It’s been a really long, cold winter here in the prairies. I new that when my daughter had a week off in February I wanted to unwind and do something fun. Since Hawaii wasn’t in the budget this year I had to come up with something a little bit closer to home. I really wanted to to head the Banff and do a little family skiing getaway but my husband was bogged down with work (the joys of being self employed) and couldn’t get away. Since Molly has never been to the mountains before I thought I would put that trip on hold until her has was able to come along. So, what else could we do?
I had not been to the West Edmonton Mall, or actually even to Edmonton at all for a solid 20 years. I couldn’t remember a lot about it other than the big water park and the roller coaster. But I decided that it was worth looking into. So I spent some time online, both at the WEM website and at various travel sites and decided we could have some there. And, spoiler alert, we did!
Here’s a run down of our experience at the West Edmonton Mall:
Getting there and getting around
Edmonton is a solid 8 hour drive from Regina. I’m not against road trips in general but there were a few reasons I decided against it this time. First, it’s February in the prairies. You just never know what kind of weather you are going to run into. I’m a pretty confident and capable winter driver but I was looking to unwind, and a winter road trip just doesn’t yell relaxation to me. Another reason I opted not to drive is because 8 hours there and 8 hours back cuts into a lot of potential fun time. Flying meant I didn’t have to book as many days off work and save them for more family fun this year. And we just happened to have some West Jet credits in our account from the cancelled flight at Christmas time (another story and another reason I needed a vacation)!
I did a little bit of research as to the best way to get from the airport to the hotel. I ran some options by a friend who lives in Edmonton and she quickly told me I should just use Uber. Well of course I should! So I downloaded the app (we don’t have Uber here so I didn’t have it downloaded) and get all set up and ready for when we arrived. But once we landed and I tried to hail and Uber on my phone I quickly discovered that Uber does not operate to or from the airport in Edmonton. So, Uber is not an option at the airport so that leaves a few options. There is the Skyshuttle, which I may have taken had I been a bit more prepared (seriously I’m a planner and the Uber fail threw me off my game!) we may have used the Skyshuttle. It goes from the airport to most major hotels in the city for reasonable rates ($18 for adults and $10 for kids over 4). Ultimately I decided to take a cab. Except that we didn’t take a cab – we sort of sneakily got whisked into a limo and paid almost $20 more than was necessary. Oh well, lesson learned. It’s a good 30 plus minute drive from the airport to WEM so don’t expect it to be a cheap ride.
When I was planning our little trip I knew that I wanted to either stay right at the mall or as close as possible. I had originally booked us in at the West Edmonton Mall Inn which is right across the street from WEM and considerably cheaper that Fantasyland. I’ve never stayed at the Edmonton Mall Inn, but it looks like a fine place and super close to WEM. But when I saw a flash sale come up for rooms at Fantasyland I jumped on that and booked us a nice “executive” room complete with a large jaccuzi tub right in the room. I’m really glad I changed our booking. It was just SO convenient to have our hotel right in the mall. It was worth the extra money. Especially since it was just Molly and I. I think if my husband had come along the convenience wouldn’t have been quite as big a deal because one of us could have gone back and forth to drop things in the room or go get snacks etc. But when you are travelling with a 7 year old you can’t just leave her in the mall or in the hotel by herself while you run errands.
Our stay at Fantasyland was really good. The room was big, and clean. The staff were friendly and helpful. The ONLY issue we had (which was nobody’s fault) is that is was incredibly busy, being family day week. That mean long waits for elevators and also for breakfast at the hotel restaurant. But were were only four floors up so stairs were an easy option and there was a Starbucks just around the corner that had a decent selection of breakfast items, so these things weren’t a huge issue at all.
Oh were to start here! There are just so many fun things to do at WEM. Let’s start with the attraction that we spent the most time enjoying – World Waterpark.
The waterpark is definitely one of the biggest draws to WEM. There are just so many things to do within the park it’s easy to spend an entire day there. Molly loved the massive wave pool so we spent a lot of time riding the waves. You can rent a tube for $6 which I highly recommend, it just makes the wave pool so much more fun, and there are even a couple of water slides you can ride your tube down. Between the slides and kiddie area there are 20 attractions right in the water park and the great thing is there is something for absolutely everyone. From little kids to daring adventure seekers.
