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Recently, Alberta has been having a moment. However, Edmonton hasn’t attracted too many newbies despite being the capital of the province. I know Calgary is more appealing since it is so close to the mountains. But there are a couple of attractions in Edmonton too. Regardless if live in Edmonton, you’re planing to move or visit, this article is for you.
Having lived here for well over a decade, here are my recommendations for the top Edmonton attractions:
Come and see what Edmonton looked like in the past at Fort Edmonton Park! This outdoor park is the largest living history museum in Canada, with originals and replicas of historic buildings and streets. It is arranged like a little village, and you can walk from building to building. The park has recently undergone a large expansion, which added the Indigenous Peoples Experience. Additionally, it has been unanimously decided that Fort Edmonton Park has the best ice cream in the city.
Around 35 km east of Edmonton is the Elk Island National Park, one of the most unique attractions. This is a UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve with free-roaming bison, elk and over 250 species of birds. There are multiple activities you can do in this park from ice skating to sail boating, hiking and cycling, golfing, kayaking, wildlife photography, and more. The whole family is welcome at Elk Island National Park, including your dogs. However, they must be on a leash at all times due to the risk of them running away and being injured by wildlife. If you’d like to learn more about Elk Island National Park, visit the official website.
Located downtown, the Royal Alberta Museum features exhibits in human and natural history. Since moving to its new location in downtown a few years ago, RAM became one of the largest museums in Western Canada. RAM is a great place to spend a rainy day and learn about the life and landscapes of Alberta’s past. Find up-to-date opening hours and ticket prices here.
Bring your children and spend a day full of fun at TELUS World of Science. There are multiple exhibits, IMAX documentaries, interactive play and fun demonstrations for all ages. There are both temporary and permanent exhibits that can satisfy all interests. Some of the past temporary exhibits included Body Worlds, Titanic, Harry Potter, and more. You can read about the current exhibits here.
The Art Gallery of Alberta, or AGA, is a shiny futuristic-looking metal building on the outside. But on the inside you can find works of art dating back to the 1800s. There is also one exhibit dedicated exclusively to children. With an innovative farm-to-table restaurant located on the main level (you don’t need tickets to dine here), AGA makes for a perfect date night. For up-to-date opening hours and ticket prices, see the official website.
Is the cold winter getting to you? The Muttart Conservatory is a perfect escape! One of Canada’s largest indoor botanical gardens, Muttart Conservatory contains over 700 plant species spread between four glass pyramids. Three pyramids represent tropical, arid, and temperate climates, while the fourth pyramid showcases feature exhibits. Muttart Conservatory can be a little tricky to find, so make sure to use GPS for directions. For more info see this page.
William Hawrelak Park, usually referred to as Hawrelak Park, is a large public park with a lake, located near the university north campus. If it’s cold enough you can skate on the lake and in the summer time you can rent a paddleboat. There are designated picnic tables and barbecue areas, as well as washroom facilities. Additionally, many people enjoy physical activities like running or cross country skiing. Throughout the year there are a couple of festivals such as the Heritage Festival and Freewill Shakespeare Festival. If you come on a quiet day you can admire the geese and ducks, and if you’re lucky maybe even a beaver. Hawrelak Park is a great place to come with your family to enjoy the outdoors, or to do some exercise.
Every year at the beginning of August, Edmonton heads to Hawrelak Park for the Heritage Festival. This is the largest multicultural festival in the world, with pavilions representing over 90 countries! Come and sample foods, participate in dances, and have fun in the sun. Since this festival is very popular, you likely won’t find sitting at the picnic tables. Thus, I’d recommend you bring your own blanket from home so you can comfortably sit on the grass. Most of the city buses get rerouted to the park and the rest of the city becomes incredibly quiet. You can find ticket prices by following this link.
The jewel of the city during the colder months, West Edmonton Mall is a great place to spend a day. It’s easy to lose track of time when there are multiple dining options, a movie theatre, ice rink, an indoor amusement park, mini golf, waterpark, spas, endless shopping, and more. And when temperatures dip bellow -20°C, you too will find your way here, along with half the city. Find a list of all stores and attractions here.
Around 25 minutes east of Edmonton you will find the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. This is an open air museum which reconstructs the Ukrainian settlements in Alberta from 1892 until 1930. There are 35 historic buildings you can admire, as well as interactive demonstrations on how certain equipment works. The park is only open during the summer season from mid May until mid September. Find updated opening hours and ticket prices here.
