Things to do in Tampa FL

Things to do in Tampa, FL for the beach, animal and history buff

Rolling into Tampa, you might think you’ll only hit up Busch Gardens or the Florida Aquarium before heading to the St. Pete and Clearwater beaches. At least that’s what I thought when I headed south with my friend to explore. Little did I know that I would find myself in another unexpected Florida food town, whose proud history and wealth stems from the late 1800s cigar industry in Ybor City.

Things to do in Tampa FL

Marine mammal education is widespread on the Gulf Shore thanks to Winter the dolphin and the popularity of the Dolphin Tale movies in Clearwater. You’ll find the same focus on marine wildlife conservation at Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay and the Florida Aquarium. Sea turtles are the focus along both the East and Gulf Coasts and manatees abound on the Gulf Coast.

So many things to do in Tampa, FL!

The warm coastal waters aren’t all there is to do in this thriving Florida city—walk, stroll, eat, and explore. Just don’t forget to grab your Tampa Bay CityPASS, which will save you a ton of money on must-see downtown Tampa attractions.

Things to do in Tampa FL

Walk the Tampa Riverwalk

The cheapest thing to do in Tampa is to walk the Riverwalk that runs along the Hillsborough River. You’ll find sculptures, restaurants, playgrounds, splash zones and gathering areas as you go. You can also take a boat, but where’s the fun in that? We like to walk the river at sunset with the locals.

Moms will love that they can sip and stroll along this 2.6 mile pedestrian path in Tampa, Florida. Just make sure that your beverage is in a Riverwalk cup. Finish your drink before you leave the Riverwalk, since the rest of the city is not zoned for open containers on the streets.

Things to do in Tampa FL

Eat the Oysters at Ulele Restaurant

Seafood is a staple of the diet for many Tampa residents because of the city’s close proximity to the water. If you don’t order the Charbroiled oysters (Barbacoa-grilled, with garlic butter, grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses) at Ulele, well, we just can’t be friends anymore. I’d fly back to Tampa just to eat at this locally-inspired restaurant alone.

Things to do in Tampa FL

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

If you love theme parks with a side of zoo, you will love Busch Gardens. As you scream down the hill of Cobra’s Curse, one of the park’s many roller coasters, you will see giraffes calmly munching their lunch. When you are skipping to the Falcon’s Fury (a 335-foot freestanding drop tower), you can say hello to the elephants. If you want to soar over it all, hop on the much more peaceful Skyride or take a ride on the Serengeti Safari to experience a Giraffe feeding at this amusement park.

Grab a Tampa Bay CityPASS to save at Busch Gardens

Things to do in Tampa FL

The Florida Aquarium

Dive into the marine life of Florida’s beaches and beyond when you enter the Florida Aquarium. You’ll love getting up close with sharks, sea dragons, stingrays, an octopus, jellyfish (my favorite), river otters and a whole lot of Dori and Nemo’s friends from Finding Nemo.

Weather permitting, jump on a Wild Dolphin Cruise just outside of the Florida Aquarium to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. Inside the Aquarium, you can book a behind the scenes pass to meet a few of the resident African Penguins. But be warned, those little penguins do get cheeky and might not be willing to take the perfect selfie with you.

For tired parents, there is the Splash Pad, which is included in the price of admission. This is perfect for parents with toddlers; not only can their kids can play outside, but the café is right next to it. Tables are set around the splash zone so parents can eat, and yes, mom and dad, there is a Tiki Hut with coffee and other adult beverages. It’s like this aquarium finally heard our prayers for a parent and kid-friendly play zone.

Things to do in Tampa FL

ZooTampa at Lowry Park

While most zoos focus on land creatures, ZooTampa has a secret behind its gates. Manatees are a huge part of Florida’s animal culture, which is why this Lowry Park zoo is so important. Their David A. Straz Jr. Manatee Critical Care Center rescues and rehabilitates manatees throughout the year that have been injured by boats and other harmful human interactions. Guests can see the manatees via viewing platforms and chat with the animal specialists to find out who is currently in their care.

Things to do in Tampa FL

Aside from the local manatees, you can also meet more Native Florida wildlife on the Florida boardwalk, Key West Dock or during the Sting Ray Touch experience. A few creatures you may spot include red wolves, Florida panthers, black bears, sandhill cranes, skunks, river otters, American alligators and American bald eagles.

Asian Gardens and Primate World is where you will find big cats like tigers and clouded leopards, as well as Komodo Dragons, Malayan tapirs, Indian rhinos, Bornean orangutans, Colobus monkeys and lemurs. When the kids need to cool off and get their pint-sized fun in, bring them over to Wallaroo for a splash, ride on the Tasmanian Tiger Coaster or Overland Express Train, or go to the petting zoo or see the Koalas.

Things to do in Tampa FL

The daily Macaw flyover is a big hit at the zoo that kids will especially enjoy. Two lucky kids may even be asked to participate in the show by pressing the release button. See these gorgeous creatures soar in unison overhead as they make their way through the park for a little treat when they are done.

Stop paying full price for tickets! Buy your Tampa CityPass HERE

Things to do in Tampa FL

Museum of Science and Industry

For parents and kids who are science enthusiasts, MOSI is where you go to play in the city of Tampa. This futuristic building houses a Diplodocus in the Dino Lab as well as a peek inside the human body and a look at the technology of tomorrow. Get out of this world in “Mission: Moonbase” and immerse yourself in NASA’s vision of living on other planets. You can also explore the moon’s surface and collect samples moon dust samples to analyze.

Sauders Planetarium is a must for anyone who loves to look up at the stars. A rotating schedule shows you Earth past, present and future, distant stars and nearby planets. This is also a great spot to rest your feet when you have been wandering the museum all day.

Your kids WILL want to try out the Sky Trail Ropes Course. I’m warning you right now. This course, along with the Planetarium, costs extra, but can be worth it if your kids have energy to spare.

Things to do in Tampa FL

Tampa Beaches

Tampa is in a perfect location to pop over to the beach for the day and extend your trip for a little extra sun and sand while you are in Florida. Clearwater Beach and Caladesi Island State Park have gorgeous sand and water with very different vibes. While Clearwater is a built-up beach town, Caladesi is uninterrupted natural beauty that allows you to reconnect with nature. Want to go camping on the beach? Head over to Fort De Soto Park for pristine white sand beaches with enough amenities (i.e., bathrooms!) to make your stay comfortable.

Tampa Day Trips

St. Petersburg and Clearwater are easy day trips from Tampa, although we also love spending a night or two in these beach towns. They have a different feel, and you can bring that “slow-down and enjoy” spirit to your trip that you may be craving after all of the Tampa sites.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Quite possibly my favorite attraction on the Tampa Bay CityPASS is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Anyone who has seen Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2 knows why this aquarium is such a big deal. For those who don’t, this aquarium is home to Winter, a rescued dolphin who had to have her tail amputated in order to save her life. Winter now lives full time at the aquarium, swimming with a prosthetic tale alongside her friend Hope, who was stranded as a baby and can’t be released back into the wild, and a few other permanent friends.

While dolphin rescues are part of the aquarium, they rehabilitate a greater number of sea turtles that need help every year. The main mission of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is rescue, rehab and release, which it does as much as possible. Visitors can learn about the local residents, walk through the hospital wing to see which animal is getting treated and for what, and learn why plastic is so harmful to sea creatures. Even a harmless balloon can look like a jellyfish to a sea turtle looking for food.

Going to see WInter? BUY YOUR TAMPA BAY CITYPASS HERE and save

Chihuly Museum St Petersburg FL

Chihuly Collection

The Chihuly Collection presented by the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg is one of the first spaces designed specifically to hold Chihuly’s work. Anyone who has been to the Chihuly Garden and Glass will recognize a few of the pieces, including some from his Macchia, Ikebana, Niijima Floats, Persians and Tumbleweeds series. This isn’t the same Seattle-based exhibit though—you will see new works and get the chance to view a live glass-making presentation at the Morean Glass Studio behind the museum.

Tampa Restaurants

Best restaurants in Tampa

We love to eat and Tampa restaurants are happy to accommodate our love of seafood and pie for breakfast. Three restaurants stand out that you won’t want to miss. In fact, one is actually a food hall in an old cigar factory. Not only do you get to eat, but you can combine a little history with your meal.

Armature Works

Location: 1910 N Ola Ave, Tampa, FL 33602
Read the TripAdvisor reviews here

Located in Tampa Heights right on the Hillsborough River, this is the food hall to get you immersed in the local Tampa food scene. While co-working spaceS and other businesses are located in Armature Works, it’s the Heights Public Market that you will want to check out.

Inside you will find two restaurants, SteelBach and Oak & Ola, along with a number of food stands you can pop between to assemble your own dinner. Food options include ramen, BBQ, all-day breakfast, juice and smoothies, wood-fired pizza, salad bowls, ice cream, burritos, sushi, empanadas, Cuban food and a bakery full of goodies. Of course, we can’t forget ice cream from a local favorite, Astro Ice Cream Co. And yes, there are cocktails, coffee and local brews available to savor too.

Tampa Restaurants

Ulele

Location: 1810 N Highland Ave, Tampa, FL 33602
Read the TripAdvisor reviews here

Get the chargrilled oysters. Period. No matter what else you want to eat that is on the menu, these oysters are not to be missed. Ask for a bit of extra bread to go along with those little shellfish so you can soak up all of that buttery, garlic goodness.

Aside from oysters, Ulele embraces its native Florida culinary roots, combining local ingredients with multicultural flair and a nod to the cuisine of its namesake, Princess Ulele. Dishes are prepared on a 10-foot round barbacoa grill which gives meats and seafood that rustic, earthen flavor. Ulele Spring Brewing Company selections and a number of other craft beers and cocktails are on the menu, and we do encourage you to try at least a few—responsibly, of course.

