From forts to festivals, shopping to bar-hopping, Alberta’s capital city of Edmonton is an easy place to have a great time.
Attractions and events
Looking for unique attractions and fun festivals? Look no further than Edmonton, which has plenty of both.
At the top of the city’s attractions list is West Edmonton Mall, home to over 800 shops, 100 dining options, 10 attractions, and two hotels, making it the largest indoor shopping and entertainment complex in the world. Also in the ‘World’s Largest’ department: the mall’s indoor wave pool, indoor lake, and indoor amusement park. You can shop until you drop (bonus, there’s no sales tax) while the kids hang out at the World Water Park or Galaxyland. At the equivalent of 48 city blocks over 5.3 million square feet, the mall is the size of a small city. There’s more to see and do than you could possibly tackle in one day, so make plans to book a themed room in the Fantasyland Hotel and stay awhile to explore.
The Art Gallery of Alberta is a must for art fans. A collection of over 6,000 works of art and a regularly changing schedule of period pieces and modern exhibitions means you’ll never have the same experience twice. The architecture of the building is as fascinating as what’s inside.
History buffs will love Fort Edmonton Park. Explore a Hudson’s Bay trading fort as it was in 1846, and slowly trace the evolution of the city as you walk through the Park along streets representing the years 1885, 1905, and 1920. Take a ride on a steam train and try the rides at the old-fashioned fairground. If you stay in the historic Hotel Selkirk on-site you’ll get free admission to the park.
The Edmonton River Valley, where Fort Edmonton Park is located, is an attraction in its own right. Take time to explore the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America—22 times the size of New York City’s Central Park. Cycle, walk or jog in summer or snowshoe and cross-country ski in winter on over 90 miles of trails. Take a Segway tour along the riverside or head out on the North Saskatchewan River that winds through the valley by canoe, kayak or paddle board. For a more relaxed trip, treat yourself to a paddleboat cruise to see the sights. The river valley is also home to a zoo, several golf courses, and a number of annual festivals.
Nicknamed ‘Festival City,’ Edmonton hosts more than 60 festivals throughout the year. If you’re visiting in August, check out the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival featuring over 1,600 live theatre performances at some 40 venues around the city, as well as artisans, food vendors, and buskers. Those same buskers take centre stage at the annual Edmonton International Street Performers Festival each July. Talent of all kinds, from juggling to street circus, is on display at Sir Winston Churchill Square in the heart of Edmonton’s Arts District.
There are all kinds of music festivals to tap a toe to in Edmonton, two of the most popular being the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and the offbeat Interstellar Rodeo. There are also annual tributes to jazz, blues, multicultural music genres, bluegrass, alternative, and good old rock ‘n’ roll.
It’s worth the half hour drive east of the city to explore the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, a fascinating outdoor museum where costumed guides embody the Ukrainian pioneers that settled the region over a century ago. Explore more than 30 restored buildings, including a typical sod house known as a burdei, a blacksmith shop, and working grain elevator. Bring your appetite, there’s lots of authentic Ukrainian cooking to tempt the taste buds. The pierogis (stuffed dumplings slathered in sour cream) can’t be beat!
A day spent in Edmonton
There’s so much to do in the city and so many more attractions to investigate. Here are some ideas for a fun-filled day.
In the morning, visit the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market to pick up something straight out of the oven from the bakery, fresh-picked produce or hand-made gifts from painted glass to goat’s milk soap. Then wander along Whyte Avenue browsing its eclectic shops and galleries. On sunny days, grab a bite to eat al fresco, or in any of the many bistros and cafes. After lunch take a quick taxi ride across the river then stroll the beautiful grounds of the Alberta Legislature or take a guided tour. Inside scoop: a great way to see lots more of the city’s attractions is by purchasing an Edmonton’s Attractions Pass.
Spend the rest of your afternoon at the races. Watch dragon boats jockey for position on the North Saskatchewan River, pick your favourite horse at the Northlands Park Racetrack, or head just beyond the city and watch drag races at the Castrol Raceway.
Edmontonians love their sports. If the club is in town, you could catch an Edmonton Oilers NHL ice hockey game, or take in an Edmonton Eskimos Canadian football game and discover how different the CFL is from the Premier League.
In the evening, make your way to 124 Street, a vibrant hub of shopping, galleries, and restaurants. Fill your bags—and your tummy—before spending a night on the town.
For a slice of local culture, head to the downtown Arts District and take in a concert at the acoustically brilliant Francis Winspear Centre for Music. Prefer theatre? Catch a play at the Citadel Theatre or see the latest production by the Alberta Ballet.
To cap off your evening, head back to Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona and hit the club music scene, where you can dance the night away to music as varied as blues to pop and country.