A Visit to Fort Edmonton Park

I’ve written in the past that Fort Edmonton Park is my favourite City attraction, but it has been a while since I’ve been able to enjoy it in on my own. So for my birthday this year, I asked Mack to take me to the Park.

The day started out with the kind of weather we have been accustomed to this summer – overcast, threatening rain, with fleeting rays of sunshine. But we didn’t want to let the grey spoil our day, and headed out anyway. Fortunately, the skies held up for the most part!

I was most looking forward to taking in the 1920s midway, and specifically, riding the ferris wheel (those Everwood fans out there will know why). I was disappointed that the ferris wheel wasn’t in operation that day due to the windy conditions, but we made the most of it anyway!

Fort Edmonton Park

I heart the midway

The carousel was up first, its antique horses reminding me very much of the Zeum Carousel in San Francisco.

Fort Edmonton Park

Whee!

We also decided to try our hand at some of the midway games. I think the one operator took pity on us, because he offered us not one, but two choice prizes even though we didn’t quite win the game.

Fort Edmonton Park

Steady…

Fort Edmonton Park

Yes, I missed

Mack’s favourite part of the day was riding the steam locomotive. He loves trains!

Fort Edmonton Park

We took our time wandering the buildings and storefronts, Mack found a room with his name on it:

Fort Edmonton Park

Can I move in?

Fort Edmonton Park

Taylor Hall’s mini-me!

Fort Edmonton Park

The pigs (on loan from Irvings) seemed so very happy rooting in the mud

Edmonton Bulletin

Business at the Edmonton Bulletin

Fort Edmonton Park

One room schoolhouse on 1885 Street

Fort Edmonton Park

Beautiful table setting in the Rutherford House

Fort Edmonton Park

Greenhouse on 1905 Street

Tea on the boardwalk

Fort Edmonton Park

Encore!

We also tried our hand at the Tom Thumb Miniature Golf Course. I’m usually terrible at putting, but because it was my birthday, I think Mack let me win!

Fort Edmonton Park

Fore!

Fort Edmonton Park

Capitol Theatre, still under construction at that time

We ended the day at Johnson’s Café, the restaurant inside Hotel Selkirk. Our reservation was at 6pm to coincide with the closing of the park. It was so odd to see the streets nearly deserted, a stark contrast to just a few hours before.

But if we thought it was quiet outside, it was almost more so inside the restaurant – we were among just two other groups in the room. Because of the close proximity between the parties, one would think ambiance would be that much more important, and without any music, conversations were easily overheard. Our server was also a tad awkward, checking in too frequently for a meal that could have been paced much better, especially for a restaurant that is undoubtedly a destination.

Fort Edmonton Park

Johnson’s Cafe

Unfortunately, the food didn’t make up for the lack of atmosphere. My cream of mushroom and leek soup with wild Alberta mushrooms, leeks, and chardonnay wine ($5) was my best course, seasoned well. Mack’s avocado caesar salad ($9) was great to look at – served in a parmesan frico cup with a generous avocado fan on top, but was difficult to break down and eat with a fork and knife. It would have helped if the frico was warm instead of cold.

Fort Edmonton Park

Cream of mushroom and leek soup

Fort Edmonton Park

Avocado caesar salad

I ordered the special – steak medallions with a chai tea glaze. For starters, I wouldn’t have called the meat I was served medallions, but I could have easily overlooked that if the steak had been cooked anywhere near the requested medium. The chai glaze was nice, but nothing could have remedied the overcooked, chewy meat (a diner at one of the other tables sent back his steak, perhaps something I should have done as well).

Fort Edmonton Park

Steak medallions with a chai tea glaze

Mack fared better with his halibut wellington ($35), served with a lemon and dill sauce, but the fish was unevenly cooked.

Fort Edmonton Park

Halibut wellington

At the end of the day, we were disappointed with Johnson’s Cafe, and wondered if our lacklustre meal was an isolated experience. If the grand vision for the redevelopment of Fort Edmonton Park is to succeed (which considered building up more evening food service options), because of the attraction’s location, the food and service must be top notch. Since the City’s expertise doesn’t lie in the  hospitality business, perhaps for the future, a model such as the one adopted by the Muttart Conservatory (which saw popular local chain Culina provide the food services there), should be considered for Fort Edmonton Park as well.

Besides dinner though, I had a great time at Fort Edmonton Park. And with Capitol Theatre to check out (and a ferris wheel still to ride), I’ll be back again soon!

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