March 19, 2019
Last week my little family (myself, my husband Craig and our six year old daughter Aylah) took a trip to West Edmonton Mall for March break. I wanted to share our experiences and also give an honest review of the attractions at the mall. Prior to going I had read a blog post from another mom that was extremely helpful so I hope this post can do the same for someone else. It is a lengthy post, and I will not be offended if you just scroll through the pictures and ignore my rambling. Otherwise, grab a coffee and hunker down.
First I want to mention that our timing was somewhat intentional. Thinking about traveling on March break is probably making all of you parents curl up in the fetal position BUT, here’s the trick … we live in Ontario. Our March break is 2 weeks before Alberta’s March break … so while our Toronto airport was busy (though not unbearable), once we got to Edmonton it was a breeze because all of the local kids were still in school. Aylah was so excited to fly, it was her very first time on a plane. Everything about the airport and flight was smooth and uneventful!
We knew we wanted to stay at one of the hotels on site because we didn’t want to bother with renting a car and bringing a booster seat for Aylah and all of that. Not to mention it is March in Canada so not having to worry about the weather screwing up our plans was awesome too. We stayed inside for 6 solid days and pretended that Canadian winter wasn’t happening, lol. This brings me to our hotel stay. There are 2 hotels that are accessible from the mall, West Edmonton Mall Inn and Fantasyland Hotel … which one sounds funner to you? Lol. Truthfully I did absolutely no research at all on the West Edmonton Mall Inn because once I started down the Fantasyland rabbit hole there was no coming back. This place is over the top … as are the prices, BUT if you plan far enough in advance, I have a secret for you! Every Christmas (I believe they start selling them in November), they have a gift card promotion that is a steal of a deal! Essentially the room we booked was supposed to be $338 per night, and this holiday promotion got us the same room for $179 per night AND ten breakfast vouchers. Truthfully for how wonderful this place was I don’t think $338 is outrageous, but for $179 … START THE CAR!!!! Lol!
So because our flight was early in the morning, and there is a 2 hour time difference, we ended up landing at Edmonton Airport at 10:25am local time. I had already pre-booked an airport shuttle service (SkyShuttle), which was super easy and affordable. It cost $70 for the 3 of us round trip. There is a SkyShuttle desk right in the airport and the shuttles run every hour (on the half hour) and go right to the hotel. It was super easy. I pre-booked and prepaid online so I just showed the driver my confirmation number and away we went. I would recommend pre-booking though as the shuttles only carry 8 passengers and the one we ended up on was at max capacity. Since we pre-booked there were 3 seats saved for us but had we waited until getting to the airport to arrange our shuttle it may have been full and we would have had to wait an extra hour for the next one. Side note that for the return trip from the hotel to the airport you need to book your exact pickup time as they only stop at pre-booked pickup locations. It will not show up at the hotel unless your pickup time is pre-arranged. This process however was easy, and the driver arrived at the hotel earlier than he was supposed to and waited out front for us. Super easy and smooth experience.
So we arrived at the hotel at approximately noon and check in wasn’t until 4pm. We were able to have our bags held for us in a locked room without any issues and the concierge took down my cell phone number for them to text us when our room was ready. We got access to our room early at 2:30 which was awesome! While we were waiting we went to get our MultiPlay Passes (which I will elaborate on more later) and we caught our first of three sea lion shows (which I will also elaborate more on later).
Click HERE to see a bit of the show. It was awesome! So awesome that we went 2 more times that week. And I will say that even though there are some parts that are the same, as a whole all 3 shows were different enough that we thoroughly enjoyed each one!
