Saturday, March 28, 2009

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Here it is the end of March and we're supposed to get a few inches of snow today. My calendar says it is spring already. I don't really believe we'll get snow so let's go up north to a place that has a better chance than we do here. This week's post takes us to my first non-U.S. city...Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The closest I've been to Canada is Niagara Falls. We stayed on the U.S. side but I could see Canada from there.

Edmonton is in the Alberta province in the western half of Canada. It is about 560 miles due north of Missoula, Montana, and about 3 hours north of Calgary. Calgary was the host city for the 1988 Winter Olympics. The 2010 Winter Olympics will be held in Vancouver which is about 12 hours southwest of Edmonton. This should be proof enough that Edmonton is far enough north to get more snow during the winter and early spring months than we do in the central United States. In fact, Google Maps doesn't show much north of Edmonton as far as roads and towns.

Edmonton's Valley Zoo is home to Lucy the painting elephant. The zoo has a tiered admission price plan based on your age. They also have a family pass that covers two adults and all children living in the same household. This pass will cost $29.25 during the summer months (May 9 - October 12). For the same price you can get a grandparent pass that covers two grandparents and up to 4 grandchildren.

Fort Edmonton Park is a living history museum. These are my favorite types of museums. A living history museum is one in which the employees dress up in period costumes and pretend to be from that time period. According to their web page, it looks like the museum plans special activities for people to enjoy. They have Mother's Day and Father's Day brunches and murder mystery weekends. The family/grandparent passes at the Fort are $40.50 CAD ($32 USD). In September, they have guided wagon tours that cost $28.00 CAD ($22 USD) for the family. To really immerse yourself in the time period, you can book a stay at Hotel Selkirk located within the Fort.

For you shopping aficionados, you can visit the West Edmonton Mall. They claim to be the "Greatest Indoor Show on Earth". I think I believe it after seeing everything they have to offer. They have a Putt 'n Glow miniature golf, an ice skating rink and an indoor waterpark! For the budget conscious, you can pick up a Super Savings Coupon Book for $7.95 CAD ($6.42 USD).

This leads me to this week's lodging pick. Fantasyland Hotel is located within the West Edmonton Mall. They have themed rooms that are spectacularly decorated. The Igloo themed room has a jacuzzi and bunkbeds. The jacuzzi in the Roman room is surrounded by marble columns. The jacuzzi in the Polynesian room is filled via a waterfall.

I can't forget about you sports fans. Edmonton is home to several sports teams. There is the Edmonton Oilers which is a National Hockey League team. They are home to the Canadian Football League Edmonton Eskimos. The Edmonton Rush is a National Lacrosse League team.

Now I'm ready to pack my bags and head north for my summer vacation!

Official Edmonton website

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dunedin, Florida, United States

The winner of the poll this week is Dunedin, Florida! In case you were wondering how to pronounce this name it is "done eden" or like some country folks I know it is "done eatin'". You can go to and click on the speaker icon to hear how it is pronounced.

Dunedin is on the Gulf Coast of Florida just west of Tampa and north of Clearwater. It is currently after 10 pm in Dunedin and it's 73 degrees with 59% humidity. Many people complain about the humidity in Florida. In August 2008, humidity got up to 97% almost every day according to the daily almanac. Fortunately, there's always a beach nearby to take a dip in and cool off. Clearwater Beach is about 8 miles away and home to Sunsets at Pier 60. It has a street festival feeling. The last time I went there was a performer who juggled fire and his grand finale was fire breathing. He was a good performer and had a little comedy routine to go with his show. There are also plenty of boats along the Gulf Coast. Some of them will promise you dolphin sightings, some will take you out fishing and others will help you pretend to be a pirate for a couple hours. Pinellas Trail runs along the western edge of Dunedin. The trail is 34 miles long. Jogging, inline skating and bicycling are all allowed on the trail.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were about 36,000 residents in 2006. This makes it the same size as Cape Girardeau, Missouri, home of Southeast Missouri State University.

