accounting matters. (#500 10150-100 Street NW, 780.422.7722, Business Link)

– Jodine Chase

Best Event Spaces

WINNER: Foundry Room
Occupying much of the second floor of the Oliver Exchange, this space is perfect for a medium-sized get-together. Friendly staff help event organizers. There are no problems getting liquor licences. Odd Company local beer is on tap and if there’s anything missing for your gathering it could well be available from the retailers on the main floor. (12021 102 Ave, 780.905.9380, Foundry Room)

Foundry Room

RUNNER UP: AGA Lobby
The entry space of the Art Gallery of Alberta has become the go-to venue for all manner of events, from political announcements (Stephen Mandel announced his Alberta Party run here) to a myriad of weddings. The adjacent Zinc restaurant is ready to cater and has a tradition of hiring supérieure sommeliers ready to assist in drink selections. (2 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Art Gallery of Alberta)

RUNNER UP: Yellowhead Brewery
This down home space fits the bill for all manner of gatherings with a casual feel that can be dressed up for a formal Saturday night. It can be a challenge finding one of those Saturdays due its popularity as a wedding venue. (10229 105 St NW, Yellowhead Brewery)

RUNNER UP: CKUA
The restored Alberta Hotel building has a fabulous roof-top terrace with sweeping views of the river valley. The building also includes the versatile main floor two-storey performance event space complete with a green room and catering kitchen that can handle 140 seated and 180 standing. (9804 Jasper Ave, CKUA Radio)

– Rob McLauchlin

Best Instagramable

WINNER: Oliver Exchange Building
Formerly the West End Telephone Exchange, the Oliver Exchange Building houses a variety of cool businesses, including Brio Bakery, Culina To Go, Iconoclast Coffee Roasters, and The White Gallery. Snap black and white shots of your cronut and café au lait, or take advantage of the exposed brick walls for an artistic selfie worthy of being reposted. Bonus: the outside of the building is just as beautiful and photo worthy as the inside. (12021 102 Ave)

Oliver Exchange

RUNNER UP: Victoria Promenade
Lined with benches and trees, this stunning promenade promises a picturesque view of the river valley. With wide paths for biking, jogging, or strolling, it’s ideal for taking workout selfies. (11701 100 Ave)

RUNNER UP: Warehouse Area brick walls (behind Birks Building/ Armstrong Block)
Love a solid brick wall background for your Instagram videos and photos? You’re in luck – this historic area has plenty of heritage buildings with red brick facades. (10125 104 St)

RUNNER UP: Legislature Ground #ableg
A favourite spot for summer selfies in front of the fountain, or fall selfies with changing leaves twirling around from the many trees on the grounds. (9820 107 St 780.427.7362, Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre)

– Sydnee Bryant

Best place to E-Scoot

WINNER: Railtown Multi-Use Trail
This north-south route features an urban ride adjacent to 109 Avenue that morphs from a pleasant parky feel with shops and groceries, trees and strollers–down a gentle slope past The Ledge and on to the caged confines of the High Level Bridge. Lots of variety!

RUNNER UP: Oliver Exchange
Located on the east-west “Oliverbahn” bicycle thoroughfare this former telephone exchange building makes a great stopover and destination. Its businesses are sweet and savoury and its leafy location makes you forget you’re on the prairie.

RUNNER UP: Legislature
Although Edmonton’s rental scooters are put away for winter, The Alberta Legislature Grounds feature acres of concrete highlighted by fountains in summer. “The Ledge” is ideal for your Bird scooter, or custom ride. (A caveat: some scooters are slowed down on the grounds)

– Rob McLauchlin

Best Child-Friendly

Love Pizza

WINNER: Love Pizza
Sunday dinner out with the kids is sure to be a hit when you tell them where they’re going, because who doesn’t Love Pizza? Kids eat free when the adults buy a regular pizza, and they can choose their own toppings. They’ll also love the Wilki Stix that come with the meal.

RUNNER UP: McKay Avenue Playground
This school playing field has always been a fun place to poke around with its gazebo and old schoolhouse, but the new playground works for kids of all ages with its slides, spongy soft play surface, rope-climbing structure and mesh-bottomed saucer swing.

RUNNER UP: Playgroups!
You don’t need to leave the core to find places for you and your little one to play indoors this winter. Urban Kids Playgroup runs Fridays from 9:30-11 a.m. at 10042 103 Street. Robertson Wesley Church runs a Moms and Dads group for parents with babies and toddlers every second Thursday from 10-11 a.m. The downtown public library has three different drop-in classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers as well as family film screenings.

– Jodine Chase

Best Sports for less than $100

WINNER: Edmonton Oil Kings
Just like the grown-up Oilers except these young guys have a recent winning history. Last year the Oil Kings went 42-18-4-4, and finished first in the Central Division. The cheapest tickets are around 20 bucks–$23.50 with fees and taxes. Beware if you’re on a budget though, Rogers Place still charges NHL prices for food and drink. Fill up the fam before and afterward. There’s fast food nearby at City Centre Mall, but be careful, the hours are shorter than other malls–closing at 6 p.m. most days, 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, and 5 p.m. on Sunday.

RUNNER UP: FC Edmonton
This professional soccer squad plays out of the rather antiseptic Clarke Stadium but the fans warm up the atmosphere as Commonwealth Stadium looms to the north. The Canadian Premier League team finished last season out of the playoffs but with a much better record and attitude at season’s end. This is a micro-local team that saw as many as seven Edmonton-area players on the pitch. You might recognize some of them from community soccer!

RUNNER UP: Edmonton Prospects
These boys of summer would be on top, if it was summer. Unfortunately, the Best of the Core is frozen to the core at this time of year, so the Prospects hibernate at the bottom of this list. Come summer though, picturesque ReMax Field in Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley will reverberate to the crack of the bat and adult snouts will be immersed in cool foam. It might not be the Prospects, though. The lease is still up in the air. Pro tip: Don’t park next to the ballpark–stay a block away. That “rock star parking” you snagged could earn you a cracked windshield or a major dent, courtesy of a foul ball.

– Rob McLauchlin

Hidden art treasure

The Royal Alberta Museum

Carefully unfurling the edges of Blood Tears, the iconic canvas she was reframing, conservator Cyndie Lack was delighted by what she found. Hidden beneath the original wood strainer was a line of text–the missing conclusion of a lengthy inscription.

It reads: “God bless the survivor who spoke to live.”

Painted by revered Indian Group of Seven artist Alex Janvier (age 86), Blood Tears is a visual diary of the artist’s ten years at the Blue Quills Indian Residential School, near St. Paul. The reverse of the canvas features a handwritten list of the losses experienced by residential school students–loss of language, loss of culture, loss of family–which, until Lack’s discovery, ended on a bleak note.

Now it speaks of outspoken survival. An expert with 30 years experience, Lack was hired to stretch the double-sided canvas that serves as the centerpiece of the Royal Alberta Museum’s new residential school exhibit.

While the conservator expected to uncover several hidden design elements (the original frame was too small for the artwork), she certainly hadn’t expected to add a new layer of meaning to this already significant canvas.

A statement of loss–and of resiliency–Blood Tears was featured on the cover of early Truth and Reconciliation reports. It became emblematic of the trauma caused by residential schools. The missing line underscores the importance of sharing this story, and its discovery came at a time when the RAM was changing the way it approached Indigenous content.

“There’s a sincere effort by this museum to make sure that they tell the right story; tell the truth,” says Tanya Harnett, professor of art and native studies at the University of Alberta and a member of the Carry-The-Kettle First Nation. Harnett serves on the museum’s Indigenous content advisory panel and was guest curator for the residential school exhibit.

Formed in 2014, the 24-person panel helped develop storylines and exhibits, as well as choose objects for display within the new human history gallery.

This level of engagement with Indigenous peoples has been a long time coming.

In 1988, an exhibition of First Nations artwork at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, called Spirit Sings, sparked controversy across the globe. What made Spirit Sings particularly contentious was the sponsorship of Shell Canada Ltd.

The Lubicon Lake Nation said the sponsorship gave the false impression that Shell supported Indigenous rights, when it had in fact been drilling on disputed lands for years.

Initially intended to support the Lubicon land claim, the boycott expanded into a critique of the power relations and representational practices of Western museums and resulted in the creation of a task force on museums and First Peoples.

“There’s a sincere effort by this museum to make sure that they tell the right story; tell the truth,”

Tanya Harnett, professor of art and native studies at the University of Alberta and a member of the Carry-The-Kettle First Nation

Jointly sponsored by the Assembly of First Nations and the Canadian Museums Association, this national body put forward guidelines for establishing lasting partnerships between these two parties.

One of the recommendations in the task force’s 1992 report was to ensure Indigenous peoples were involved in the planning, research and implementation of exhibits and programs that include Indigenous cultures.

Blood Tears
Painted by revered Indian Group of Seven artist Alex Janvier (age 86), Blood Tears is a visual diary of the artist’s ten years at the Blue Quills Indian Residential School, near St. Paul.

“The Spirit Sings was a flashpoint,” Harnett says. “Everyone around the world changed their philosophy: [museums] had to be including first peoples globally.”

The task force report went further than consultation. It dealt with issues of repatriation, addressed the need for diverse hiring practices and challenged the representation of Indigenous cultures as dying populations on the verge of extinction due to their inability to adapt. It’s taken more than 25 years, but when visitors walk through the doors of the RAM’s human history gallery, they won’t see dioramas or mannequins that treat Indigenous people like exhibits. Instead, archeological sites and ancient ways of living from building pithouse shelters to hunting pronghorn–are brought to life through illustration, maquettes and animated videos.

Indigenous stories are woven throughout the gallery, not clumped together or relegated to a pre-history space. And contemporary stories and traditional knowledge alike are told through a first-person narrative.

“The museum tried very hard to have people speaking behind the objects,” says Peggi Ferguson-Pell, president for the board of the Friends of Royal Alberta Museum Society when the group purchased Blood Tears for the museum.