After the sea lion show we still hadn’t heard from the hotel, so we decided to go and do one of the things at the top of Aylah’s list. Let me backtrack a bit by saying that we surprised her with this trip on Christmas morning and I had made a vision board with all sorts of pictures of the different things that we could do at WEM. Stuffy Riders was one of the pictures, and she talked about them constantly leading up to the trip, so we knew it was an absolute must. I know there are lots of malls that have these stuffy riders, but we don’t have them anywhere near our home so this was a new experience for us … Aylah LOVED them! See for yourself HERE. They are $8 to rent for 10 minutes and then 50 cents for every minute after that. We took Jerry out for about 30 minutes and it cost us just under $20. We knew we were going to have to do this a few more times over the course of the week so the dollar signs were adding up in my head $$$ … but we found a great secret that I’ll elaborate on later. 😉
Just as we were wrapping up with Jerry, I got the text that our room was ready, YIPEE!! We headed back to the hotel, collected our luggage (there was ALWAYS at least one person ready and waiting at the luggage desk to help us and they were super nice and friendly). And off we went up to our room to get settled …
Now before I show you any pictures, first let me elaborate a little more on the actual room that we booked. Fantasyland Hotel has normal rooms and executive suites yada yada yada, but what’s unique about this place are their THEME rooms. There are a number of different themes to choose from, but my family was clearly most interested in the space theme room. After the booking process I came to learn that the space theme is the most popular and books up the quickest so keep that in mind if you want to follow suit and book the same. I made sure to take loads of pictures of this room because they really outdid themselves in the design. It’s an experience Aylah will never forget and I must admit that Craig and I really got a kick out of it as well.
Aylah got to sleep in space pod bunk beds … how freakin’ cool is that! I will say that the lights inside these beds were a bit finicky to work and did cause some frustration at first. There is a little red dot that you have to press on to turn the lights on but it was very inconsistent. Sometimes you had to push hard, sometimes you just ran your finger over it lightly, sometimes you had to push to the left or right of the red dot. We struggled for a few minutes every morning to get them on and then just left them on all day as to not add aggravation to our vacation. Not a big deal, just something to note if you are planning to stay in one of these rooms. There are two small white lights at one end of the space pod (good for reading), and then the top and side are lit up by a black light. Looks cool, but isn’t very functional for actually don’t anything. Cool side-note though, since it was black light, Aylah’s jammies glowed, lol.
Something else I will note about this room is the lack of natural light. Since they have placed the bunks right in front of the windows there is essentially NO natural light whatsoever. It didn’t bother us much, and it actually helped Aylah to sleep in a bit later, but as soon as we all woke up I made it a point to turn ALL of the lights on because otherwise it still felt like the middle of the night which was a bit discombobulating. Ya, I said it!
The room also had TWO huge hi-def TVs. One centered with the bed and the other with the jacuzzi tub. Totally unnecessary and totally awesome, haha.
Another super neat thing about this room was the lighting. We were actually in the room for a good half hour before we even discovered this awesomeness, but there is this panel on the wall that controls customizable coloured lights. You can set it at whatever colour you want. They dim or brighten. Or you can even set it to a cycle which goes through all of the colours. Really really cool.
HERE is a video of a walk-through of the room showing the lights changing colours.
The bathroom was nice. It was clean and went with the space theme … although absolutely everything was black floor to ceiling. Yes it was appropriate for a space room, BUT if you are a woman wanting to put on makeup this will drive you nuts! The only lights are pot lights on the ceiling so you can imagine the wonderful shadows that creates. I don’t wear much makeup so it wasn’t a big deal for me but if you have an extensive getting ready routine you will probably hate this bathroom.
The rest of the first (travel) day was just spent exploring, eating dinner, relaxing in the room and getting to bed early. Our bodies were still on Ontario time and we had gotten up at 4:30 in the morning to catch our flight. Not to mention I brilliantly scheduled our early morning flight on the day that we lose an hour for daylight savings … UGH, that sucked!
The next morning we started with breakfast in L2 Grill. Fantasyland Hotel has two restaurants, L1 Lounge and L2 Grill. The buffet breakfast is served at the Grill and was outstanding! Our hotel package included vouchers for Craig and I so each day we only had to pay for Aylah’s “child breakfast” and the tip. The selection was outstanding! I believe they have a menu listed on their website but just to name a few items, scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs, pancakes, waffles, french toast, sausages, bacon, cereal, yogurt, fruit, toast, pastries … it was divine. By far the best part was the omelette station though. There were a dozen different toppings to choose from and they cook it fresh right in front of you! There is literally something for everyone at this buffet, even my super picky eater Aylah.
We never had any issue getting a table, but I did read some reviews that said it was so busy there was no point in even going. This was not our experience at all. I’m sure the busy factor or this whole mall would fluctuate depending on the time of week and time of year. We were there from a Sunday to Friday and had no issues. We did notice a bit more hustle and bustle on the Sunday and Friday so I imagine weekends are what you would want to avoid.
After breakfast we headed straight for Build-A-Bear Workshop. This has been a special occasion tradition in our little family for a while so we knew we were going to let Aylah get a souvenir build-a-bear to bring home.
