Friday, Dec. 23 is forecast to be the busiest day of the year at the Edmonton International Airport.
The EIA estimates it will see 20 per cent more traffic than usual, with more than 24,000 people flying and more than 50,000 dropping them off or greeting them.
So, in case you wind up stranded at the airport (or have been very good, arrived early and find yourself with extra time), here are the top five things to do there to pass the time:
5. De-stress with a therapy dog
The EIA teamed up with the Pet Therapy Society of Northern Alberta, which has over 60 trained therapy animals, for a trial project at the airport. Nearly every day over the holidays, for at least two hours, there is a volunteer pet and handler wandering the airport making new friends and calming nerves.
READ MORE: Edmonton airport welcomes therapy dogs to calm travellers
Lori Gertz and her pup Cherry volunteer at EIA every Tuesday.
“People are anxious maybe, stressed from flying or travel in general. We just come out and visit people and get a little pet therapy in… She brings a lot of stress relief.”
Gertz admitted that passengers aren’t the only ones benefiting from Cherry’s cheer.
“She loves it. She gets a little excited in the car as soon as we get to the parkade. And when I put the scarf on, she knows she’s going to work.”
4. Play Pokemon Go
Pokemon Go is also alive and well at EIA. However, none of the Pokestops and Gyms are located in secure locations.
READ MORE: EPS urges Edmontonians to look up, be respectful if playing Pokemon Go
“With the latest update to the game, there are now a bunch of wild Pokemon at EIA,” reads a description on the airport website. “Catch ’em all while you’re here, but be mindful you’re still in an airport.”
3. Keep the kids entertained
The airport has two children’s play areas to help your kiddos burn off steam. They’re located by Gate 66 (after security in domestic-international departures) and by Gate 80 (after security in US departures).
There’s free WiFi at the EIA, so you could take your kids through the online EIA from A to Z Storybook – “a whimsical tale of the places you can fly non-stop from EIA.” And, just in time for the holiday season, EIA has produced a digital storybook called My Friend Eddy. It was written in-house, designed and printed locally.
2. Eat, drink and be merry
The EIA has 60 shops and restaurants, so you certainly won’t lack for snacks and beverages. The latest editions? The Great One’s own Gretzky’s Wine and Whisky and a new watering hole for football fans.
“There’s Gretzky’s Wine and Whisky which is a wonderful spot,” EIA spokeswoman Heather Hamilton said. “You’ll want to take a look and sit down, have a drink there. We have the new Edmonton Eskimos restaurant – it just opened a couple of days ago. A great chance to take a look at that new service as well.”
You could also snap up some last-minute Christmas gifts while waiting for your flight or grab a quick massage as a gift to yourself.
“Santa’s in the airport,” Hamilton said. “So you can walk around, you may find Santa in the airport, handing out colouring books and gifts for children.”
1. Soak up some arts and culture
There is no shortage of entertainment at the EIA. You could listen to one of the featured local artists performing in various locations around the airport or take in a choral delight.
READ MORE: Local musician’s career takes flight at EIA
“We also have choirs performing in the airport,” Hamilton said. “You get that extra music as well and we have our professional musicians that play in the airport.”
Is visual art more your thing? The airport has a number of art displays and exhibits. The signature collection includes works like Everything Flows, Nothing Stands Still (a colourful piece that was inspired by the landscape of the North Saskatchewan River), Skywall (a 360-degree photographic panorama of the Alberta landscape) and Bush Pilot in the Northern Sky (an abstract, modern mural by Shadbolt). The partnership collection showcases featured costumes, art and props from shows by Alberta Ballet, Citadel Theatre, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Reynolds-Alberta Museum – Home of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.
You could also stop and admire the Living Wall, a vertical, interior garden that grows various greenery. It’s meant to symbolize EIA’s commitment to sustainable design. The airport is one of the first terminals in the world to target LEED certification.
READ MORE: Edmonton International Airport awarded for being green
The wall was designed by artist Mike Weinmaster, who was inspired by Alberta’s high altitude cloud formations (Cirrus) and air currents.