While surfing the headlines on the CBC website recently I noticed a link to the Summer edition of the CBC YEG Walk, a monthly walking tour of the capital’s city centre hosted by a CBC personality so marked my calendar as I’m always willing to see Edmonton from a new perspective.

The walk began at CBC’s home in Edmonton City Centre Mall where I signed in, signed a release and collected some CBC swag; a drawstring tote, CBC logo pins and logo sunglasses.

photo by author

The tour leader is Mark Connolly, current host of Edmonton AM and a CBC Edmonton sports reporter for over 20 years and he started with an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at a live CBC Radio broadcast and a quick visit with Adrienne Pan who hosts CBC Edmonton’s afternoon drive show, Radio Active, after six years anchoring CBC Edmonton TV News.

photo by author

Mark mentioned he is the son of an Irish immigrant who founded his own cleaning company so not only is he a rare born & raised Edmontonian but in his teens he worked at CBC Edmonton as a janitor before deciding to give the broadcasting career a try.  A legion of viewers and listeners are grateful he didn’t stick with the family business as in his decades with CBC, Mark has covered seven Olympic games, numerous world championships, and the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

We moved across the street to Churchill Square, or officially Sir Winston Churchill Square, which as Mark explained has absolutely no connection to the iconic British Prime Minister beyond an admiring city council who voted to name the square in his honour after his death in 1965. A statue of the former PM adorns the western edge of the square.

photo by author

The square is empty as construction of Edmonton’s underground Light Rapid Transit (LRT) line and massive overhaul of the main branch of the Edmonton Public Library have pushed popular Summer events to alternate locations. Work on the both public projects is expected to be completed in 2020.

photo by author

Facing Churchill Square is the performing arts venue the Winspear Centre  and while I’ve walked through its doors many times to attend Edmonton Symphony Orchestra concerts but learned from Mark that the Tyndall limestone quarried in Manitoba is flecked with small prehistoric fossils if you look closely enough.

photo by author

Tyndall stone has been used in many notable Canadian landmarks including the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, The Saskatchewan and Manitoba Legislative Buildings and the Empress Hotel in Victoria.

A block north of the Winspear Centre is the Art Gallery of Alberta with its distinctive steel superstructure that undulates like a Prairie snowdrift.  Architect Randall Stout drew his inspiration from an aerial view of Edmonton’s regular grid road pattern and the irregular shape of the North Saskatchewan River that cuts through it.

photo by author

An outdoor patio offers an excellent vantage point over Churchill Square, City Hall and CBC studios.

photo by author

Another block north of the art gallery is the new home of the Royal Alberta Museum which opens its doors in Fall 2018.  The museum was built on the former site of the city’s main post office and one holdover from that building many locals might recognize is the large clock on one wall.

photo by author

Edmonton’s CN Tower actually predates the much more famous and slender structure in Toronto by a half decade and at its completion in 1971 was the tallest skyscraper in Western Canada at 26 storeys. I couldn’t resist using the towers familiar vertical pattern in contrast with the vibrant floral mural crafted by noted local artist Giselle Denis.

photo by author

A few blocks West from the CN Tower rises an even taller skyscraper that will regain the title of tallest building in Western Canada, the 66 storey Stantec Tower on the left which is joined by its Ice District neighbor the JW Marriott Tower which reaches 56 storeys.

photo by author

The JW Marriott Tower was officially topped off May 8, 2018 and is expected to open in early 2019.

The Edmonton Ice District is a $2.5 Billion dollar development sports and entertainment district anchored by Rogers Place, the 18,500 seat arena  which is the home of the Edmonton Oilers.

I’ve attended several concerts and NHL games since the facility opened its doors but with thousands of fellow Edmontonians making it hard to pause and notice all the designs incorporated into it including the 45-foot diameter circular mosaic set in the floor of Ford Hall by Alberta artist Alex Janvier.

photo by author

Iron Foot Place” seeks to depict Edmonton’s natural beauty piece and is made of nearly one million byzantine glass tiles which took 20 helpers six months to put together.

Right under Ford Hall at street level is a statue of a famous artist who made his mark in the sports world which greets visitors to the building. The statue of ‘The Great One’ Wayne Gretzky was originally installed outside the former hole to the Oilers, Rexall Place, before being moved to its current location.

photo by author

Adjacent to the statue is the Oilers Hall of Fame room, a celebration of  the 44-years of hockey history complete with five replica Stanley Cups, jerseys and all kinds of memorabilia from the Oilers’ dynasty years.

photo by author

The tour’s last stop directly across from Rogers Place is the Neon Sign Museum which is the first of its kind in Canada. The City of Edmonton has restored 20 neon signs that adorned Edmonton businesses for decades and mounted them on one side of the TELUS Building.

photo by author

Plaques on the wall tell the story of each sign and business. The neon gallery is best viewed after dark but is well worth visiting at any time of the day.

Opposite the Neon Sign Museum is the Mercer Warehouse which was built in 1911 and is one of the oldest buildings along 104 Street in what’s become known as the Warehouse District. The red brick Edwardian design of the warehouse and others like it nearby serve as a sharp contrast to the glass and steel skyscrapers a scant few blocks away. Like many Edmontonians I’m glad this history was preserved so the old wasn’t lost to make way for the new.

The warehouse is home to the fantastically funky Mercer Tavern, entrepreneur support agency Startup Edmonton, and the  Baijiu Bar, a Shanghai chic, Asian fusion restaurant where the tour ended with light bites and refreshments.

photo by author

The two-hour tour is aimed at visitors to Edmonton but everyone is welcome to join the monthly tours to learn more about the city centre. For upcoming tours watch for announcements on the CBC Edmonton webpage.