Speaking of adventure seeking – before we even left for Edmonton Molly had decided she wanted to try the SkyFlyer Zipline. I wasn’t sure, once she saw it in person, if she would stick to that plan but she did! The SkyFlyer is the world’s largest indoor zipline and spans 470 feet over the wave pool. Since the minimum weight requirement is only 44 pounds Molly was big enough to be able to do it. What I really liked is that they have four lines so Molly and I were able zipline side by side.
Molly loved this SO MUCH. We ended up doing it three times. The price was really reasonable – only $9 ($7 during the week) for a single ride or $15 ($11 during the week) for a double ride.
Some useful info about World WaterPark:
- An all day adult pass costs $45. Kids are $35 and little ones 2 and under are free. There are also special evening rates, season passes and toddler time passes. You can find all that info here. We actually bought a Multiplay pass instead which I’ll talk about later in the post.
- Waterpark hours vary depending on the time of the week/holidays etc. You’ll want to check the calendar ahead of time to know how early and how late you can go!
- If it’s in the budget and you are going to spend all day at the park I definitely recommend renting a Cabana. I really wish we had booked one ahead of time (they were all booked up when we were there) because that just looked like the way to go. There are various sizes and locations in the park but they all give you your own space to lounge, a place to safely store things and access to semi private washrooms. Just be sure to book ahead!
- No Cabana? No problem. In the change rooms you can rent a locker to store your stuff. I think it was about $8 for a locker for the day.
- Instead of trying to carry money around and keep it safe in the waterpark they have a really, really useful option. When you enter the park you can load money onto a wrist band and then just swipe that band at any of the vendors in the park. When you leave for the day just stop at the ticket office and they will refund you back anything you didn’t spend.
- There are free Coke fountain machines around the park with a huge selection of drinks (including water).
- There are three food/goody concessions and even a bar within the park.
Our tip – Our favorite slide was the Corkscrew. It wasn’t too scary but not too “babyish” for a 7 year old and it has two slides that empty into the same pool. Molly would just give me a 5 second head start so I could be in the pool waiting for her to come out the other slide. And you can also take the tube down this slide which makes it extra fun!
One of the other big attractions at WEM is, of course, Galaxyland. I wish we had more time to spend there but I sort of underestimated how many things there were to do there.
It really doesn’t seem like that big of a space but there are 27 rides and attractions within Galaxyland! And. like the waterpark, there is something for all ages. Some of our favorites were the Flying Galleon, Swing of the Century and Quirks in the Works. We really wanted to try out Ropes Quest but we just ran out of time. I don’t really have much for helpful hints when it comes to Galaxyland because you don’t really need any. We didn’t really have to wait in line for anything. There are lockers to rent if you want to store your purse or any shopping you may have picked up along the way. Just explore and have fun!
Another attraction that brings families to WEM is the Marine Life. You can enjoy a Sea Lion show, have a close up Sea Lion Encounter and explore the Sea Life Caverns.
We didn’t have time to take in a show, although we did see parts of them from the mall and they looked like fun. But we did venture down into the Sea Life Caverns. Molly enjoyed checking out the various creatures, not all of them what you would call “sea” animals! There were plenty of snakes and reptiles, but the stars were the penguins, followed closely but the tank with the sharks and sea turtles. This certainly wasn’t the highlight of our trip but it was included in our multiday pass so worth checking out.
Now I know it might seem strange to put bowling on the list of things to when on a holiday but we did. Why? Because it was one of those activities we could do later in the evening after the waterpark and Galaxyland and all the other attractions had closed for the day. So instead of sitting in our room watching TV we went bowling at Ed’s Bowling. And it was fun!
We actually attempted to go bowling the evening we arrived but the place was packed! So when we got back to our room I went online and made a reservation for the next evening. Ed’s has a huge ten pin bowling area but when we were there we noticed the Kingpin Bowling and thought it looked really cool so that’s what I booked. Kingpin is just like regular bowling expect the lanes are shorter and you throw two balls instead of three. And the Kinpin area off on it’s own so it’s much quieter and comfortable. I highly recommend it! Especially with kids. The games are quicker and you can keep them wrangled easier!