“The Spirit Sings was a flashpoint. Everyone around the world changed their philosophy: [museums] had to be including first peoples globally,”

Tanya Harnett

From the sinister outline of a priest to the disembodied leg, splayed across the centre of the canvas, the painting relays the experience of residential schools in a way that no other object could. “It’s pain personified,” she says.

The What Makes Us Strong exhibit examines how Alberta’s Indigenous communities share knowledge and values, passing them down through generations.

Earlier exhibits were criticized for presenting a culture in decline, instead of a vibrant, living one. “They seemed to be talking about us,” Harnett says. “Not to us. And not with us.”

The gallery may no longer treat Indigenous people as a “civilization from long ago,” but it’s far from perfect, says Miranda Jimmy. A member of Thunderchild First Nation, Jimmy is the co-founder of RISE, a group of citizens in the Edmonton region committed to reconciliation. “I feel like they took one step forward on a path where they could have taken a hundred steps easily,” she says.

Her biggest concern is the museum’s repatriation practices. While the museum’s website indicates it is working on building new relationships, current regulations only apply to Blackfoot items.

The Royal Alberta Museum declined to provide comment for this story.

In the absence of new repatriation agreements, Jimmy would like to see the question of acquisition addressed. While many objects in the museum were bought or donated, others were obtained in more questionable ways.

Jimmy would know better than most about these questionable methods. In 2016, she spent two months reviewing audio tapes and textual materials of John Hellson for the provincial archives.

At one time the Curator of Ethnology at the Provincial Museum and Archives of Alberta, Hellson developed a reputation as both a respected anthropologist, and a thief. (In 1981, he pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property from the University of California’s Lowie Museum of Anthropology. “While working for the Government of Alberta, he was paid a finder’s fee for items that were acquired, sometimes by any means necessary,” Jimmy says.

Earlier exhibits were criticized for presenting a culture in decline, instead of a vibrant, living one.

“Let’s start telling the truth about museums,” Jimmy says. “Let’s talk about how [to find] these arrowheads, someone decided to rip up a bunch of land that was a ceremonial space and took everything they could.”

“[Let’s] say 50 or 100 years ago, that’s the way we did things, and we try to do things differently now.”

Harnett acknowledges there are gaps and flaws in the new museum. For example, she doesn’t believe the annihilation of the buffalo–an event responsible for ending the traditional way of life for many Prairie nations is adequately covered. “The loss of the buffalo was everything to culture,” Harnett says.

Still, she is proud of what the advisory panel has achieved.

On a Sunday afternoon in November–a little over a year after the museum opened downtown–a woman listens intently to a recording of Janvier in the residential school exhibit. Her daughter watches also, as the artist recalls being “thrown into the back of a truck” and taken to residential school.

“A lot of people went to their graves without telling their story,” he says, his gravelly voice suddenly cracking with emotion. “That’s why I painted Blood Tears. It’s the story of Canada.”

It’s hard to tell if the girl understands–if she grasps the pain in Janvier’s voice or the trauma depicted in his painting.

But at least it’s there–for her and for the other 400,000 people who visited the new museum in the past year.

“That’s what I love about the last line,” says Ferguson-Pell of the Friends of the RAM. “We are speaking about it; we’re not covering it up. We’re having those conversations, as painful and as difficult as they are.”

Real Change – Building A Sustainable City

It is the height of the day in the downtown core, but you wouldn’t know it. The streets are bare except for the odd person, wrapping whatever they can around their face to try and filter out the yellow haze filling the space between the darkened buildings. The sun casts a sick glow on anything it touches as health experts advise people to stay indoors.

This isn’t the trailer for a new science fiction dystopia film – this was Edmonton twice in the last year as smoke from forest fires elsewhere blew over the city.

Heavy smoke and heat waves are two weather phenomena experts are trying to re-align the city to face as climate change progresses.

“Forestry experts tell us the forests are drying from climate change,” said Alberta Capital Airshed executive director Gary Redmond. “They anticipate a lot more burning. So I think we can expect more smoke in the air than we’re used to.”

Redmond emphasized smoke isn’t the only significant air pollution problem facing Edmonton. Cold air in the wintertime can keep pollution closer to the ground and lead to air quality warnings, though ash and carbon particles from forest fires are several orders of magnitude worse.

A non-profit air quality monitoring group, part of the Airshed’s work is to bring stakeholders together to identify potential problems and brainstorm solutions.

Redmond advises people in good health to keep physical activity indoors during smoky days, where the Air Quality Index is at least seven. People with health issues should take precautions if it’s as low as three. Covering your face with a scarf may actually do more harm than good, because it pulls particulate matter in your airway. 

One solution Redmond advocates is Community Clean Air Shelters, retrofitting public spaces with air filtration systems to give people safe places to breathe, which have been effective at improving people’s health.

Working from the other end is Shafraaz Kaba, principal architect of Ask for a Better World and Energy Efficiency Alberta board director. Kaba has ambitious ideas for dealing with air quality and other problems facing the Edmonton downtown.

“Why don’t we build in air filtration in homes?” he asks while looking gloomily out at yet another stormy day in Edmonton. “Or ways to mitigate the effects of massive amounts of rain?”

Preparing for a hotter downtown

Kaba is keenly aware of the challenges Edmonton is facing. As part of the Energy Transition Advisory Committee, he helped develop the “Climate Resilient Edmonton: Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan,” an examination of environmental, health and economic issues and strategies. It was presented to city council in November 2018.

Well past arguing whether climate change is real or not, Kaba says the real questions are how is it affecting us and what are we doing about it? The solution is to both develop resiliency against Mother Nature’s wrath while simultaneously reducing the city’s carbon footprint to placate the elements.

Kaba explains this requires a more holistic way of thinking about building structures, ranging from things like the thickness and insulation of the walls, the glazing and size of windows and even simple things like the material used around them all contribute to the amount of heat a building can hold on to.

“[Forestry experts] anticipate a lot more burning. So I think we can expect more smoke in the air than we’re used to.”

Gary Redmond, Executive Director, Alberta Capital Airshed

“An example is thermal bridging, where heat transfer happens,” he says as he motions to the aluminum trimming of his 10-foot tall window. “The aluminum frame that holds the glass is a massive conductor of heat, from the inside to the outside in the winter and vice-versa in the summer.”

A more extreme example is skyscrapers, which effectively act as giant greenhouses, even in the wintertime. While not the best holders of heat, they pull enough in over a cold winter day that many commercial buildings use much of their power cooling the inside of the building in spite of below-freezing temperatures outside.

“We basically took in a global mechanical system and said ‘We’re going to do that too,’” said Kaba. “We need to design buildings that say, ‘Okay, it’s sunny and –30 C out. How do we have a mechanical system that warms cold air instead of using air conditioning?’”

Better heat efficiency not only reduces the carbon footprint of buildings, it also helps to minimize the Urban Heat Island effect – concrete and other materials like aluminum hold heat and downtown Edmonton has a lot of concrete.

This makes heat waves of particular concern. People with health complications may not be able to cool off quickly enough. This happened in Europe in 2003 where eight consecutive days of over 40 C highs killed over 50,000 people across the southern part of the continent. Sixteen years later, the United Nations now says weather events like heat waves, smoke, flooding and/or either too much or not enough rain are happening once a week on average.

“There’s a bit of a reckoning coming,” said Kaba. 

A huge variety in designs of buildings makes things even more complicated, each requiring their own solutions. Smaller buildings are better suited for solar panels because they have more surface area exposed to the sun, whereas a taller building only has one good side at best for solar generation.

“In a tall building, you have a lot more wall surface area and very little roof,” explained Kaba. “So you’re forced to consider how much of that wall you need for windows to let in daylight versus if you’re going to make them thick, insulated walls to prevent heat loss.”

Regardless of the challenges, he said the goal should be to have every building generating at least some of its power – and potentially even food – to offset the costs of building and maintaining the structure.

“It’s not if or should – it’s a must,” he said. “Every client I have, I can show them it’s a no-brainer to add solar modules to be able generate power because it’s also a risk mitigating system.

“As we decarbonize our grid, we will need any amount of electricity that’s green fed into our grid. Installing renewables now in a new building or a retrofit is far cheaper than ripping out what you put in 10 years from now to put in solar.”

“Why don’t we build in air filtration in homes?”

Gary Redmond, Executive Director, Alberta Capital Airshed

Redmond agrees pointing out that adverse health effects from excessive heat and poor air quality can have far-reaching economic implications.

“If someone works in an office building and they’re having trouble breathing, that affects the business of that building,” he said. “Air quality is going to become a business necessity.”

Kaba notes the plan to develop a central park out of four vacant parking lots downtown is a good start for offsetting both pollution and the concrete jungle heat. The next step is finding ways to establish more indoor green spaces, since winter is still going to be with us for a long time.

“Plants are a natural pollutant scrubber. The challenge in our climate is we can’t incorporate greenery into the façade of our buildings because in the winter they will freeze and die,” he said, adding that exception did not include green roofs. “You can create a green roof out of grasses and other things that survive the winter, absorb water and reduce heat.”

Another hurdle is regulatory. To pave the way for green roofs on top more efficient structures and more renewables built into them requires legal definitions, which are the purview of the provincial and federal governments.

For its part, Ottawa has been busy. Changes to the National Building Code are expected to roll out in 2020 by standardizing durability guidelines to reflect climate change trends.

Kaba maintains it makes sense for Edmonton’s downtown be ahead of the green wave and said the construction industry should lead the way.

“Buildings contribute almost a third to the energy we consume as a society and 40 per cent of our landfills are construction waste,” he said. “As an architect, I need to design something and show people how to build it without that much waste.”

“We have better ideas. Now we just have to start using them.”

There’s an app for that

Homeowners hoping to keep the smoke out will soon have a new tool at their disposal. Kaba has just finished a project with All Sky One Foundation to be officially launched in September. The Climate Resilient Virtual home will allow people to see how their home stacks up in terms of both energy efficiency and its capacity to withstand a changing climate in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.

