Alberta’s capital city of Edmonton, on the North Saskatchewan River, is a hub of festivals, sports, and playing outside long into the evening, thanks to 18 hours of summertime daylight. If you like to "go big," this modern city is home to North America’s largest urban park and biggest shopping mall. Here are the best ways to play, recreate, sightsee, tour, and relax on vacation in Edmonton.
Edmonton River Valley
The celebrated Edmonton River Valley is really the cherished green heart of the city. At nearly 19,000 acres, this vast collection of scenic parks is 22 times bigger than New York City’s Central Park. Over 140 kilometres of trails, pathways, golf courses, and tree-lined, manicured lawns connect 20 parks, where locals and visitors picnic, bike, run, kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard, take a paddle boat or Segway tour, and, in winter, snow shoe and ski (both cross-country and downhill).
West Edmonton Mall
If you’re thinking some big chain stores and a food court, readjust your lens. This nearly 500,000-square-metre mall is the largest in North America, with 800+ stores, 100 dining venues, a massive indoor wave pool with 17 water slides and a lake, plus amusement park, zoo, and ice skating rink. You can stay at one of two hotels, including one aptly named Fantasyland for its 120 themed guest rooms.
Elk Island National Park
You’ll want to spend time in Elk Island, just east of the city — hiking, snapping pictures of wildlife, lying on the beach, and, come sundown, watching for the Northern Lights. Canada’s largest fully enclosed park, it’s a refuge for moose, elk, lynx, black bears, gray wolves, 250 species of birds, and herds of plains bison imported from Montana and rescued from extinction. Get stuck in a bison traffic jam on purpose or take the backstage tour.
Canadian Finals Rodeo
November’s Canadian Finals Rodeo has been a local tradition since 1879. It’s not just bronc busting, bull riding, team roping, barrel racing, and steer wrestling, though. There are also concerts, a giant farmers’ trade show, and Miss Rodeo Canada contest. Yeehaw!
The Art Gallery of Alberta
A striking architectural landmark reminiscent of Bilbao’s Guggenheim, downtown’s Art Gallery of Alberta is one of the province's prominent cultural venues. The 6,000 paintings, sculptures, and installations on display at this premier venue include historical and contemporary, international and Canadian works.
There’s nothing like experiencing a live hockey game in an arena surrounded by rowdy fans. The Edmonton Oilers are the city's National Hockey League team and locals are some of the biggest hockey fans in the world. Catch a game at Rogers Place during the regular season, which runs from October to April each year.
Black Gold River Tours
Ready to zip along the North Saskatchewan River? Enviro-minded Black Gold River Tours takes small groups out May to October on 22-foot jet boats, kitted out with weather canopies and heaters. It’s a high-adrenalin way to mix sightseeing with water adventure.
Edmonton Folk Fest
Over four days each August, Edmonton celebrates at the outdoor folk music festival, one of the world’s best. The focus is on the music with a well-rounded mix of local and international headliners in 65 acts that represent the changing music scene across genres. An added bonus: killer city skyline views from Gallagher Park hill.
Churchill Square ice skating
History is fun at 1800s-era Fort Edmonton Park, where actors dressed in period costume barter for beads at the fur trading post and socialize at the train station. Learn about four time periods: the 1846 fort, 1885 community, 1905 railway boom, and 1920 commerce hay day. You’ll see horse-drawn carriages, historic cars, and 75 structures, including many originals, at Canada’s largest living history museum.
Ready to rodeo, river raft, and ice skate? See you in Edmonton!