Tourist Guide to Must Visit Places in Edmonton, Canada
By: Tiasha Chatterjee
In nearly the middle of the province, Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, is located along both sides of the North Saskatchewan River. It is assumed that the city has a long-standing rivalry with Calgary, which is located just over two hours south and says Edmonton is a dull government town.
This couldn't be further from the truth, though. With first-rate theatres, first-rate museums, top-notch galleries, and a bustling music scene, Edmonton is Alberta's cultural hub.
The inhabitants of Edmonton are a strong and hardy race. With a population of over a million, the city is one of the coldest in the world; other members of this exclusive club include Moscow and Harbin, China.
Edmontonians attend winter festivals and events like the Deep Freeze Festival and the Ice on Whyte, which both provide entertaining and outrageous activities guaranteed to lift the winter blues, despite the freezing weather.
Check out our list of Edmonton's attractions and things to do to learn more about this wonderful city.
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The West Edmonton Mall
The West Edmonton Mall in Canada is not only one of the largest retail malls in the world and the biggest in the nation, but it is also a popular destination for travellers. The complex includes a hotel, movie theatres, an ice rink, an aquarium, and many more stores and eateries.
There are themed areas in the mall that are intended to give off the feel of well-known tourist places across the globe, further enhancing its appeal. While Bourbon Street, a replica of the famed New Orleans street, is the place to go for Creole food and live music, Europa Boulevard, for instance, has numerous shops with European-style fronts and bears the names of major fashion brands.
One of the biggest indoor, covered amusement parks in the world, Galaxyland is located in the mall and features a number of family-friendly rides, including a triple-loop roller coaster. The largest such facility in North America and the recently remodelled World Waterpark is also entertaining.
The biggest indoor wave pool in the world and two 83-foot-tall (and extremely steep) water slides are among the attractions. In fact, the park features a range of slides, from easy to difficult.
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Royal Alberta Museum
The largest museum in western Canada is currently the Royal Alberta Museum, which relocated to its new location in 2018. A visit to this cutting-edge facility is unquestionably time well spent. It is home to an intriguing mix of ongoing temporary exhibitions as well as permanent cultural and natural history exhibits. The abundance of dinosaur and ice period fossils, the sizable aquarium of native fish, and the live insects, including some unusual and gigantic species, are all particularly stunning.
A large new kids' gallery, a larger bug room with real invertebrates, and a more open nursery are some of the new additions. A large main gallery hosts travelling exhibits from all over Canada and the world. With items from the Blackfoot, Cree, and other First Nations, the cultural history sections of the museum examine indigenous cultures. On-site amenities include a café and a gift shop with a wide selection.
Elk Island National Park & Beaver Hills
A short 30-minute drive from Edmonton, this national park is home to a variety of species, including moose, elk, deer, and beavers. It is located in a forested environment with lakes and marshes. But the big herd of buffalo (bison) that grazes over a designated enclosure is Elk Island National Park's major draw.
It is impossible for anyone travelling slowly through the park to miss seeing one of these enormous, hairy beasts. Summertime activities include camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, and canoeing, while wintertime pursuits include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
The Beaver Hills region currently has a dark sky preserve, a wilderness centre, a bird sanctuary, and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status. However, it was the Cree that hunted the beaver and buffalo for their pelts, which were subsequently traded with the major fur-trading enterprises, in what was once the tribal homeland of the Sarcee Indians.
The buffalo were nearly extinct due to hunting and settlement, though some are thought to have been caught in 1909 and put in their own reserve in the Beaver Hills. These are the ancestors of the creatures that are present at Elk Island National Park today.
Edmonton Food Tour
If you are a huge foodie like us, you might be wondering what are some food-related things to do in Edmonton. Why not navigate Edmonton's history by eating your way through it? You can start out by having a substantial brunch of eastern European specialities before heading outside to visit the 104th Street Market, which had a significant inflow of Ukrainians in the early 20th century.
Meeting local producers and trying everything from decadent salted caramels to gyozas and pork pies is a rather interesting way to explore the place. What is even more encouraging is to see actual Edmontonians participating in the tour. They share your desire to learn more about the origins of their food and learn about interesting local attractions.
Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village
This open-air museum, which was established along the Yellowhead Highway in the 1970s, maintains the cultural history of the numerous immigrants from Bukovina and Ukraine who came to what is now Alberta in the 1890s. On the location, which is simply referred to as "the Village," a number of old structures have been rebuilt, and a Ukrainian church's onion-colored pale dome can be seen in the distance.
You can visit a variety of living historical features, such as a blacksmith, a market, and an antique general store. Interacting with the costumed guides, who are on hand to describe what life was like for these early settlers, is part of the pleasure.
If at all feasible, plan your trip to coincide with one of the many workshops or events offered all year long, such as cooking classes, harvest festivals, and celebrations of Ukraine's national day.
Before applying for the Canada Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) you must make sure to have a valid passport from a visa-exempt country, an email address that is valid and working and credit/debit card for online payment. Learn more at Canada Visa Eligibility and Requirements.
Fort Edmonton Park
With antique structures that have been accurately recreated to depict Edmonton's historical growth, Fort Edmonton Park is another open-air museum that you should add to your schedule when visiting Edmonton.
The structures on display include a typical Hudson's Bay Company fort from 1846, a street from a pioneer village in 1885, the burgeoning provincial capital in 1905, as well as structures from the 1920s.
Visitors can board a steam train or a horse-drawn waggon, two examples of the various vintage modes of transportation. Nearby John Janzen Nature Centre has displays of the geology and ecology of the area.
North Saskatchewan River Valley
The North Saskatchewan River Valley is defined by its lush vegetation, stunning scenery, and exciting activities. It is the perfect location for a family day trip or picnic. It covers a huge 7400 hectares and is a hub for many exciting sports, including biking, canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
Wintertime tourists are inspired to enjoy snow-related activities like snowshoeing and skating by the snow-covered blanket that covers the routes. Golfing is a great sport to play on this incredible 150 km-long greenway. Undoubtedly one of Edmonton's most well-known tourist destinations in this vast collection of parks.
Rare and distantly travelled plant species are housed in four pyramid-shaped hothouses on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River. From the tropical climates of Fiji and Myanmar (Burma) to the temperate pavilion with its American redwoods and Australian eucalyptus, each pyramid includes a distinctive setting that represents several biomes from across the world.
With so many different plant species on exhibit, Edmonton's conservatory is the city's top horticultural facility. The Muttart Conservatory's shining pyramids contrast beautifully with the skyline of downtown Edmonton when viewed from the highland above the river.
Alberta Legislature Building
The 1913 Legislature Building is located in the middle of a park-like landscape where the last Fort Edmonton formerly stood. It is a large, handsome building with stunning views of the far bank of the North Saskatchewan River from the terrace.
The best way to learn about the history of the structure that the locals affectionately refer to as "the Ledge," including its architecture and building secrets, is through guided tours. Spending time exploring the building's surrounding grounds is a highlight of any visit.
Visit the Legislative Assembly Visitor Center as well, which is close by and has significant exhibits on regional history, culture, and art. There is also a fantastic gift shop where you can buy handcrafted goods made all around Alberta in addition to a unique 4D immersive experience that offers an astounding visual history of the province and its people.
Whyte Avenue, often referred to as 82 Avenue, is a major thoroughfare in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada's south-central region. It presently passes through Old Strathcona and was the main street when the City of Strathcona was first established.
It was given that name in 1891 in honour of Sir William Whyte, who served as the Western Division Superintendent of the CPR from 1886 to 1897 and who was knighted by King George V in 1911. Old Strathcona, the centre of Edmonton's arts and entertainment, serves as a shopping destination for both locals and students at the nearby University of Alberta. The centre of this neighbourhood is Whyte Avenue, which is now a heritage area and is home to numerous stores, cafes, restaurants, and pubs.
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Art Gallery of Alberta
The Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton, which is a twisted modernist structure on Sir Winston Churchill Square, is devoted to visual arts with a focus on Western Canada. The gallery maintains a sizable collection of more than 6,000 items in addition to rotating and mobile exhibitions.