“We have a website that will ask what kind of environment you are in, if it’s a new or old home, and what kind of climate issues you are concerned about,” he said. “Then it will give you a model with all the things you should think about for your house in terms of structure, roofing, walls, landscape design… Everything down to making sure you anchor things in your yard, otherwise a high wind could blow it away.

“It’s giving people the tools and ideas to start thinking big picture.”

Health Care in the Core

There are many avenues to access health care in central Edmonton, the key is deciding what’s right for you.

Alberta Health Services says most family doctors are part of a Primary Care Network. PCNs have an online tool to help in finding a family doctor – Alberta Find A Doctor. You can also call Healthlink at 811 if that tool doesn’t work for you. There were more than a dozen physicians accepting new patients in July this year.

Healthlink also offers nurse advice and general health information which can be accessed by calling 811. This option is often criticized because of a perception that the go-to response is to tell the caller to contact a doctor or go to the emergency room.

There are also two emergency wards nearby, at Royal Alexandra and University hospitals. These are the places to go when facing life-threatening emergencies. AHS provides a handy tool listing emergency ward wait times here. Click on the Edmonton tab for local waits.

The Edmonton Oliver Primary Care Network offers a list of family physicians in the Oliver vicinity who are accepting people into care including those practising at the Allin Clinic at 10155 – 120 Street, West Oliver Medical Centre at 10538 – 124 Street, and Generations Family Physicians at 12220 Stony Plain Road.

They also offer some excellent health prevention services including a series of free nutrition classes including Healthy Meal Planning and Cooking For One. Their fitness support includes a free weekly exercise program offering 90 minute river valley walk accompanied by a family physician and a kinesiologist, and you can request a Prescription to Get Active which is a one-month fitness pass to GoodLife Fitness in the Brewery District, the MacEwan University Sport and Wellness Centre, or the Don Wheaton YMCA.


Medical clinics and medicentres are an option for those without a family doctor. There are several in Oliver along Jasper Avenue, and there is one downtown. These clinics accept walk-ins but don’t do medical emergencies. The first thing their recorded messages tells callers is to phone 911 if the call is an emergency. Downtown east of 109 Street has been known as a bit of a health desert but there are a few new options that have opened up in recent years – notably the innovative SAGE seniors centre. SAGE, the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton at 15 Sir Winston Churchill Square, offers comprehensive health services, mostly provided by nurse practitioners, who can do much of what doctors do. SAGE medical office assistant Shay Brooks says they can do wound care, foot care, and much more. They can also do home visits in the central area from Westmount to Gretzky Drive. And their care is not strictly limited to seniors, anyone over 50 is welcome. There is also a bus program available.

Alberta Health Services says most family doctors are part of a Primary Care Network.

On the east and north edges of downtown, there is the Boyle McCauley Health Centre at 10408 95 Street and a number of clinics north of downtown along 107 Avenue, including those which provide services in languages other than English including Arabic.

MacEwan University students at the downtown campus can avail themselves of a collaboration with the Faculty of Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta. The MacEwan University Medical Centre is touted as a clinical teaching space that trains doctors, medical students and residents, as well as nurses and medical assistants. Students are assigned a family doctor on first visit staff try to book subsequent visits with this physician. Trainees are supervised by this doctor. And there are mental health professionals on site.

Prenatal Care is available by referral at the Mom Care Docs Low Risk Obstetrics Clinic at the Allin Clinic. A shortage of midwives means midwifery care is hard-to-come-by in Edmonton, and it’s even harder to come by in the core as all of the midwifery clinics have moved to the ‘burbs, but you can fill out a request for care at the central intake registry at Alberta Midwives. And if you know one of the approximately 100 pregnant women in Edmonton experiencing homelessness, you can connect her to the Pregnancy Pathways Program at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre, 780-249-7002. Newcomers needing culturally responsive perinatal care and referrals can contact the Multicultural Health Brokers at 9538 – 107 Avenue, 780-423-1973.

If you think you may have contracted a sexually transmitted infection, there’s a clinic for that, at 11111 Jasper Avenue open during office hours. You can also call 811. There is a separate STI clinic for gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men with drop-ins Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at 11745 Jasper Avenue (Bath House; Entrance in back alley, downstairs; Outreach Office in the Steamworks Building). The STI clinics do not offer birth control services but teens and young adults experiencing barriers to sexual health and birth control services can access free birth control and other care at the Birth Control Centre at 405 North Tower, 10030 107 Street, 780-735-0010. Sexual health and wellness services including education for community groups around sexual health, healthy sexual relationships, and consent; support for individuals around sexual health, STIs, pregnancy testing, and reproductive rights; and multicultural community outreach are available at the YWCA at #400, 10080 Jasper Ave, 780-429-3342. YWCA of Edmonton

Mental Health information is available from the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Their downtown office is at 10010 105 St NW #300. There is 24-hour help available at 780-482-HELP (4357).

After seeing a physician or nurse practitioner laboratory services are often called for. Dynalife has locations downtown at 250,10405 Jasper Avenue – and in Oliver, 11936 104 Ave. There is also a lab located at the Boyle McCauley Health Centre at 10408 95 Street.

If you need urgent care but aren’t able to get into a medicentre and aren’t sure you need the ER, you may want to contact a prescribing pharmacist. They can renew, adapt or modify prescriptions, and can provide prescriptions in an emergency. Oliver Place, Standard Life and Jasper/117 Shoppers and Rexall Ice District and Jasper 118 all offer the service. Hours vary, but the late-night pharmacy on Jasper Avenue and 117 Street is open until midnight.

Downtown / Oliver and area Walk-in Clinics

medimap.ca

Downtown Medicentre
medicentres.com
11807 Jasper Ave
780-488-1222
Mon: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tue – Sat: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sun: Closed

Edmonton Medical Clinic
edmontonclinics.ca
11722 Jasper Ave
780-488-4242
Mon – Fri: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sat – Sun: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Jasper Avenue Medical Clinic
jasperavemedicalclinic.com
Same-day appointments, walk-ins welcome
11464 Jasper Ave
780-756-9212
Mon – Fri: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sun: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Medicine Place Walk-in Clinic & Pharmacy
medicineplace.ca
10660 – 105 St
780-784-0475
Mon – Fri: 9 a.m. 6 p.m.
Sat – Sun: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Oliver Medical Clinic & Pharmacy
11423 104 Ave
780-761-0010
Mon – Fri: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sat: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sun: Closed

West Oliver Medical Clinic
10538 124 St
780-756-3090
Mon: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tues, Thur, Fri: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wed: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Sun: Closed

WE DARE YOU

You’ve heard of the countless things to do in Edmonton, especially in our long but fleeting summer. But where do you start? And for those in the core, add the question: how do you get there?

While the weather outside is delightful, rather than frightful, we’ve got a dare. We dare you to explore the heart of your city in one (or all!) of the following ways. Get out there.

WE DARE YOU TO: BUY ICE CREAM

Craving a cone? Finding an ice-cream truck or storefront is tricky in the core, never mind chasing one down. But places offer grab—and—go ice creams and other frozen treats, if you know where to look.

The Canterra Centre on 109 Street and Jasper Avenue is the core’s ice-cream oasis. Marble Slab Creamery offers standard fare, while nearby, La Carraia Gelato in the Mayfair has authentic Italian gelato. For ice cream with an Asian flair, head to ZenQ, Tsujuri or Snowy Village Dessert Café (all three are also within the 109 Street area) for shaved ice and other eye-catching dessert bowls. There are a handful of other places offering Asian shaved ice downtown, including Ono Poke on 104 Street and Dream Tea in Oliver Square.

And no matter where you are in the core, you’re probably not far from a place offering Pinocchio ice cream— Edmonton’s homegrown maker of ice cream, gelato and sorbet. Pinocchio doesn’t have a retail storefront itself, but hundreds of cafes and restaurants— including many downtown, like Care-it Urban Deli and Planet Organic—have a freezer filled with their products. Pinocchio’s website has a map showing all the locations that supply their stuff, so you can tailor your own Edmonton ice cream odyssey.

WHERE: 109 Street and Jasper Avenue.

GET THERE: Walk or bike, with connections to the protected bike grid using Railtown Park.

WE DARE YOU TO: ENDURE DOWNTOWN CONSTRUCTION

You should be forgiven for thinking everything feels closed. A number of our flagship cultural attractions are shuttered for renovations, including Fort Edmonton Park and the Muttart Conservatory. Both the City Hall wading pool and one of the pools at the Legislature are closed for repairs; they’re slated to open this summer (fingers crossed). Louise McKinney Park technically isn’t closed but large parts of its trails are, thanks to LRT construction. The funicular is closed fairly regularly (and randomly) and it’s almost impossible to keep track of the closures and detours along LRT lines. LRT construction extends throughout downtown, is leading to rolling road closures and, coupled with other development projects can make walking down the street a dangerous challenge. Make sure to tell 311.

But many things remain open. Though its ultimate fate is still unknown at this point, Oliver Pool is happy to welcome you this summer. If the pool is too busy when you and the kids need to cool off, head to the splash pad in nearby Kitchener Park. Or visit Paul Kane Park, where upgrades just over a year ago can remind you that even though construction sucks, the end result is often well worth it. Or check out Alex Decoteau Park downtown, which has a mini garden and a dog run. Or head just south of downtown for Queen Elizabeth Pool.

WHERE: The core.

GET THERE: However you need to, but bring a towel.

WE DARE YOU TO: BIKE A MOUNTAIN

Edmonton’s ribbon of green is a mountain-bike paradise. The city’s extensive network of singletrack routes provide (almost) continuous routes along trails that form hundreds of kilometres of access to ravines and river valleys. The trails are mapped on Trailforks, a crowd-sourced database which counts 678 different mountain-bike trails in Edmonton and more than 40 user- created routes.

