15 Best Things to Do in Edmonton: A Year-Round Collection
What’s so special about the sunniest place in Canada? That means you’ve gotta see a lot of summer festivals taking all over your calendar from June to September and cruising the River Valley on foot has never been easier.
Winter’s not backing down either. Edmonton is one of the best places to watch the aurora borealis in Canada when winter comes, be amazed at the stunning ice carvings at the Ice on Whyte Festival, and skate the day away at one of the skating rinks.
We’re sure there are more to see. Your year-round bucket list for exploring Edmonton starts here.
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With summer just lurking around the corner, nothing says “get wild” louder than the summer festivals in Edmonton. It’s one of the best things to immerse yourself into the summer vibe of this lively city even if you’re only here for a few days.
Now let me walk you in on a little secret: you’re about to see over 40 different festivals taking your summer calendar by storm, running from June all the way to September.
Extravagant carnivals and music concerts headlined by chart-topping artists will make you wanna switch to some last-minute plans. The line-ups are stacked with talent as you sneak into the screaming crowds at the Freewill Shakespeare Festival, Filipino Fiesta or Alberta Circus Arts.
Well, if you’re not that ready to dance the night away, perhaps cracking it up with your favorite stand-up talents at the Grindstone Comedy Festival or hunting for some independent food at the Savor Strathcona County sounds like a better plan.
2. Celebrate K-Days
Since we’re talking about summer festivals, but nothing can overthrow the biggest annual event that takes Edmonton by storm every late summer.
Also known as Klondike Days or Capital Ex, this 10-day-long event spices up your sunny outdoor bonding with an extravaganza of rides, games, music, food and adventure.
After a 3-year hiatus, your K-Days are back stronger than ever. Your favorite games and classic rides are still there but are prepared to see a new hit.
Besides the midway rides SuperDogs, mini donuts, hot dogs, and nightly fireworks, festival-goers should expect to see some new offerings from the Indigenous Edmonton Entertainment Group Association (IEEGA) which curates a series of high-profile Indigenous events and entertainment including workshops and teachings.
Address: Edmonton EXPO Center & Exhibition Grounds – 7515 – 118 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T5B 4X5
Originating in the early 1900s, the High-Level Bridge Streetcar is still running today. It’s in operation from Friday through Monday and is only open from mid-may until the beginning of September.
The short scenic journey covers the length of 777 meters where you get to soak in the nostalgic feel of the Old Strathcona area before sneaking into the only tunnel ever built on a CPR mainline in Alberta. At the end of the trip, the fully restored streetcar passes through the High-Level Bridge into Edmonton’s Downtown where you get off for a stroll from the Government Center Plaza platform.
From there, explore further into the downtown core with all the heritage buildings such as the beautifully landscaped Legislature grounds.
Autumn has arrived in Edmonton and that means the harvest season from July to October kicks off. Well, that doesn’t mean Edmonton’s local farmers don’t have anything to offer when summer comes.
Greenhouse growers, cold storage, canning and freezing encourage Alberta fruits and vegs to be available for eating year-round. However, summer is just a time when farmer’s markets hit differently.
Edmonton’s Downtown Farmers’ Market is an absolute must-see to get your farm-fresh produce fix. Succulent strawberries and golden delicious apples are stocked up from basket to basket.
But that’s not the only thing you can find. How about bringing home some pumpkin-spiced drinks and munching on those tasty buttery cookies while you’re on the browse? To make it even more exciting to enjoy, pumpkin pies and hand-crafted Halloween items at Bountiful Farmers’ Market are also ready for sale as Halloween is soon approaching.
At the old Strathcona Farmers’ Market, honey, hand-made clothing, beer, pet food, toys, baked goods, and roasted coffee are waiting to be seated in your cart.
4 Best Things to Do in Edmonton During Winter
1. Watch Aurora Borealis
Do you know that Edmonton is one of the best places in North America to enjoy the magnificent northern lights? It requires some planning ahead but the result will totally blow your mind.
