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Edmonton Weekend Activities: Bison & Boutiques

Bison Elk Island Park

Bison Elk Island Park

Are there any good Edmonton weekend activities? We drove up North to find out and we were pleasantly surprised!

You don’t have to look very hard in Banff to see all sorts of different animals running around. While Elk, Deer and Bighorn Sheep are relatively commonplace, you might not know that there used to be another large herbivore roaming the mountains in Banff; the Bison!

More than a decade ago, the decision was made to remove the bison from Banff National Park, much to the dismay of the local residents. While the local community gradually pushes more and more to bring them back, the fact is that you still can’t catch a glimpse of them in Banff. In fact, many people have no idea that they even exist in Canada!

What you may not know, is that although they’ve gone from Banff, they still exist in other parts of Western Canada, especially to the North near Edmonton.

We really wanted to catch a glimpse of these guys, so we decided to plan a trip to Edmonton, and one of the larger bison reserves, “Elk island National Park”. Instead of making a day trip of it, we thought we’d stay the night in Edmonton and check out one of the more unique hotels.

We’d stayed in Edmonton before, so this time, rather than head back to one of the boring hotel chains, we thought we’d spice up our stay and check out a boutique hotel.

The Union Bank Inn

We didn’t really know what to expect from The Union Bank Inn, but it was located on Jasper Ave, in a very convenient part of the city, and the reviews were fantastic. We were a bit sick of run of the mill hotels, and with this hotel’s heritage rooms, we knew we were in for something a bit more interesting!

When we walked into the room, we were absolutely blown away; it looked like a cross between a castle and a log cabin, complete with gas fire and four poster bed. The room even came with a complimentary plate of cheese and a small carafe of wine – a welcome treat!

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Union Bank Inn Edmonton

Union Bank Inn Heritage Room

The position of the room obviously didn’t allow for much natural light, but the hotel had obviously used that to its advantage to create an amazing atmosphere in the room that really gave it a vintage feel.

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Union Bank Inn Edmonton

Complimentary Cheese and Wine!

If you want to stay somewhere romantic and unique for the weekend for not much more than you’re typical 4 star prices, we would definitely recommend checking out this hotel. Each suite is uniquely decorated so you can stay there ten times and not have the same experience twice. The pictures of this room really speak for themselves.

After our super comfy night in our plush four poster, we checked out the breakfast downstairs (which was included with the price of the room!), and were reliably informed that the salmon eggs Benedict were Edmonton’s finest. They weren’t wrong; the breakfast was absolutely incredible and considering it would have normally cost us around $30 for the two of us, having it included in the bedroom price just astounded us.

We’ve stayed in a lot of hotels, and have stayed in at least 3 other hotels on Jasper Ave before and can hands down say that this was our favourite. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in need of a change of scene or are planning a romantic getaway.

Elk Island National Park:

So we’d had our incredible breakfast, and now it was time to track down those ever elusive bison at Elk Island National Park!

From the centre of Edmonton, there was very little to do but head east on the Yellowhead highway for 50km until we saw signs for Elk Island national Park.

We paid the park entry fee and drove across the cattle grid. We’d finally made it and beelined for the bison paddock.

There was already a guy there with a telephoto lens, but he seemed to be staring at nothing. No Bison in sight!

We got back into the car and checked out the park map we’d found online. We headed further north and checked out a few of the ‘more popular’ bison hangouts.

We’d been driving up and down the short park road for about half an hour with no luck, and decided we’d take a pit stop at the beautiful Astotin lake in the park, and check out the view. It was such a bright day and it made for some pretty incredible photos! The scum on the water and geese poo made it a bit of a smelly affair, but definitely worth sucking it up to enjoy the view.

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Elk Island National Park Edmonton

Astotin Lake

Heading back to the main road, we noticed a couple of beaver dams, and decided we’d stop for a bit to see if we could see any beaver activity – another little critter you don’t tend to see many of in Banff. We were in luck! One little cheeky chappy was bobbing around and dragging a giant log back to his dam. It was great to just stand there in the quiet and watch him for a bit (He’s the tiny dot in the picture below!). But we were getting distracted from our main goal! The Bison!

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Elk Island National Park Edmonton

Beavers at Elk Island National Park

So we drove back to the main road through the park and did a few more loops back and forth. Suddenly we saw a giant black figure looming by the side of the road. Out of nowhere an enormous Bison had appeared and was just chilling by the side of the road, munching on the grass. You see pictures of these guys but wow are they big. Driving alongside him we could see him watching us in the corner of his eye. Probably best not to get out of the car! We sat there for a good ten minutes, just watching him graze and stare back at us.

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bison

Bison at Elk Island National Park

It was an incredible experience to be so close to a creature we’d only ever really seen in wildlife documentaries. It totally made the trip worthwhile

After we’d sat there checking out the big guy for a little while, we decided to leave the bison in peace and head for the exit. But wait! Two more Bison were waiting by the road further along the road! Cue another 20 minutes of sitting and watching our very own little nature show.

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Elk Island National Park Bison

Grazing Bison

Eventually we decided it was time to let them get on with their busy schedules (lots of grass to eat), and head back to Calgary.

We definitely recommend trying our boutique weekend out, and heading out east for a look at the amazing bison. It was an absolutely unforgettable weekend that we won’t be forgetting in a while.

If you’re interested in a weekend getaway to Edmonton, or have some other getaway ideas then feel free to get in touch with us at robin@eliteyyc.com .[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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