There are several trailheads from downtown to the network of valley trails. For one of the best views, head to the 100 Street Funicular, beside the Hotel Macdonald, and ride it down to the Low Level Bridge. This gives you quick access to trails to the southeast in Cloverdale and Forest Heights, to the west and to the direct south, including Mill Creek Ravine.

Another trailhead is the High Level Bridge, which connects to the trails by the University of Alberta. From there follow the trails west through Emily Murphy Park and into Hawrelak Park. MacKinnon Ravine extends out from the west side of downtown, just north of Hawrelak.

Normally Groat Road Bridge provides a quick connection to either side, but check your route before heading that way: construction has caused various detours and path closures.

If you’re looking for fellow mountain bikers in town, there are several groups and clubs. There is the Oliver Bike Club, which meets Wednesday’s at 6pm, though that’s less about mountain biking. If you’re looking for terrain, the Edmonton Road and Track Club hosts weekly rides, including some for women only. The Edmonton Mountain Bike Alliance is another good resource that offers reports on trail conditions and events including Trail Care Days where volunteers help spruce up the local trails.

WHERE: Trailheads at the 100 Street Funicular and Ezio Faraone Park.

GET THERE: Biking to the funicular requires a bit of courage, so consider walking your bike along the sidewalk you’re forced onto. For Ezio Faraone, use the Railtown multi-use path.

WE DARE YOU TO: TAKE A TOUR

Okay, let’s say you’re not motivated to create a self-guided tour but still want to explore. Don’t worry, there are plenty of guided tours available. Pretending you’re a tourist in town is a great way to see the city through new eyes.

The Downtown Business Association’s Core Crew hosts free historical walking tours throughout the summer (look for their red T-shirts leading groups around town). There are also free tours at the Alberta Legislature and City Hall throughout the summer.

For something faster-paced, the River Valley Adventure Co., based in Louise McKinney Park, offers a number of popular Segway and cycling tours that will take you into and around the river valley.

WHERE: Louise McKinney, downtown, City Hall, Alberta Legislature.

GET THERE: On foot.

WE DARE YOU TO: DISCOVER #YEGHISTORY AND #YEGART

There is the Canada Permanent Building, or the Churchill Wire Centre, or Oliver Exchange. There is the public art, both held at institutions like the Art Gallery of Alberta, or just storefronts, like at the window of art outside Jobber, at Jasper and 105 Street.

Regardless of where you go, as you stroll the core look for historical markers, statues, monuments and murals; you may be surprised just how many you find. (Hint: Many of these are also stops in the Pokémon Go phone game, which is a great way to get kids involved. Go for a walk to catch Pokémon, but stop to learn about local history and art, too.)

If you’re looking for something more structured, download the City of Edmonton’s brochures for self-guided historical walking/biking tours, which include tours of historical buildings throughout downtown and Oliver. If art is more your jam, check out ArtTourYEG, which is a series of three self-guided tours of public art downtown.

If you just can’t get enough #yeghistory, check out the Edmonton Heritage Network which features dozens of local historical tours, events, museums and archives.

WHERE: The core.

GET THERE: On foot.

WE DARE YOU TO: SPLASH IN THE RIVER

It’s unclear if Cloverdale’s Accidental Beach, a short walk from the core, is here to stay. But there are other ways to get out and enjoy the river.

River Valley Adventure Co., based in Louise McKinney, offers stand-up paddle- board rentals and classes, as well as rafting adventures. Canoe Heads hosts various canoe trips, from beginner day to trips to more advanced overnight tours. Haskin Canoe also does regular canoe trips as well as kayak trips, in Edmonton and out at Elk Island Park.

Black Gold River Tours offers tours of the river by speed boat, if you’re looking for something high-powered instead of human-powered. And of course there’s always the venerable Edmonton Riverboat, formerly known as the Edmonton Queen. The Riverboat has recently been renovated and is now taking regular river trips. Like the trip for Accidental Beach, head to the funicular, cross the Low Level Bridge, walk about a block east to Rafters Landing and you’re there.

And one overlooked way to enjoy the North Saskatchewan is to test your luck at a fishing hole. (Note: Alberta sport fishing regulations apply, except on the City’s free fishing weekends.)

WHERE: At the river.

GET THERE: Countless options, the best of which are human-powered.

WE DARE YOU TO: EAT OUT AFTER MIDNIGHT

The late-night twilight in high-latitude Edmonton means we’re often up late and looking for somewhere to eat, and sometimes we want something other than a greasy pizza joint or 24-hour breakfast place. Downtown Edmonton has more late-night dining options than ever before. If you’re coming from an event at Rexall, head down 104 Street to Drunken Ox, Sober Cat (DOSC) for upscale steakhouse fare (kitchen open until 1am on weekends).

Central Social Hall on 109 Street is another late-night spot. The kitchen stays open until 2am on weekends and offers a range of casual fare, from flatbreads and burgers to classic comfort food like chicken and waffles.

But when you’re up *really* late, Chinatown is the place to go—some places stay open until the very wee hours of the morning. For classic Chinese food, there’s no beating All Happy Family Restaurant, which is open until 4am and offers standards like green onion cakes, fried rice and dozens of different noodle dishes. Sai Woo Garden (open until 3am) is another good choice; get the deep- fried calamari. If you’re in no hurry to get to bed, hunker down over a cauldron of bubbling soup at Asian Express HotPot (open until 2:30am).

WHERE: If it’s late, Chinatown, my friend.

GET THERE: Safely.

Read the full Summer 2019 issue of The Yards here.

Seeing into the future

It’s easy to give up. Just yesterday, as the driver delivered Marc Workman’s groceries at his Oliver apartment, Workman got an unsubtle reminder he’s different.

He’d sent a note in advance, like he usually does, which gave the driver a friendly heads up to avoid an awkward interaction—like offering a pen and Workman not noticing. He never knows how these quotidian interactions will go, and he’s met all kinds of people in Oliver—some judgmental, some clueless, some concerned, some compassionate. Who will it be today?

The driver handed him his groceries. “You do okay for yourself,” he said to Workman, as he turned to leave, before adding: “Considering you’re blind.” 

Workman is used to these comments— that’s why giving up can seem appealing. At 37, he’s slender and clean shaven, and smiles frequently below his friendly cheekbones. It’d be easy not to notice he’s blind, unless you met him walking with his cane or with his Labrador Retriever guide dog, Bella. He sits on the Oliver Community League board and chairs its social advocacy committee. He used to work as manager of advocacy for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, a job he moved to Oliver for in 2013, and he joined the board of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians when he was 27. He’s also been involved with Barrier-Free Canada, which advocates for federal disability legislation, and he was part of the push to get Edmonton Transit System buses equipped with automated stop announcements, in 2015. Now he works as a policy analyst with the Alberta government. All that to say: Comments like “You do okay for yourself” don’t surprise Workman anymore, because he’s spent his life thinking about why they occur.

“Common among all minorities is the fact that you have to work harder to be seen as competent,” Workman says. “He was saying, ‘I’m impressed by you only in the sense that I expected less, and you exceeded that.’ I’ve heard it many, many times.”

It’s complicated, though, because Workman is doing okay for himself. In Canada, he says, a blind person living independently is rare, and in many cultures it’s unheard of. Workman, in contrast, lives on his own. He subscribes to a visual-assistant app called Aira, and uses his iPhone’s screen-reader, called VoiceOver, to navigate his smartphone. He has a sister he’s close with who helps him with tasks, like updating his wardrobe. Around 70 per cent of blind people are unemployed, and half live on less than $20,000 a year. Workman is different.

Still, although he has a career, it took more than 100 applications and 22 interviews. “I don’t want to say that I could have gotten every single one of

“These things aren’t inevitable. That’s why we have to change our environment to make them less likely. That’s evidence for why we need to act.”

those jobs,” he says, “but it’s equally ridiculous to say blindness played no role in any of those decisions.” In 2015, he was denied service at a restaurant in Red Deer, which is illegal under Alberta’s Service Dogs Act. (He happened to be with the CNIB’s director of public affairs; they filed a complaint with the Red Deer RCMP and called the Red Deer Advocate.) Even as he lives independently, the world insists on seeing him a certain way.

Workman has a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa, or RP, and it progressed quickly. He was five years old when he was diagnosed. He figures he was legally blind by age 10. (“Legally blind” means he had 20/200 vision; he could see at 20 feet what someone with 20/20 could see from 200 feet.) Although he has light perception in his right eye, he has no vision at all in his left. 

While blindness has been a part of him almost his entire life, it wasn’t until university that he thought about it philosophically. It started with a course on equality and social justice. “There was nothing about disability in there,” he says, “but it felt familiar.” He Googled “philosophy+blind.” The U.S. National Federation of the Blind (NFB) came up. Before, he’d seen disability as something unfortunate that happens to people. “The NFB talked about how the problem isn’t the inability to see—it’s the attitudes, social situations and environments that make it harder for someone who’s blind.” With a master’s degree in political science already in his quiver, Workman pursued a PhD in philosophy. But soon he learned he’d rather be advocating in the non-academic world. He wanted to see his community change—so he set out to do it.

It’s two and a half blocks from Workman’s apartment to the Grandin LRT station – north a few steps, then along 99 Avenue past Grandin Elementary School, where children almost always shout “Doggy!” at Bella. He recently started a new position with the government, where he’s worked for almost four years, so he can walk to his job now. But the train is still vital for getting anywhere else in the city. He has a few strategies for walking: He remembers if the last number of an address is even, the building will be north of the avenue. The grid setup downtown 

“For the visually impaired, the giant parking lots can be dangerous and disorienting”

helps him navigate, just like numbered streets. When he feels he’s about 20 feet from the intersection, he begins listening for cues that tell him when to cross, like which direction traffic is moving in, or the beep of audible signals. Not all intersections have them, of course, so he’ll pay attention to stationary vehicles, too. If this idling vehicle had the opportunity to turn right and didn’t, he thinks, it must be turning left or driving straight through.

