Known for its natural beauty, culture, history and attractions, Edmonton is a city for everyone. It is home to Canada’s largest living history museum, Canada’s largest historical park and North America’s largest mall. If that is not enough, it is also has a vibrant theatre scene, numerous professional sports teams and some stunning architecture.
There is something to please everyone in Edmonton, from outdoor recreational activities to indoor fun. Shopping, dining, hiking, skating and even skiing are all offered in the city, making it one of Canada’s top tourist destinations.
Here are the best things to do in Edmonton:
1. Go to the mall
The West Edmonton mall is not an ordinary mall. It is a massive 490,000 square metre mall that boasts over 800 stores and services! It also happens to be the largest mall in North America.
Over 32 million people come to the mall on a yearly basis. Some come to shop in its stores, while others visit the mall for its attractions.
West Edmonton Mall is home to theme parks, a water park, a miniature golf course, four movie theatre complexes and a massive entertainment centre. It is also home to a large indoor skating rink, which sits right in the centre of the shopping mall.
2. Stroll through a park
Like the mall, Edmonton’s River Valley Parks is nothing short of gigantic. The park is actually made up of 20 different parks, that combined are 22 times larger than Central Park in New York City.
The River Valley Parks makes for a great escape from the city centre. It features 22 ravines, 11 lakes, golf courses and nature centres.
In the warm weather it is a popular place to cycle, hike and go camping. In the winter, the hiking trails become cross-country ski trails, while four hills are turned into downhill ski slopes. The best part is that the park system is accessible along trails right from the city.
3. Visit the Ukraine
There is a massive Ukrainian population in Edmonton, with settlers arriving to the city as early as 1899. The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village showcases this.
This open-air museum is a provincial historic site that sits just outside of the city. It features over 30 historic buildings, gardens and monuments that depict the life of the settlers between 1899 and 1930.
Workers are dressed in traditional costumes and are doing activities that were part of everyday life then. Watch gardens being tended, bread being baked (that you can taste!), blacksmiths working and word workers carving.
4. Wander around the downtown core
Edmonton’s Arts District is centred on Churchill Square, which hosts numerous cultural festivals. It was also the city’s original Market Square.
Numerous landmarks surround the square, including City Hall, the Art Gallery of Alberta, the National Bank and Francis Winspear Centre for Music.
The Arts District is also home to numerous boutiques, and, of course, art shops. As well, it is within walking distance of the Central Business District and the Warehouse District.
5. Go on a historic walking tour
The Strathcona Historic District sits in South Central Edmonton. It was once the city’s commercial core, but today it is a provincial historic area.
Although this is a historic area of the city, it is also very modern and vibrant. The streets are lined with funky cafés and trendy shops, and it also has quite a lively nightlife.
The district takes up five city blocks, running from 102 Street to 106 Street and from 85 Avenue to 80 Avenue. Historic buildings found in the neighbourhood include the Strathcona Hotel, the Canadian Pacific Railway Station, the Princess Theatre and the South Side Post Office.
6. Enjoy a festival
Edmonton is host to many throughout the entire year. In fact, it is nicknamed ‘Canada’s Festival City’. The Works Art & Design Festival is one of the most famous, which takes place between June and July.
The Edmonton International Fringe Festival happens to be the largest of its kind in all of North America, which takes place each August. If you can’t make that, try to come for the Edmonton International Street Performer’s Festival.
November’s Canadian Finals Rodeo and Farmfair is a massive event, which is second only to the rodeo in Las Vegas. K-Days is the biggest event of the summer. It is a 10-day exhibition with rides, games and shows.
7. Explore the museums
There are many museums in Edmonton, with something to appeal to the history buff in everyone. The largest is the Royal Alberta Museum, which showcases over 10 million objects that showcase the areas native tribes.
The Alberta Aviation Museum holds a collection of military and civilian aircrafts, including the Cranwell CLA.4, de Havilland Mosquito MK B35 and one of only two BOMARC missiles in all of Canada. The more modern Telus World of Science is home to an IMAX theatre, a planetarium and an observatory.
