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Fort McMurray

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Travel Warning WARNING: A wildfire ripped through Fort McMurray in May 2016. Though citizens have since returned, areas such as Beacon Hill, Waterways, and Abasand have yet to return to normal.
Downtown Fort McMurray

Fort McMurray, colloquially known as Fort Mac, is a city in Alberta, Canada. It is the largest settlement in Athabasca Oil Sands region. Although it has the look and feel of a city, it lost its city status in 1995 when it merged with a large rural area to form the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo [17].


Districts[edit]

Neighbourhoods the make up Fort McMurray include:

  • Downtown, or Lower Townsite, is the centre of action that takes place in the town. Fairly easy to navigate, the main throughfare is the ever so congested Franklin Avenue. Most of the city's services are here. You can expect to find the box-stores here, restaurants, clubs, shopping malls, and more.
  • Gregoire - A combination of trailer parks, condos, and retail. There are a few restaurants and stores in this neighbourhood, as well as a selection of both hotels and motels. This and Downtown are the only parts of Fort McMurray with hotels.
  • Beacon Hill - A primarily residential community, has some stores and an arena, 80% of it was destroyed in the 2016 Fire.
  • Waterways - The oldest settlement in Fort McMurray. Virtually destroyed in 2016 fire.
  • Abasand Heights - Primarily residential with several services. 50% destroyed in 2016 Fire.
  • Thickwood, or Thickwood Heights is a large subdivision with approximately 20,000 people making it the second largest subdivision in Fort McMurray. Services here are on par with downtown.
  • Dickinsfield - Primarily residential with two schools, and a strip mall with a gas station, a very small bar, a hair salon, and a tanning salon.
  • Wood Buffalo - Primarily residential with several services, a newer area of town.
  • Timberlea - The largest subdivision in FortMac with approximately 35,000 people. Most of the new construction in town takes place in this area. Most of this area is residential, however several supermarkets, restaurants, and stores have already opened up, with a new shopping area currently being built in Eagle Ridge. Timberlea breaks off into several smaller sub-divisions such as Eagle Ridge, Stone Creek, etc.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Fort McMurray Airport (YMM) [18] is serviced by both Westjet and Air Canada, and has several flights daily between Edmonton, Calgary, and Toronto.

By car[edit]

Alberta Highway 63 is the only road that goes in and out of Fort McMurray. It it paralleled by Highway 881 for about 200 kilometres. Going north, Highway 63 is divided up until the Athabasca River crossing just south of Fort MacKay, while southbound is divided up to the intersection of Alberta Highway 55, near Grassland, Atmore, and Plamondon. Southbound traffic leaving town is abundant between Thursday evening and Friday evening, while Sunday afternoons and evenings are the worst for northbound traffic coming back into town.

Beware that Highway 63, both north and south of town, is notorious for vehicle accidents that unfortunately result in fatalities. In addition to the sheer amount of traffic caused by both commuters and weekend getaway seekers, most structures for the oil sands are built in Edmonton and trucked up north, which can take up the entire highway. Cellphone service can also be weak to non-existent in some parts. It's best to leave town on a full tank of gas and a full stomach, as the only places to get food and gas up going southbound are in Wandering River (over 200km away) and after that, Grassland (255km south of Fort McMurray). Going north, there are gas stations, restaurants, and convenience stores in Fort MacKay, and after that, nothing else. If you are unaccustomed to driving on remote highways, or feel that you cannot handle sharing the road with enormous truck loads and a high volume of vehicular traffic, consider taking the bus or flying.

By train[edit]

Passenger rail service ended in 1986. While there's been some talk about upgrading the existing rail freight corridor, there's no real prospect of bringing it back at this time.

By bus[edit]

Fort McMurray is served by Greyhound [19] and Red Arrow Motorcoach [20] from Edmonton. Greyhound buses leave Edmonton twice daily: one bus leaving as 12:30am and arriving at 6:45am, and another leaving at 1:30pm with a 6:30pm arrival. For Red Arrow in Edmonton, there are two daily departures: one at 9:00am, arriving in Fort McMurray at 2:20pm, and one at 5:30pm, arriving in Fort McMurray at 10:50pm.