But every walk has its obstacles – often the kind with four wheels and an engine. According to the City of Edmonton, a pedestrian’s chances of survival are only 45 per cent if hit by a vehicle moving at 50 kilometres per hour, so he has to be especially vigilant. Quiet vehicles are a problem, too: According to the Guardian, compared to conventional vehicles, quiet-running electric cars are about 40 per cent likelier to hit a pedestrian, and 93 per cent of blind and partially sighted people have had issues with them. Still, Oliver is more accessible than most neighbourhoods in Edmonton, Workman says, but it’s missing things like the yellow tactical strips so prominent in San Francisco, or the prevalence of audio signals at intersections in Vancouver. “I’ve probably had a few close calls, but I wouldn’t necessarily know,” he says, chuckling. “There have been a couple times where I ended up on a totally different corner than I intended to.” 

Even the train he’s arriving for can be challenging. In August 2012, a blind woman named Zaidee Jensen, whom Workman went to university with, died after she fell from the ledge of University station. The station’s platform didn’t have the same kind of bumps, which warn people who are visually impaired, as other stations did. The warning strips were upgraded about a year later, but there are still impediments. Edmonton’s LRT has two kinds of trains, and the buttons on each one are located in different spots. And neither of the two train types have doors that open automatically. To decipher which one is approaching, Workman has learned to differentiate them by an almost imperceptible difference in pitch. “I don’t get it 100 per cent of the time,” he says. Workman has inquired about making the doors open automatically but the City rebuffed him. The next step would have

“While much of Oliver is fairly accessible, Oliver Square and the Brewery District are outliers”

been to take the issue to city council, and he knows there would have been resistance. “That’s one I considered fighting more for,” he says, “but I kind of let it go.” 

Pick your battles, he learned.

While much of Oliver is fairly accessible, Oliver Square and the Brewery District are outliers. For the visually impaired, the giant parking lots can be dangerous and disorienting. It’s difficult to tell which direction vehicles are moving in, and slower driving makes them hard to hear. Workman avoids these spaces altogether. 

This gets to something fundamental about how we build our neighbourhoods. Whether it’s the noiseless electric vehicles or oceanic parking lots, there’s a continuous rivalry between drivers and pedestrians, between making our communities more walkable and encouraging urban activity, or making them more drivable and easier to park in. The issue of accessibility highlights this opposition, because people with disabilities are adversely affected. When build more parking lots, when we favour cars over pedestrians, we should ask: Who benefits, and whose lives are we risking? 

Workman, with Bella at his left, heads to his tailor’s. Rather than turning off Jasper Avenue at the stairs, the pair walk to the end of the block and turn around so he can count the steps. A man across the street yells at no one in particular and Workman turns his head. A piece of sidewalk sticks out skyward, threatening to trip someone who’s distracted or, for that matter, visually impaired. Here, by 112 Street, with five lanes of traffic whirling by, it can be disorienting for anyone. 

But Jasper is actually easier for Workman to navigate. Downtown cores usually are. The traffic signals are more accessible, and he has a better sense for which direction vehicles are moving in. More than that, though, is how dense the avenue is, and how different that is from areas like Oliver Square and the Brewery District. It’s easier to find stores, which are right along the avenue and unencumbered by parking lots. 

“A community that makes it harder for blind people to interact will naturally create blind people who feel more isolated”

Jasper Avenue represents our city in full. The cacophony isn’t a bug but a feature. The density, walkability, abundance of businesses, the fact that 20,000 people residents share the space is what makes our neighbourhood livable. That’s part of why Workman moved here, but it’s also part of what brings thousands of us here from other cities, or from rural and suburban communities. Downtown, we’re connected by what we have in common; what makes it livable for Workman makes it livable for the rest of us, too. 

Of course, cities can be lonely, too— and more so for people with disabilities. People who are blind are more than three times as likely to experience depression. A community that makes it harder for blind people to interact will naturally create blind people who feel more isolated. “But these things aren’t inevitable,” Workman says. “That’s why we have to change our environment to make them less likely. That’s evidence for why we need to act.” 

It’s difficult to build better communities, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as automatic doors and tactical strips, or not assuming someone with a disability is less capable. Oliver, the centre of a flourishing, young, multicultural city, is more than just a neighbourhood: It’s a promise to be inclusive and respect each other while living in close quarters. Someone saying “Considering you’re blind” breaks that promise. When Workman advocates for a more accessible neighbourhood, or when he responds to a crass comment, he’s not asking anyone to bend over backwards to accommodate him. He’s reminding us that every citizen, without fail, has a right to these streets, these services, this community, and the dignity that comes with it—and that once we realize we’ve broken that promise, we have two choices. We can give up, but it’s easy to give up. Why not live up to it instead? 

Site Unseen

Carl* stepped on top of the 100,000-barrel tank at the oilsands site in Fort McMurray. It was toward the end of his shift. As the head of a work crew, he went on the tank to check that his grunts were off the site and that he could head home. Carl looked from his perch, nearly 15 metres in the air, and confirmed his guys were gone. Quitting time. He walked to the edge of the tank, where scaffolding was rigged to its edge, and stepped onto it.

*Carl’s full name has not been used to protect his identity

“The next thing you know – I didn’t realize they were taking the north side of the scaffolding apart – it just tumbled,” Carl says. “I came down with it. Four storeys.” Carl’s next memory from that day is being in a helicopter, struggling to breathe. Memory two is coming to in a hospital bed, feeling tubes in his mouth. He tugged at them. Number three is his doctor, who stood at his bedside and told him he was lucky to be alive. Then came the news. “He said, ‘I’m sorry but I have inform you, you’re paralyzed from the waist down,’” Carl says. “That was a shocker.” After his fall, which happened about two years ago, Carl fought to walk again. One day, he says he suddenly felt one of his toes. Later, friends put him on a treadmill, almost willing him to walk. Three months later, he says he walked out of the University of Alberta hospital, shakily, but on his own two feet. But from there, life didn’t much return. He couldn’t walk well or work. The pain from his injuries was overpowering. He was still mourning his wife, who had died a few years earlier. He treated his pain, in part, with a doctor-prescribed supply of hydromorphone, a powerful opioid. But challenges overwhelmed him. Recently, he ended up on the street. And since March 2018, when Boyle Street’s supervised consumption site opened, Carl has been a regular client. At last count, nurses at the site have resuscitated Carl five times.

A man rings a doorbell and staff inside beckon him through the door. When Erica Schoen, director of supervised consumption services at Boyle Street, sees him, she scrambles across the room. “We’ve been worried about you,” Schoen says.

“At last count, nurses at the site have resuscitated Carl five times”

“We didn’t know what was happening. How are you?” says another nurse, on her way over. The man keeps his eyes low. He’s white, wears a black coat and jeans, and a woman is with him. The woman says nothing but keeps looking at the man, as if she’s worried. “I’m okay,” he says, to everyone, not making eye contact. He just needs to use today. And some food. The man has walked into a controversial space. On the right side of the hallway at Boyle Street Community Services is an unlabeled white door without a window. One must ring a doorbell and be beckoned through this door to enter. Like a faberge egg, what you find on the other side is the first of three inner rooms that form one of Edmonton’s four supervised consumption sites.

Here, in room one, nurses ask questions, like: What are ways we can identify you? What are you consuming today? What drugs have you used in the last 12 hours? Have you had any lapses in use recently? Do you need any other supports, like mental health, shelter, first aid? How are you feeling? And also, more warmly, what’s new?

Deaths linked to opioids climbed from 443 in 2015 to 714 in 2017. It took years of these numbers increasing, and outrage from advocates, for this space to exist. In 2018, harm-reduction proponents in Alberta successfully pushed the federal government to allow agencies to apply for an exemption to the federal Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, for one year. Four have been granted this exemption in Edmonton. This means nurses can legally sit beside someone injecting drugs and keep them alive if they overdose. Advocates say the four sites – at Boyle Street, the George Spady Centre, the Royal Alexandra Hospital and, as of November, the Boyle McCauley Health Centre – lead to fewer deaths and fewer needles on the ground.

But critics say much the opposite. They say the sites are increasing needle debris as well as crime. In Calgary, crime statistics show that a site there has, in fact, been linked with a spike in criminal activity in its vicinity. This led the Alberta government, in January, to hastily commit $200,000 toward crime deterrence. Meanwhile, in Edmonton, a national columnist has argued the downtown sites are leading to increased needle debris in his neighbourhood, while the Chinatown Business Association, part of a community that hosts several of the sites, has taken its opposition to the sites to the courts (see sidebar).

Within this push and pull is a larger truth: the sites save lives. Between March 23, 2018 to January 31, 2019, Elliott Tanti, spokesperson for Boyle Street, says visits at the three community sites (the fourth, at the Royal Alex hospital, is run by Alberta Health Services) in Edmonton totalled 34,990. At the Boyle Street site and the Boyle McCauley Health Centre sites, nurses saw 1,257 unique individuals, referred them to other services 13,416 times and, staggeringly, reversed 221 overdoses. Back in the site, and after answering questions in room one, a client is next welcomed into room two: the consumption room. This is the area few people are allowed to see while clients actually use it. Today, I’ve been allowed.

I stand at the cusp, just outside the door, to give the two clients currently inside some privacy. To my right is a cart with metal trays filled with blue and red elastic straps, plastic-wrapped syringes, cotton filters, hand wipes and other tools to work with opioids.

One of the people inside, a lean, white man, wearing steel-toed work boots and a blue coat with reflective tape, works away in one of five booths, which have sharps container and a mirror. He’s grinding pills he’s brought, preparing to inject them. This make a loud “crunchcrunch” sound. To his right, a 20-something white woman is several steps ahead in the process. She releases the elastic around her arm. Moments later, she transitions from chatting with a nearby nurse to resting her head in her arms. The nurse sits on a chair at an arm’s length, checking in to confirm she’s okay. She is.

