They say that necessity is the mother of invention. As I gazed inside a display case at the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, there was no doubt in my mind this was true. Alberta’s first mace is a testament to the ingenuity of early Albertans. The mace is the symbol and emblem of the authority of the crown in government and every provincial and territorial assembly in Canada has one. When Alberta became a province in 1905, a makeshift mace was hastily assembled from available household items. Constructed from a lead pipe decorated with pieces of a handsaw, a shaving mug, buttons and the float from a toilet tank it looked majestic once it was painted gold. It worked so well it was used for 50 years.
Exploring our capital city’s landmarks is a great way to uncover quirky and fun artefacts and experiences. The best part is that it’s easy to do on your own. Along the way, you’ll see how far we’ve come from our humble beginnings. Modern-day Alberta is culturally diverse, sophisticated and dynamic, built on our fair share of seat-of-the-pants resourcefulness.
- Sir Winston Churchill Square: There’s always something going on in Churchill Square – even when there isn’t anything actually going on. It’s a gathering site for the city with gardens, outdoor art, free family-friendly games, free Wi-Fi and plenty of food vendors. People come to the square just to hang out and when there’s a big festival in town, Churchill Square is often at the heart of it.
- The Legislative Assembly of Alberta: Or The Leg as it is known by locals, regally anchors Edmonton’s downtown core and is the city’s most noticeable landmark. In summer, the giant reflecting pools are used as wading pools and in winter, people skate on them. Guided tours inside The Leg are free and they reveal a wealth of interesting information. (Hint: Besides the mace, keep an eye out for a painting of a six-fingered premier.)
- Muttart Conservatory: No matter the weather, things are always blooming inside Edmonton’s innovative botanical gardens, which are housed inside four striking glass pyramids that rise from river valley. If the bloom smells nauseating, rancid and it’s attracting thousands of people, it’s probably from a plant the Conservatory has lovingly nicknamed Putrella. Edmonton’s Indonesian Corpse Flower was the first of its kind to bloom in Western Canada in April 2013. It’s just one of many interesting and unusual plants in the collection. Muttart Conservatory preserves and grows one of Canada’s largest botanical collections.
- High Level Bridge: In the days of streetcars, Edmonton was world famous for its radial railway which included a ride over the North Saskatchewan River, one of the highest river crossings by streetcar in the world. A group of dedicated volunteers has restored the streetcars and operates a seasonal service over the High Level Bridge each summer. For a small fee, visitors can relive days of yore and experience this high flying ride.