Get around[edit]

Fort McMurray is in fact, a loose cluster of several dozen subdivisions, many having only one entry/exit. Most subdivisions are pedestrian friendly, however to travel from one part of town to the other end, a vehicle is definitely recommended.

Fort McMurray has an extensive public transit system that reaches all areas of the city, including the airport. It is common however for the buses to be late or have long waiting periods between each service. One way fares are $1.25 (including to the airport), with fares being waived for children under 5 and seniors over 65.

Taxi cabs are easily available. Taxi cab companies include:

  • Access Taxi - 1-780-799-1234
  • Hank's Quickcabs - 1-780-750-4265
  • Metro Taxis - 1-780-750-5050
  • Sun Taxi - 1-780-743-5050
  • United Class Cabs - 1-780-743-1234
  • Wood Buffalo Co-Op Taxi - 1-780-743-9111

See[edit][add listing]

The Oil Sands Discovery Centre, 515 MacKenzie Boulevard, +1 780 743-7167, [21]. September 4 - May 13, 10AM-4PM, closed Mondays. The Centre offers an insight on the rapid pace of development happening north of the city. In addition it explains the history of the oil sands, how the oil sand is mined and converted into product, and future ways of extracting the oil sand. The Discovery Centre also shows exhibits of machines that are used to process the oil sand.

Fort McMurray Tourism, 1-800-565-3947, [22], schedules tours of Syncrude or Suncor, the main oil sand plants, from May to September. Reservations are required 24 hours in advance (one week to 10 days advance booking recommended). Children under 12 are not allowed on the tour.

Aurora Borealis, the "Northern Lights" are a must see in Fort McMurray. Tours guides such as Alta-Can Aurora Tours 1-780-452-5187 [23], and Aurora Tours 1-780-334-2292 [24] can arrange viewings of the elusive lights.

Do[edit][add listing]

Points North Adventures, +1 780 743-9350, [25], offers canoe trips and rentals, river tours, and jet boat rides.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Souvenirs of Fort McMurray and the oil sands can be found at the Discovery Centre, Heritage Park, and retail locations such as the city's two Dollar Stores, located downtown and in Timberlea. The Discovery Centre sells small vials of crude oil extracted from the various facilities outside of the city.

Fort McMurray has several shopping areas and malls, the largest being Peter Pond Shopping Centre, 9713 Hardin Street, +1 780 791-4044, [26]. It is, however quite small for a city of 80,000 people. A larger outdoor shopping plaza, The Commons At Eagle Ridge, is in development in Timberlea, with the first phase expected to be opened in the Fall of 2018. It's only known tenants so far are Cineplex, Dairy Queen, Pet Valu, Starbucks, A&W, Banquet Premium Wine Bar, a bakery, a cannabis shop, a gym, two restaurants, a dental office, a liquor store, a barber shop.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Budget[edit]

Fast food chains such as McDonalds, Tim Hortons, Burger King, A&W, Wendy's, Edo Japan, Subway, and Dairy Queen can be found all over the city. Budget Pizza chains operating in the city are: Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, Pizza 73, Little Caesar's, and Papa John's.

Ms.B's – family owned restaurant with all-day breakfast; two locations.

Kozy Korner Cafe – family owned restaurant popular with Newfoundlanders living in the city.

Mom's Kitchen – budget all-day breakfast restaurant located inside River City Centre.

McRay's Roudhouse Grill – in Gregoire, attached to Best Canadian Motor Inn.

Mid-Budget[edit]

Mid-Budget chain restaurants in the city include Moxie's, Montana's, Original Joe's, Canadian Brewhouse, Cora, and Boston Pizza. Local pizzerias such as Jomaa's, Supreme Pizza, Cosmos Pizza, Crown Pizza, Pizza Plus, and Hu's, could be considered mid-budget in comparison to the chains.

Mitchell's Cafe

Chez Max Jamaican Cuisine

Spices Indian Restaurant

Jack's BBQ Express

Kebab Houzz

World Bridge Buffet

Spring Moon Japanese Restaurant – two locations

Fuji Japanese Restaurant

Yoshi Japanese Restaurant

Town Hall Public House

East Village Pub

Wood Buffalo Brewing Company

Asta Trattoria Italiana

Splurge[edit]

The Keg

Earls (2 locations; downtown and Fort McMurray Airport)

Prime Social Kitchen

Drink[edit][add listing]

The legal drinking age in Alberta is 18.