A restaurant, a theatre, and a gift store are also present on the property. You can arrange for a private guided tour that is tailored to your own interests. Along with talks and workshops, the facility provides a range of educational programmes for all ages.
Reynolds-Alberta Museum, Wetaskiwin
The welcoming tiny town of Wetaskiwin is located one hour's drive south of downtown Edmonton. The Reynolds-Alberta Museum, which is focused exclusively on everything related to aviation and vehicle building, is the main draw in this area.
Old agricultural tools and machinery can be seen on display outdoors, including some actual extinct dinosaurs like steam tractors, threshing machines, caterpillar tractors, and trucks.
The Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame, approximately 100 historic aeroplanes, and a variety of vintage motorcycles are all housed here. An excellent time to go is during one of the regular summer events when a variety of machinery and vehicles are in operation. The location also has a café, store, and theatre.
The 10-day K Days celebration, originally known as Capital Ex, which takes place annually at the end of July and brings back to life the wild days of the 1890 Klondike Gold Rush, is the biggest event in Edmonton's calendar. The entire city comes alive with street celebrations, dancing, parades, live entertainment, gold panning, and a midway. Make sure to reserve lodging well in advance if you plan to attend the festival in Edmonton.
Edmonton Valley Zoo
The Edmonton Valley Zoo, which first opened its doors in 1959, has always prioritised studying endangered animal species. Although it caters to families, its grounds are also home to over 350 animals from over 100 different species, both alien and native to Alberta.
The pets' guardians frequently interact with visitors while they are out and about with the animals. Red pandas, lemurs, snow leopards, and arctic wolves are among the popular species to see; each is housed in a setting designed to replicate its natural environment. At the zoo, there are carousels, paddle boats, and a miniature railroad.
Alberta Aviation Museum
All aircraft enthusiasts should visit the Alberta Aviation Museum. The museum is conveniently located close to Edmonton's airport and features two fighter jets exhibited in intriguing positions, one of which is almost vertical. The museum houses 40 aircraft that are on exhibit, as well as a unique type of hanger built during World War II as part of Canada's pilot training programme.
There are accessible informative guided tours that take about 90 minutes. The intriguing restoration facility where several of these vintage aircraft was restored is also included in them.
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TELUS World of Science
The TELUS World of Scientific (TWOS), located in Edmonton, is an exciting, family-friendly, educational science centre that is housed in a contemporary white building. Space, robotics, forensics, and the environment are just a few of the numerous interactive and hands-on science and technology displays at the site. The Margaret Zeidler Star Theatre planetarium is next door, and the IMAX cinema features amazing movies from all around the world.
Visiting the on-site observatory, which provides a range of exciting stargazing opportunities, is one of the top free things to do in Edmonton. There is also a café and gift shop.
University of Alberta Botanic Garden
The University of Alberta Botanic Garden is another place to go in Edmonton if you like flowers and gardening. This 240-acre park, which was established in 1959 and is the largest such garden in the province, includes 160 acres that have been preserved in their original state.
A Japanese Garden, a sizable tropical greenhouse with butterflies, and countless exhibits of many other plant species, both indoors and outdoors, are significant attractions of the remaining 80 acres. The Indigenous Garden, which features plants long used by Canada's indigenous peoples, is particularly fascinating.
The Aga Khan Garden, a nearly 12-acre setting with a northern twist and inspiration from Islamic architecture and landscapes, is a recent addition to the attraction. There are many nice forest walks to stroll along, serene terraces, ponds and pools, as well as a waterfall, in this delightful park.
The botanic gardens provide complimentary, highly recommended walking tours. The annual Opera al Fresco performance held here each June by the Edmonton Opera Company is of particular interest to individuals who also enjoy classical music.
Alberta Railway Museum
The Alberta Railway Museum (ARM), which is situated in the city's northern suburbs and is well worth the trip, houses a variety of still-moving and stationary locomotives and rolling stock. The museum, which was founded in 1976 to preserve the province's rich railroad heritage, is home to more than 75 engines and railcars, as well as a number of original railroad structures and a wide variety of associated objects.
One of the highlights is the opportunity to take a train during the summer (check their website for schedules). Maps for the self-guided tour are offered when your tickets are picked up.