There is a Best Western and Holiday Inn Express in Dunedin proper. There are many more lodging choices in the neighboring towns of Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa. The towns around Tampa Bay all flow together and can be difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.

My pick of the week for lodging is Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort in Clearwater Beach. It's right on the beach and within walking distance to restaurants, souvenir shops and the boats. My vote for restaurants is Crabby Bill's. I have eaten there and the food was wonderful.

I learned a lesson this week. It will work out best for me if I close the city selection poll on Friday evening and publish the post Sunday evening. This will give me the weekend to do research, write it and proofread it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Last week, I included a poll to let you guys decide which city I write about this week. It ended up being a 3 way tie. My 8 year old daughter got to be the tie breaker. Her decision was based on the fact one of her teachers was born in...Chicago. The winner this week is Chi-Town!

Chicago is also known as the Windy City. Why? I don't know. I searched the web and couldn't find a definitive reason for it. I always thought it was because it was on the edge of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes on the northern border of the United States. Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are the other four great lakes in case you were wondering. Lake Michigan is the only one completely surrounded by the United States. The other four lie on the border between the United States and Canada.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Chicago had an estimated population of 2,833,321 in 2006. This puts Chicago as the 3rd most populous city in the U.S. behind New York and Los Angeles. In 2000, 21.7% of the residents of Chicago were foreign born.

There is plenty to see while in Chicago. It is home to the famous Sears Tower. According to the Sears Tower website: "Standing at 1,450 feet and 110 stories high, Sears Tower is the tallest building in North America and the third tallest building in the world." I imagine it is quite an impressive building to see. There is also the Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, Museum of Science and Industry and the John Hancock Observatory. Admission to all of these attractions can be purchased separately or at a discount by purchasing the Chicago City Pass.

I can't write about Chicago without mentioning Wrigley Field. It has been the home to the Chicago Cubs since 1914. And, of course, there are the Chicago Bulls. Here's a shout out to all the Michael Jordan fans. He played for the Chicago Bulls from 1984 to 1998. Chicago is also home to the Chicago Bears football team, the Chicago White Sox Major League Baseball team (yes, Chicago has two MLB teams) and the Chicago Blackhawks National Hockey League team.

My pick of the week for lodging is the House of Two Urns. I've never been there but it has a catchy name, the pictures at the website look good and the price is right. You can get a room for around $100 a night.

Don't forget to vote in the poll for next week!

P.S. Choo-Choo! I just had to say that because I really wanted to write about Chattanooga this week. I'll just have to save it until the next C week.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Biloxi, Mississippi, United States

Last week it was 25 degrees outside and I picked Anchorage for the starting city. This week it is 72 degrees here so I'm going south to Biloxi for this week's post. Biloxi is on the southern edge of Mississippi on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. How many of you remember the elementary school rhyme....M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I? That was one of my favorites.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the gulf coast. I'm willing to bet most people associate Hurricane Katrina with New Orleans. Many more towns were almost completely destroyed east of New Orleans but they didn't make the news quite like New Orleans did. Mississippi took a hard hit when Katrina came ashore. Biloxi lies about 90 miles slightly northeast of New Orleans and just east of Gulfport, Mississippi. Gulfport and Biloxi were not spared from the widespread destruction of Katrina. According to the official Biloxi website, there are 8 casinos back in operation. Here is a link to a fun 5 minute video about Biloxi that I found at the website.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Biloxi had an estimated population of 44,342 in 2006. This was down from the 2000 estimate of 50,644. No doubt many of those people left as a result of Katrina. The people of Biloxi are working hard to get back to where they were before the hurricane.

They have 8 casinos and only 44,000 inhabitants? That must mean the town thrives on tourism. I did a search for lodging and it looks like most of the hotels are associated with the casinos. However, I found this beautiful place: Lofty Oaks Inn. Check out the African Safari Cottage! They are currently running a special for the military. You can click here for a 15% off coupon good through 06/30/09.