Black Horse Pub - located in Thickwood.

The Fort McMurray Newfoundlanders Club - A very popular spot with the locals. All kinds of music is played here. Club mix, country, rock, and yes, Newfie music. Be sure that if you're going to show up on a Friday or Saturday night, come early, as this place fills up quickly.

Bailey's Pub - located inside the Stonebridge Hotel, next to World Bridge Buffet.

Tavern on Main - kind of hard to find, it is located behind the Greystone Building.

Showgirls Exotic Night Club

Podollan Pub

Sociables - located in Thickwood

Jaguar Lounge - extremely small bar located in Dickinsfield.

Brewski's - located in Gregoire.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Budget[edit]

  • McMurray Inn Motel, 9906 Saunderson Ave, (780) 743-1700. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Downtown motel facing the Highway 63 corridor, within walking distance of restaurants and the mall. Free Wi-Fi and parking available. Pets not allowed. Staff also speaks Korean and Chinese.  edit
  • Ace Inn, 9913 Biggs Avenue,, (780)715-2219, [1]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Located behind McMurray Inn Motel. Free Wi-Fi, continental breakfast, and parking. Pets not allowed.  edit
  • Best Canadian Motor Inns - Downtown, 8538 Franklin Ave, 1-888-700-BCMI(2264), [2]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. One of two BCMI's in Fort McMurray. This downtown location is located near the hospital, Wal-Mart, and many restaurants. Located on the public transit's Route 11, which will take you to and from the airport, as well as to other parts of town. Free Wi-Fi, continental breakfast, and parking. Pet friendly.  edit
  • Best Canadian Motor Inns - Gregoire (Rusty's), 385 Gregoire Drive, 1-888-700-BCMI(2264), [3]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. The second BCMI location. Located on city transit's Route 11, which will take you to and from the airport, and to downtown. No free breakfast, but has a McRay's Grill on site, and is within walking distance of McDonald's. Free Wi-Fi, and parking. Pet friendly.  edit
  • Super 8 Motel (formerly known as Ridgewood Inn), 230 Parent Way, 1-800-454-3213, [4]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Modern motel located in Gregoire. Free Wi-Fi, continental breakfast, and parking. Pet Friendly.  edit

Mid Range[edit]

  • Merit Hotel & Suites, 8200 Franklin Avenue, 1-866-650-FORT (3678), [5]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Located downtown, this hotel comes equipped with both standard hotel rooms, as well as extended-stay suites. One of the only hotels in the city that has a pool with a water slide. Located on city's public transit route 11, is across the street from the city's Red Arrow Terminal, and less than 5 minutes away from the Greyhound Station. On-site restaurant (PRIME Test Kitchen). Convenience store, liquor store, fast-food restaurants across the street. Free Wi-Fi- and Parking. Pet friendly.  edit
  • Nomad Inn, 10006 MacDonald Avenue, 1-866-650-3678, [6]. checkin: 15:00-0:00; checkout: 11:00-12:00. Public Transit main terminal located at doorstep. Free Wi-Fi and Parking, with restaurants, a 7-11, and a liquor store all less than 5 minute walk away.  edit
  • Bridgeport Inn, 10021 Biggs Ave, 1-888-747-0074, [7]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Located in a quieter part of downtown. Not much amenities near by, except for Earl's, A&W, and a Gas Station. Free Wi-Fi, parking, and continental breakfast.  edit
  • Chez Dube Country Inn, 10102 Fraser Avenue, +1-800-565-0757, [8]. Locally owned Bed & Breakfast that backs onto Borealis Park. Rates start at $149/night. Free Wi-Fi, parking, and unlimited passes to the city's YMCA facility.  edit
  • Vantage Inn & Suites, 200 Parent Way, 1-866-650-FORT(3678), [9]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Fairly modern Gregoire-area hotel. Free Wi-Fi, parking, and continental breakfast. Pet friendly.  edit
  • Stonebridge Hotel, 9713 Hardin Street, 1-780-743-3301, [10]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Ultra convenient hotel, with Boomtown Casino, Peter Pond Mall, Tim Hortons, Wendy's and Montana's at it's doorstep, with an on-site pub (Bailey's) and buffet restaurant (World Bridge Buffet). Rates start at $119/night. Free Wi-Fi and parking. Pet friendly.  edit
  • Quality Hotel & Conference Centre, 424 Gregoire Drive, 1-780-791-7200, [11]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Located in Gregoire, next door to McDonalds. On the public transit's route 11, which can take you to and from the airport, and to downtown. Two restaurants on site: Table 63 for home cooked food, and Lion's Deb, a pub with the usual faire of pizza and wings. Great for business travelers. Free Wi-Fi, parking, and continental breakfast. Pet friendly.  edit