There is also a little arcade area that we explored while were were waiting to bowl. And this is where Molly got hooked on Foosball!
Other fun things
There were a lot of other things we had on our list to do but just ran out of time. We could have easily spent a solids two more days at WEM without getting bored. Some of the things still on our list for our next trip:
- Dragon’s Tale mini golf and Crystal Labyrinth. Dragon’s tale is an 18 hole blacklight mini golf course. And the Crystal Labyrinth, a new attraction at WEM, is some kind of “mirror maze”. I haven’t actually seen it but I envision a funhouse mirror type of attraction.
- Mayfield Toyota Ice Palace. We did go by the rink a few times, and watched a bit of hockey practice but skating there was just something we didn’t manage to fit in. I’m hoping next time. We both love to skate and even though we didn’t bring our skates along you can rent them very reasonably at the rink.
- The Rec Room. I’ve seen friends from Edmonton share pictures and comments about the Rec Room and it seems like a cool place. It’s marketed as “54,000 sq feet of great games, mouth watering eating and amazing entertainment”
Playing to Play
So there are a few ways to pay for all the fun activities at WEM:
You can just show up and pay at each attraction as you go.
And the other option, the one that we took advantage of, was to visit one of the Guest Service stations and purchase a Multi-Play Pass. If you plan on hitting as many attraction as you can then this is definitely the way to go. They have one year, seven day, three month and two day passes. The two day pass was exactly what we needed. It’s too bad they don’t offer a three day pass through because ideally if we go back we’d probably spend four full days there – 3 days of fun and 1 day of shopping. These passes get you unlimited entry into Galaxyland, World Waterpark and the Sea Caverns and one entrance per day at at Santa Maria, one round of mini-golf per day at Professor Wem’s Adventure Golf, one round of mini-golf per day at Dragon’s Tale Golf, one entrance daily to Crystal Labyrinth, one Sea Lion Show per day at Sea Lions’ Rock, one hour of bowling including shoe rental at Ed’s Rec Room per day and one hour of Billiards for those 18 years or older.
That’s a lot of fun and substantial savings if you manage to visit even more than a couple of the attractions. Just for example – the two day pass for myself was $99 – if I visited both Waterworld and Galaxyland just one day each that would be $90. So you can see how the saving over a couple of days adds up! And if you are a fmily of 4 or more you get even more savings on the Multi-Play Pass.
Well of course the West Edmonton Mall has shopping, and lots of it. But we didn’t manage to squeeze a lot in on this trip. I did make a point of visiting Simons for the first time and man did I fall in love with that store! I could have easily spent half the day shopping in Simons. We also made it to Build a Bear because it’s one of Molly’s favorite places on earth. London Drugs was right by the hotel which was super handy for getting snacks and pop to take back to the room. One day I might actually make it to WEM for a legit shopping trip, but this was not that trip.
There are no shortages of places to eat at WEM. Unless you want a full on breakfast, that’s a bit of a problem actually. As I mentioned above the L2 Grill at Fantasyland does serve breakfast but it was far too busy and we were far to impatient to wait for a table. I’m not sure there is any other place in the mall that cooks up a real breakfast. Molly and I managed fine between Starbucks and Second Cup to fuel up enough in the mornings but that might not suit everyone. However, you could also order breakfast via room service as well, or you could always swing by London Drugs and grab some milk and cereal to keep in the room. There are always options!
As for lunch and dinner, there are tons of options there. We found ourselves visiting the food courts for lunch. Plenty of choices there to please both of us. And for dinner – the first night we didn’t arrive until evening so we just ordered up to our room and the other evenings we headed over to BRBN St for a more grown up dining experience. Much to Molly’s delight it has both of her favorite restaurants – Earls and Moxie’s.
I think it’s pretty clear that Molly and I had a great time at the West Edmonton Mall. Molly is generally a pretty happy kid but the smiles and laughs were overflowing on this little trip. I can’t wait to take her back again. The only thing I would do differently (besides not getting roped into taking as limo) is spend more time there. We were there for three nights – which meant 2 full days and one half day at WEM. It was not nearly enough. Four days would be ideal. But we will be back!