5 Things To Do in Fort McMurray as a Family
Sometime between finding out we were pregnant in Australia, attending makeup artistry school in Vancouver, and becoming a writer living in Valemount, we spent many a year in Fort McMurray. While Gaia and I are based mostly out of B.C. now, Kyle still works up North so we often go up to visit him and our friends that still reside there. While it's not necessarily known as the tourist capital of Canada and it's way out in the middle of nowhere, there are certainly things to keep you occupied if you happen to find yourself in the small city.
VISTA RIDGE: AERIAL PARK AND MINI-PUTT
First thing is first. We love Vista Ridge. During the winter they have a great little ski hill which doesn't have much vert, but they definitely make up for it with a ton of neat features.
During the summer they have an aerial adventure park open weekends and Fridays. The park is split into 3 levels, the first level doubles as a kids course and is for ages 7+ (with a reach of 4'7"). The second and third level work higher and higher off of the ground. Minimum age for the 2nd level is 7 years old but you have to have a mean reach (5'11") to be allowed to go on. I don't know any 7 year old that can extend that far, so I think it's fairly safe to say that the youngest patrons on that level are closer to 10. If you do go out, make sure to bring sturdy shoes and comfy clothes and be prepared for an afternoon of fun.
Another great feature they have at Vista Ridge is the indoor mini-putt. 5$/person gets you a round of 12 holes (no age restriction). There are no overly complicated features, Gaia was amused the entire round. I am pretty sure I was robbed my hole-in-one on the last hole though... it was so in.... and then it wasn't.
Being so far North the sun sits high in the sky for most of the day and during the summer it can get pretty toasty. Luckily there are a few ways to beat the heat (that don't include the ice cream truck). Most splash parks are connected to a regular playground so there's definitely a few hours of entertainment to be had. Plus, who doesn't like waterfights?
PADDLE THE SNYE OR MAQUA LAKE
The SNYE is right in town so if you're not feeling up for a drive just pack up your watercraft of choice and within 10 minutes you will have arrived at your destination.
Maqua Lake is down Stony Mountain Road, about 30 minutes from town. It is connected to a private campground that you can rent for the night or weekend, but there is also a day use area. Both the SNYE and Maqua are calm enough for a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard.
WALK/BIKE THE BIRCHWOOD TRAILS
The Birchwood trails are an extensive network of trails weaving throughout the suburbs. Since the fire, they have been doing work on some of the trails but majority are still perfectly accessible.
Fort McMurray's recreational park is a great place to kill a few hours. We have a little reader so we almost always stop in at the library while visiting.
Besides the library, there is a great aquatic center with waterslides for all ages, a sauna, steam room, lazy river and countless pools. Probably my favourite part of MacDonald Island is the climbing wall. We have been taking Gaia since she was 4 and while she maybe wasn't cut out to be a climber, she still enjoys jumping from hold to hold.
A day pass at Macdonald Island goes for about 14$/adult and gives you access to all of the facilities (many more than I listed, including tennis courts, a gym, an indoor children's playground, etc.) The library is free of course.
ENJOY THE SUNSETS
Okay, so technically this is number 6, but seriously Alberta is home to some of the most stunning storms and sunsets. Pull up a chair or throw a blanket on the grass and enjoy.
Thanks for reading. -R
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