10 fun things to do in Edmonton for Family Day

By Gene Kosowan

Since its implementation in 1990, Family Day has become one of the most anticipated holidays of the winter season. But some Albertans may be astounded to learn that Family Day originated out of a criminal act. In 1988, three young men were arrested for trying to sell drugs – including the son of then-premier Don Getty. Getty felt his son's predicament was the result of his own neglect, so he managed to legislate one day a year for families to spend together. This year, the event falls on Feb. 20 with a load of options available for Edmonton families. [Image credit: http://www.istockphoto.com/wwing]

10 fun things to do in Edmonton for Family Day

Plays, music, juggling and more 

City Hall is ground zero for free Family Day  fun – families can take in two sets of classic hits by the duo of Hoffman and Brown and Concrete Theatre’s production of the all-ages play The Early Bloomers. Attendees can also take in the antics of Nikolai the Juggler, enjoy crafts like making balloon sculptures and even participate in a hayride. Feeling peckish? Food trucks will on hand as well. It all adds up to a four-hour marathon of fun that starts at noon.

Polar bears, oh my!

From Lucy the elephant to Arctic foxes and zebras, the Valley Zoo is home to an assortment of mammals – but it’s also an Arctic Ambassador Centre for Polar Bears International. Ironically, the zoo doesn’t have any polar bears residing on the premises, but families can take part in crafts at the polar bear craft table and get in on all the fun of an animal family scavenger hunt. And to immortalize the occasion, families can also take advantage of the free photo booth.

Recover some treasure

The Reuse Centre, home to a wealth of recyclable items from arts and crafts supplies to home decor, is hosting a free Open House event this Family Day weekend. Families get a chance to rummage through the myriad of useable materials available, get into a crafting workshop involving said items or tour the facility to get the inside story on the culture of reusing. Activities are free, while purchases of items up to 5 kilograms are $5.

Get under the pyramids

This Family Day weekend, the Muttart Conservatory will offer families the opportunity to immerse themselves into four different worlds of botanical delight, with three pyramids dedicated to vegetation representing the arid, temperate and tropical regions of the earth and a fourth pyramid currently dedicated to vegetation related to the celebration of Chinese New Year. Once you’ve finished exploring, sit back and share your thoughts on the adventure with a meal at Culina in the main foyer.

Hit the ice

While you can take advantage of free skating on giant rinks at the Victoria, Jackie Parker and Castle Downs parks, it’s a good bet most families will converge at Hawrelak to take in the Silver Skate Festival, which finishes its 10-day run on Family Day. Here’s a chance to take in the Kortebaan sprints, gaze at the ice castles, hang out in an aboriginal camp or play Frisbee on ice.

Go artsy

Here’s a chance to get your kids exposed to visual arts culture when the Art Gallery of Alberta opens its doors for free on Family Day. Youngsters can get interactive with art at Touchlab and the whole family has access to current exhibits ranging from an artistic vision of survival to ghostly-looking installations by Hannah Doerksen.

Hit the dome

The Alberta Legislature takes a break from dealing with the province’s affairs and invites families for a series of activities commemorating Family Day. Music and magic holds court indoors while folks can get involved in a history hunt or play aboriginal games. For the more industrious, there’s also an opportunity to create the whole legislative complex out of Lego.

Walk on the wild side

It’s no secret that Edmonton’s greatest natural wonder is its river valley – and what better way to learn more about its wildlife than by visiting the John Janzen Nature Centre. Here, families can learn more about wildlife in an urban setting while gazing at what thrives in the natural ribbon that divides the city. Kids who are more indoor-oriented can visit the Tegler Discovery Zone to play with ornate replicas of the wildlife.

Join the Rutherfords

For those already bored with the goings-on inside Donald Trump’s new residence, why not hang out at the home of Alexander Cameron Rutherford, Alberta’s first premier? Those interested in character homes will likely marvel at the turn-of-the-century – that’s 19th century, folks – decor, check out the family piano and maybe grab a bite of what the premier had a sweet tooth for. No key required – someone will be at the door to greet you all on Family Day.

The family that plays together...

He’s a fiddling festival favourite from coast to coast. She’s one of the hottest roots guitarists in the city. They’re the father and daughter combo known as Cam Neufeld and Billie Zizi, who plan to kick the Meadows public complex into high gear with a combination of Gypsy classics and down-home Canadian folk descants. The best part of checking this wide-range of musical offerings slated for 2 p.m. is that it’s all family-friendly and free.

Who would have thought Premier Don Getty was onto such a positive thing nearly 40 years ago? Six provinces have followed Alberta's lead since Family Day was introduced in 1990.  Family Day not only provides a motive for the kin to get closer, but it’s also an ideal way to avoid yet another Monday commute – especially during a month when the mercury drops faster than a bellyflop on a skating pond.

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