Schoen, who has stayed back to let me observe, next shows me room three, the monitoring room, where clients are asked to stay for at least 15 minutes after using, so staff can continue keeping tabs. This is an important spot. It’s also here, Schoen says, where referrals are often made. Mental health supports are a big one, as is housing. One client, who staff had helped find housing – which in turn led to the woman reducing the amount of drugs she uses to a trickle – also has an upcoming operation at the hospital for a long-standing injury. One of Schoen’s staff is going to go with her, like a friend would.

It’s this part of the consumption site – the relationships, empathy and knowledge of the healthcare system – that’s lost in the debate about whether they should exist or not. And it’s the part that Schoen says is powerful. “We instill hope for people,” she says. “If you want everyone to go to detox or treatment and for them to make all these changes, and at the same time we’re kicking them while they’re down, how will people have the motivation to do this? Sleeping in the shelters is difficult. Living on the street is extremely difficult. These people are dealing with so much stuff and then, on top of things, we’re going to blame them for trying to treat mental health, emotional and physical pain? I think we could be doing a better job of supporting people with that.”

Consumption sites were never about solving the opioid crisis, Schoen says. Instead, they’re just one of many tools. “There are many other things we could be doing, including decriminalization, providing people safe drugs, giving people alternatives to having to buy poison off the street,” she says.

Outside the focus on the drugs and consumption, these tools lead to shifts, she says. “I do believe someone who has a sense of purpose is less likely to use drugs. If they have something better to do, or they get tired of the chase, it’s not necessarily because they did what we wanted, go to detox and go to treatment. There are people who have gone to treatment 30 times and it hasn’t worked for them. And then there’s people who have been housed and say, ‘Oh Erica, I have my own space now and I don’t feel so hopeless and I’m decorating and now maybe I want to do something else.’”

But fentanyl, the poison Schoen refers to, is a powerful force. When the Boyle Street site first opened, she says it was common to “hit” a person who had overdosed once or twice with naloxone. But recently, they’ve had to hit people with up to eight doses to bring them back, she says. “The overdoses have got worse since we opened.” I ask Schoen why she showed so much concern for the man who appeared at the door earlier. The stigmatization of drug use creates barriers for people like him to get help, even though the underlying issue is mental-health related, she says. “We’ve just been very concerned with his mental health. If we build those relationships, people feel welcome and they keep coming back and they know they can trust us. I’ve seen him in the hallway before, and he’s like ‘Do you have any food?’ and I’m like, ‘Come on in, I’ll try to find you some.’ He knows our faces and trusts us.”

People like him often fall through the cracks, she says, because drugs create barriers to addressing what’s really leading to drug use. “Regardless of what the behaviour is, regardless of what’s happening with them, if they’re walking out into traffic, people think it’s because of the drugs. If they are barefoot in minus 35, it’s because of the drugs.”

It’s an easy scapegoat, she says, and a barrier to making real change.

Carl sits in the office at Boyle Street Community Services. He’s white, in his 60s, wears a beige puffy parka, an orange baseball hat that says ‘Netherlands’ and dark blue jogging pants. He walks deliberately with a walker, and grunts and clenches with pain whenever he sits. His face can look somewhat ragged, intimidating, but that’s only if he doesn’t know you. If he does, and he likes you, Carl shifts dramatically. His eyes can almost smile. If Carl likes you, it’s hard not to like Carl back.

The thing you need to know about Carl is that he used heroin, daily, for nearly 40 years. He’s proud of this record. He suggests it shows how deliberate he has been, how he scrutinized suppliers, injected test shots, lived with deep respect for his drug’s potency despite his strong tolerance for it. This approach, he says, allowed him to maintain a marriage, raise his kids and run a wildly lucrative construction business while also using.

“In all my years, from 1982 to 2017, I never dropped once,” he says. What took Carl down was fentanyl. After falling from the oil tank, fighting through his paralysis, and after fentanyl came to push heroin out of the drug supply in western Canada over the past few years, Carl found himself forced to use it, as an additive to his prescription opioids – which was either not strong enough or something he sold for his pre ferred fix, heroin. His addiction requires he feed his body lots of opioids, daily. If he doesn’t, he says withdrawal can be so powerful it could eventually kill him. And so in recent years, Carl couldn’t find heroin and had to use fentanyl. He did this at the consumption site close to where he spends his time on the streets. “I came here, and you can ask the staff – I think in one day I dropped five times with fentanyl. I wasn’t used to it,” he says. “I can do heroin all day long. They had to give me the oxygen mask, NARCAN. Unbelievable.”

Few things about drugs really scare Carl. What does is a situation he describes as an epidemic, with meth flooding the streets on top of the existing opioid crisis. “Until you realize that and start dealing with the problem, it’s going to be worse and worse,” he says. “It’s already in middle-class suburbia and the schools. I’ve seen people from schools come down and buy from people off the streets here. So it’s here, it’s here to stay, and as far as us having injection sites, it’s important. More crystal meth users are

“Until you realize that and start dealing with the problem it’s going to be worse and worse”

coming in, but in turn that pushes opioid users out. And there lies your dilemma. We have four sites that are here within the city now and all four are to maximum capacity. It has to be enlarged. You’ll start turning people away. And when you turn people away then it engrains in them not to even go near it. And they’ll just go out and use in back alleys and public places and bathrooms.”

But Carl is most concerned with Edmonton itself. He says it’s a place with a drug problem that doesn’t want to look at it very often or work to fix it. Having lived in Vancouver, eastern Canada and spent time with users in different parts of the country, he has some wisdom about the situation. “I say this sincerely,” he says. “I’ve been to a lot of cities, and I’ve never seen it like it is here in Edmonton.”

Best in the Core: The Fourth Annual Best in the Core Awards

Your Best Ever Weekend in the Core in 5 Steps

1. EXPLORE Fall in love at delicious date digs (pg 14), audition to be a regular (pg 14), bring along your kids to a boozy brunch (pg 17), skate underneath magical light (pg 20), or just go stare at a wall (pg 20).

2. KEEP SECRETS Fetch some terrines at this super hushhush hookup (pg 15), descend into a Persian-influenced nook (pg 16), get your pants hemmed by a stitch magician (pg 16), or just go dance on a boat (pg 17).

3. GET MOVING Ride an autobahn built for bikes (pg 20), walk your dog in a pool (pg 20), hover around a hive mind (pg 19), sweat it out on some stairs (pg 19), or just snap a selfie in a great spot (pg 19).

4. FATTEN UP Sip espresso at a great family-biz (pg 16), eat a meal while you meet a senior (pg 15), eat a coddled egg (pg 14), or just go eat and drink for cheap at happy hour (pg 18).

5. STAY UP PAST BEDTIME Sing your heart out at karaoke night at a multiple-award winning gem (pg 17), move past salsa as something for your chips (pg 14), debate between scarfing pizza or shawarma to lull you to sleep (pg 18), or just go listen to loud guitars at a live-music institution (pg 17).

Best Guesses at 2019 Best in the Core Categories: Best in Cannabis, Best Tower over 75 storeys, Best New Dog Park, Best Vape Lounge, Best Grocery Store

 

Best in Business

Best Date Digs

WINNER: Bar Clementine

Keep your love flame burning bright long after the kitchen closes inside these intimate digs. The cocktail menu is fresh and the curated wine menu has big flavours from small vineyards. Share an assortment of adventurous dishes from the constantly changing food menu and admire the 20th-century French Art Nouveau. You might even be inspired to take a lovers’ getaway to France. 11957 Jasper Avenue barclementine.ca

RUNNER UP: On the Rocks Salsa Night

Suss out your date’s moves with a night of passion … on the OTR dance floor. Thursday night salsa at OTR is an Oliver institution. Chacha-cha. 11740 Jasper Avenue ontherocksedmonton.com

RUNNER UP: Bru Coffee + Beer House

You want coffee. He wants beer. You both want a nice bite as you inspect one another on your IRL date. Get the best here for a buzzworthy meetup. 11965 Jasper Avenue brucoffeeandbeerhouse.com

A Love Recipe by Bar Clementine “The setting was intimate and my partner and I enjoyed a romantic evening, despite our 30-plus years together,” says Lianne McTavish, of a recent date at Bar Clementine. Indeed, McTavish, who lives in Oliver, has a perfect birthday recipe: Take one quick walk to the nearby bar that’s ranked ninth-best in Canada. Add one friendly waiter, who delivers one Simone cocktail with notes of lavender and rhubarb. Stir in several small plates, such as the sourdough-rye pancake with Jambon de Paris, fromage blanc, smoked clover honey, sambal and Swiss chard. Finish with a hearty spoonful of romance. Feeds two.”

