Edmonton

Destination Location

Edmonton, AB

Overview

Edmonton — Alberta's capital city — is a vibrant urban centre and the largest northernmost metropolis. The city is authentic, rugged and original, with an attitude that you'll appreciate as soon as you arrive.

With over 40 festivals annually, Edmonton shines as an arts and culture. From close encounters with free roaming bison at Elk Island, to surfing indoors and taking your taste buds on a journey to some of the hottest craft beer taprooms, hyper-local bistros and indie bakeries in Canada. The one thing you won't miss is that there's a uniqueness to how Edmonton does ordinary things.

Edmonton has the largest urban parkland in North America, with a river valley system 22 times the size of New York's Central Park, and eight times larger than Vancouver's Stanley Park. So, pack your hiking shoes to trek through river valley trails, or slip on your comfy shoes to discover local boutiques, farmers markets and cafés. But, most importantly, pack your sense of adventure.

Edmonton is a fantastic destination for:

  • Culture and history
  • Shopping and dining
  • Sport and recreation
  • Festivals and events

Airport served by: YEG

Destination basics

The summer season stretches from May to September and tends to be warm and dry. The average daily high temperature is 22°C and low temperature is 11°C. Edmonton is one of Canada's sunniest cities with 325 days of bright sunshine each year–or 2,345 hours. In June, Edmonton enjoys up to 17 hours of daylight per day.

Spring in Edmonton can arrive in early April, but often warmer temperatures may arrive a little later. Although it won't stick around long, springtime snow can certainly happen as well. Fall in Edmonton highlights beautiful colours through the valley. While evenings are cool, average daytime highs remain at double digit levels well into October making it perfect cozy sweater weather while you're outside exploring.

In winter, yes, it can be cold, but it's never boring. Average highs in January of -6°C are perfect for many outdoor or indoor experiences. Even if it's a bit chilly, those sun-filled days continue showing off Alberta's bright, blue skies.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Edmonton

In 1795, the Hudson's Bay Company established Fort Edmonton, a trading post where the Cree and the Blackfoot brought their much-coveted furs for barter. Over the course of some 200 years, Edmonton has evolved from this desolate outpost into a proud provincial capital. Thanks to the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800s, the building of the Alaska Highway in the 1940s, and the discovery, also in the 1940s, of phenomenal amounts of crude oil within a 40-kilometer (25-mile) radius of the city, Edmonton has earned its status as a transportation hub, supply center and industrial capital. But, beneath this business-like façade, there is much more to this small city, dubbed the "Gateway to the North."

New buildings are always under construction and new neighborhoods are continually being tacked on to the outskirts. Edmonton has the feel of a young, vibrant, yet not-too-cosmopolitan city, and its beauty and simplicity often surprise visitors.

The grid design and the numbering system of Edmonton's streets and avenues make getting around in the older parts of the city easy. Streets run north to south, starting with zero in the east. Avenues run east to west, starting with zero in the south. In some of the newer residential neighborhoods, a map is essential, as the boulevards, lanes, and crescents are named. There are a few remaining traffic circles, and knowing the rules that govern them is a must. Get a friendly Edmontonian to explain, or give the local police or Alberta Automobile Association a call. Apart from those cautions, driving around this city of just over 600,000 people is relatively easy. Although native Edmontonians complain about "rush hour," newer residents and visitors hardly notice the few extra minutes it adds to travel time. Edmonton Transit System (ETS) buses cover the whole of the city, and an efficient telephone service called BusLink helps riders plan the best route to wherever they are going. The LRT, ETS's Light Rail Transit, runs partly underground and partly above. It services the downtown core along Jasper Avenue, crosses the river to the university in the south, and runs north about 20 blocks to Northlands Park, the largest exhibition facility in Western Canada.

Fourth Street Promenade

Fondly named for 104th Street, a vibrant thoroughfare that cuts through central Edmonton, this lovely neighborhood holds plenty of promise when it comes to the facets of food and culture. The quirky yet informative Neon Sign Museum is located here, beatifically displaying a wealth of historic signages collected from Edmonton's past. Some of these legendary signs include those collected from the Northern Alberta Railways, Cliff's Auto Parts, and Chevy Trucks. This upscale stretch also hosts a variety of dining establishments that include gems like Bundok, the Blue Plate Diner, Tzin Wine and Tapas, and shopping stores like The Helm, among several others.