Tampa Restaurants

Goody Goody Burgers

Location: 1601 W Swann Ave, Tampa, FL 33606
Read the TripAdvisor reviews here

While Goody Goody Burgers is known for (you guessed it) their burgers, we love coming here for a giant breakfast in the morning. These pancakes, which include a gluten-free sweet potato pancake, fall off their 12-inch plate and make inhaling a few extra carbs worthwhile. If you must have a burger in the morning, there is the Goody Goody Slinger: two patties under two over-easy eggs, home fries, chili, cheddar and jalapenos. If you can finish that plate of goodness, we applaud your stomach muscles.

Aside from breakfast and burgers, you will want to order pie. Lots of pie. And yes, we order pie for breakfast. Our favorite? Butterscotch. They also offer coconut cream, banana cream, chocolate cream and apple pie. Don’t be surprised if they have a few specials when you pop in though—they do like to keep the locals on their toes.

Things to do in Tampa FL

Save Money on Tampa Attractions

With the Tampa Bay CityPASS, it’s so easy to save money on Tampa attractions, St. Petersburg museums and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. For a fraction of the cost you can hit six of the best things to do in Tampa and the surrounding area, including:

  • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
  • The Florida Aquarium
  • ZooTampa at Lowry Park
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium
  • Museum of Science & Industry or the Chihuly Collection

Buy your Tampa CityPASS here

Things to do in Tampa FL

Where to stay in Tampa

Looking for a Tampa hotel? Check out the following!

Looking for more? We always search for a great deal on Booking.com!

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Christmas Vacation Ideas

10 Alternate Christmas Vacation Ideas

Christmas vacation is upon us, and once again you may be feeling trapped. Your kids want to be home for Santa, but you just want to escape. When you need a few alternate Christmas vacation ideas to tempt the family out of the house, you have to go big. But you don’t have to break your family travel budget.

Not every Christmas family vacation has to put you into debt. Yes, some will be splurges, others are more manageable. So… let’s dive into our favorite Christmas vacation ideas for the season.

Jasper Canada Marmot Basin

Go Skiing in Jasper National Park

While all of your friends are at home stressing over the ham and turkey, you can be on the slopes of Marmot Basin getting in some time on that fresh Canadian powder. Marmot is never jam packed with skiers and snowboarders, but the holidays are definitely one of our favorite times to go. For those not into skiing, you can also snowshoe and ice climb Maligne Canyon.

Winter is also the quieter season in Jasper National Park, which means you can actually get a room at the limited number of hotels in town. If you want to splurge, book a room at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Nighttime stargazing is worth bundling up to see through the hotel’s star program. If you are lucky, you may catch the Northern Lights while you are there.

Read our complete guide to Jasper Canada

London Christmas UK

Christmas Markets in London

London is one of the top five Christmas breaks UK and for good reason. Our family has been in Covent Garden, toured the museums and walked across the Thames mere weeks before Christmas. I always wished we had stayed through the holidays.

The city is decked out in lights and decorations, from Hamleys Toy Shop to Portobello Road. Live music is being played on the streets, in churches and random squares. Everyone has a bit of festive cheer in their step, even if the skies are grey, as they stroll down the cobblestoned streets of England’s capital city.

If European Christmas markets are on your UK Christmas list, then head to the Winter Wonderland Hyde Park. You can also find holiday cheer at Christmas on the River by London Bridge.

Want even more? Here’s just a peek at the annual Christmas markets the city has to offer:

  • Christmas Market at Tate Modern
  • Southbank Winter Festival
  • Christmas at Flat Iron Square
  • Kingston Christmas Market
  • Ally Pally Christmas Carnival
  • Christmas at Camden Market
  • Leicester Square Christmas Market
  • Greenwich Christmas Market
  • Maltby Street Night Market
  • Canopy Market
Panama

Warm up in Panama

Don’t you just want to be warm in the winter? I know I do. I want to strip off the layers and head south. I just need to get back into my tank top and shorts with a swimsuit underneath (my summer uniform). This year, let’s all meet up in Panama. No, not Florida. The country of Panama.

Here, Christmas is a serious business. Nativity scenes, many larger than life, are set up across the country for everyone to enjoy. Food takes over the table, with a Panamanian twist on turkey, arroz con pollo, tamales, and a little alcoholic egg nog (ron ponche) for the adults.

But don’t feel like you have to partake. If you are just looking for a nice beach escape, you can do that too. Chill out and enjoy with this easy guide to things to do in Panama.

Booking your own trip? Whether you buy airplane tickets through Expedia or another site, make sure you add on travel insurance, especially during the holiday seasons. From flight delays to mishaps along the way, you want to make sure you have the right amount of coverage for your trip (no more, no less). When you purchase an Allianz Travel Insurance plan through travel booking sites and travel agents, the benefits and limits are tailored to be cost-effective and protect you from some of the most common concerns based on your type of travel, so you only buy what you’re most likely to use, not a mega plan that only a high-risk traveler would need. Learn more here.

Iceland Christmas

Look for the Northern Lights in Iceland

What could be better than a Christmas trip to see the Northern Lights in Iceland? While there is a whole lot more to see than just the Aurora Borealis, it sure is a good reason to book your tickets. Well, that, and you are guaranteed a white Christmas in Iceland.

We love traveling with our friends at Hidden Iceland, who can cater tours to any family’s needs. Traveling with babies and toddlers to Iceland? No problem, they can customize any of their tours for you. Want to get out of Reykjavik so you actually see the unspoiled coastline, hike the ice caves and get away from the light pollution of the city? That’s not a problem at all. Their South Coast tour will get you there.

NOTE: Now, they can’t control the weather or the Northern Lights, but they will stalk all of the weather apps for you to make sure you get the best opportunity possible.

Planning a trip to Italy with Kids

Slow Down in the Italian Countryside

Italy is always a good idea, but not everyone thinks of a Christmas Italy trip. Northern Italy will see cooler temperatures with highs in the 40s, but southern Italy will stay around 55-60 degrees (13-16 degrees Celsius). Tuscany generally sees temperatures around 44-55 degrees, which is chilly, but not unbearable.

With a few layers, you can enjoy all of the holiday décor, Italian Christmas concerts at the cathedral in Siena, or Christmas carols at churches in the smaller hill towns. Chestnuts are literally roasting on an open fire, mushrooms are in season and Panforte Christmas dessert every night is a must.

Best of all, the normal load of tourists won’t be in your way. You will be hanging out with mostly other Italians and Europeans for the holiday season.

Universal Orlando Resort Holidays

Get your wand out at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

We can’t say no to spending the holidays in Harry Potter land at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. There is nothing quite like stepping into Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley and soaking up the holiday spirit with your fellow Potter heads. It instantly gets us in that festive mood, even if we are in shorts.

Drink and taste six different types of Butterbeer, listen to the Holiday Frog Choir sing songs only sung during the Christmas season, and enjoy The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts, a special light and music show on the castle. A trip to Universal Orlando is a gift in and of itself. No need for presents, although I’m sure you will want to hit up a gift shop or two.

Read our quick guide to celebrating
the holidays at Universal Orlando Resort

Amazon River Cruise

Unplug on a River Cruise through Brazil

Christmas travel is the best time to unplug from life back home. Sometimes, you have to do it by force. A river cruise up the Rio Negro on a trip to Brazil with Our Whole Village will take you out of cell service and there is no Wi-Fi onboard.

You will head deep into the Amazon rainforest, reconnecting as a family, with no screens to stop you. We loved this trip in June during the wet season, but the beaches show up in the dry season, giving you a very different experience. Let’s just say, we are quite jealous if you make this trip. Go! Book it right now.

Booking a family tour? Don’t forget to ask your travel agent about Allianz travel insurance. No matter how you book a trip, you want to make sure you are protected, especially during the holidays when more people are flying than most times during the year. Get your quote now.

Things to do in Tempe

Find the Real Desert in Tempe, AZ

Everyone thinks they know what the desert looks like, but until you are actually in it, you might think palm trees are a natural part of the landscape. When you head to Tempe, AZ, home to Arizona State University, you will see palm trees decorated for Christmas, but they show off their love for the desert in a lot more ways than with twinkly Christmas lights.

Spend time at the Desert Botanical Garden to learn about all the different types of cactus in the desert and why each is so important to the ecosystem. Go on a horse trail ride with KOLI Equestrian Center at the Gila River Indian Community. Your guide will give you the inside scoop on the Arizona desert, what creatures are native to the area, and why palm trees just aren’t part of their everyday existence.

Most importantly, eat when you are in town. Tempe restaurants are filled with local and international flavors, and some of our favorite cocktails. And don’t worry, there is a full schedule of Tempe holiday events to make sure you get into the Christmas spirit, even when you are wearing jeans and a t-shirt in December.

Huntsville Alabama

Get Out of this World in Huntsville, AL

Space, the final frontier. OK, so Huntsville is not an episode of Star Trek, but they do have a whole lot of jet power down in Rocket City. If you didn’t know already, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center is located in Huntsville, AL, so there needs to be a bit of bedazzling when it comes to all of the things to do in Huntsville over the holidays.

The Huntsville Botanical Garden celebrates with a Galaxy of Lights display and a Tinsel Trail through Downtown Huntsville. Don’t miss out on skating in the park at the Huntsville Museum of Art. Who knew you could even get ice in Alabama? I guess with all of those scientists down there, they could figure it out, or maybe Santa Claus lends a hand. (Actually, it does get chilly in Huntsville, so make sure you pack your jacket and mittens).  

Using award miles to get down to Huntsville? Yes, you can still get trip insurance on that flight. Allianz Global Assistance partners with most major airlines to offer flat rate plans that cost only $16-28 per award flight. Check it out now.

Christmas Vacation Ideas

Find Broadway in New York City

Never was there a better time to visit the Big Apple than during Christmas. Just the weeks leading up to Christmas in New York City is worth the train ride or flight into town. Cozy up with afternoon tea at the Plaza, ice skate in Central Park and do some shopping with the masses in Time Square.