She chose this dinosaur (totally an Aylah pick) and named him Toothless because, well, he has no teeth.
After dropping Toothless back off at the room we went for a game of mini-putt at Professor WEM’s Adventure Golf.
Now I will get into the MultiPlay Pass. Man oh man was this a good idea! The MultiPlay pass at West Edmonton Mall includes all of the major attractions, essentially unlimited. You can purchase a pass for 3 days, 7 days, 3 months or 1 year … we obviously did the 7 day pass. The 7 day pass was $199 per person, so yes it did come to over $600 BUT we would have easily spent that in the first 2 days alone has we not gotten the passes.
This is what the pass includes:
Galaxyland – Unlimited Access to all rides and attractions
World Waterpark – Unlimited Access to all rides and attractions (with the exception of the zipline and flowrider)
Professor WEM’s Adventure Gold – 1 game per day
Dragon’s Tale MiniPutt – 1 game per day
Labyrinth Mirror Maze – 1 game per day
Ed’s Bowling – 1 hour of bowling and shoe rental (per pass), so we could have played for 3 hours each day
Marine Life Caverns – Unlimited Access
Sea Lion Show – 1 show per day
Mayfield Palace skating rink – Unlimited Access during open skate times
Guys … I have to say, other than saving money obviously, the BEST part about getting the passes was that there was no pressure to make decisions about what to do. If you tried something and didn’t really like it, no money wasted, just move onto the next thing. If you loved something, do it 20 times in a row. No constantly reaching for the credit card, no adding up expenses and rationing the activities. We just floating from one thing to the next swiping our passes all over the place without a care in the world. It truly made it feel like a vacation. The sort of feeling you get at an all inclusive resort where you aren’t worried about the logistics you just do whatever you want with no strings attached. It was amazing!!
Also, be sure to download the MyWEM app onto your phone. When you buy these passes, or if you were to buy individual admissions to any of these attractions, you can earn points. The passes (since they are pricey) are worth a descent amount of points which can be redeemed other things which I will outline as I ramble on.
Where was I? Oh ya … back to the Adventure Golf. This golf course was really close to the hotel so we ended up doing it a couple of times for the convenience factor. It was really well made, super clean and really fun!
HERE’s a video of Aylah’s mad putting skills … watch out Tiger Woods!
Now here comes a little secret that saved us some serious dough. Remember those Stuffy Riders that Aylah loved so much? Well we found some inside Galaxyland (the amusement park). Under the rides at the lowest level there is a track called Galactic Rodeo. Since we had the MultiPlay Pass … we could ride them again and again at no cost!!!! Game changer! We did this numerous times as this was one of Aylah’s favourites. They are even sturdy enough for adults so it was something the three of us could do together at the same time … over, and over and over again (lol).
Galaxyland had so much to offer it was actually kind of ridiculous. We went to this place EVERY single day (so 6 days in a row) and we noticed different things almost every time. It’s massive. Now since we have a 6 year old we obviously stuck with the age appropriate rides for her, but this is no “carnival” folks, there were full fledged adult “lose-your-lunch” roller coasters, and many of them! It still boggles my mind that this is IN A MALL!!! There was a 7D theater that we didn’t do because Aylah didn’t meet the height requirement, but it did look super cool!
Here were a few more of Aylah’s favourites …
This girl couldn’t get enough of the spinning. I had to limit her to twice per day and not back to back or mom was gonna be sick. Take a look HERE.
But by FAR her MOST favourite was the Dragon Wagon. She rode this thing almost 30 times folks … THANK YOU MultiPlay pass for not having to limit her due to cost!!! (VIDEO)
So we ended up developing a routine early on. The main attractions close at 6pm, so we would keep busy with activities until the parks closed at 6:00 and then we would go for dinner or putter around the mall (open until 9). With Aylah being young we tried to be back in the room around 8ish to settle down, have a snack and have her sleeping by 9. On the 2nd night when we got back to the room we decided to try out the big tub. Aylah wasn’t too stoked on the jets, so we decided to do a normal bubble bath instead. We even found this adorable space bathing suit from Joe Fresh that matched with the room perfectly so I could post some internet-friendly pictures of her bath fun. She ended up having many of these evening bubble baths throughout the week and it was a good way to wind down after a busy day.
