When Winter rolled around, I began searching for new things to do indoors…
Review and photos by Nirmall Chockalingam
If I asked myself a few months ago, ‘what’s missing in Edmonton?’ I wouldn’t have been able to come up with anything. The city is full of unique places to shop, hang out, and see a show, all within one of its vast shopping precincts. In the summer, there are countless outdoor locations to visit by the river. They don’t call us ‘The Festival City’ for nothing; we love a good party!
But when Winter rolled around, I began searching for new things to do indoors… as one does when it’s freezing outside. It was part way through my hunt that I discovered DRIVE.
DRIVE: the newest go-karting sensation that’s taken Edmonton by storm. It’s a multi-story go-karting track adorned in an authentic New York theme. As the only three-story track in North America, it really gets the adrenaline pumping when you reach the top.
What better place to house the only three-story track in North America? Why in North America’s largest mall, of course! If you’re looking to give it a try -and why wouldn’t you – pull up to West Edmonton Hall and take the exit at Galaxyland.
It’s a magical experience. As you descend into the arena, you’ll feel like you’re submerging into New York at night, surrounding yourself with black walls, skyscraper scenes, and graffiti vibes everywhere. And as you’re driving, seeing those buildings flash past only adds to the thrill. The winds lashing across your helmet, the sounds of all the cars you’re passing by, drifting hard along with the turns, the thrill of the go-kart can only be experienced and not put into so many words.
The amazing, state of the art SODI go-karts are fully adjustable, comfortable to sit in, and, believe me, they’re fast! I’ve been to a couple of go-karting tracks before, and the karts are usually uncomfortable and challenging to set up to your requirements. DRIVE karts, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different. You can adjust the seat angle, the pedals, and the steering wheel to give you the feel of a real race car as you’re zooming up and down the levels. This allows you to take better control and, hopefully, give you a better chance of winning the race.
What I will say, though, is that go-karts generally aren’t made for hand brake turns or drifting. If you make a mistake, it will cost you valuable time in the race. The steering wheel is relatively rigid, so you’ll leave feeling like you’ve had a real workout at the gym.
What if I’ve Never Been Go-Karting Before?
Don’t worry at all. DRIVE caters to everyone, and the staff warmly welcome those who may be apprehensive on their first visit. They take care of all and safety aspects, including showing an instruction video prior to the race and having marshals on hand to pull you back onto the track when you crash- and you will. It’s completely normal.
I have to say that I honestly felt safe the whole time, and all the staff was extremely professional and serious about the track rules.
They also provide cleaned and sanitized head socks and helmets for you to keep you completely safe throughout the whole experience. [Editor’s note: Under the current restrictions, DRIVE is closed until January 12, 2021]
Remember this: at the moment, face masks or face coverings are compulsory, and that’s on you – don’t forget to bring one, or you’ll fail at the first hurdle.
Can I Take the Whole Family?
Yes, absolutely! DRIVE isn’t just for go-karters. It’s fun for all the family. There are comfortable spectator seats for your family to use while cheering you on, and there’s a gaming arcade to distract yourself while waiting for the race to start. Kids are welcome, but drivers must be at least 12 years old. DRIVE does provide multiple sized helmets too, so there’s bound to be one that will be a snug fit.
How much does it cost?
For a premium go-karting track, DRIVE is relatively cheap. That’s part of what makes it so great. A single race, which lasts around 7 minutes, will set you back $27. However, if you go once and fall in love with the experience, they also offer an annual membership for an extra $15. This way, you can go as many times as you like while saving money on each race.
That being said, if you get a little thirsty, the reception does sell beverages. The arcade games also require tickets, which are available for purchase. Overall, you might find it a little more expensive, depending on how hooked you get on shooting those zombies.
Regarding payment, both the go-karting and games can be paid for using a credit card. There’s no need for you to carry any cash!
Tracking My Progress
There’s always a track marshall on hand to watch the race – in case anything happens, he will come to the rescue. However, he’s also there to watch everyone’s progress. Monitors above the drivers’ project where each racer stands during the races, keeping tabs on how many laps you have left to complete. While driving, you’ll see a chequered flag displayed at the end of the race to signal that you’ve crossed the finish line. Afterward, you’ll be able to grab your timings from the marshal.
Want a bit of advice? Start off slow to get a feel of your wheels. The others might mock you at first, but when you speed past them, building on your honed skills in your 5th lap while your competitors spin off the track, we’ll see who’s laughing!
What Happens if I Crash?
There’s no if about it – you will crash. At those speeds, you’re bound to crash into a competitor, if not the wall. But don’t worry. All of the safety features and protocols in place guarantee that you’ll be protected. That being said, you’re likely to lose your position in the race. The go-karts don’t have a reverse function, which can really push you back a few places while you’re waiting for someone to drag you back on course. However, don’t lose heart. All the others are likely to crash at some point, too, so you can quickly redeem yourself.
If you, or someone near you, does crash causing a blockage on the track, you’ll be informed using a traffic light system. The usual drill is that green means go, and red means stop. The red light will show to tell everyone to stop until the stray kart is set right.
It can get quite annoying if you’re stopped too often due to crashes but remember to be understanding. After all, safety comes first! As well, your competitors may not be as good at driving as you… SO be a SPORT!
DRIVE Do’s and Don’ts
- Don’t deliberately crash into people. They will throw you out!
- Don’t carry cash. You won’t need it.
- Don’t allow a child younger than 12 to race! Safety first.
- Don’t forget your mask!
- Adjust your seat and steering, so you’re comfortable.
- Adhere to the traffic light system, rules are rules!
- Don’t come last…
And, most importantly, have a great time!
DRIVE West Edmonton Mall
currently closed until January 12
website: Drive | West Edmonton Mall (wem.ca)