Ok, maybe skip that last one. Time Square makes me break out into hives if I am there for too long. There are so many other places you could shop and avoid the endless crowds on Christmas Eve.

Most important of all, there are all of the Broadway Shows. Take your pick—Hamilton, Come from Way, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Waitress, and what could be more seasonal than Frozen. Take the kids to see the big Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza, go ice skating in Bryant Park, and then go see the show you have been dying to see. If you need to stay festive, you can always see the Rockettes in the Christmas Spectacular Show NYC at Radio City Music Hall.

And yes, there are Broadway show performances on Christmas Day. You may get lucky and actually get some decent seats. Just remember, not everyone in New York celebrates Christmas, so they will be there with you too. It’s not like you will be in an empty theater.

Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®

Don’t forget to protect your trip

Remember, when you are booking your flights, hotels, rental cars, tours, etc., don’t forget to grab that travel insurance when it is offered. More often than not, when you go back to add travel insurance later, the quote will be higher.

Don’t stress about buyer’s remorse either. According to Allianz Travel Insurance, if you’re not completely satisfied with the plan you purchased from them (whether direct or through one of their partners), you have a 10-day review period (or more days, depending on your state of residence) to request a refund, provided you haven’t started your trip or initiated a claim.

Travel more than twice per year? Check out the Allianz multi-trip plans. We have had an annual plan for more than five years and don’t regret it one bit!

This post is part of a paid partnership with Allianz Travel. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t, you will be the first to know. This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.

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Bad Hair Day

Fix a Bad Hair Day with the Best Travel Hair Products

As a woman with annoyingly curly hair, I’ve had my fair share of bad hair days. You know, the type of curls that aren’t those perfect ringlets everyone loves unless you wash, blow dry and throw a curling iron threw it curls.

Yes, my hair can do that perfect blow out once I put in all the work, but let it air dry and you will see why my hair is in a top knot most of the time. Bad hair days used to be my norm. But how do you fix a bad hair day when you are traveling?

If you are me, you ask your stylist first and then you do a lot of test runs on the road and at home.

Bad Hair Day

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.

Fixing a Bad Hair Day

I’ve used a lot of hair products throughout my life. I’ve worn my hair long and straight, short and curly, long and wavy, and these days, I like the long luscious blow out.

Friends still make fun of me that I got a blow out before hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park. In my defense, the airline had lost my luggage after a long day. I felt gross and just needed to feel pretty for a moment.

Is it my fault that a good blow out can last me up to five days? I mean, by the end of the hike my hair way definitely up in a top knot people! I’m not that crazy.

Best Travel Hair Products

One day, while getting my low-lights redone I grilled my stylist, Christina Robles at Bang Salon DC about her favorite products. She is a beauty samples hoarder, so I knew she’d gone through several different hair products in her years doing hair, just like me.

We came up with a list of what works on straight, curly and frizzy hair, no matter how long you are on the road.

Hair products for right after you wash your hair

Yes, you need to shampoo your hair, and sometimes condition it. Even more important though are the sprays, creams and serums you use once you get out of the shower. Our favorite products include leave-in conditioner, creams that help your hair air dry faster, and making frizz a thing of the past.

Pureology Colour Fanatic Hair Leave in Treatment Spray with 21 Benefits

Buy it here

This is one of the best hair preps to add to wet hair just after you get out of the shower. It acts as a detangler, heat protectant and shine spray, as well as an antifade complex for colored hair. You can also put this on dry hair to refresh you locks for restyling.

Plus, it smells great, which is probably why my son always asks me to use it in his hair when I have to brush it out after his shower. Now that he is in his “surfer dude” hair phase, he needs all the help he can get to control that rats nest that grows in the back of his hair each night.

Redkin No Blow Dry

Grab it for:

No Blow Dry is your perfect antidote to that tropical frizz that takes over when you head to the beach. Three different strengths help your hair look sleek all day long, whether you have fine, medium or coarse hair, wild curls or straight locks. Your hair won’t wilt, but have texture, separation and a matte finish.

No need to revert to the “Monica” braids from that Barbados Friends episode. While some may be able to pull the look off, let’s just admit it right now ladies, not all of us can, or at least should.

Great for getting straight hair

I have naturally curly hair, but like most gals, I want hair I wasn’t born with from time to time. When I want to go straight, I use these products. Friends who also have straight hair want to control the frizz and maintain shine. As you will see, a little product can go a long way.

Bumble & Bumble Bb Straight Blow Dry Balm

Buy it here

Get smooth and straight hair for up to three days with this B&B straight blow dry balm. I’ve used it for years to get my curly hair to blow out straight and stay straight with a flat iron. It’s light weight, not sticky at all, and even controls frizz if you just apply to wet hair and walk out the door.

Good Behavior by IGK

Buy it here (grab the travel size)

IGK’s keratin-like spray is perfect when you are blowdrying your hair for a straight look. Not only will it help you blow dry faster, but it will also fix those fly aways that need to be smoothed away. Even if you have luscious curls you want to show off, IGK Good Behavior can help lay down those fly aways at the top that just won’t behave, even on your best hair day.

Best Anti-Frizz Hair products

I hate frizz. Despise it, which is why I will try anything that claims to tame the crazy. Shampoos are the best bet, according to my stylist, but a few post-shower products will do wonders too.

Living Proof No-Frizz Shampoo

Buy it here (travel size)

I have frizzy, curly hair, so anti-frizz shampoo that actually works is the key. Living Proof’s key ingredient, PolyfluoroEster, creates an invisible shield on the hair to lock in moisture-proof smoothness and repel dirt and oil, so you can go longer between washes to break the frizz and damage cycle. I love that it is sulfate-and silicone-free too. Naturally, the longer you use it, the better it works, especially with the conditioner.

Living Proof Anti-Frizz Conditioner

Buy it here (travel size)

Anyone with curly, frizzy hair knows that a weighty conditioner is NOT your friend. It seems like the opposite would be true, but when it comes to frizz, you want weightless conditioners to block humidity, so your hair still has some bounce and texture.

The less you have to wash and condition your hair, the less frizz you have to deal with. Living Proof weightlessly blocks humidity 70% better than silicones and oils, keeping your hair cleaner, longer, which means less washing. Best of all, it’s safe for color and chemically treated hair.

ReDkEn Frizz Dismiss Rebel Leave-In Smoothing Control Cream

But it here

You don’t need a lot of this Redken Frizz Dismiss Rebel leave-in smoothing control cream to pack a powerful punch against humidity and weather that wants to wreck your hairstyle. The cream can get a bit heavy, so use it sparingly.

What will you get? Soft and silky hair that won’t spring out of control on you, especially if you are a fan of super straight hair that can only be gained with a flat iron.

Packing up your flat iron? Read
how to use your hot hair tools abroad!

Bad Hair Day

Curly hair

Diva Curl Coconut Super Cream

Buy it here

Curly hair girls unite- Diva Curl is here for you. Hydrate your curls with this lightweight cream that fights frizz, leaves your hair smelling fresh (lemon and lime zest!) plus it is paraben and silicone free (vegan, wheat and cruelty-free too).

You can scrunch your hair up for definition or glide your fingers through your hair for curl lengthening and that beach wave look.

Making your hair style last

Bad hair day

IGK Direct Flight Invisible Dry Shampoo

Buy it here (grab a travel size of Jet lag now)

Dry shampoo is all the rage these days, but there really isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to your dry shampoo. Just like your regular shampoo and conditioner, you need to find the right one for you.

IGK has come out with a line of regular and travel size dry shampoos for every type of hair. While I love the Jet Lag and Direct Flight Invisible Dry Shampoo (no more of that white coating that I have to rub into my scalp), others may need IGK First Class Dry Shampoo (travel size) to fight more oil that likes to hit their locks and scalp.

Hair Spray

Anyone who wants their style to stay knows a little hairspray can go a long way if you use a good one. Which is right for you though? We have three that we trust to keep our curls intact, but also those flyaways in straight hair staying put.

Redken Triple Dry 15

Buy it here

Redken likes to do a little bit of everything, which is why we like the Triple Dry 15. It adds a bit of texture to your hair and then sets your style too. If you don’t know what texture is good for, it can help hold that curl from your curling iron and keep your up do up when you have freshly washed hair. When your stylist asks you for “dirty” hair, this will get you there more quickly.

Redken 23 Forceful Hairspray

Buy it here

Redken 23 Forceful has ultimate strength without the sticky feeling or weight that other hairsprays can leave behind. It also adds shine back into your hair, leaving you with just the right look for an evening out or day around a new city.

I hate crunchy hairspray hair. Yes, I want my hair to keep its perfect curl and stay where I want it to stay, but I don’t want to feel like I used a can of Aquanet from 1985 either.

Best of all, it comes in a travel size. No more checked back just to bring your favorite hairspray!

Alternate: grab DryBar Money Maker Flexible Hairspray, which also does a great job of keeping your hair soft and bouncy, without all the mess.

Ouai Hairspray

Buy it here (travel size)

Hairspray shouldn’t stink. If you can’t stand the smell of your own hair then no one else will want to be around you either.

Ouai Hairspray is my stylist Christina’s favorite hairspray to use on her own hair and she continually pushes it on me too. It adds a little perfume to your hair, is perfect for all hair types and is lightweight.

Interesting to note- it combines the power of dry shampoo and hairspray into one, leaving you with volume and texture without having to use extra products. And it will absorb oil and refresh your hair, so that’s one less wash you will have to do this week.

We love the Ouai treatment masks too!

Achieving the best blow out

Believe it or not, I now wash my hair every three to five days, especially if I get or give myself a blowout. Yes, I still shower every day. I just don’t wash my hair. A lot of women cringe at this idea, but it’s actually the best thing for your locks. You will get a better blow out that will last longer every time.

Stop washing your hair every day!

It took a year and a half to train my hair to accept this blow dry schedule. It was not overnight. It started with washing my hair every other day for six months. Then every three days. Once I got to that point it was easy to make the jump to four and five days.

