~ Oil Sands Discovery Center ~
Did you ever wonder what it is that they do in the oil sands?
How do they separate the bitumen from the oil?
What sort of machinery is required?
What would it be like to work "on site"?
Well the closest you can go to getting these answers is the the Oil Sands Discovery Center, without donning a hard hat and safety boots. The Discovery Center informs the visitor of the history of the extraction of the oil from the Oil Sands, it informs them of the current procedures used, it even has a yard with some LARGE equipment you can look at without having to drive out to the sites.
The Discovery Center offers educations programs whether in the center, the classroom or even through video conferencing for distance education. The Discovery Center also has Child and Youth programs which are Discovery Lab, Saturday Morning Science and Summer Camps. If you are in Guiding or Scouting they also have a badge program for the Sparks, Brownies, Guides, Beavers, Cubs and Scout to add to their badges.
Just to give you and idea of how large the equipment is. The picture of the machine that is digging out the sand, the bucket it is using is the same size as two double size garages. The machinery is massive.
(May 15 through Labour Day)
Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm (closed Mondays)
Go here for their current admission rates
- Family Travel
- Business Travel
~ Fore ~
Looking for something to do on a sunny Sunday morning? Grab your clubs and head to the Golf Club in Thickwood. 18 holes of sheer beauty! The course is nestled along the Athabasca river where views are stunning.
There are different prices for the green fees. You can also rent golf clubs and power carts. If you need lessons they have them too. Check here for the current green fees and rentals.
Gentlemen – Acceptable Dress golf slacks, tailored shorts, golf shirt with collar, sweater, sweatshirt or pullover, jacket and rain gear.
Ladies – Acceptable Dress skirts, culottes, slacks, tailored shorts, blouses, golf shirt with collar, sleeveless golf shirt, sweater, sweatshirt or pullover, jacket and rain gear.
Watch for wildlife! You can encounter many types of wildlife on the course. Deer, fox, and even black bears have been found on the course.
- Business Travel
Learn about the oil industry
I've just visited Fort McMurray for the first time, and I can say there's not a ton to do there unless you're into outdoor activities. I was only there for the weekend with my siblings-in-law who live there, so we decided to check out the Discovery Centre as they hadn't been there either.
The museum isn't very big, and the display areas are laid out in a circle in the centre of the building. The displays are great. There is tons of information to take in and tons of interactive components like videos and examples of oil sands, bitumen, etc. They also have the front end of one of the giant trucks that you can climb up and sit in the cab of. It took us about an hour to go through the whole exhibit. There is a theatre that plays a 45 minute movie about the oil sands as well. I also took a peek into the kids play area, which was pretty fun!
They also have a great gift shop with post cards, magnets, t-shirts, mini dump trucks, books and a lot more.
The only disappointment was the Industrial Equipment Garden. I visited in March, and it wasn't open! There was no way for us to drive through. I was really looking forward to getting my picture taken with some giant trucks. I don't know if it's just a case of nobody shoveling the lot, but that's something that they should really do. I don't know when I'll be back to Ft Mac, but considering this was the first time I've been there in my life (and I'm a lifelong Albertan), I don't know that it will be very soon.
I still don't have my head 100% wrapped around what they do up there, but I have a much better idea now thanks to the Discovery Centre. Worth a visit if you're in Fort Mac.
Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for kids, and $20 for families.
- Museum Visits
The Magnificent Stone Wall
This historical building has been around for ages, what is usually observed by all tourists is the incrdible design of the stones put into this building. An apartment, which some lucky residents even call home!!!
The facinating design has visitors coming back for more because it simply cannot be denied!
World First Ever "Ramp Across the Road"
Although still under construction, this ramp will become famous world wide, it represents a fantastic display of art, where pedestrians and vehicles can enjoy being suspended in the air as they roll from one side to the other with a 12.5 m opening between the two sides of the ramp.
Pictures below show the construction that has begun, it is estimated that the "Fort McMurray Ramp Up" will be underway by early 2009.
Fort McMurray Art Gallery
The tremendous display of art that fills this place is one that has lasting memories. A recent report estimated the average value of each piece was worth over $670,400!! Visitors can enjoy the gallery for an unbelievably low cost of $25 for adults, $20 for students, children and seniors can enter for only $5.
