Category Archives: Travel

Seattle Takeaways for Edmonton

Seattle Ferris Wheel at sunset

We just had the pleasure of a vacation to Seattle. What a great city!

Here are some things I think Edmonton could incorporate into its own city life. Because our city is great too but we can keep getting better by stealing good idea from other places.

Businesses Selling Merch – We kept noticing a lot of the bars, restaurants, and coffee shops we stopped in were selling their own t-shirts, mugs, and other merchandise with their logo on it. Seattle is definitely more of a tourist city than Edmonton but we’ve got some great businesses with nice logos that could get into this ongoing promotion. How cool would it be to be sitting an airport somewhere and cross paths with someone wearing a Transcend or The Empress t-shirt. (You can already buy swag at The Empress.)

(Bonus idea: The Seattle airport has a full-on Sub Pop store. Talk about a unique tourist purchase.)

Top Pot Doughnuts, one of many businesses selling merch in Seattle.

We Can Be A Bike City – I had the same feeling after visiting Minneapolis last year and Seattle just kept that rolling. While the Pacific coast has nicer year-round weather than Edmonton, those hills are deadly. Good on Seattle cyclists for tackling them! It also felt totally normal, and safe, to be walking around the city. The car might be the most prevalent transportation option in Seattle but it does not rule all. Edmonton transportation definitely has to include everyone and move beyond personal vehicles (we’re starting to think that way).

Coffee Is The Nectar Of The Gods – Yes, there are a lot of Starbucks in Seattle. But it felt there was an independent coffee shop for each of the chain locations. There were even a couple of spots in Capitol Hill on the street and in a sliver of storefront without seating. Small can be big!

Street Art Is Here To Stay – I think we live in Edmonton at a fascinating time. This mid-size city is becoming a true urban metropolis. We’re seeing the transportation conversation evolve, people choosing to live in apartments or smaller homes, and business interests beyond energy are starting to take on real importance. We also need to get over the criminalization of street art. There’s nothing wrong with going after gang tags and signs, but expressions of art belong in a vibrant city.

Business Sloth street art

Access That Water – I don’t think we need to have a restaurant and boat launch at every possible accessible location of the North Saskatchewan River, but we need to do something with our central river area. I’m thinking of the area between Louise McKinney Park and the High Level Bridge. We need to make it easier to access for tourists, visitors to Edmonton, and those who aren’t just running or biking. The work around Walterdale Bridge and Queen Elizabeth Park, the de-commissioned Rossdale power plant, and connecting the northside of the river can, and should, be Edmonton’s version of Seattle’s waterfront boardwalk. Or, maybe a better comparison is The Forks in Winnipeg. Accessible, family-friendly, respectful and inclusive of our aboriginal history, a place to gather more than once a year for fireworks or a picnic. And a little bit of commerce around that location won’t hurt too badly.

I’ve got a whole bunch of Seattle photos up on Flickr capturing more of our vacation. It was a fantastic city and I would definitely go back. If you’ve ever been, let me know what you liked about Seattle (in case I do go back and need more vacation ideas).

And Amazon lockers would be a great addition to Edmonton for us apartment dwellers.
And Amazon lockers would be a great addition to Edmonton for us apartment dwellers.

Edmonton Could Have A Nice Ride

Recently, I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Minneapolis, a real jewel of a city.

While certainly not at the top of most world-class city lists (though with a handful of downtown arenas and stadiums you’d think they’d be at the top of all the lists) it really made an impression on me. One thing I definitely came away with, however, was a lesson for Edmonton and other mid-size Canadaian cities: we can be bike cities, even with long winters.

Wandering around my first day I found a Nice Ride bike rental station around the corner from my hotel. This surprised me because, while I had heard Minneapolis was one of America’s best bike cities, I had wondered how they did it with a cold prairie winter. The answer is they just do it, winter doesn’t scare them.

There are plenty of parks and bike paths around the city. The Midtown Greenway was where I took my own Nice Ride. It was once a rail line so it provided a great trip through the heart of many central neighbourhoods. That it landed me at a small in-town lake district was a good bonus.

The thing that really captured my interest though was that the Nice Ride system was a cheap, accessible way for residents and tourists alike to ride. It was a couple of dollars to rent the bike for a short ride and if I checked in at the next Nice Ride station in 30 minutes the ride was free. And the stations are definitely close enough to make it a reality that a daily commuter could ride for free all year (though an annual pass is just $65). I used a credit card to purchase the rental, and Nice Ride then charged me whatever rate matches with the time I had the bike out.

Check out all the old apartment flush to the now-defunct rail line.

The system operates April to November, which is why I think Edmonton could support a similar bike rental system. With 83 Avenue poised to become a bike street, 102 Avenue already designated as such, and great biking around the University of Alberta and river valley (and parks) I would love to see the City incorporate a bike rental into our transportation plans. Making it easy, quick, affordable, and normal to ride bikes around would encourage more people to ride, and more transportation planning on something other than potholes and commuter routes.

Maybe it’s a Make Something Edmonton project, or perhaps just a request to City transportation staff, but whatever happens it’s certainly been enough to get me talking about Minneapolis. And that’s got to say something about Nice Ride.