I don’t like to go longer than four days. If I have to, I can stretch it to five days, which does come in handy when I travel.

Think about it- you are in a water poor country like Jordan, where hot water can be limited in Bedouin tents. You don’t want to sit under a freezing shower at night.

A bad hair day may happen, but you now have the knowledge to prevent them.

If I air dry my hair, the style won’t look as good, but if I blow dry my hair, I can either flat iron it and it will stay straight for a few days (pending humidity levels), or I put a curling iron through it and it lasts for days. Because I have naturally curly hair I can also just blow dry my hair and twist it up to add that defined curl back in. It just isn’t as pronounced without a curling iron to make ringlets.

It’s not magic, it just takes good products that I know work for my hair. Thankfully, almost any hair product that can fix a bad hair day when you are traveling comes in travel size. This is the best way to see if a hair product is right for you. Like make up, not every product works on everyone, so find the one that is right for you.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.

Bismarck ND

13 Things to Do in Bismarck North Dakota that Fuel Your Brain and Belly

Flying over Bismarck North Dakota I was bewildered by the rivers and trees below. Wasn’t this one of the plains states, filled with only corn and cows? While many do simply fly over the capital of North Dakota, there are plenty of reasons to get off the plane, or stop for a few days on your road trip across the Midwest.

Bismarck ND

Want to track those planes? North Dakota residents use the Flightradar 24 app to see what planes are going where.

Don’t race through North Dakota

I met one mother/daughter duo who were driving from Bozeman to Fargo to pick up her son from French Immersion camp, then onto Minneapolis where her husband would meet up with them. They would then go onto Chicago before landing back at home in Maryland just before school started.

This is a common tale.

Bismarck ND

People wiz through town on their way to somewhere. The problem is, you miss out on a lot of the best stuff. While chatting with the mother, I ran through the list of things my son and I had done in under 24 hours, and still had yet to do. The mother was astounded. She was suddenly regretting their timeline.

Bismarck ND

Things to do in Bismarck North Dakota

There were are so many things to do in Bismarck, also referred to as Bismarck-Mandan do to the proximity between both cities. North Dakota is a treasure trove, not only of activities, but coffee lovers rejoice, Bismarck has great coffee and they open up early. The food and art scene shouldn’t be dismissed either.

Bismarck ND

Bismarck Art Alley

If you are a mural stalker, you won’t want to miss the unassuming alley off of 5th Avenue, known as Art Alley. Right next to FireFlour Pizza, you will be greeted by large scale paintings depicting scenes from across North Dakota, as well as the history of the region. Students and local artists have all contributed pieces, but there is still a bit more space. Don’t be surprised if you see a new murals around Bismarck next time you are in town.

Bismarck ND

North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum

We love free museums, and when they have dinosaurs and an airplane, you know we will be the first ones through the door. The North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum has several educational exhibits, all located around the state capitol grounds, but most parents know it for two things—the Treehouse and Geologic Time exhibit.

Bismarck ND

The Treehouse is a mini children’s museum within the museum. Climb through the treehouse, slide down the shoot, have a dance party in the trunk, soar above the trees in the cockpit of a real airplane, learn all about local farming with a few tools, ride in a train (touching ALL the buttons), and of course, steer a boat. Best of all, there are plenty of spots for parents to sit while their children play.

Bismarck ND

The Adaptation Gallery: Geologic Time is where you will find the dinosaurs. Not only that, there is a turtle larger than a grown man in there too. Interactive screens allow the kids to sneak a little video game time in, while also learning about how dinosaurs battled each other, as well as exploring the different dinosaur time periods.

Life-sized casts of a Triceratops and T-Rex battle it out, as if you stepped back in time to see North Dakota as it was 65 million years ago. Western North Dakota was a dinosaur hot spot. Scientists are still discovering new bones throughout both North and South Dakota, as well as Montana.  

Things to do in Bismarck North Dakota

The exhibit brings you from the time of dinosaur through climate change and the ancestors of horses, dogs, camels and deer. Our favorite—the giant sloth. He sure didn’t look like his cuddly cousin we know today. Although, maybe he would have been fun to ride.

Other exhibits include the Innovation Gallery: Early Peoples where the indigenous tribes of North Dakota come to life. Bison roamed free, providing food and clothing to the people across the plains, as well as the United States. The Governors Gallery hosts traveling exhibits, but don’t miss the hallway exhibits either. You will find moon rocks, local gems and rocks, and paintings in this Bismarck state capital building.

Former Governors’ Mansion State Historic Site

Step back in time to the days when gentlemen wore hats because they had to, and ladies skirts were heavier than a bison (well, almost). From 1893 to 1960, the Former Governors’ Mansion housed chief executives, transferring over to the State Historical Society of North Dakota in 1975.

The two and a half story Victorian home is now a museum, featuring furniture used by governors in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as exhibitions on the restoration process. While this might not be the best attraction for young kids, history buffs will love it.

Bismarck ND

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

Just about 45 minutes outside of Bismarck is an educational experience no parent with grade school students should miss. For any child studying American history, and the great expansion west, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive center is a must.

Exhibits dive into the tools Lewis and Clark packed for their journey, and the soldiers that accompanied them on their adventure to map the trail out west. You will also get keen insight into the roll Sacagawea played in their journey. She may seem like a myth, but this woman has played a huge roll in American history.

The center is a great spot to load up on snacks, refill your water bottle and use the restroom before you make the short drive down to Fort Mandan.

While you don’t have to stop at the Interpretive Center before Fort Mandan, it does lay the ground knowledge for what you will see in the fort. You will get a good background on the expedition. You can also pay your entrance fee at the Interpretive center and find out when the next fort tour will depart.

Bismarck ND

Fort Mandan

Get ready to step back in time as you explore Lewis & Clark’s winter camp. The Fort visitor’s center has a wonderful play area for kids, which includes costumes, a dugout canoe to paddle, and child-size tent to camp in. Don’t miss a photo with Seamen, Lewis & Clark’s trust Newfoundland pup who joined them on their journey.

Bismarck ND

Park rangers give guided tours of the fort every hour, on the hour (or just about). It is a short, level walk from the visitor’s center over to the recreated fort. The tour lasts about an hour. Most guides will cater their tour to children, keeping things moving along, while still satisfying the curiosity of adults who are eager for as many historic details as possible.

After your tour, take time to hike the nature trails and paths along the river. The mighty Missouri played an important role in Lewis and Clark’s expedition west, and was the reason they had to stop in North Dakota for the winter. When the river got too icy, they decided to make camp until their boats could navigate the waters once again in the spring.

Bismarck ND

North Dakota State Parks

North Dakota State Parks are plentiful and ready to educate you and your kids, whether your kids are willing or not. It’s easy to sneak in a few hikes, as well as some learning, if you know where to go. If you are staying in Bismarck, you go to Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.

Bismarck ND

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

My little boy is obsessed with battles right now. Getting to see the barracks, general Custard’s House and the commissary just about made his day. We wandered the Infantry Post Blockhouses, taking in the view of the valley and Missouri River below.

You can climb all the way to the top of the blockhouses and walk around the roofs. My youngest thought it was pretty cool to see the slots the soldiers would stick their guns through if enemy came up the hill.

Horseback riding and historic trolley rides are available during the summer months. Check in at the visitor’s center for departure times, and to check out the mini exhibit featuring On-A-Slant Village and the restoration of Fort Abraham Lincoln.

Bismarck ND

On-A-Slant Indian Village

On-A-Slant Indian Village is the earliest known settlement in the area, and named because of the slope towards the river. The Mandan Indians, or “Nu’Eta” built earth mound homes that were later recreated by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The original village was abandoned sometime in 1781 after smallpox epidemics and attacks by other tribes. Lewis and Clark passed through in the early 1800s. In 1872 the area would be reestablished as the Fort McKeen infantry Post, which would later become Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.

Things to do in Bismarck North Dakota

Today, you can walk in and out of several of the village homes. Regular programming takes place to dive deeper into the culture of the local people who inhabited the land. Check with the visitor’s center to see if anything is happening during your visit.

Want more state parks? Read our guide to Devils Lake ND

Things to do in Bismarck North Dakota

Bismarck Restaurants

We had many surprises during our trip, but none more than the Bismarck restaurants. Breweries are popping up all over town, but the cocktail culture is also emerging. Pizza is easy to come by, even for those looking for a high-end slice (yes, it’s a thing). Coffee is definitely easy to come by, especially if you want to get beyond Starbucks, which we always do.

Bismarck ND

Fireflour Pizza

If you love brick-oven pizza, go no further than Fireflour pizza. Grab a salad to start and then dig on in. They can make half and half pizzas if your kid doesn’t want to be adventurous with you. Pizzas are thin crust, but larger than a dinner plate. A family of four could easily eat two or three. We enjoyed a half pepperoni/ half prosciutto arugula pie.  

Butterhorn

Fine dining comes to Bismarck, along with some of the best service in town. I walked in for a hot date night with my seven-year-old son. The staff greeted us with open arms, producing a kid’s menu too. Not only that, but another mom and her eight-year-old daughter came in as we were wrapping up. The cocktail menu was imaginative, blending gin with fennel and arugala, or whiskey and blackberries. Dinner included a fresh watermelon arugula salad, and roasted chicken with skillet vegetables over creamy parmesan polenta. 

One thing you do not want to miss are the Butterhorns. What are these? Imagine the best dinner roll had a baby with the best crescent roll, and you may get close. Soft, buttery, light, with a sprinkling of salt, made these the highlight of the night for my beige-food loving son. Even better, they make a bread pudding out of these butterhorns. Make sure you save room for dessert. You won’t want to miss this sweet after-dinner treat.

Bismarck ND

Terra Nomad Company

Quite possibly the best coffee in town, but then again, we may be biased. I love a smooth lavender latte and honey coffee. If they can make it decaf and put it in my reusable mug for a drive to Devils Lake, ND, all the better. The smoothie bowls are healthy and delicious, and the pastries are easy to pack up for any road trip.

