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Alberta

Fort McMurray: Family Friendly Winter Activities

It's snowing today, just when I thought Spring was right around the corner. If you're in Fort McMurray and at a loss of what to do with these last few weeks of winter, I've compiled a list of fun family friendly activities.

 Photo: Mush McMurray

Photo: Mush McMurray

1. Mush mcmurray dogsledding

 Photo: Mush McMurray

Photo: Mush McMurray

Where: Exact directions disclosed after you book your tour, but it's within 15 Km of the city.
Costs: $125 per person.
Need to know: Come prepared to be outside, bring a camera and no dog treats please- the dogs are already really well cared for. :)
What to Wear: Think warm. Wear lots of wool and layers, fully insulated snow outerwear, toque, mitts, and something to cover your face. There is a full list of clothing suggestions on the Mush McMurray website.
Insider tips: Take it from the pros, bring hand and toe warmers. 

A total win with adults and children alike, dogsledding is a must-do attraction when visiting or residing in Canada. The dogs at Mush McMurray are very well cared for and full of character. You can book either on their website, Mush McMurray or their Facebook page. 

 

2. Vista Ridge All Seasons Park (ski & snowboarding, tubing, outdoor rink)

Snowboard-vista-ridge

Where: 1 Spruce Valley Drive (approximately 25 Km SE of town)
Costs: Vary between 0$ (under 5 years old) and 41$ for an adult (weekday and halfday discounts also available)
Need to Know: Snowboards, skis and helmets are available for rent at Vista. Helmets are required on all terrain park features.
What to Wear: Lots of layers and your outdoor snow gear.
Insider tips: Friday Night Ski from 3pm-8pm is 10$ lift tickets and 10$ rentals (steal of a deal). Vista Ridge offers low price season passes. These passes are not only good for the local ski hill with no blackout dates, but they also provide you with lower tube park rates and discounts (10-25%) on certain ski resorts across Western Canada. The list of ski resorts that they partner with is different each year so you will have to check with them on which resorts it applies to.

I have boasted about Vista Ridge and how much we love it in the past, but here we go again. Whatever vertical Vista lacks, they make up for with reasonable prices, lots of care and attention, great staff, and really cool park features. If you want to raise a little Slopestyle athlete, this is the place to take them. When riding up the Riblet Chair, you need only look down to see the future Olympians hucking off the jumps and rails in the terrain park. Once the cold starts creeping up on you, a great place to warm up is the family friendly lounge upstairs, complete with a pool table (minors must be accompanied by an adult.)

The tube park is open Saturday & Sunday. The outdoor rink is open every day of the week except for Tuesdays. Vista Ridge recommends that you always call the information line to ensure that they are running 780-799 SNOW More information at Vista Ridge.

3. Aim High Trampoline Park, Playground, and Virtual Reality

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Where: 8219-8223 Manning Ave
Costs: between 0$ (under 1 year old) and 30$ (adult on weekends) for trampoline-playground combo and $25/hr for VR
Need to know: You must wear special trampoline socks with sticky bottoms for the trampoline section. You can purchase them at the front desk for $3.00/pair.
What to Wear: comfortable clothes. Long sleeves and pants are recommended on the giant red slide.
Insider tips: weekdays are cheaper than Fri-Sun. Purchase the socks once, and reuse them at any trampoline park. Make sure to get a size that fits properly. The foam pit likes to eat socks that don't fit (aka they get sucked down and you or your child need to dig through the pit to find them)

Gaia was particularly excited to test out the trampoline park and playground (life of a mini travel blogger isn't always so glamorous.) Walking around the venue there were smiling faces everywhere, and the pitter patter of children running around. We really enjoyed it and found it to be a great way to burn off some of that endless energy kids seem to accumulate. The managers are listening to community feedback and creating great programs for kids of all ages. They have a time sectioned off for younger children, dance parties, the works. If you're feeling a tad hungry after your bounce, head upstairs for some lunch or snacks.

We didn't test out the VR or Escape room but have heard positive feedback. More info at the Aim High website.

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4. Outdoor Skating Rinks

Where: There are several located throughout the city.
Costs: Most are free for use.
Need to know: Bring your own skates.
What to Wear: warm layers and outdoor snow gear.
Insider tips: The rink at Syncrude Athletic Park has a warming hut.

Outdoor skating rinks are a right of passage entwined into our history going back to 1850 when the first Canadian one was created (Previously, people just skated on frozen lakes and rivers). 

5. Escape Room

Where: Mr. E's Solve-It-Torium , Trapped , & there is also one at Aim High
Costs: Between $20-$30 per/person depending on the venue.
Need to know: Great for older children, teens and adults.
What to Wear: Comfortable clothing
Insider tips: Put on your thinking cap.

For those of you who haven't been to an escape room, I'll give you the run down: you leave all of your personal electronic devices with the attendants or in a locker at the front and then are led down the hall to your room. Once there, you are "locked" in with a radio and whatever clues are in front of you. The next 45-60 minutes are spent following the clues to find the key to unlock yourself.

Much to my surprise, I was pretty decent at following the clues and answering the riddles. I mean, we totally didn't solve the clues in time, but we made some decent progress! I think Escape rooms are also a great date night idea, Kyle and I went just the two of us and we really enjoyed it.

6. Cross-Country Skiing

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Where: Birchwood Trail system (Thickwood and Timberlea)
Costs: $0 if you have your own skis and venture out on your own. $20 - $30 to become a member of Ptarmigan Nordic Ski Club ($50 for a family).
Need to know: the Ptarmigan ski club offers some great programming for cross country skiers from beginner to advanced. If you don't own any cross country skis they have some pairs to lend out during the group ski.
What to Wear: Outdoor gear for cold weather.
Insider tips: If you have your own skis, there are plenty of trails within the community for free use, or for an incredibly low fee, join the cross country ski club. To my knowledge, there is nowhere within the community of Fort McMurray that rents out cross-country skis.

Since we were just visiting, we didn't get the opportunity to utilize the cross-country ski trails, but this is a great opportunity for locals to get outside in the winter. I've linked the Ptarmigan Nordic Ski Club since they are a wealth of information.

What other family friendly activities should I add to this list?