With over 350 animals, the Edmonton Valley Zoo is a perfect place to spend a day with your family. You can see both local animals like the prairie dogs, as well as endangered species from faraway places like the Sichuan takin. In addition, children will have the opportunity to pet some small animals, and the whole family can have a picnic at the zoo. You can find out more by visiting this link.
Edmonton is home to the largest urban park in Canada. Measuring over 160 km along the North Saskatchewan River, the River Valley is a great place for exercise and relaxation year-round. There are plenty of walking and cycling trails, boat launching docks, designated picnic areas with barbecues, playgrounds for children, and more. You can read about the different trails here. Since 2017 there has also been a beach that was unintentionally created. Additionally, you can also explore the John Janzen Nature Centre which has a playground for children and some exhibits about local wildlife.
Perhaps one of the most Edmonton things you could do in Edmonton is to ride the High Level Bridge Streetcar. Step back in history and ride this streetcar dating back to the early 1900s from Old Strathcona to Downtown, and vice versa. You can purchase tickets at very reasonable rates, only $4 for a one-way trip or $7 for a round-trip. However, tickets must be bought with cash.
The heart and soul of Edmonton, Whyte Avenue is a popular street lined with shops, restaurants, bars, cafés, and more. It used to be the main street in the city of Strathcona, which later merged with Edmonton. And to this day, Whyte Avenue remains one of the liveliest areas in the city.
During the month of August, only one block north of Whyte Avenue you will find the annual Edmonton International Fringe Festival. This is the largest fringe festivals in North America and one of the top 5 largest in the world. Spread over 11 days, there are multiple free street performances, as well as paid indoor plays. There are also plenty of food trucks in and around the area to satisfy every craving you may have. You can find out more about the festival here.
On Saturdays and Sundays you can enjoy afternoon tea at the historic Hotel Macdonald. Dating back to 1915, this is where the Queen stayed during her 2005 visit to Edmonton. Afternoon tea here costs around $80 per person and you will need to make reservations well in advance. See more info here.
Next to the Hotel Macdonald, you can catch a free ride on the 100 Street Funicular. Enjoy scenic views of the river valley as you’re going up and down the hill. At the bottom of the hill there is a promenade where you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or read a book.
The most popular festival in town, K Days runs every July for 10 days. There are multiple rides, games, exhibits, performances, concerts, dining and shopping options, fireworks, and more. The fair, which date back to 1879, is appropriate for all ages. You can find up-to-date info on hours and ticket prices here.
Are you interested in learning about Alberta’s aviation history? If you are, then the Alberta Aviation Museum is the place for you! Located on the north side, the museum holds over 30 historical airplanes in a hangar that was previously used during WWII. You can also read stories, see medals, pictures, and other artefacts. If you’d like to learn more, see this link.
Every Saturday morning since 1983, Strathcona Farmers’ Market has been the place to be. Come have fun and support local produce vendors and small businesses. Some of the things you can buy include fruits and vegetables, artisanal breads and sweets, home-made soaps, apparel, and more. There is also a little café at the back of the market, and right outside the building you will find the sweet and salty kettle popcorn which is a must-buy every weekend.
About 30 minutes southwest of Edmonton is the University of Alberta Botanic Garden, the largest botanical garden in Alberta! It was opened by the department of botany at University of Alberta in 1959 on donated land. Here you can enjoy temperate and arid greenhouses, stroll through the Japanese Garden, admire the Native People’s Garden and more. In addition to being opened to the public, the garden is also used for research purposes by the university. The University of Alberta Botanic Garden is open during the summer season, and for a few select events during the winter months. You can find out more here.
Just a few minutes outside of Leduc is the Old Red Barn, which used to be a milking barn. Recently, this authentic 1950s barn has been converted into a farm-to-table restaurant. Here you will dine at a long table with other guests, have the opportunity to meet the farmer as you enjoy delectable locally-grown produce. And you may even see the animals grazing in the sunset as you’re eating dinner. You can learn more and book your dinner here.
Speed fans unite in Wetaskiwin at the Edmonton International Raceway, the only NASCAR sanctioned race track in Western Canada! Every Saturday night from mid May until early October, come down for some stock car racing and lots of fun. In addition, the EIR is the only place where you can drive on a real NASCAR track. You can buy tickets to drive your own car around the track, drive a race car, or have an instructor drive you while you sit in the passenger seat. For ticket prices, click here.