Bearscat Bakehouse

Bearscat, what the cowboys used to call donuts (maybe they still do?), is an institution in town. There a are at least 20 varieties to choose from, none of them labeled, so we will help you out with a few suggestions.

Make sure you order a Bismarck donut! This jelly filled, angel iced confection is a must when in town. After all, how often can you say you had a Bismarck in Bismarck? The maple bars are also delicious. There are no cream-filled donuts, only Boston crème. You can also never go wrong with an iced donut with sprinkles.

Bismarck ND

FOMO 10/40 Creamery

Ice cream with a mission? We can get down with that. Andrew Hershey created FOMO 10/40 to support those in countries close to the equator (latitude of 10 degrees and 40 degrees north of the equator). Part of the proceeds are donated to help start small businesses in these communities, even if it is simply selling, running or producing purified water, ice, goats, jams, coffee, or ice cream.

Ice cream flavors are named after the countries the company supports, but it doesn’t end there. The spirit of giving back resonates throughout the community with a “Scoop it forward” board. Patrons are able to buy a scoop (or two or three) for friends in town who pop in. That ice cream surprise brightens someone’s day when they least expect it, creating even more goodwill and joy throughout Bismarck.

Bismarck ND

On the night before school started, FOMO 10/40 through a party to celebrate the “end of summer.” Giant Jenga games, a photo booth and a corral of puppies were out for everyone to enjoy at Tatley-Eagles Park. Of course, ice cream was available for purchase too.

The line only got longer as the night went on, never shortening, as more people showed up to enjoy the event. As strangers to the area, no one looked twice as we mingled, chatted and enjoyed the puppy snuggles along with the other kids and grown-ups (when we could steal a puppy from a kid that is!).

Bismarck ND

This is just the type of town Bismarck, ND is we found. Come as a stranger, leave as a friend. As I grabbed my coffee from Terra Nomad on our last morning, the coffee shop employees recognized me. Granted, I had just been there the morning before, but the town isn’t THAT small that they should know every stranger.

When you are traveling solo with your kids, a little welcome, and some conversation goes a long way. As does that coffee they handed over. Off to Devils Lake ND we went.

Things to do in Bismarck North Dakota

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Devils Lake North Dakota

Ultimate Bismarck to Devils Lake ND Road Trip Itinerary

Elk, bison, prairie dogs and fish. One of these things I never thought I’d be actively looking for in the wild. Can you guess which one it is? If you said fish, you would be correct. But, Devils Lake, ND is known for its fishing, so much so that serious dudes drag their families up there every summer, and even in the winter months for ice fishing.

Now, I am no fisherwoman. I love to eat fish. Hand me a plate of sushi, fish tacos or a nice fillet, and I am very happy. Tell me I have to put a worm on a hook and sit in a boat for hours waiting for a wiggling, scaly fish to bite… no thank you.

Naturally, that’s exactly what I did when I took my youngest son to North Dakota. What can I say, I’m a sucker for that kid and what he wants to do on our trips.

Devils Lake ND

Learning to fish in Devils Lake ND

When North Dakota asked us to explore the region and check out the fishing, he was the first to say yes. For my son, I would do it. What I didn’t realize was that I would become crazy competitive with myself and need to hook that fish before we could go back to the dock, despite the fact that it was cold and windy; not ideal conditions on the lake for fishing.

No matter, we still had a blast fishing Devils Lake, but it was more about the journey getting up there than just sitting around on a boat. As most trips are, this was filled with surprises, wine, a giant buffalo, and of course, bacon. So let’s get going.

Devils Lake ND

Bismarck to Devils Lake North Dakota Road Trip

It’s time to hit the road. Whether you have spent a few days in Bismarck or you just flew in, you better be ready to drive north into the prairie lands and lake region of North Dakota. We are getting up close with bison, elk, birds and a whole lot of fish. Even if you never thought you would try fishing, if you are ever going to do it, especially for your kids who have been begging to give it a go, Devils Lake, ND is where you do it. But it’s a three hour drive from Bismarck to Devils Lake. Naturally we will need a few rest stops to get us there.

Frontier Town Jamestown ND

Jamestown, North Dakota

Jamestown is located about an hour and a half east of Bismarck on Highway 94. The James River winds its way around the town meeting up with the Pipestem Creek, creating little waterways for local residents. North of downtown you will find the Jamestown Reservoir with plenty of hiking, biking, fishing, swimming and even a frisbee golf course for the entire family to enjoy. Students from the University of Jamestown certainly take advantage of this man-made recreation zone whenever they have a little free time. You might not have time to swim, so you should head to Jamestown’s main attraction

Worlds Largest Buffalo Monument Jamestown ND

World’s Largest Buffalo Monument

Who doesn’t love a buffalo? Well, how about the world’s largest bison. Every road trip needs a largest/greatest/tallest/biggest stop along the route, and this is yours. Dubbed Dakota Thunder, this 26-foot, 60-ton concrete buffalo can’t be missed from Highway 94.

Don’t drive by though. Stop and take a photo with the behemoth. Try to arrive earlier in the morning or late in the day for the best light with him. Your kids won’t mind a selfie or two for the Christmas card. In the field just beyond, you can see Dakota Thunder’s brethren in the form of a live bison herd roaming around the grasslands.

Frontier Village Jamestown ND

Frontier Village

Kids will love running around Frontier Village, as they stretch their legs after being in the car for a few hours. Parents be warned– there is an active parking lot and street running through town, so tell your kids to stick to the sides. There are several play spaces, including a stage couch and playground for kids to climb around. Pony rides are offered daily, and many of the buildings are open to wander. A few have been converted into shops, with local history guides.

Frontier Village Jamestown ND Louis L'amour

One notable figure who frequented Jamestown was author Louis L’Amour. His recreated writer’s shack is part of Frontier Village and comes with a lovely gentleman who is happy to tell you stories about the writer, his books and fun facts about the area.

My dad is a huge fan of L’Amour, so naturally I had to take a few photos with all of the author’s books for him. Even better, the World’s Largest Buffalo Monument is on Louis L’Amour Lane. You better believe my son and I sent that photo back to grandpa.

National Buffalo Museum

National Buffalo Museum

Just around the corner from Frontier Village and the World’s Largest Buffalo Monument, you will find the National Buffalo Museum in a 6000-square-foot log building. As the exhibits show, the buffalo has a special place in American history, although not always a happy one.

Buffalo, more accurately known as bison, used to graze across the plains of North Dakota and much of NOrth America, feeding and clothing the Native America people and early settlers. As more humans, particularly white settlers, moved in, hunting the bison to near extinction, the bison numbers went from millions to dozens across the continent.

Jamestown ND White Cloud

NATIONAL BUFFALO MUSEUM EXhibits

Exhibits focus on the Native American’s relationship with the bison, how close the bison came to extinction and how the bison numbers were brought back up. In 2016, President Obama named the bison the official mammal of the United States in the National Bison Legacy Act. You can even find bison at the National Zoo in Washington DC once again.

There are still 25-30 bison munching grass in the 200 acres behind the National Buffalo Museum. You can sit on the back deck of the museum watching them wander by. If the herd is a bit farther away, you can view them through the museum binoculars. Since your kids are probably just like mine, even if the bison are right below you, your kids will still use those binoculars.

National Buffalo Museum

White Cloud in Jamestown ND

The most famous residence to ever wander the museum was White Cloud, a rare albino buffalo. Although she passed away of old age in 2016, she is on display inside for all to see and learn about thanks to taxidermy.

White Cloud inspired the town of Jamestown through White Cloud Days, parades, special Native American events, and more than 3 million people who came through town to see her during her 20 year life. She went on to have several calves, including Dakota Miracle, another white bison assumed to be an albino, who roamed the fields until June 2019 when he passed away.

During our visit, there was a beautiful art show on display in a few of the rooms. Most were paintings and drawings depicting bison in various pursuits and natural backgrounds. Many pieces were for sale, and the prices were actually within reach for the average traveler. If the exhibit is not on display during your visit, make sure you hit the gift shop. Not everything is bison inspired, but there are loads of goodies to stock up on, especially if you need more entertainment for your road trip.

DAKOTA SUN GARDENS AND WINERY

Carrington North Dakota

It’s time to head north out of Jamestown and get off the main highway through North Dakota. As you drive up Route 52, you may think you should only stop for gas in Carrington, ND. Yes, you should definitely fill up the tank, as it is one of the few places you can grab gas along the way to Devils Lake. However, there is a hidden gem lurking just outside of town in Foster County for those living in Carrington, or traveling through the area.

Dakota Sun Gardens and Winery

Bruce and Merleen Gussiaas live about 10 minutes out of Carrington, ND, on land that Bruce’s family settled back in 1883. That’s before North Dakota became a state in 1889. After selling off their bison herd up north, and a few other twists and turns that got them there, Bruce and Merleen started distributing the fruit wine they had been making for themselves, as well as offering garden tours.

Merleen had started building out her garden, and never really stopped. Bruce began to add sculptural elements, grabbing rusted, cut out sheets from farming equipment companies that created a beautiful pattern. He then hung them up, creating a curtain in the back of the garden. More ideas grew from old farm parts that were salvaged. Some pieces have since been commissioned, but all tie back to the rustic garden theme.

Wines of Dakota Sun Gardens

As for the wine, Bruce is producing 35+ varietals these days, many of which are winning awards at an international level. My favorites? The Pear wine and Aronia Berry wine. Aronia Berry is said to be the next superfood, so I should drink more, right?

Best of all, since these are not grape wines, those of us suffering from migraines and can’t sip red wine, can have many of the red varieties because they aren’t grapes. No red grape microbials (or tannins, no one is 100% sure) here to trigger those nasty headaches that have me throwing up for 24-hours (too much information? It’s just the truth of what migraine patients suffer).