This mall became home for us over the next few days, and these amazing “landmarks” were just common views …
It’s just a pirate ship in the middle of the mall … nbd! I forgot to mention that the MultiPlay pass also included admission to board this boat (the Santa Maria) … which would have been interesting, but given our limited time and all of the other fun things to do, we didn’t end up doing this. They hold private functions as well, so it wasn’t always open to the public. Whenever they had their sign out “Closed for Private Event” Craig would always remark that he thought they missed a golden opportunity … he thought the sign should have said “Closed for Pirate Event” Hahaha. He’s all mine ladies!!
Next up was ice skating. Aylah has never ice skated before and wanted to give it a try. With admission being included in our passes it was the perfect opportunity. You can rent skates and helmets right at the rink.
This ended up being a bit of a flop and she didn’t really enjoy it at all, but it was a new experience that only cost us 20 minutes and zero dollars. 😉
And now onto MY personal favourite part of the trip … Sea Life Caverns and Sea Lion Rock. Sea Life Caverns was modest and cozy but they had 2 of my favourite things and they had them in abundance … penguins and sharks! I was beside myself!
I have many photos and videos of these beautiful creatures, most of which don’t do our experience any justice, but here is a VIDEO of just how interactive and playful they were …
They have daily presentations as well! At 1:00 they do a sea turtle feeding where divers get into the tank and hand feed the 200lb sea turtles and then at 3:00 they have a bamboo shark feeding at the touch pool where you can touch the little sharks and feed them too. So cool!
And then there’s the sea lions. I don’t even know where to start with these guys! They have sea lion shows at 2:00 and 4:00 daily (also noon on the weekends). The Multiplay pass is good for 1 show a day. We saw it 3 times, and as I mentioned before all 3 were different enough to be thoroughly enjoyable!
Some advice for the show. During the week it’s not that busy, but they do offer programs for school trips and such so even if the lineup at the gate doesn’t look long, half of the grand stand could be reserved for students. They open the gate 15 minutes prior to each show and sometimes the line starts forming 15 minutes before that. If you want front row seats, which I would highly recommend, then aim for arriving half hour before the show time. In the front row you get VERY close to the sea lions but only a couple drops as far as splashes go, it’s perfect.
Sea Lion VIDEO to give you a taste of the show.
Following each show you have an opportunity to get your photo taken with the sea lions (and a mystery animal that is different each time). We went on the 3rd time with the intention of getting these photos done and when I found out that the mystery animal was Skadoo the penguin I lost my mind. The photos are $10 for a digital copy (emailed to you) or $18 for a physical copy (printed on a sheet like school pictures). We were able to use our WEM rewards point to go towards these so we got 4 photos for free which should have cost us $40 plus tax.
Meet Skadoo the penguin and Pablo the sea lion.
I just fell in love with these gentle giants! Near the end of the trip I think I finally figured out why I loved them so much … they reminded me of my pup at home who I missed greatly. Please tell me you see the resemblance too … LOL!
After dinner on day 2 we decided to check out the bowling situation. Ed’s Bowling was a full-sized 10 pin “glow in the dark” bowling alley with food and arcade games and the whole nine yards. The best part though, was the Kingpin area. The Kingpin area was set apart from the traditional lanes and it was perfect for little ones. It was still 10 pins but with smaller balls, it was quieter and much more appropriate for a little girl up past her bedtime. I would highly recommend going this route if you have young children. When we went there were multiple lanes available, but I imagine on a busier night of the week it would fill up fast so making reservations (which can be done through the MyWEM app) would probably be a good idea.
There is also an escape room located in the lobby of the bowling alley, and while it looked super cool, we didn’t want to risk it being scary in any way for Aylah so we passed. It also was not included in our Multiplay passes.
Day 4 was World Waterpark Day. We had briefly visited on a prior day just to dip our toes in (since our passes were unlimited we didn’t need to commit to a whole day to “get our money’s worth”). But on day 3 we decided to cash in the majority of our MyWEM reward points and rent a cabana. BEST DECISION EVER!! The waterpark is huge, and busy, and though it wasn’t a big deal when we were there, I would image that the first-come-first-serve lounge chairs would be gone 10 minutes after opening on a weekend. The cabana (which is worth $125 per day, but we got for free with our points) was AMAZING!!
