Alberta’s capital city Edmonton on the North Saskatchewan River likes festivals, sports, and playing outside long into the evening, thanks to 18 hours of summertime daylight. Like the Alberta sky overhead, big is a theme here. This modern city of nearly one million 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 River Valley is vast — the cherished green heart of the city. At nearly 19,000 acres, this collection of scenic parks is 22 times bigger than New York City’s Central Park. Ninety miles of trails, pathways, golf courses, and tree-lined, manicured lawns connect 20 parks, where locals and visitors picnic, bike, run, kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard, take a paddle boat or Segway tour, and in winter, snow shoe, and ski (cross-country and downhill).
West Edmonton Mall
If you’re thinking Macy’s, Best Buy, and a food court, readjust the lens. This 5.3-million-square-foot mall is North America's largest with 800+ stores, 100 eateries, 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: one aptly named Fantasyland for its 120 themed guest rooms. Surf indoors at Tsunami or learn how.
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.
The Art Gallery of Alberta
A striking architectural landmark reminiscent of Bilbao’s Guggenheim, downtown’s Art Gallery of Alberta is the province’s oldest public culture venue and the only one focused on preservation. The 6,000 paintings, sculptures, and installations on display at this premier venue include historical and contemporary, international and Canadian works.
Set atop the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, the Alberta Legislature is a marvel of marble pillars and carved oak. Discover the Legislature on a free guided tour, offered hourly. Ask about the Famous Five who fought for women’s’ right to vote. Learn the fascinating stories behind the portraits and magnificent art. Glance at the bejeweled gold and silver ceremonial Mace. And don’t forget to listen for the phenomenon known as the “magic spot”.
Royal Alberta Museum
You can’t visit Edmonton and miss a visit to the newly re-opened Royal Alberta Museum (RAM). Explore their galleries on human history, natural history, test your fear of creepy crawlies in the bug gallery or bring the kids along to the children’s zone. With over two million objects on display and changing feature exhibits, there’s always a reason for another visit to the RAM.
University of Alberta Botanic Garden
Be amazed by the wealth and diversity of nature at the stunning University of Alberta Botanic Gardens – a must-visit for lovers of flora, fauna and beautiful things. With 80 acres of display gardens (and 110 additional acres of natural areas and ecological preserves), there’s tons to explore. Don’t miss the new Aga Khan Garden—4.8 hectares of modern architectural beauty inspired by Moghul traditions, and designed for the Edmonton region’s climate and topography.
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, many originals, at Canada’s largest living history museum.
Ready to rodeo, river raft, and surf inside? See you in Edmonton!
Shakespeare under an open sky? You got it. World champion skateboarders throwing down the baddest tricks known to man? Check. A winter festival with sculptures made of ice and…fire? No problem. With over 50 festivals annually, there’s no shortage of excitement to fill your stay - whether it’s 30 degrees above, or below. The Edmonton Folk Music Festival, International Fringe Theatre Festival, Flying Canoe Volant Festival and Ice on Whyte are just the beginning.
Find great vacation ideas at the Edmonton Tourism website.