Splurge[edit]

  • Best Western Plus Sawridge Inn & Suites, 410 TaigaNova Crescent, 1-888-729-7343, [12]. checkin: 16:00; checkout: 12:00. The newest hotel in the city, located in the Taigonova Industrial Park, and the only hotel on the north side of town. Lots of on-site amenities. Free Wi-Fi, parking, and continental breakfast. Pet friendly.  edit
  • Franklin Suite Hotel, 10300 Franklin Ave, 1-866-650-3678, [13]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Located on a quieter side of downtown, near the Athabasca River and MacDonald Island. Free Wi-Fi, parking, and continental breakfast.  edit
  • Platinum Suites Hotel, 8530 Franklin Ave, 1-780-747-7878, [14]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Located in the heart of downtown. Wal-Mart, the hospital, and many other amenities are nearby. Free Wi-Fi, parking, and continental breakfast.  edit
  • Microtel Inn & Suites, 317 Sakitawaw Trail, [15]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Brand new hotel in Beacon Hill with all the amenities you need. Shell Gas Station and Burger King located near by. Free Wi-Fi, parking, and continental breakfast. Pet friendly.  edit
  • Radisson Hotel & Suites, 435 Gregoire Drive, 1-780-743-2400, [16]. checkin: 15:00; checkout: 11:00. Located in Gregoire, it is one of the only other hotels in the city with a waterslide and pool. Has a free shuttle to and from Fort McMurray Airport. Has a restaurant on site (PRIME Social Kitchen), and is within walking distance of other restaurants and pubs. Free Wi-Fi, parking, and continental breakfast.  edit

Work[edit]

Fort McMurray has an economy that comes and goes with the price of oil. Many locals you'll meet will more than likely be employed out at one of the city's biggest oil producers, such as Syncrude, Suncor, CNRL Horizon, Husky Sunrise, Cenovus Christina Lake, and JACOS, among many others. Though known for being a city of financial opportunity, the golden days have since come and gone. As of July 2018, the unemployment rate for Northern Alberta, which includes Fort McMurray, is at 11.3%, far higher than the national average. It is highly recommended you secure employment and a place to live before moving to the city, as jobs are currently scarce, and the rental market is both expensive and challenging due to low vacancy rates.

Stay safe[edit]

Fort McMurray can be known for its brutally cold winters, with temperatures dropping as low as -45 °C. It is very important that your vehicle is winterized; being equipped with winter tires, and having a plug for the engine heat block.

In regards to crime, Fort McMurray is very safe for the average citizen. As with any city, you may possibly run into aggressive panhandlers in the downtown core, and parts of Timberlea. The bars after closing time, as well as the Boomtown Casino, can often be rowdy during evenings, weekends and holidays, but are safe otherwise.

Get out[edit]

North of Fort McMurray[edit]

  • Fort Chipewyan - Also known as Fort Chip, is located 250 km north. Travel by road is only permitted in winter as there are ice crossings.
  • Fort Smith - Located 508 km north. Travel by road is only possible in winter.

South of Fort McMurray[edit]

  • Anzac - A small hamlet (population 1000) that is experiencing a mini-boom of its own. Services include a general store. Anzac offers country-style living, and its proximity to the Long Lake oilsands project makes it a favorite among many people.
  • Edmonton - The capital city of Alberta, and closest city to Fort McMurray.Create category
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