Sullys Hill National Game Preserve

Things to do in Devils Lake

Now that your car (not you) is loaded up with fruit wines, you can keep heading north into one of the prettiest parts of the state. As you might have already figured out, Devils Lake, ND is all about fish. Everything revolves around fish in this lake region. At first, I wasn’t really sure what to do with this though.

I’m used to visiting places with tons of things to do, especially on a lake. Every summer we sit at a cabin in the woods right on a lake. We swim, kayak, watch water skiers, pontoon boats, jet skis, and the sunset dip below the mountains. Ice cream is always involved, as are s’mores.

A new lake experience in North Dakota

Devils Lake was a very different experience. Boats lined the lakefront at Woodland Resort where we were staying. The resort didn’t get the beach front view, the boats and boat ramps got it. There were no trees, just sand and gravel. Lodge rooms faced east for sunrise, not west for sunset. Cabins were tucked behind the lodge in the woods far from the water. RVs were parked close by. Everyone had a boat… except us.

Groups of men pulled up with boats in tow during the week (kids were already back in school). Families arrived on Friday night. Storms had been brewing for days, but rain never came. Everyone held their breath, keeping an eye on the windsocks at the marina, waiting for the wind to die down. A few brave kids dipped their tows into the water at the sandy beach, but none lasted very long. We were lucky, we’d gotten our fishing in early before the wind really picked up across the lake.

As a storm continued brewed down south, we found a few more things to do in Devils Lake, ND to keep us entertained off the water. There were some critters, besides fish, that we needed to find. It was also time for my son and I to go for a hike. He claims he doesn’t like hiking, despite the fact that he loves it every time we do.

Devils Lake Fishing

If you do want to fish, book a Perch Guide through Woodland Resort (if you have kids, ask for Rich) to take you out on the lake. The guides can provide everything you need– boat, fishing poles, lines, tackle, and their expertise so you actually catch a fish.

Devils Lake has some of the best fishing in the Midwest, so this is an experience you don’t want to miss. Perch and Walleye are the top catch of the day, and fairly easy to grab on a calm morning. When the wind is kicking up, it gets much trickier, but the kids will still have a great time no matter how big (or small) the fish.  

Grahams Island State Park North Dakota

Grahams Island State Park

Grahams Island State Park is one of the largest, and most popular state parks in North Dakota, especially if you like to camp and fish. For those who don’t do either, you can still hike the two trails within the park and enjoy swimming along the rocky shore at the beach. In winter, they have some great cross country skiing.

If you do want to go hiking, follow the blue arrows from the Silvert Thompson Activity Center parking lot. The hiking map isn’t very well marked, but you can figure it out as you go along. The grass is mowed where the trail leads. When the trail splits, just pick a direction. We always headed towards the lake to capture great views, which is considered the Silvert Thompson Loop. The other trail, the North Campground Loop, takes you around the campground and through more woodlands.

Grahams Island State Park North Dakota

Make sure you pack your bug spray and sunscreen. Ticks are a problem in the state park, as is poison ivy. Know how to recognize poison ivy before you go into the park. Check for ticks as soon as you are off the trail and back at your car. Lyme disease is no joke, as we learned when my oldest had it a few years ago.

For those looking to do a spot of camping, but didn’t bring their RV or tent, there are four cabins you can rent for under $100 at Grahams Island State Park. Each cabin can sleep up to five people, but you will need to bring all of your own linens.

Sullys Hill National Game Preserve

Sullys Hill National Game Preserve

Sullys Hill is the best Devils Lake attraction to visit if you aren’t interested in fishing. President Theodore Roosevelt set up this game preserve in 1904 as a refuge for wild animals and birds. Nowadays you are most likely to see bison, elk and prairie dogs, along with migrating monarch butterflies and several species of birds. Every Saturday in the summer, the visitor center hosts educational programming aimed at children (but all are welcome) that focuses on a different aspect of the park or creature native to North Dakota.

Keep in mind that a large part of the park is viewed from your car. A herd of bison and elk are given free range and these animals should never be approached by humans. You are not to get out of your car, except in designated viewing areas, and only if animals are not near your vehicle. More than one person has been tossed by a bison at a national park, especially when baby bison are present. Female bison are very protective of their young, just like human mamas.

Sullys Hill National Game Preserve

Prairie Dog Town is one of the highlights of the park, especially for kids (and excited moms). You can pull your car right up to the side of their grasslands. Stay in your car to watch these little critters eat grass, while their friends keep a look out for large predators. If you hear a high-pitched chirping, that means a predator is close by. Surprise– you might just be that predator they are warning their friends to watch out for today. Staying in your car will get you closer to these little critters as you will be quiet and well hidden.

If you need a good workout, climb up to Sullys Hill Overlook for a view of the valley and lakes below. It can get windy up there, but the climb is worth it. Enjoy a snack while you sit on the bench and your kids peer through the binoculars on the viewing platform.

North Dakota Corn

Devils Lake ND restaurants

Load up on groceries at Leevers (great organic food section) to save on food while staying at Woodland Resort. Each cabin has a full kitchen, so take advantage. You can also dive into the local food scene, visiting favorites like Cedar Inn Family Restaurant. Breakfast is served all day, which was definitely a favorite for our crew (bacon for dinner!). Other local favorites include:

  • Proz Lakeside at the Cove
  • Kneadful Things
  • Cedar Inn Family Restaurant
  • Devils Lake Donuts
  • Blue Hippo Frozen Yogurt
  • The View at Spirit Lake Casino

Annual Community Fish Fry & Corn Feed

If you happen to be in Devils Lake at the end of August, make sure you pop into town for the Devils Lake Annual Fish Fry and Corn Feed. This community gathering celebrates the local walleye and corn grown at the farms you will see all across the region. It is also a fantastic place to meet locals.

Just don’t be late! They won’t save you a plate if you show up even 30 minutes before it ends. We made that mistake.

Devils Lake ND

Downtown Devils Lake ND

While Devils Lake is best known for its water pursuits, there is actually a downtown to explore. It’s about three square blocks, with a few shops, restaurants and bars. For those taking Amtrak into town, you can’t miss it. The best part of is the history behind the buildings you wander past. Twenty buildings are on the national register for their turn-of-the-century architecture, built between 1885 and 1914. If you pop into the alley ways between buildings, you will see remnants of the old advertisements, including Coco-Cola painted right on the walls.

Devils Lake ND

There is also one very special surprise for Dr. Seuss lovers in the form of a mural straight out of The Lorax. The Engen Law Firm, where the mural is placed, commissioned the truffula tree mural in Devils Lake, creating a bright spot that is popular throughout the community. Using the existing brick on the side of firm’s building brick and an electrical pole, the artist brought this beloved eco-friendly tale to life. My son just stared in wonder as we read the well-worn phrase “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Devils Lake Hotels

Devils Lake Hotels

Devils Lake hotels tend to stick to the smaller, budget chain hotels and local motels, with one major exception. The Woodland Resort is the best spot for out-of-towners to camp out while exploring the area. The staff is ready to help, and it is right on the lake.

Woodland Resort

One of the largest Devils Lake hotels, as well as the most luxe you will find in the area. Families can rent cabins or opt to stay in the lodge for lake views. All cabins and lodge rooms come with a full kitchen, cable television, all linens (towels, sheets and blankets).

For moms needing a little more comfort, definitely book a room in the lodge with lake views. If you are traveling with a larger group, book a few cabins together so the kids can run around while you sit on the deck. You can all take advantage of the communal grills and firepits.

There is one restaurant on site, the Proz Lakeside at the Coze, which serves up your typical bar food (mostly fried, but a few salads) and drinks. You can easily get a taste of the local walleye caught right off the lake. The Bait Shop/Check In building has fresh coffee every morning and a limited supply of groceries if you run out of milk in the morning.

Camping in Devils Lake

If you are a fan of camping or have an RV to park, Devils Lake is ready for you. Grahams Island State Park has several campgrounds for tent camping, as well as RVs. There are also a few cabins to rent if you didn’t bring your gear. Woodland Resort also has RV parking on site, and there are multiple RV parking sites in and around the town of Devils Lake. A simple search brings up:

  • Bayview Resort
  • Kenner’s Campground
  • APRV Park
  • Black Tiger Bay Campground
  • Eagle Bend Henegar RV Park
  • Spirit Lake Casino & Resort
Sullys Hill National Game Preserve

Getting to from Bismarck to Devils Lake

Fly into Bismarck. Stay a few days to enjoy the state parks, historic forts and great coffee. Rent a car (we love RentalCars.com), and start driving east on I-94, before heading north on Route 52. There are slightly faster routes, but they are more remote and you will want to make sure you have a full tank of gas. There is only one, maybe two, self-service pumps along the way.

If you are traveling through North Dakota in the summer months, don’t skip a chance to see the sunflower fields in bloom. They are worth (carefully) pulling over to get a closer look.

This post is part of a paid partnership with North Dakota Tourism. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t, you will be the first to know. This post may contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.

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Edmonton Alberta

17 Things to do in Edmonton Alberta with 24 hours or Less

Driving down the highway, swaths of yellow came into view. Was it sunflowers? Mustard seed? No, these were the canola oil fields of Edmonton Alberta. 

It’s a lucky day when you are in Edmonton and these massive yellow fields are in bloom, but we are just as happy to see snow across the plains provinces of Canada. You see, Edmonton, won’t let a little weather stop it from enjoying what Mother Nature has to offer. After all, when you live in Canada, you can’t let a little snow get in your way. The same goes when you visit. If you only have 24-hours in the city, you need to make the most of your time.

Welcome to Edmonton Alberta!

Edmonton Alberta

As the second-largest city, and the capital of Alberta, Edmonton isn’t one to hibernate no matter the weather. This festival city, with its warm summers and cold winters, has embraced the arts during the Fringe festival, literature during the Shakespeare festival, and all things winter during Ice on Whyte. It’s an urban oasis filled with funky neighborhoods emerging from its fur trading past, rich foods that will rival most kitchens in New York City, and shopping that will make American’s think everything is on discount thanks to a favorable exchange rate. 