-Sydnee Bryant

 

Best Place to Be a Regular

WINNER: Bar Bricco

Bricco’s low light and chic atmosphere invite everyone to be a regular. Relax with a glass of wine and marvellous spuntini, or explore a new pairing – the staff are experts on the wine list. Or attempt to try all the salumi and formaggi, which you’ll need to come back several times to experience. The best tip a regular could offer? Get the egg yolk ravioli – which is smothered in burnt butter and a pile of Parmigiano Reggiano – every damn time. 10347 Jasper Avenue barbricco.com

RUNNER UP: District Café & Bakery

A bright open space makes this an ideal spot to work during the week (though make sure your laptop’s fully charged, as there’s a lack of plugins). Stop in often enough and the attentive staff will memorize your coffee order, and you’ll be able to snag the delicious pastries before the other customers. 10011 109 Street districtcafe.ca

RUNNER UP: Tres Carnales

Regulars know to stop in before the lunch and dinner rush so they don’t have to wait long for some authentic Mexican tacos, fresh guac and chips and ambrosial Sangria. 10119 100A Street (AKA Rice Howard Way) trescarnales.com

-Matthew Stepanic

 

Best Off-Sales

WINNER: RGE RD

For only three days a month, the Butchery at RGE RD offers freshly prepared terrines, rillettes, sausages and cured meats – along with breads baked in a wood-burning oven – to vigilant and/or lucky customers. You can phone ahead to reserve a large order, but be sure to sign up for their event updates to stay on top of this pop-up paradise of finely crafted breads and meats. 10643 123 Street rgerd.ca

RUNNER UP: Yellowhead Brewery

Take home the fun of that event you just attended at this picturesque downtown craft brewery, but in a bottle. Yellowhead’s traditional lager is available in bottles or refillable growlers. You’ll be pleased when you come in from work and remember you have refreshing beer waiting in the fridge. 10229 105 Street yellowheadbeer.com

RUNNER UP: Careit Deli

Need to please a crowd at a long staff meeting? You’ll want to order in a delicious and healthy lunch from here with hot soups, seasonal fruit trays, and a variety of sandwiches and wraps. You can even do a festive lunch with turkey, stuffing and all the fixings in December. 10226 104 Street careit.ca

 

Best Place for Something Fresh

WINNER: Hideout Distro

Owner Tory Culen moved her cute, oddball general store out of the basement in the Mercer Building into a full-sized bay just off 124 Street. Find the coolest prints, ceramics, clothes, jewellery, music and books from local artists, designers and makers. Culen personally curates. Her tastes go beyond unique goods, as she has also crafted a space that feels hips and begs you to hang out a while on its long, green comfy couch. 12407 108 Avenue hideoutdistro.com

RUNNER UP: Hawkeye’s Too

With its authentic retro feel, this unpretentious pub serves up some tasty pizza, makes you feel at home with friendly staff and invites you to get a little (okay, a lot) wild on its epic karaoke nights. 10048 102 Street

RUNNER UP: Beaver Hills House Park

Retreat from the urban jungle by moving your lunch break to this beautiful park where the public art – including Destiny Swiderski’s Amiskwacîw Wâskâyhkan Ihâtwin of beautifully sculpted waxwings – will relax you. 10404 Jasper Avenue

– Matthew Stepanic

 

Best in Public Service

WINNER: SAGE

The Seniors’ Association of Greater Edmonton is here to help if you’re a senior or caring for one. Their most remarkable endeavour? The Seniors Safe House, which provides at least two months’ housing and support for abused seniors. SAGE also offers free therapy sessions, help with income taxes and a hoarding-control program – among other services. And if SAGE alone can’t help you with your situation, they’ll find you someone who can. 15 Sir Winston Churchill Square mysage.ca

RUNNER UP: Passport Canada

One neat thing about living in the core is how simple it is to keep your travel documents up to date. We dream of jetting off to who-knows where, just like everyone else, but those who live in the core can walk to the office and get the little blue book that lets us do it. Others, from far and wide? Not so much. How neat is that for a public service? 9700 Jasper Avenue

RUNNER UP: STI Clinic

While nobody much wants to go to the STI Clinic it’s a smoothly run, compassionate and efficient operation geared toward providing some needed answers. It also makes use of the Edmonton General, a woefully overlooked historical building. 1111 Jasper Avenue

– Staff

 

Best in Threads

WINNER: Red Ribbon

High Street wouldn’t be the same without this subterranean clothing goody store. The clothes range from mountainy hipster to super bougie to everything in between. The staff are super attentive and the selection offers treats you don’t find elsewhere. 12505 102 Avenue redribbon.ca

WINNER: The Helm

Bank accounts owned by men with refined tastes for Italian blazers fear The Helm. Owner Chad Helm has made it his personal mission to offer Edmonton some more class. He’s succeeding. 10124 104 Street thehelmclothing.com

WINNER: Arturo Denim

Edmonton has a long history of making denim thanks to the former GWG factory. Well Arturo is bringing it back. And aside from the new (and ethical) jeans and clothes they sell, they’ll fix your damaged jeans, too. 10443 124 Street arturodenim.ca

WINNER: Alberta Tailoring Company

A place with a well-earned reputation for being good at the craft of stitching, fitting, hemming, resizing and reworking your expensive clothing. Need a dress re-fitted? Go here. 10025 Jasper Avenue

– Tim Querengesser

 

Best Family Biz

WINNER: Credo

A love for Edmonton’s artsy vibe drove the Linden family to open the first Credo location, on 104 Street, in 2009. Credo’s website says the shop’s mission is to be “a place to connect, to relax, to discuss, and to feel at home.” The growing chain of local shops have been eminently successful in this. Cozy is the word that comes to mind to describe the locations, from the original 104 Street spot to the newest in the Kelly Ramsey building. All are located in the core and all have great patios, too. A lovely place to be. 10134 104 Street; 10350 124 Street; 10162 100A Street credocoffee.ca

RUNNER UP: Kunitz Shoes

If repairing your shoes with goo doesn’t appeal, you can get your footwear fixed here. The Kunitz family’s love of tailor-made shoes and, yes, also of fish tanks (just check out the store), makes their business a true stand-out. 10846 Jasper Avenue kunitzshoes.ca

RUNNER UP: The Colombian Mountain Coffee Company

With roots in Colombia, the Lopez-Panylyk family moved past tragedy (the murder of owner Santiago Lopez’s grandmother) to beauty in Edmonton. This local shop will ship their directly-sourced beans right to you. 10340 134 Street the-colombian-mountain-coffee.myshopify.com/

– Ana Holleman

 

Best Buried Treasure

WINNER: Cafe Lavi

If you seek hidden, here is hidden. You first notice the lights, artfully hung against the exterior brick, beckoning you down into a delightful café with Persian undertones. The interior is equally charming, with minimalistic décor in soothing white tones. If curiosity brought you here, the organic lunch items like Persian ash soup, chicken Caesar salad and sliders will make you stay. And the direct-trade coffee and sweet treats will bring you back. 9947 104 Street facebook.com/cafelavi

RUNNER UP: Chicken For Lunch

Tasty chicken dishes down in the pedway, served quickly by Amy Quon of The Quon Dynasty show – we don’t mind if you use that bit of TV trivia at your next party. 10060 Jasper Avenue facebook.com/CFLEdmonton

RUNNER UP: The Sunshine Cafe (at SAGE)

Hidden near City Hall. Come here for the Salisbury steak and live piano music. Stay for the wise words from seniors. 15 Sir Winston Churchill Square mysage.ca/at-sage/food-services/the-sunshine-cafe

– Sydnee Bryant

 

Best Bar for Responsible Parents

WINNER: Local

Whether your game is bocce ball, ping pong or shuffle board, you can pass on your skills knowledge to your kids while enjoying a beer on the patio. Bond over the family-friendly entertainment, then chow down on grilled chicken tacos – something kids and adults always agree on. Local’s brunch game is on point, too, meaning you can gulp mimosas while your brood plays outside. They might
even make new friends. 11228 Jasper Avenue localjasperave.com

RUNNER UP: Craft Beer Market

One of the few bars with a kids’ menu – with mac ‘n’ cheese that puts yours to shame. 10013 101A Avenue (AKA Rice Howard Way). craftbeermarket.ca/edmonton

RUNNER UP: Urban Tavern

Load up on brunch poutine at a spot that serves tater tots and mimosas. 11606 Jasper Avenue urban-tavern.com

– Sydnee Bryant

 

Best Live Music

WINNER: The Starlite Room

The Starlite Room is under new management but remains one of Edmonton’s premier live music venues, hosting 20 different events in November 2018 alone. Big-name acts and underground groups alike play the haunt, which opened as the Bronx in the late ‘70s. Not only does that mean the place is a major player in the local (and national and international) music scene, but it means there’s something for everyone, too. 10030 102 Street starliteroom.ca

The perfect live show, as explained by Starlite Room’s Tyson Boyd

What goes into a perfect show at the Starlite Room? “It really depends,” says manager Tyson Boyd. The venue, which was originally a Salvation Army Citadel, built in 1925, hosts all types of performances: electronica, hip-hop, punk and metal shows. To help accommodate that diversity, Boyd says the Starlite Room talks with tour managers to assess each performer’s technical needs. Some events are what Boyd calls “throw-and-go” shows – the performers basically bring their equipment, throw it on stage and go. Other artists require more time for stage plotting and, for instance, instrument fine-tuning. “Every show is different,” Boyd says.

RUNNER UP: On The Rocks

Do alcohol and salsa dancing mix? Find out at On The Rocks. But if it’s live music, the live bands every weekend might satisfy. Or you can provide your own on Wednesday karaoke
nights. 11740 Jasper Ave ontherocksedmonton.com

RUNNER UP: The Edmonton Riverboat

Three-and-a-half months of local live musical talent on the North Saskatchewan River. Beautiful. Also, that view – both inside and out. 9734 98 Avenue edmontonriverboat.ca

– Ana Holleman

 

Best Late-Night Eats

WINNER: Hawkeyes Too

Oh Hawkeyes Too, you’re so good. There’s no feeling quite like the camaraderie when a crew of us share an extra-large pizza, a pitcher and some wings under your tri-colour LEDs – all while being serenaded by Jungle Jim. You’re a safe haven for karaoke aficionados on Fridays and Saturdays. You’re a place that’s just dimly-lit enough for tired eyes. Your half-circle booths always have a spot for one more person. Your servers are sweethearts. Your bathrooms are weird but clean. Your pizza has never let me down. Ever. When I want a cheezy mushroom pizza fix, You’re my go to. I don’t know when your kitchen closes; all I know is that you’ve always been there for me. 10048 102 Street

– Sydney Gross

WINNER: La Shish

I don’t preach about much but selecting the best place to break bread after a night out strikes a religious fervour in me. At La Shish there’s a ritual to it: I always get a combo plate and a Coke because the sugared acidity tenderizes the meat as you feast. If you’re feeling temptation, you can’t go wrong with the baklava: its sweet-snacky crunch is a thing of bliss. This isn’t some dimly-lit dive for you to hide your shame in; it’s a temple of sensory experience. Gleaming white columns. Bright lights. A beacon in the night. I live downtown now but I used to live across the street from La Shish and it still holds a sacred place in my late-night heart. I always leave feeling full, happy and ready for slumber. Do yourself a kindness – when you’re seeking latenight salivation, go to La Shish. 10106 118 Street lashishshawarma.com

