Fort McMurray is a city in Alberta, Canada. It is the largest settlement in Athabasca Oil Sands. Although it looks and feels like 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.
Neighbourhoods which may be useful to the traveller include:
- Downtown, or Lower Townsite, is the centre of action that takes place in the town. Fairly easy to navigate, the main thoroughfare 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.
- Waterways - The oldest part of FortMac. A primarily residential community, has some stores.
- Abasand Heights - Primarily residential with several services.
- Thickwood, or Thickwood Heights is a large subdivision with approximately 20,000 people making it the second largest subdivision in FortMac. One can expect to find it very similar to Downtown. The main road is Thickwood Blvd.
- Dickinsfield - Primarily residential with several services.
- 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, and there is talk of a large shopping mall to be built here. A new police station is being built here. There are many smaller "sub"-subdivisions here, such as Lakewood, Parsons Creek, and Confederation Heights.
Highway 63 is the main road to Fort McMurray, about 450 kilometres NE of Edmonton. It is paralleled by Highway 881 for about 200 kilometres. The road is one lane in each direction for the vast majority of the trip. Twinning has been promised, but progress is slow. Some passing lanes have been installed. While large, wide loads and truck traffic both use the highway, traffic counts are low except Thursday nights (southbound) and Sunday afternoons/evenings (northbound).
Be ware that Highway 63 has recently become notorious for vehicle accidents. This highway is a two lane highway, and many people commute to the oil sands from communities south adding to the strain. In addition most structures for the oil sands are built in Edmonton and trucked up north, which can take up the entire highway. The Alberta gov't plans to twin the highway in the near future but in the meantime, please obey all speed limits and have respect for these huge modules being trucked up.
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.
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. It is common however for the buses to be late or have long waiting periods between each service.
Taxi cabs are easily available. Taxi cab companies include:
- Access Taxi & Limo Service, +1 780 743-3333 / +1 780 742-8026
- Citycabs, +1 780 750 3636 (special phone rate)
- Comfort Shuttle and Charter Service - ask for Sonny (special rates to Oilsand Plants, sites & camps and for oil sands workers), +1 780 742-8026
- Sun Taxi, +1 780 743-5050
- United Class Cabs, +1 780 743-1234
- The Oil Sands Discovery Centre, 515 MacKenzie Boulevard, +1 780 743-7167. 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, 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 and Aurora Tours 1-780-334-2292 can arrange viewings of the elusive lights.
Points North Adventures, +1 780 743-9350, , offers canoe trips and rentals, river tours, and jet boat rides.
Souvenirs of Fort McMurray and the oil sands can be found at the Discovery Centre and specialty retail outlets. Some places, you can purchase small vials of actual oil sand, and different products that are associated with the process all the way to the final product - synthetic crude.
Fort McMurray has several shopping areas and malls, the largest being Peter Pond Shopping Centre, 9713 Hardin Street, +1 780 791-4044, . It is, however quite small for a city of 80,000 people. A larger 250,000 sq ft mall is planned to be developed in Timberlea, however no start on construction has occurred.
The Keg Steakhouse
Boston Pizza two locations in the downtown and Timberlea area
Moxie's Classic Grill
Tio Mario offers Italian food.
Yoshi Japanese Restaurant
Fuji Japanese Restaurant has the finest Japanese food in town.
Kozy Korner Family Restaurant The best place for home-cooked style food.
The Fish Place offers fine seafood.
Hearthstone located in the Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre, the Hearthstone restaurant and lounge feature incredible breakfast and lunch buffets, as well as exclusive dishes highlighted by local specialties. Jiggs Dinner featured every Sunday.
The legal drinking age in Alberta is 18.
The Whiskey Ultra Lounge - Popular nightclub for the younger croud. Located in Thickwood- 380 Silin Forest Rd. Previously named Diesel Lounge.
Black Horse Pub - located in Thickwood.
Club NV - Steps away from the Peter Pond Shopping Center, Club NV opened up in September of 2009 at the former site of the Cowboys Country Saloon. Like it's predecessor, it is more popular with the 18 to 25 crowd.
Heartstone Lounge, 530 MacKenzie Boulevard, Fort McMurray, AB, T9H 4C8 (at the corner of highway 63 and MacKnight Blvd), ☎ . 11am to midnight. Located in the Sawridge Inn Fort McMurray, set in our renovated open concept lobby area, the Hearthstone Lounge & Grille menus offer a wide selection of tantalizing Canadian specialties, prepared by our competent Chefs and served by friendly, attentive, professional staff. Wide selection of spirits, wine and beer available. Meals: $12 to $30.
Diggers, Oil Can Tavern, Teasers - All three clubs are located in the Oilsands Hotel. Diggers being your typical nightclub music bar, Oil Can having live country music, and Teasers having nude dancers.
The Fort McMurray Newfoundlanders Club - A very popular spot with the locals. All kinds of music are 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.
Paddy McSwiggins - an Irish pub located in Thickwood.
Tavern On Main a smaller tavern located next to Club NV and Smitty's Family Restaurant in the Peter Pond Shopping Center.
Showgirls Adult Night Club - located at 8124 Franklin Avenue with an $6.00 Entertainment Fee / $10 Special Events, Showgirls prides itself on being the ultimate in adult entertainment in Fort McMurray for over 10 years. Bringing you the most beautiful women in the adult industry every week for your viewing pleasure. New Management, new renovations for your comfort, great music and open 7 days a week. This is the only place you need to be! Hours of Operation ~ Sunday to Thursday 6 - 2 ~ Friday and Saturday 4:30 - 2
McMurray Inn, 9906 Saunderson Avenue, ☎ .
Twin Pine Motor Inn, 10024 Biggs Ave, ☎ .
Oil Sands Hotel, 10007 Franklin Ave, ☎ .
Merit Hotel, 8200 Franklin Ave, ☎ .
Radisson Hotel, 435 Gregoire Dr, ☎ .
Podollan Inns, 10131 Franklin Avenue, toll-free: .
Vantage Hotel, 200 Parent Way, ☎ , toll-free: .
Quality Hotel Fort Mcmurray, 424 Gregoire Dr, ☎ .
Bridgeport Inn, 10021 Biggs Ave, ☎ .
Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre, 530 McKenzie Blvd, ☎ . Fort McMurray, T9H 4C8 The Sawridge Inn Fort McMurray provides all of the amenities you would expect from a full service hotel. Facilities include indoor pool and jacuzzi, fitness centre, business centre, free parking, high speed internet, and much more. Website: wwww.sawridgefortmcmurray.com
Chez Dube B&B, 10102 Fraser Ave, ☎ .
Fort McMurray has a very strong economy and very low unemployment, with an economy driven primarily by the oil sands industry. Most of the jobs are located in the oil sands, north and southeast of town. Most people work at Suncor, Syncrude, Albian Sands, CNRL, OptiNexen and Deer Creek.
Fort McMurray can be known for its brutally cold winters. Temperatures can drop to minus 35 to minus 45 Celsius at times. It is very important that your vehicle is winterized as well as the engine block heater is plugged in. Don't forget to bundle up! As for crime, Fort Mac is generally a very safe place. Franklin Avenue, between Hardin and Morrison as well as Main Street between MacDonald, and Fraser in the downtown area after dark after the bars close on a Friday and Saturday night can be a little rowdy at times but not dangerous.
North of Fort McMurray
- Fort McKay - A small native community located 55 km north.
- 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
- 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.
- Janvier - A small hamlet of around 250 people
- Conklin - A small hamlet of around 300 people.