It’s your own private curtained area with a “dining” table with 4 chairs as well as a “coffee” table and 2 small couches. The perfect spot to have some lunch and rest between swims. The most valuable thing in my opinion though was the huge lockable storage container. This allowed me to bring my “real” camera to get some great pictures and be able to lock it up and still have some water-related fun with my family. The curtain draws completely closed to you can use the cabana as a change room and you also get access to a semi-private washroom only for cabana renters. This allowed us to competely bypass the annoying and crowded bathroom/changeroom area and just use our own private spaces. It was glorious! Even if we didn’t have any rewards points I would have invested in this cabana rental … it completely changed the experience of the day compared to the other brief visits we had at the waterpark. If you don’t have a cabana, you can rent a small locker in the change area, though it’s very far from the actual pool area so going back and forth (like I wanted to do with my camera) wouldn’t have really been an option.
There are a few different food stands in the waterpark (thinks like hotdogs, nachos and pizza) and there is free unlimited soft drinks throughout the park which is super nice. The temperature is really warm overall. If you’re not swimming, it feels like a sauna, but once you’re wet it’s just perfect! The water is also the perfect temperature. I usually run pretty cold and swimming places like this often give me blue lips, but I was very comfortable here (wet or dry).
After having some lunch and cooling off we hit the water.
VIDEO of Aylah dipping her toes in …
Tubes are available for rent, though I don’t remember how much they were because I used some of our MyWEM reward points for this too. Life jackets are free.
There is a zipline that runs directly over the wave pool which is really cool to watch, though we were not interested at all in trying this terrifying activity, lol. There is also FlowRider which is a surf simulator that was also fun to watch, though we didn’t try it. There are too many slides to count, different sizes appropriate for all ages. There is also a massive splash pad that would have been perfect for Aylah’s age IF she didn’t mind her face getting really wet. Aylah isn’t super comfortable in the water so we mostly just hung out in the wave pool. There is a kiddie pool area for the younger ones, the water is much warmer (like bath temperature) and there are some water play activities and small slides … it would be perfect for toddlers and preschoolers!
On Day 5 we went to check out Dragon’s Tale (glow in the dark) Miniputt as well as the Labyrinth (mirror maze). I thought the miniputt was really well done, as was the mirror maze (though it would have been nice if it was longer). Both of these were included in our passes.
Before going to the miniputt Aylah was sure to pick out a shirt that she knew would glow. We tested all of her outfits under the blacklight of her space pod bunk and she decided on her sunglasses tee because the pink ones glowed really good. Hehe … kids are adorable!
And a family vacation wouldn’t be complete with Aylah’s pal HipHip coming along for the ride. We even went to Once Upon A Child before the trip and got HipHip some rad space jammies to wear! Speaking of HipHip, super funny story …
So we decided that anything we considered to be irreplaceable would travel in our carry-on luggage, just in case God forbid something should happen to our checked bags. HipHip of course fell into that category. Since Aylah’s carry-on was stuffed to the brim with activities to keep her busy on the 4 hour flight, HipHip ended up traveling in Daddy’s backpack. So here’s my unshaven hubby with a hoodie on lookin’ all thug life, making his way through airport security with a stuffed hippo in his backpack. Nothing to see here. The backpack goes through the scanners and is immediately flagged. They empty out a few items that might be the problem (a Nintendo Switch, other electronics) and send it through the scanner again. Still a red flag. They empty out more and discover that it’s the hippo … HipHip is the culprit. Why you ask? Well what I failed to mention is that HipHip has a hotpack inside of him. And what does that look like going through an airport scanner you ask? Well my friends that appears exactly like we are trying to smuggle drugs onto the plane in our daughter’s stuffed hippo. *facepalm* We all had a good laugh, guard included. Needless to say the next time HipHip travels with us the hotpack will be staying at home.
All in all it was a FANTASTIC trip and I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who prefers indoor activities like ourselves. A little bit of research can save you a boat load of money (hopefully I have helped you with that too), and plan your days around when things are open and closed so you don’t waste any valuable fun time. 🙂 For instance play miniputt between 10 and 12 and go bowling or shopping after 6. Save 12-6 for the sea lion shows, Galaxyland and the Waterpark.
And before I conclude I would also like to give two huge shout outs … one to my mother-in-law for taking us to and from the airport (at ungodly hours, BOTH times) … and also to my mom for taking wonderful care of our 3 beloved pets in our absence.
Feel free to comment with any questions you have and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Please note that this blog post is not sponsored by or affiliated with West Edmonton Mall in ANY way and it is only a candid and honest review of my own experiences while staying there.