Edmonton Weather

Edmonton Alberta

The local spirit of Edmonton comes out in full force each summer, as windows are open wide in restaurants, shop doors are left open to welcome you in, and everyone stays out late to watch the sunset after 10pm. There is a joy that resonates across the metropolitan landscape when layers are shed and neighbors come out to say hello. When you visit, you should feel free to do the same. 

Want more National Park info? Read our Jasper National Park guide.

Summer temperatures average in the low 70s, but have been known to get into the 80s thanks to global warming. Nights are cooler, in the 50s, requiring travelers to pack a light jacket at the very least. 

Edmonton Canada

Winters are just as welcoming, but quite a bit colder. While doors won’t be propped open, bar stools and tables are ready for you to settle into, have a chat and meet your neighbor as you all stay warm together. Lows in the 20s, with nighttime temperatures dipping into the single digits have been known to happen. Layers and ski gear are encouraged, especially with Jasper National Park and Marmot Basin just a just four hours away. 

Extending your stay after the National Parks

Edmonton Alberta

During a recent visit to Edmonton, I finally got the chance to dive into the city to wander and find out what makes this place tick. I’ve flown in and out on my way to Jasper National Park and Banff National Park plenty of times. One winter, I even stayed overnight, but didn’t have time to linger. This trip, I was going to get out of the hotel and find out why people would want to hang out in the city for a day or more before heading into the parks or home after riding the Rocky Mountaineer.

Riding the Rocky Mountaineer too? Don’t skip town too quickly!

Why go to Edmonton Alberta?

Edmonton Alberta

Edmonton is the capital of Alberta, which makes it worth a visit just to see the seat of government, if that is your thing. However, there are so many things to do in Edmonton that you might not dive into politics at all when during your visit.

West Edmonton Mall is the largest indoor mall in North America, but when we only have one day, we choose to skip the city-sized shopping experience to stay local. 

One Day Itinerary in Edmonton

  • Breakfast at Pip. Do not skip the French toast!
  • Morning shopping and mural huntingin  Old Strathcona
  • Lunch at Situation Brewery with a little beer tasting on the side
  • Take the High Level Bridge Streetcar to Downtown
  • Explore the Edmonton museums
  • Pre-dinner cocktails at Clementine
  • Dinner at Uccellino for robust, yet light, Italian fair
  • Sunset at the Muttart Conservatory, take a stroll along the river or in paddle around Elk Island to end the day

Things to do in Edmonton Canada

Edmonton Alberta

There is no shortage of things to do in Edmonton. In fact, if you get bored, you really never left your hotel room. This northern capital city in Alberta, Canada has plenty of provincial politics, local artists, big-city quality food and festivals that shouldn’t be overlooked. Whether you are visiting in spring, summer, fall or winter, you are sure to find some fun, and even a little warmth in one of our favorite Canadian cities.

Edmonton City Centre and Beyond

Clementine Edmonton Alberta

Neighborhoods are where you will want to spend most of your time. This is where the local scene food, pastries and shops are coming to life. The mural art scene in Old Strathcona and 124th Street is thriving, putting the city of Edmonton on the public art map. 

Urban parklands, including the River Valley, Rundle Park and Victoria Park, make it easy to get out year round, if you are willing to brave the cold. Multiple running and bike paths connect neighborhoods, creating an interconnected way to get around without the need for a car. Just watch those hills. They can be a killer on your thighs. 

Explore the river in Edmonton

Edmonton Alberta

The river divides the city of Edmonton into two halves. Chances are you will criss cross the river several times throughout your stay, but don’t skip actually getting on the river. In the summer months, you can paddle around, hang out at Accidental Beach, and ride along the bike paths. Or you can simply enjoy a leisurely float. You just have to know how and where to do it.

  • Explore Edmonton’s River Valley Parks
  • Rent a bike to ride along the river.
  • Float along the river with Haskin Canoe

Take a sunset paddle

Elk Island National Park

For those looking to see the sunset over the city, you can hop in a Voyageur Canoe with Haskin Canoe to paddle from Laurier Park to Capilano Park. Tours run about two to three hours and start around 6pm depending on the month. As you may know, the sun doesn’t set until about 10pm at the height of summer, so be prepared to stay up late in July if you want to be on the water for sunset.

You can also enjoy the sunset at Elk Island National Park. Experience the quiet lake waters with the full moon overhead and more stars than any city girl could count. Listen for loons and the splash of a beaver. You may hear the grunt of the local bison herds, or even a moose if you are very lucky. Bring your binoculars to scan the shoreline and catch birds in their nests or in inflight.

Accidental Beach

Edmonton has no proper beach. Thanks to construction of the Tawatinâ LRT bridge, an accidental beach appeared along the North Saskatchewan River near the Cloverdale neighborhood in 2017. An existing sandbar emerged as the water levels went down, creating the perfect spot for Edmonton natives to play and soak up the summer sun. 

Every year the beach isn’t guaranteed to reemerge. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see it. Accidental Beach is dependent on the river flow and water levels.

If you are lucky enough to experience Accidental Beach though, be aware that there are a few safety precautions you should take.

  • Check for open hours BEFORE you go to the beach. It may not be open.
  • The beach is only accessible for a short time while the river is low.
  • Swimming is not recommended. The river runs swiftly and can take you away with it.
  • There are no lifeguards on duty.
  • If you picnic, remove all trash that you bring in.
  • The city provides port-a-potties and trash cans. Use them.
  • Fires are not allowed on the beach.
  • Dogs on a leash are allowed on the beach, but please clean up after them.
  • Alcohol is not permitted on the beach or in any city park.

Explore Old Strathcona

Old Strathcona Edmonton

Old Strathcona is by and large our favorite neighborhood to hang out in while staying in Edmonton, Alberta. Not only is it home to Pip, one of the best breakfast spots in Edmonton, as well as the Strathcona Spirits Distillery, but it is where you will find more than a few festivals as well. 

If you are in town in July, make sure you pop in for the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival. Kids and adults will love seeing acts along 83rd Ave NW and beyond.

There are plenty of local spots to grab a bite, but we love to do a bit of shopping in Edmonton’s heritage district. From avant guard to boho chic, goth to swing favorites, there is something for everyone at the shops of Old Strathcona. For American shoppers, just remember, the exchange rate is in our favor, so if you see a sale, it’s an even bigger discount for you after the exchange rate kicks in.

If you are staying for more than a day or two, make sure you load up at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8am to 3pm. Products are brought in from all of the area farms, of which there are plenty. Produce, meat, seafood, flowers, coffee, specialty foods, plus arts and crafts are all on sale throughout the year. It might be worth planning your trip around. When you’ve had enough, walk around the corner to the streetcar to head downtown to the museums.

Check out the Edmonton Museum and Attraction scene

Old Strathcona Edmonton

Edmonton museums aren’t a dime a dozen and they don’t come in spades. While there are plenty to keep you busy, if you only have a day to explore, you want to visit the best.

Royal Alberta Museum

For those who love archaeology, indigenous studies, geology, botany, zoology, and the history of Western Canada, the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton is the place for you. More than two million objects make up the museum’s collection to tell the story of Alberta. While not all are on display at one time, rotating and permanent exhibits give you a good idea of how the province has evolved over time. 

Temporary exhibits include the history of the Vikings in Canada, remembering the first World War, live demonstrations, and the story of Black pioneers across Canada. The museum is located in the Downtown/Boyle Street neighborhoods, an easy walk from the Art Gallery if you are trying to see both museums in one day.

Art Gallery of Alberta

One of the most unique buildings in town, the modern exterior of the Art Gallery of Alberta is worth walking by, if not entering. Past exhibits, many of which support Alberta artists, include works by painter Marigold Santos, photographer Manny Hall, and a perspective of work by Indigenous artists and how skateboarding/snowboarding and art intersect. 

Kids as well as strollers are welcome at the gallery. Regular, family-friendly programming is offered, but BMO World of Creativity is always on if you are looking for some hands-on, interactive spaces for the kids to explore.

Alberta Legislative Building

Yes, you can get into Canadian politics, even if you aren’t Canadian. Known as “The Ledge” by locals, the building opened in 1913 for the Legislative Assembly and the Executive Council to meet. Heritage Interpreters welcome visitors 362 days per year to tour the building and learn about the province’s legislative process, as well as the art and architecture of the building. All tours are free and last approximately 45 minutes.

Muttart Conservatory

Anyone who loves a good horticultural greenhouse, will want to visit the Muttart Conservatory. These pyramid-shaped biodomes are home to 700 species of plants in three-climate regulated biomes. Arid, temperate and tropical flora and fauna thrive throughout the year. It’s the perfect spot to warm up even in the winter months when Alberta is in the grip of Mother Nature’s cold and grey blanket.

Headed to Calgary too? Read our Calgary Canada guide

There is a nice loop trail just under a kilometer that goes around the pyramids featuring local wildflowers. Dogs are welcome and it is great for kids to run around if they have energy to spare before you enter the greenhouses. If you need a bite, you can pop into Cullina’s in the lobby of Muttart.

Ride the High Level Bridge Streetcar

Edmonton Canada

Great views? Check! Cheap date that dives into the history of Edmonton? Check! Highest river crossing streetcar in the world? Check, check! 

It’s not everyday that you can say you did something that is the biggest, tallest, highest, greatest, and the High Level Bridge Streetcar in Edmonton is probably the easiest to do, especially if you are in Edmonton with kids. Little ones will think they are taking the train. Parents will know they are getting from Downtown Edmonton to Old Strathcona, all while sneaking in a little learning. 

Each streetcar comes from a different part of the world. The volunteers running the trolleys are more than happy to tell you the history of the car you are riding, as well as facts about the journey across this 100-year-old High Level Bridge. Just be prepared to wait. The cars only hold so many people, so you may have to wait for one or two cars if the line is long during festivals. 