That being said, you’ve gotta pack your stuff and get on a car ride about 40 minutes to Elk Island National Park where the northern lights are not interfered with by the artificial lights.
If you check the Aurora Watch Schedule, it will tell you the best time to watch this geomagnetic activity in Edmonton, which is usually around or before midnight.
On some very active days, the northern lights will pass through Edmonton from early evening onwards.
2. Engage in the Ice on Whyte Festival
Edmonton summer festivals are fun but the Ice on Whyte winter festival is even more marvelous. Winter has never been so amusing, especially when you’re surrounded by the finest and most dramatic masterpieces brought by the International Ice Carving Competition.
Let me walk you in on a little secret: the International Ice Carving Competition in Edmonton is one of only three ice carving competitions in all of Canada.
10 talented teams marshal with their tools in hands, ready to turn the giant pieces of ice into mystical animals and impressive landscapes. The event takes place in the arty neighborhood of Old Strathcona over two long winter weekends.
This family-friendly festival turns into a massive outdoor playground chock full of interactive children’s play areas, the famous giant ice slide and many more.
Address: Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Par – 8331 104 St NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 4E9
The best skating rinks in Edmonton come in a roll call. The city abounds with many outdoor skating rinks for the family to enjoy, spreading from Churchill Square to Hawrelak Park, Rundle Park, Jackie Parker Park, and more.
Out of many skating rinks in Edmonton, the Victoria Park skating path is one of the most thrilling experiences. Glide your way down the lanes lit up by solar-powered lanterns that cast rainbow colors onto the stark. Victoria Park’s got the locals excited, introducing a 70’s disco flare with the Alice in Wonderland spirit.
But if you’re intimidated by the strenuous feeling of skiing in the extreme weather when your faces are tucked tightly inside the scarf to steer clear of the wind-chilled eyes, Edmonton’s Sunridge Ski Area will come to the rescue.
4. Explore The Ice Castles At Hawrelak Park
Get your winter boosts at the ready and layer up! As soon as you walk into the Ice Castles at Hawrelak Park, the freezing air will send chills down your spine.
On any given spring, Hawrelak Park turns into a massive piece of art. Kids burst into laughter while their parents are waiting to catch at the foot of the ice slides.
The Ice Castles is peppered with numerous ice structures, some of which reach a whopping height that serves as a dramatic background for a photo-op.
You can engage with the sculptures, lean your back against the ice walls, or sneak into a giant castle that brings fairytales to life. These giant masterpieces are created by hand, and brought to you by the most talented ice artists.
Address: 9330 Groat Rd NW, Edmonton, AB T6G 2B3
7 Best Things to Do in Edmonton Year Round
1. Tour the River Valley
Things just seem to get better when we get closer to the river. The largest stretch of urban parkland in Edmonton abounds with outdoor activities no matter summer or winter.
River Valley serves as the backbone of the city and is filled with both thrilling and leisure happenings. While ardent hikers like to traverse the waterway on foot, some others like to actually take a dip into the water on their canoe and feel the breeze and moist dancing in their hair.
When winter comes, show-shoeing and cross-country skiing take place all over the valley, starting from as far as the 100 Street Funicular.
Lining up along the valley is a system of over 160 kilometers of maintained pathways and 20 major parks. One of the most talked-about parks here is Louise McKinney Park and Emily Murphy Park. People like to put a tarp down for a picnic here.
But there’s another better way to survey the park on a high note: take on a segway ride. But you won’t do that alone. Meet your trainer at Louise Mckinney Riverside Park and start a one-hour segway ride as you and the gang sneak through all parts of the North Saskatchewan River valley parks system.
Getting to see some green space and unplug digital buzzes from your existence for a while. That’s when Muttart Conservatory came into place. Ever since it was aired in the early 1970s, people have been thrilled. Muttart Conservatory is more than just a botanic garden like anywhere else.
The entire ground is broken down into four areas, including Tropical Pyramid where tall palms, bananas, and weeping figs are present. The Arid Pyramid covers the hot and cold dry areas. The Temperate Pyramid takes you to the Great Lakes and Australia while the Feature Pyramid is a seasonal display.