Edmonton Convention Centre
Despite a name change, the Edmonton Convention Centre, popularly referred to as "the Shaw," has fantastic vistas of the North Saskatchewan River despite being mostly underground. There are several lodging and food options there, and it's a wonderful place to start exploring the relatively tiny city core.
The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and Pro Coro Canada call the Winspear Centre their home. It is a top-notch performing arts venue. The facility, which was established in 1997 and is dedicated to Dr. Francis G. Winspear, has a sizable music hall that can accommodate more than 3,500 people.
The majestic Davis Concert Organ, which is built of wood and metal and has 96 stops, 122 ranks, and 6,551 pipes, is also housed at the Winspear. The Winspear Centre is situated right in the middle of Edmonton's thriving downtown and is near to a wide selection of eateries, bars, and cafés.
Is a Trip to Edmonton Worth It?
Edmonton outpaces cities like Toronto and Vancouver in terms of its rate of growth. There is a lot to see and do there, as well as some of the country's most varied scenery and sunny days. Yes, Edmonton has the most sunshine in Canada, along with Calgary, which in our opinion is a good enough incentive to go there!
Industry, culture, skyscrapers, a wide variety of stores and restaurants, and the downtown energy that city lovers appreciate are all a part of Edmonton's city centre.
But nature is also an integral part of Edmonton. With so much wildlife, the tranquil Elk Island National Park is only a 30-minute drive from the city. Oh, and the North Saskatchewan River Valley gives you a sense of the countryside even though you are in a metropolis.
The dining scene is the main attraction for foodies. Even before your journey starts, you might have already heard about it from your friends in other parts of Canada. Do not forget to try out something new every night in some of the hippest, most imaginative bars and restaurants in the city!
Weather in Edmonton
In Canada, holidays are greatly influenced by the weather, and Edmonton is no exception. Witnessing -30 temperatures are common during the winter, along with several feet of snow, lots of icy activities, and low humidity.
At the same time, summer provides gorgeous long days, lots of sunshine (this is one of the sunniest areas in Canada! ), and a tonne of festivals celebrating art, music, and cuisine. With over 850,000 visitors last year, the Edmonton International Fringe Festival is the biggest in North America. Similar to ours in Edinburgh, it features the top comedy, theatre, and other arts.
Where Is Edmonton, Canada?
The majority of visitors to Alberta flock to Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise to take in the breathtaking Rockies, so Edmonton is not the first spot that springs to mind for a vacation. However, Edmonton also has a tonne of fantastic things to do.
Many major flight operators fly nonstop, twice-weekly flights from several parts of the world to Edmonton. About 25 minutes of a drive separate Edmonton Airport from the city centre. There is a good public transportation system in the city, and taxis are not too expensive. Consider renting a car if you want to travel beyond the city to explore the national parks.
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Accommodations in Edmonton for Sightseeing
Along with a number of hotels in West Edmonton next to the well-known mall, we highly recommend these fantastic lodging options in the city's thriving downtown area.
- The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald is Edmonton's top choice for opulent lodging and is housed in a historic 1915 structure with a stunning riverfront setting. It also features magnificent decor, a heated indoor pool, and a well-stocked fitness centre.
- The Union Bank Inn, housed in a historic bank and situated in the downtown area, is another well-known example of a luxury hotel. It offers stylish rooms with antique furnishings and fireplaces, a fantastic breakfast, and an exercise area.
- The Matrix Hotel, a popular in the mid-range hotel segment, offers outstanding downtown location, complimentary breakfast, surrounding great restaurants, and light-filled, contemporary-styled rooms.
- Another excellent option is Staybridge Suites West Edmonton, a budget-friendly three-star hotel with roomy suites with kitchens, a lively nightly reception, a free breakfast buffet, and a wonderful indoor pool.
- The Hilton Garden Inn West Edmonton has reasonable pricing, pleasant service at the front desk, a hot tub and heated saltwater pool, plush beds... and complimentary cookies!
- The Crash Hotel, a quirky establishment with bunk beds and shared facilities, is one of the many fantastic, inexpensive lodging alternatives along the river and the downtown area.
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