Fort Edmonton Park is Canada’s largest living history museum. If there is one museum not to miss it is this one, which is made up of four sections, each of which depicts a different era.
8. Take in a game
Edmonton is home to several professional sports teams. Of these, the most famous is the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, which was once the team of the great Wayne Gretzy. Tickets to a game are a must if in the city during hockey season.
Other professional sports teams include the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos and the North American Soccer League’s FC Edmonton. These teams often rival those in the other Alberta city of Calgary.
There are also plenty of junior sports teams in Edmonton. These games are fun to watch and could mean getting a glimpse of the next biggest hockey, football or soccer star.
9. Go skiing
There are four ski slopes close to Edmonton that are great if visiting Edmonton in the winter. These include Edmonton Ski, Snow Valley and Sunridge Ski Area.
One of the top places to go skiing is Jasper, which is 365 kilometres to the west of the city. Jasper sits with the Canadian Rocky Mountains and is often accessed via Edmonton.
Jasper is not only a fantastic recreational destination, but also a stunning one. In fact, it is breathtakingly beautiful, which is why it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
10. Gaze at animals
The Edmonton Valley Zoo is home to over 350 animals from around the world, which are of over 100 species. The zoo also raises funds and awareness for endangered animals.
There are eight separate areas within the zoo, all of which house different animals from different parts of the world. The Inner Zoo is the oldest area, which is home to meerkats, otters, red pandas, emus and alpaca.
Makira Outpost is one of the newer areas that was built to house the zoos lemurs. Carnivore Alley is home to the large cats, while Elephant House and Exhibit is, of course, where the elephants live.
11. Explore a botanical garden
The Muttart Conservatory is one of the city’s most famous landmarks. It is a city-operated botanical garden that has three greenhouses, four pyramids and public gardens.
The four pyramids sit around a central core and were designed by British architect Peter Hemingway. They house several plants from different biomes, including Australian, Asia and Canada.
There are also numerous trees at the Muttart Conservatory, like Eucalyptus trees, tropical evergreens and redwoods. You will also see begonias, roses, geraniums and water lilies here. End the visit with a bite at the onsite café.
12. Shop till you drop
In addition to the West Edmonton Mall, the city is also home to numerous shopping districts. South Central is a great place to start, as it is home to the vibrant Whyte Avenue.
Central’s 124th Street is a strip dotted with boutiques, high-end furniture shops and designer shops. It is also where Gallery Walk is located, which is the place to shop for one-of-a-kind artwork. City Centre Mall is a great place to buy major name brands.
Kingsway Mall in North Edmonton is the second largest shopping mall in the city. It has over 200 shops that are spread across two levels.
There are a plethora of places to dine in Edmonton, with cuisine from all over the world being offered. Central Edmonton is the top place to enjoy eating in the city, where authentic Italian, Mexican, Chinese and Portuguese can be enjoyed.
Also in the Central district are numerous fine dining options, where French, Continental and Japanese cuisine are prepared with the finest skills. Budget places are also scattered around this district, as are mid-range restaurants.
South Central is another great area of the city for foodies. Here you will find Indian food, Tex Mex, Italian and Korean food, amongst others. This is the best area for cheap eats, as it is where the University of Alberta is located.
14. Have a look at mammals
Elk Island National Park is home to the smallest and the largest land mammals in North America; the pygmy shrew and the wood bison. The park can be found just 35 kilometres east of the city.
The 194 square kilometre park is not large, but it is quite amazing. Not only is it home to these mammals, but also to mule deer, lynxes, porcupines and coyote.
Birds found in the park include red-necked grebes, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, American bitterns and red-tailed hawks. It is also home to a bison conservation centre.
15. Try your luck at the races
Northlands Park is the largest horse racing track in Alberta, with race season running between February and June. It has been open since 1990 and features a restaurant overlooking the race track.
During off-season, you can try your luck at the slot machines. There are Las Vegas-style slot machines in the slot lounge, as well as an additional restaurant just for slot players.
There are two other restaurants onsite, one of which has screens that televise the races, while the other is for private functions. There is also a beer garden/barbeque area that is open in the warmer months.