If you haven’t checked this place out, you should. Pull up early to soak up the gorgeous manifestations of different ecosystems. Once you’re done with the walk, kick back at an on-site cafe to recharge.
If you wanna survey the pyramids from up in the air along with other attractions in the downtown core, sign up for the 45-minute helicopter sightseeing to make the most of your day!
There’s no better place that makes a throwback trend feel fresh better than the neon signs. These cold cathode gas-discharge lights took the world by storm back in the days when it was popular in the 20th century.
Even though the making of neon lights is put on hold, if not saying it’s turning into a dying industry, the volunteers from the City of Edmonton Heritage Planning have collected dozens of them that once belonged to the old businesses.
Now walk on the 4th Street Promenade and you’ll see a stunning outdoor collection that starts with 8 signs representing early styles and iconic signage in Edmonton’s history.
Under each sign, they place a plaque imprinted with storytelling where the signs come from.
Going by as the largest mall in all of North America, West Edmonton Mall will give you all the answers if you don’t know what to do this upcoming weekend.
800 stores, 12 attractions, and 2 massive hotels – well, West Edmonton Mall ticks all the boxes. Wait, not to forget there are 100 restaurants waiting to give you a whale of a time.
No matter which season it is, the mall turns into a massive playground for visitors of all ages. There’s an indoor skating rink, some thrilling roller coasters, and a gigantic water park to beat the summer heat.
Even better, they give you a Multi-Play Pass if you plan to spend days here. The pass gives you access to almost all of the attractions including Galaxyland, World Waterpark, Ice Palace, mini-golf, and Ed’s Bowling.
Call Edmonton the home of exceptional eats, and make sure you come to visit this town with an empty stomach. Hunger gives flavour to the food, and Edmonton gives you a ticket to all continents with its mashup of global cuisines.
We’re sure Edmonton has a lot to offer. But if you’re unsure where to go, these 12 best restaurants will give you a galore of ideas. Let’s take Syphay for example. Pair that classic Pad Thai with a steamy bowl of Tom Yum because that rich coconut and spicy base will enhance the flavor profile of the chili-tamarind and mix spices in the noodles.
How about Ethiopian cuisine? Mesobena is the right way to go. The casual yet inspiring dining hole serves up drool-worthy Key Sir and Kitfo you’ve ever seen.
6. Visit the Fort Edmonton Park
Historical parks like this allow you to be part of the history and to feel belong to the land you’re visiting. Take an admission ticket for a full-day exploration with your loved ones, and dig into the diversity of First Nation and Métis histories, cultures, and perspectives.
Fort Edmonton encompasses a gigantic footprint of 30,000-square-foot. Take a stroll around the fur trading era, get on a swing ride and the Ferris Wheel, or engage in the crazy fun outdoor maze with the kids.
When noontime hits, stop by the carnival-style food at some of the snack bars to enjoy a healthy serving of photo ops.
What makes it even better is that all the staff are a character by themselves, putting on uniforms and vintage clothing just standing by and ready to accommodate any question you may have.
Sometimes a scenic stroll is better to cheer you up than any pill. In Edmonton, Whyte Avenue serves as the most bustling destination, chock full of restaurants and historical buildings that blend the youthful exuberance with the funky and bohemian spirit.
Well, Whyte Avenue is not only for nightlife, even though the bars and pubs already made a statement for Whyte’s nightlife.
Going beyond the nightlife scene, Whyte Avenue hosts a series of local boutiques, one-of-a-kind art galleries, music shops, and award-winning burgers to the winner of The Golden Fork’s Best Charcuterie at Ampersand 27 at The Next Act’s.
While walking the avenue is not much of a hassle, why not rent an e-bike and explore further afield so you don’t have to give in to your weary legs?
What else do you wanna do in Edmonton? If you’re still on the hunt for more crazy fin ideas, our lists below will inspire: