Blackpool Illuminations 2009: Fun for all the Family

One of the UK theme parks I‘ve really fell in love with is Pleasure Beach (in case you couldn’t tell hehe). So, I did a bit more exploring, and here’s what I’ve found so far…

Blackpool's Central Pier -- Ferris Wheel(credit)

If you’re looking to view a dazzling light show this year, Blackpool Illuminations 2009 will tantalize, amaze and delight your whole family. This time-honored tradition attracts visitors to the area in their droves, and the Illuminations remain one of Blackpool’s most popular tourist hotspots. Surrounded by luxurious casinos, the Pleasure Beach family theme park, and spacious beaches, the Illuminations thrill tourists year after year with their innovative designs, spectacular visual illusions, and amazing colors.

Here is a whistle-stop tour of Blackpool’s world-renowned Illuminations. From its historic conception to this year’s show, families from all over the world have been left gasping in wonder as they travel the colorful miles together.

Read the rest of the post at its new home here:  http://www.traveltheprairies.com/canada/blackpool-illuminations/

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Massive Mountain Rock Travels More Than 200 Miles from the Rocky Mountains

Fascinating Alberta Travel Destinations

Fascinating Alberta Travel Destinations

©2008AngieHaggstrom

Imagine, a massive 17 ton rock falls more than 200 miles from the mountains and lands in the middle of the prairie landscape. That is exactly what happened in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada. How about that for a fascinating stop in your Alberta travel plans?

Of course the idea that this massive rock rolled just shy of 250 miles isn’t possible. This large chunk of quartzite, known simply as ‘The Big Rock’ or ‘Okotoks Erratic Rock,’ was actually carried away by glacier ice more than 10 000 years ago. Quartzite is one of the hardest substances on earth, but this trait also makes it very fragile.

Experts believe that an ancient rockslide caused this piece of mountain to land on a glacier that was flowing down the Athabasca River that once flowed wildly past Jasper. Eventually, the glaciers began to melt and deposited into the middle of the grassland. As one traveler wrote about in his post, the local Aboriginals have their own unique story about the rock’s origins. For more information see this great page from Alberta Heritage.

The true magnitude of the stone is understood when you stand beside it. It has a way of humbling you and giving you a true perception of size and the realities of this world. It isn’t the only one. In fact the region from Jasper into the northern half of Montana is known as the Foothills Erratics Train and is the largest in North America.

If you do decide to travel to Okotoks, there are many other interesting things to do in and around the region. Several different tours are available that will take you through Okotoks and throughout Kananaskis and the Foothills. The town is only a 15 minute drive from Calgary.

The beautiful outdoors attracts people here from all over the world. In the winter, the region has some of the best skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing in the country. Snowmobiling is a popular activity with the local residents and tourists alike.

For summer travel plans, there are tons of beautiful trails that you can hike, ride, and drive. The Cowboy Trail is a great opportunity to experience real modern life on a ranch with a taste of the area’s history. Water sports such as water skiing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canoeing are also popular sumer activities in the region.

How about a visit to the Chinook Honey Company? You get to tour a real bee keeping operation in action. You get to see how the honey gets from the bee to the table as well as other delicious treats and interesting items such as beeswax candles, beauty products, honey mead, and honey chocolate! They offer tours and tastings all year around.

Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump

Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump

One site embedded deep in the local Aboriginal culture is the World Historic Site known as Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump. (Virtual tour anyone? It takes a few extra seconds to load, but it is the next best thing to being there.) For almost 6 000 years, the local tribes would chase the buffalo up this massive cliff and run them off the edge. The buffalo would fall approximately 10 meters and either die or be hurt badly enough that the people could kill them The meat, bones, hides, and every aspect of the animal was used for many necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, and tools.

Many more sites and scenes are hidden throughout the region. The natural history of the land and the deep culture of the people here are displayed for all the world to explore. Whether you arrive by plane, car, bike or two feet, there is something for everyone in Okotoks.

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/massive-mountain-rock-travels-200-miles-rocky-mountains/)

Include Pyramids, Unique Festivals, and Pure Canadian Culture in Your Edmonton Travel Plans

Tons of other Edmonton attractions and activities exist outside of the West Edmonton Mall in this lively capitol city. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada is an important cultural hub for the prairies. The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and more than 30 festival held here each year perfectly compliment the excellent shopping restaurants, and hotels. Edmonton travel plans are easily customized to suit everyone’s tastes.

The popularity of the Edmonton Gay Pride is quickly growing, but so are the other festivals held in the city every year. For music lovers, the Edmonton International Jazz Festival, Capital EX, Yardbird Jazz Festival, the Folk Music Festival, Edmonton Labatt’s Blues Festival, and the Symphony Under the Sky are just a few of the events sure to thrill.

Read the rest here on the new site: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/pyramids-festivals-canadian-culture-edmonton-travel-plans/)

Family Travel Plans? Visit North America’s Largest Mall

West Edmonton Mall

Top Alberta Travel Destinations: West Edmonton Mall

©2008Angie Haggstrom

For any of you planning a family trip to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, a visit to West Edmonton Mall is a definite must. The mall has a huge selection of various stores, but there is so much more to see and do. There is a large water park, ice skating, movie theatres, amusement park, golfing, marine mammals and so much more. Anything you and your family would want to do is all in one place. Just one thing: you might want to reserve one or two entire days in your travel itinerary for this Edmonton Attraction.

The mall opened in 1981 with a total cost of more than $1.2 billion dollars. The mall takes up 570 000 square miles, which is equivalent to 48 city blocks! Currently, the mall sees an estimated 28.2 million visitors a year and is the largest mall in North America (5th largest in the world) Once you get inside you’ll see why! Don’t worry though…parking won’t be a problem with more than 20 000 spaces available.

Once you get inside, Galaxyland amusement park is a great place to start. The Mindbender roller coaster is three loops of pure adrenaline rush. From there, you have to try the tower! The rest of the park is filled with swinging rides like swings and ships, the fun house, and a special set of rids designed for the younger ones.

After the thrills and chills, how about some water fun? The World Waterpark located inside the mall is also the largest indoor waterpark and wave pool in North America. The waves are fun, but there are all sorts of thrilling waterslides and a special area for the little swimmers. If that isn’t enough, how about bungee jumping over the water?

Animal lovers have not been left out at West Edmonton Mall either. The salt-water exhibit called Sea Life Caverns comes complete with a sunken ship. Here, you can watch sea lions, penguins and other marine animals play and put on a show or play bumper boats. If you travel a little farther in the mall, you will find the fantastic petting zoo. If you would rather go ice skating than petting animals, you can do that here to at the Ice Palace!

Other attractions and activities in the mall include 2 mini-golf courses, movie theatres, casino, rec centre, shooting range, skate park, arcades and many, many more than there is room to list. Generally, anything you want to do or see can be found here. To make it even easier, you can even stay right in the mall in the Fantasyland Hotel and stay in a themed room. Be warned, however, that this one can get a bit pricey. The West Edmonton Mall Inn is great option for those on a little tighter budget.

When it comes to the shopping, it is just as diverse as the attractions will more than 800 stores and restaurants. You will find places like Zellers, London Drugs, and HMV as well as Abercrombie & Fitch, Swarovski, and Urban Behavior. The mall also has three themed shopping areas to help you find precisely what you are looking for – Bourbon Street, Europa Boulevard, and Chinatown.

The mall’s owners currently have plans to add on an additional 30 000 square meters of stores, an office building, trade show and convention center, apartment building and additional parking. Sound like fun? Just wait till you get there!

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/north-americas-largest-mall/)

Alberta Travel Plans Fit for the Stars: Hollywood’s Top Alberta Scenes

Visit Famous Hollywood Movie Sets In Alberta, Canada

Visit Famous Hollywood Movie Sets In Alberta, Canada

©2008Angie Haggstro

Have you ever seen a setting so beautiful you felt inspired and uplifted? If you have, you aren’t the only one. The same scenes that inspire you are the same ones that have attracted Hollywood’s producers and big name stars like Brad Pitt and Heath Ledger. Several areas in Alberta have been the backdrop for Hollywood movies and once you see them for yourself, you will easily see why.

The city of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada has been a popular place for stars like Robin Williams and LL Cool J. Both stars stayed in the local Ramada Inn while filming their movies “RV” and “Rollerball.” In fact, Robin Williams enjoyed eating at one of the local Mexican restaurants known as “El Comal” and biked through Henderson Park.

If you drive just outside of Lethbridge to Monarch, you might recognize the area as the background for the chase between the ‘Big Rolling Turd’ and the Gornicke’s bus. While Writing-On-Stone Provincial Park, between Lethbridge and Milk River, was one of the main locations of the “RV” movie. You need a guide to see this area, but it is well worth it! The cast and crew as we as the ‘Munros’ enjoyed eating and staying right in Milk River.