The Famous Hanging Chair
Oh that historical hanging chair laying out there on Confederation road, many memories captured by the “Hanging Chair”, as it is now becoming one of Fort McMurray’s famous landmarks. It is very common to spot well known celebrities making the trip to this part of town to get a glimpse of the chair. A collective agreement has been passed recently by the Fort McMurray municipality which approved the 2006 proposal to start the construction for a SECOND HANGING CHAIR!! I know I was shocked to hear it myself but the excitement just took over, if all goes well the 2nd hanging chair should be up and running by mid-late 2009.
Mind-boggling Construction (Absolute work of art)
Astonishing to see a miraculous display of construction taking place all around town, surprising enough watching the construction take place is totally FREE!! Yup you heard right you can bring on your daily six-pack and sit by and watch the cranes go up and down carrying immense loads. An experience enjoyed by all ages and cultural backgrounds, you will find yourself losing track of the time as you spend time enjoying such a fantastic activity
Exquisite Choice of Alcohol
Enjoy a cool evening by the liquor store as the delightful breeze passes by, one cannot help but enjoy a sip of Fort McMurray’s superb selection of alcoholic beverages. The already charming work of art that is noticed in the streets will only become more lovely.
Luckily for the tourists you will not only find one but 2 liquor stores in every square kilometer, that means no matter where you are it's less than a 5 minute walk, so get out there and enjoy this great offer.
The Famous Disposal System
One cannot pass by and not remember the remarkable and illustrious disposal facilities brought upon all tourists in Fort McMurray. The impressive design and placement of the bins is majestic and skillful work of art distinctly unique to this beautiful town.
A fantastic high class restaurant with everything to offer, an unbelievably extraordinary crowd brings a lively experience that is enjoyed by all visitors and tourists. It’s become a very common saying amongst Boston Pizza loyalists and other visitors that once you go to Boston Pizza in Fort McMurray you never want to leave town and are they ever right, this amazing place brings a vibe into your blood that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Wood Buffalo Viewing Point
The land you are looking at from this spot was never mined, but it was the retaining pool for the Syncrude mine. This is Syncrude's first attempt to return land to the community. All the trees you see here were planted twice. Why? After they planted the first time, the buffalos ate all the trees. So the fenced off the forest area and planted them again.
There are a total of 300 buffalo in this herd. However, you'll probably only see about 10 of them from the viewing point. There are plans to move Hwy 63 in 2007. Once the highway is re-routed, Syncrude plans to put a new viewing point where much more of the buffalo herd will be seen.
Oil Sands Discovery Centre
Warning! You need to book your spot for this tour two weeks in advance. Fort McMurray Tourism runs the tour which will take you from the Oil Sands Discovery Centre which is just south of downtown Fort McMurray to the Syncrude plant at Mildred Lake about 40km north of the town.
You will visit the Wood Buffalo viewing area where a herd of 300 Wood Buffalo have been released onto former oil sands land that has since been replanted with trees and reclaimed as usuable land. Buffalo are not trained to respond to cameras; they are as active as cattle. We saw about 8 of them and they never moved. I was told this is pretty normal.
You will visit the Giants of Mining exhibit which is just outside the Syncrude plant. You can see some of the giant machines that have been used in the past to mine the oil.
You will be taken into the main plant area which is part of Syncrude's active oil sands operation. We saw the North Mine where work does not stop. Workers are on 12 hours shifts, two a day, for every day of the year, even Christmas!
Bring outdoor clothes to match the weather -- you will be outside several times for 15-20 minutes at a time. Bring water or something to keep your throat wet, it's a very dry area and there are no snack shops available on the tour.
This is a shot of one of the areas where Syncrude has extracted all the oil. Once the oil is gone, they backfill the area with a grey, sand like material. This is the first step in turning the land into usuable area.
Spring Home and Leisure Show - April 29 - May 1
Fort McMurray Tourism operates two annual general consumer trade shows, one in April and one in September. Apparently revenues generated provides the income to sustain the tourism office on a year round basis.
They take place at MacDonald Island and the shows attract exhibitors from across Canada who present a wide range of products, services and information.
Spring shows generally have up to 250 exhibitors and average attendance of 15,000 - 17,000 people over the three day period. The Fall show has about 170 exhibitors and attendance of 13,000 - 15,000. Source: Fort McMurray Tourism
I personally really enjoyed the tradeshow. Motorhomes and hot tubs seemed to be the two big ticket items that local people where most interested in but there was a tonne of other things from crafts to other regions of Alberta marketing themselves for holidays, places to do businesses and so on.
These shows are jammed packed and very very well attended.
- Business Travel