Tour Edmonton Street Art

Edmonton Canada

Edmonton is a mecca of murals and street art. In fact, one local has made it her mission to document them all, including just beautifully colored walls, on her site Linda-Hoang.com. There are almost 50 murals around Whyte Avenue, downtown and along 124th street right now thanks to Rust Magic International Street Mural Festival, which was launched in 2016. At least twenty more are expected to go up by the end of the year.

While the idea behind Rust Magic is to mentor young artists and get them a space to put up their work, it is also putting Edmonton on the mural art map. Many pieces are in alleyways and parking lots, which can be frustrating for visitors at times. Many want to get their picture with the mural, but the most important thing to remember is that these are works of art and self expression. Edmonton’s public art is filling up empty walls with new beauty by local and international artists, like its Canadian counterparts in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. 

Can you find them all? Not sure where to start? Go find Curious George in Old Strathcona. 

Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park

Have you ever wanted to see a bison up close? Just 45 minutes outside of Edmonton you can see two of the last pure plains and wood bison herds left in the world. What does “pure” means?  Within these herds there hasn’t been any cross breeding. The bison are free from disease and closely monitored to maintain their health and population. 

Spring and summer are when you are most likely to see calves wandering with their mamas. This also means the mothers will be much more territorial, so keep your distance. You should always stay 100 feet from wild animals, but giving mom a little extra space never hurts.

Other animals you might see in the park include moose, mule deer, elk, wolves, coyotes, white-tailed deer, black beer, beavers and over 250 species of birds. While this may seem like a lot of animals, you are most likely to see bison and birds. The rest of the animals like to hide out. This is a very large park for them to roam. 

Ask the Elk Island National Park park rangers at the visitor center where they have seen animals wondering lately if you want to make sure you see creatures during your visit. They will always have the intel.

Get more information on the park here.

Get a Taste of Edmonton Restaurants

Edmonton Canada

Edmonton’s food scene continues to grow with every passing year. While Pip is our favorite breakfast spot (book a reservation in this tiny Old Strathcona restaurant), there are several other places you should make sure you enjoy while in town. Beer lovers will need to take a sip at Situation Brewery, but cocktail connoisseurs should head to Clementine for libations. 

For a truly heavenly meal, you go to Uccellino for fresh pasta and Italian food. They call it simple; we call it perfectly balanced flavors hitting our palette. A glass of prosecco is the perfect start to every meal here, and make sure you listen to (and order) the specials. 

If you are in the mood for more Asian flavors, hop over to Baijiu by the stadium. Bring a few friends to share plates, sip cocktails and groove to the old-school hip-hop beats bursting out of the speakers. We didn’t have it confirmed, but we are pretty sure only models work here too. They hire the sweetest staff, and all are stunning.

Eat all of the Edmonton Pastries

Edmonton Alberta Canada

We aren’t ones to say no to pastries, and neither should you. Here are just a few of the top shops in Edmonton you won’t want to skimp on when it comes to calories. 

  • Duchess Bakeshop: We can’t say no to macarons, and why would we? Get a half dozen to sample with your best friends, along with a cup of coffee as you sip and savor every morsel.
  • La Boule Patisserie & Bakery Inc.: This is where eclairs, tiny cheesecakes and the cutest cakes hope they are born. Never have we seen anything that looks this beautiful AND tastes just as good. Enjoy with a cappuccino, but make sure you sit and stay for a while. You deserve to pretend you are in Paris for at least five minutes.
  • Hazeldean Bakery: Grab the apple fritters and sticky buns in the morning before they sell out. And they will!
  • Sugared & Spiced Baked Goods: Hidden in an alleyway off of Whyte Ave, this locally run shop is whipping up decadently high cakes, meringues (our fav!), dense chocolate brownies, and cinnamon buns with a bourbon glaze. Good thing you will be doing a lot of shopping (AKA walking) after this trip to the pastry shop. It means you can eat more calories!  

Experience one of Edmonton’s many festivals

Edmonton International Street Performers Festival

Edmonton is a city of festivals. They don’t stop with just one, but host several throughout the year. The city is best known for the International Fringe Festival, but that doesn’t mean the other events aren’t worth checking out. 

The International Street Performers Festival will make you appreciate the art that goes into getting in front of an unknown crowd every day, just to put your hat out to earn a little cash. These talented men and women come from across the world to perform and get noticed. Some are better than others, but those who stand out will certainly draw a huge crowd.

Edmonton International Street Performers Festival

More festivals we would fly up to experience: 

  • Edmonton International Street Performers Festival (July)
  • Edmonton International Fringe Festival (August)
  • Edmonton International Film Festival (September and October)
  • Boardwalk Ice on Whyte (January and February)

Explore 124th Street

Edmonton International Street Performers Festival

Duchess Bakery put 124th Street on the map, but the growing art and boutique shopping scene is what has kept this neighborhood alive. It continues to thrive as galleries move in, showing off local and international artists you have yet to discover. Grab a macaron and a cup of tea at Duchess Bakery before taking a stroll along 124th street, popping into the shops and galleries, and stumbling upon murals that might not be on any map. 

TIP: Don’t miss Canada’s oldest Gallery Walk happening twice a year, which is free and open to the public. 

Tastings at Strathcona Spirits Distillery

Strathcona Spirits

Love gin, vodka and fine, small-batch liquors? Well then you need to pop into Strathcona Spirits Distillery, the oldest distillery in Edmonton. At just over two years old, it may seem like a baby, but thanks to liquor laws, this truly is a historic spot for more than one reason.

Started in an old radiator parts repair shop, the distillery was once an underground club. The owner started playing shows with friends, which soon turned into a cult following of sorts. The city got wind of this activity and shut them down. Soon after, Alberta changed the liquor producing laws so that small batch distilleries could begin producing and distributing liquor. No longer were spirits considered “moonshine” in these parts. Craft brewers had some competition as gin, vodka and whiskey connoisseurs entered the fray.

Strathcona Spirits regularly produces barrel-aged gin, Badlands Berry Gin (our favorite!), as well as a single grain vodka. Their first whiskey will be coming out of the cask in June 2020 and we can’t wait. 

Not sure what to do with these fine liquors? The Midnight Cocktail Club of Edmonton regularly challenges bartenders to get creative with what the local distilleries are putting out. Recipes of what has been created are up on the Strathcona Spirits website.

Farm to Table dinner at the Old Red Barn by Kitchen by Brad

Old Red Barn dinners with Kitchen by Brad

Edmonton is farm country, despite it looking like a city. Go 10 minutes outside of the city and you are in the fields of Alberta. What better way to celebrate this cultivated culture than with a true farm to table dinner? While we city folks understand the concept of getting our food from a farm, actually sitting on a farm where most of the food was produced, or brought in from neighboring farms, takes on a whole new meaning.

Melissa and Matt Schur from the Old Red Barn teamed up with Chef Brad from KITCHEN to put on summer family dinners. City folk and area residents all come out to experience this unique meal with a few equine friends hanging out in the distance (or sometimes right next to you). Chef Brad puts his own spin on this simple, yet impactful menu that combines local ingredients to show off the best Alberta, and specifically Edmonton, has to offer. As always with Chef Brad,  there is a little Ukranian flair to the dishes, which resonates throughout his kitchen and cuisine.

Local wine is brought in to complement each course. After all, British Columbia, right next to Alberta, is making some of the finest wines in North America (or so we like to think).

Want to attend a dinner? Check for the next date here!

Take the gloves off at an Edmonton Oilers Game

Hockey fans, and yes, even people like us who have no idea what is going on in the game, will enjoy an Edmonton Oilers game as if they are locals. Rogers Place, the massive arena where the Oilers play, can seat 18,500 and you will feel the force of the Oiler fans at every game. 

And don’t get these Edmonton hockey fans started on Wayne Gretsky. The city took home the Stanley Cup three times while “The Great One” played with the Oilers from 1979-1988. You can even get your photo taken with a statue of the man outside the arena. 

View the Outdoor Neon Museum

Edmonton Neon Museum

The 4th Street Promenade is where those in the know go to see the neon signs of old that have been salvaged and restored. The volunteers from the City of Edmonton Heritage Planning have at least 20 signs on display, with the goal of 30 being part of the collection. 

These signs tell the story of old Edmonton, each with a plaque explaining the story of the business it represented. As neon goes out of fashion thanks to the expense and lack of artists working with the material, this type of museum is all the more important. 

The Outdoor Neon Museum is right around the corner from Rogers Place where the Edmonton Oilers play. It adds a bit of nighttime flair to the neighborhood, even on a blustery night in January. Best of all, the museum is completely outdoors, and free year round. 

Catch the Northern Lights … if you are lucky!

Once upon a time, we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning in Jasper trying to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the Aurora Borealis skipped us to put on a show over Edmonton instead. Never have I wanted to be in a city more than that moment.

While you may think the Edmonton Aurora Borealis would be weak, there is a dark sky preserve just 40 minutes outside of the city in Elk Island National Park. Keep an eye on your Aurora Borealis tracker app. Head into the park, making your way towards the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve in the park. The Bison Loop is a great spot to see the North Lights and not as populated as the Astotin Lake Recreation Area where most visitors will go to park their cars and wait.

Other spots to view the Edmonton Aurora Borealis and night sky include the RASC Observatory at TELUS World of Science. The observatory is free, making it the perfect spot for families to explore, especially during the winter nights when the sun sets earlier. It is hard to push bedtime when you have little ones who also love to star gaze. 

The University of Alberta also opens up its observatory to the public on Thursday evenings. While we can’t promise the Northern Lights will be dancing, it never hurts to swing by, talk to the astronomers and learn more about the night sky.

Looking for a Hotel in Edmonton? Check out the following!

Fairmont MacDonald Edmonton Alberta

This post is part of a paid partnership with Edmonton Tourism. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t you will be the first to know. This post contains affiliate links.

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