Movies have gained a unique Canadian touch in the little town of Fort Macleod. “Brokeback Mountain” (See Below) and “Passchendaele” have used the historic main street of this sweet little town to its fullest advantage. The Red Coat Inn was the place of choice for the cast and crew. Southwest of Claresholm, a short drive away, is the Hart family land. You do need permission to enter, but once inside, you will quickly feel like you are in the ‘Brokeback Mountain’ movie. The land and cabin here were the centre of the storyline surrounding Alma and Ennis.

Brooks was also popular with movie stars and crew. Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood stayed in the Heritage Inn and Convention Center while on set for “Unforgiven” and Robin Williams stayed at the Heritage Inn and Suites and enjoyed eating at O’Sheas. “Texas Rangers” was filmed not far from the city of Brooks, Alberta.

Calgary’s Heritage Park and its operational steam engine were used as a set for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Redford.” Another area just west of the city also has a history with filmmakers. Highway 1 heading to Banff has been very popular with Hollywood. More than 40 movies have used this area including “Shanghai Noon,” “Legends of the Fall,” Open Range,” and “Lonesome Dove.”

The Badlands of Drumheller and Horseshoe Canyon were used for several scenes in “Unforgiven.” Many areas surrounding Drumheller were used in movies. Midland Provincial Park was used in the movie “Roughing It,” the local golf and country club was used in the movie “Where the Dinosaurs Roam,” and East Coulee was used for movies such as “You Know My Name,” “Dino Sapien TV,” and “Children of Fortune.”

There are many more locations and movie sets in Alberta. This beautiful province is what fairy tales are made from. Travel to Alberta to see for yourself!

*More information on locations used for the movie “Brokeback Mountain” visit http://www.findingbrokeback.com/

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(This post can now be found here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/alberta-hollywood/)

Experience Real Life in the Canadian Prairies: Unique Alberta Vacations

Cabin Rentals, Ranch Vacations, and Pure Alberta Relaxation

Cabin Rentals, Ranch Vacations, and Pure Alberta Relaxation

©2008Angie Haggstrom

Vacations don’t have to include a visit to the same old hotel setting or the usual sightseeing tours. For something new and unusual, how about going on a true country vacation this year? Different styles of western vacations are available throughout the province. If you want to experience life in the Canadian Rockies, in Northern Alberta, or in the Southwest, go for it!

Alberta cottages in the southern portion of the province are a great way to experience a true country vacation no matter what time of year. Lyndon Creek Cottage, just outside of Claresholm is a wonderful place to spend your vacation. Here, you can stay in the rustic yet lavish guest house and enjoy waking up to the peaceful countryside of the Alberta Foothills. From here, you can explore the area including attractions such as the Birds of Prey Centre, Waterton National Park, Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump and many of the natural wonders in the area. Outdoor adventures like skiing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding and other activities are here as well. You get the enjoyment of living out in the country with the freedom of a hotel vacation!

Cabins in the wild Canadian Rocky Mountains are another great way to experience real life in the area. The Brewster Adventures allow you to live the history of the local area in a way that is not possible with a museum visit. Horseback riding on a 4-day pack trip takes you deep into the nearby Banff National Park where you can see the untamed wildness from a fresh perspective. Spend your days exploring the mountains and sleeping at night in an historic log cabin. They also offer day trail rides of Banff and genuine western barbeques in the Lake Louise area.

Guest ranches in Alberta give you the opportunity to witness life on the ranch first hand. You can watch the ranchers go about their daily lives of looking after their animals, and enjoy complete relaxation untainted by the rush of city life. The Lakeview Guest Ranch not far from Edmonton, Alberta is a prime example. Relax around the waterfront property and take part in your favorite activities. It is one of those vacations where doing nothing is truly a wonderful experience. Meals are made from scratch and offer the finest in Western Canadian cuisine. They even offer a selection of special programs and activities off and on throughout the year.

For those looking to truly experience life on a ranch in the Canadian Prairies, consider a real working ranch vacation. These vacations give you the opportunity to work and live on a real ranch. Red Lodge Guest Ranch lets you rent one of their comfortable Alberta cabins or stay in the ranch house. They bring you along and guide you through the various jobs done on the ranch including riding, moving and feeding cattle, and working with the horses. The vacation isn’t all work! There are trail rides and other fun activities to enjoy. If you choose to opt out of the ‘working vacation’ there are an unlimited number of activities and relaxation opportunities available. Volleyball, baseball, wagon rides, or just enjoying the fresh air. There is also a group lodge and camp sites available for visitors.

Take an entirely new vacation and experience real life in the Canadian Prairies! For more information, visit Alberta Western & Cowboy Vacations.

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(This post now appears here: http://www.traveltheprairies.com/alberta/real-life-canadian-prairies-unique-alberta-vacations/)