– Tim Schneider

 

Best Hour of Happy

WINNER: Baijiu

For its happy-hour specials, Baijiu expands off its high-class cocktail menu and offers themed drinks and food, which you won’t experience any other night. On Wakiki Wednesdays, tiki drinks are on the menu, such as the “I Only Smoke on Vacation” – Reposado Tequila, Mezcal, Green Chartreuse and honey. Bao Tuesdays allow you to enjoy a soft bao stuffed with non-traditional toppings such as donair or Montreal smoked meat. So be happy. 10363 104 Street baijiuyeg.com

RUNNER UP: Grandin Fish & Chips

This happy hour is the catch of any day with the chef’s choice of fish and chips, on special for only $12 from 2 pm – 5 pm. Plus you can enjoy a pint for only $5. A tasty and cheap meal for those early enough to hook it. 9902 109 Street grandinfish.ca

RUNNER UP: Earls

From 3 pm – 6 pm, and 9 pm to close, every day, the mix of low-price food and drinks here will please every friend (think street chicken tacos, garlic fries, and that Millennial favourite, avocado toast). Wash it down with the poison of your choosing. 11830 Jasper Avenue earls.ca

 

Best New Social Enterprise

WINNER: Boyle Street Eats

There’s no need to count calories when they’re all for a good cause. Launched this past spring, the new Boyle Streets Eats food truck serves up more than burgers and fries – it’s staffed by members of the Boyle Street community experiencing homelessness or poverty. And it provides them a living wage, valuable training and work experience. All over boylestreetventures.com

RUNNER UP: Hallway Café + Takeaway

A revitalized version of the Kids in the Hall Bistro, this new café in City Hall focuses on sustainability in its scratch-made foods created by at-risk youth – including freshbaked breads, braised meats and soups. It also focuses on food security by donating leftovers each day to the Women’s Emergency Accommodation Centre. 1 Sir Winston Churchill Square (in City Hall) hallway.cafe

RUNNER UP: Indian Fusion

Owner and chef Parkash Chhibber not only serves his flavourful curries to the customers inside his restaurant, but also serves those in need who knock on his back door. A sign there directs hungry friends to knock for a free meal or coffee, anytime. Chhibber donates nearly 1,600 meals a month. 10322 111 Street indianfusionrestaurant.ca

– Matthew Stepanic

 

Best Bee Buzz

WINNER: Manasc Isaac

Edmonton changed its bylaws in 2015 to allow urban beekeeping and the city’s been buzzing since. Bees make honey but also increase pollination, making them key to urban agriculture. Growing food in the core promotes sustainability, which is why the hives at Manasc Isaac Architects are so important. If this architecture firm is leading on buildings and bees, others will surely follow.
10225 100 Avenue manascisaac.com

RUNNER UP: MacEwan University

Not only do the bee hotels help create a sustainable campus but they also provide an opportunity to educate students and the community about the crucial pollinators. 10700 104 Avenue macewan.ca

RUNNER UP: The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald

The bees provide honey to the hotel’s kitchen. And they help maintain the fabulous gardens behind the hotel. 10065 100 Street fairmont.com/macdonald-edmonton

– Chris Sikkenga

 

Best Selfie Spot

WINNER: Happy Wall

Wooden pixels: 1,040. Potential word combinations: Millions. Selfies taken: Priceless. The Happy Wall is 17-metres of selfie heaven, laid out in Churchill Square for everyone to enjoy. Made from reclaimed wood, the Happy Wall can do anything – promote your event, propose to your partner, proclaim your undying love of … well, anything. What more could a selfie connoisseur want?
Churchill Square thomasdambo.com/happy-wall

RUNNER UP: River Valley

Show off your rustic, natural side with a scenic selfie during Magic Hour. Along the North Saskatchewan River

RUNNER UP: PichiAvo Mural

At four storeys tall and 36 metres wide, Edmonton’s largest mural is a splendid selfie backdrop. 106 Street and 103 Avenue facebook.com/rustmagic

– Sydnee Bryant

 

Best Hidden Heritage

WINNER: Mountifield Residence

Built in 1905 and designed by architect James E. Wize, the Mountifield Residence is one of only two buildings of the Second Empire architectural style that remain in Edmonton (the other is the Gariepy Residence, at the southern end of 104 Street downtown). The house was built for Henry Mountifield, whose daughter, Eleanor, captained the famous Edmonton Grads basketball team. Extensive renovations have returned the house to its original splendour. It was designated a Municipal Historic Resource in 2015. 9850 112 Street

RUNNER UP: Canada Permanent Building

This Edwardian Baroque building from 1910 is pure Accidental Wes Anderson. It will also, hopefully, find new life soon. 10126 100 Street

RUNNER UP: Derwas Court Apartment Building

Escape to New York City, or maybe Montreal, with this old-school walkup. Its exterior of red brick and its staircases makes this a unique gem. 10146 121 Street

-Derek Gagnon

 

Best Sweat During Your Workday

WINNER: Legislature grounds

The 800-metre loop on the south side of the grounds is the ideal distance for your lunch break – just more than 1,000 steps, or one-tenth of the way to crushing your daily Fitbit goal. Walk briskly and you’ll be done in less than 10 minutes. Or, take your time and enjoy the view and you’ll still be back in time to grab a quick bite before getting back to the grind. 10800 97 Avenue assembly.ab.ca/Visitor/index.html

RUNNER UP: Funicular Stairs

The funicular may stop sometimes, okay, a lot of the times, but that shouldn’t stop you from mastering 201 steps of sweat and glory. The hours are a tad ridiculous though, stopping at 9PM. Still one of the best views in all of Edmonton. 10065 100 Street

RUNNER UP: The Victoria Stair Circuit

Earn that after-work beer by climbing the hundreds of stairs here in one of the prettiest parts of the city. 11004 97 Avenue

-Sydnee Bryant

 

Best What-The-F***?

WINNER: Copious Sidewalk Closures

Construction crews in Edmonton are more safety conscious than helicopter parents with their first child. All over the core these crews block both sides of the street, forcing people to travel a block out of their way, or just walk on the street. “Sidewalk Closed” signs often go up before any construction starts and remain up long after the work is done. It’s especially frustrating when the sidewalk is used by contractors as parking.

RUNNER UP: Crosswalk Inconsistency

After a detour around closed sidewalks, it’s time to hit Edmonton’s city version of the slots! Press the crosswalk button (known, unflatteringly, as the beg button) and gamble with your time. Your child will potentially graduate grammar school before you cross.

RUNNER UP: Missing Rec Facilities

After all the extra steps, do some jumping jacks as you wait at the crosswalk. Who needs a rec centre downtown? The community centre is now every intersection!

-Chris Sikkenga

 

Best Excuse to Stare at a Wall

WINNER: Rust Magic

The International Street Mural Festival allows Edmonton to not only embrace artistry but to become art itself. These unique murals, many of them downtown, bring colour and vibrancy to the brutal architecture of the city. Rather than constructing new art projects, Rust Magic celebrates creativity by re-imagining what walls and public spaces can be. Stare much? All over the core rustmagic.ca

RUNNER UP: Vignettes

Why simply embrace art when you can even be a part of it in Vignettes? The Instagram-friendly exhibitions that activate oft unused or under-used spaces in the core allow you to not only view interesting creative works but create some of your own. vignettesyeg.ca

RUNNER UP: SNAP

Creative spaces like SNAP have an energy that can be felt in your bones. See the art and see behind the scenes. Or attend one of the arty parties and talk to the artists. 10123 121 Street snapartists.com

-Chris Sikkenga

 

Best Outdoor Tradition

WINNER: Victoria Park Iceway

Like many great things in Edmonton, the Victoria Park Iceway was created amid controversy – including allegations by the student designer that the city stole it. Here’s what you need to know: The Freezeway, err …  Iceway … may not be the urban skate-to-work brilliance it was supposed to be, but an hour on your skates at night in the warm glow of Dylan Toymaker’s lanterns, peering up at downtown’s twinkling skyline, is still like stepping into a Dickensian winter village. Make it a tradition. 11004 12004 River Valley Road

RUNNER UP: Dog Day at Oliver Pool

The poor souls who have to clean the filters after this feast of beasts in chlorine in September are, well, they are heroes. The idea is a lovely nod to Oliver’s plethora of urban fur babies, who enrich our lives. It is also likely a smelly thing for anyone without a dog. 10315 119 Street

RUNNER UP: Wintering It On a Downtown/Oliver Patio

There’s something about the warmth of street vibrance that makes patio drinking well into the winter months more possible. So get to one of 104 Street’s many patio establishments – Tzin, Kelly’s, Cask and Barrel, The Station and The Great Canadian Ice House – and order a bevvy. Your city needs you out there.

-Tim Querengesser

 

Best ‘Hood Recreation

WINNER: The Oliverbahn

Riders of the Oliverbahn have no fear. They don’t fear popular opinion, since bike lanes have been contentious in Edmonton, yet Oliverbahners keep riding. They don’t fear bylaw enforcement, either, since a look at #Oliverbahn on Twitter shows the handiwork of a person (or people) dedicated to affixing the ‘Oliverbahn’ name to city signs along the beloved, protected bike route, which runs from Connaught Drive to 111 Street. Oliverbahners fear nothing, except maybe a lack of more routes like this being built.

RUNNER UP: Royal Lawn Bowling Club

Everything about this club, from the very idea of a lawn-bowling club’s ongoing existence to the early-’00s-style website, is remarkably quaint. Camaraderie-building rules that stipulate you must “compliment your opponent as well as your teammate on a good shot,” make it even better. Regal, even. 9515 107 Street royalbowls.ca

RUNNER UP: Victoria Park Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing in Victoria Park blends Edmonton’s urbanity and naturalism splendidly. There has been and will be snow in Edmonton this year (and next), no matter what. So why not use it
for something beautiful? 12030 River Valley Road

– Ana Holleman