ICE District

A developing district that is projected to rise up as Canada's largest mixed-use and entertainment neighborhood, the ICE is known for its refreshing modernity. Its most prominent landmark is Rogers Place, the home ground of the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers. Adjacent to this behemoth lies the Grand Villa Casino Edmonton, a sprawling casino that was formerly known as the Baccarat Casino. The Edmonton Tower, a 29-storey tall office complex, deemed as Edmonton's fifth-tallest building, is also located here. By 2020, the neighborhood hopes to have other additions completed, including several condo properties, a public plaza and a cinema complex.

River Valley

The North Saskatchewan River snakes its way through Edmonton, from southwest to northeast, cutting the city in half. The river valley parkland - the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America - is a playground for all seasons. More than 100 kilometers (62 miles) of multi-use trails, which accommodate walking, jogging, in-line skating, cycling, and cross-country skiing wind through a green corridor of park after park. Nestled in the valley along with some quaint residential neighborhoods are golf courses, campgrounds, skating ponds, tobogganing hills, and downhill ski areas.

Downtown

Downtown Edmonton sits high on the north bank of the river, bordered on the west by the domed, granite and sandstone Legislative Building, and on the east by the castle-like Hotel MacDonald. The main downtown drag—a popular "cruising" route with young people—is Jasper Avenue, also known as 101 Avenue. Rice Howard Way, with its pubs and trendy cafes, is a block-long, cobblestone, pedestrian strip that is a favored hangout for the office crowd and weekend fun seekers. Churchill Square, a park in the center of downtown, plays host to many of the city's festivals, and is bordered by some of Edmonton's most important buildings: the glass pyramid-topped City Hall, the main branch of the Edmonton Public Library, the Francis Winspear Centre for Music and the Art Gallery of Alberta.

Enclosed pedestrian walkways called "pedways," both underground and overhead, connect most of the downtown buildings. They make getting around during Edmonton's "eight months of winter," as the locals ruefully joke, a bit more bearable. Edmonton Tourism provides pedway maps.

Chinatown

Chinatown is a few blocks east of downtown. Lining 97th Street, and on its adjacent avenues, are inexpensive Chinese restaurants, grocery stores - where tofu is sold in tubs at a fraction of the cost of the pre-packaged stuff - gift and clothing stores, and "pharmacies" staffed by Chinese herbalists who can offer something for just about any ailment.

Old Strathcona and Whyte Avenue

Across the river from downtown is Old Strathcona, a neighborhood with many turn-of-the-19th-century buildings and homes. Each Saturday, Edmontonians flock to the popular Farmer's Market held in the old bus barns. Several of the storefronts along Whyte Avenue have been restored and evoke the feel of a small prairie town. One-of-a-kind shops, cafes, and coffeehouses make this part of the city a popular hangout for young and old.

124th Street

One of Edmonton's charming spots, this street is filled with a bevy of independent stores, coffee shops like Remedy Cafe, and cozy eateries that you can choose from. If you still can't have enough, then there is High Street, located where 124th Street comes to and, where you can continue exploring several more stores and dining options.

University of Alberta

At the west end of Whyte Avenue lies the University of Alberta, one of Canada's most respected universities, and one of the largest research institutions in the country. More than 30,000 students in 15 faculties study in a tasteful mix of historic and modern buildings, many of which overlook the river.

The West End

The West End, as Edmontonians refer to it, is almost a city within a city. Residential neighborhoods, mega grocery and hardware stores, an abundance of hotels and restaurants, and the presence of every kind of service imaginable make this one of the most congested areas in the city. The West End's landmark, West Edmonton Mall, is reputed to be one of the largest shopping malls in the world, with 800+ shops, services, and attractions.

Edmonton's most fashionable neighborhoods line the banks of the North Saskatchewan. They are, for the most part, residential, with the most spectacular homes facing the river, visible only from a boat or canoe.

Garneau/High Level Bridge

Christened after one of its earliest settlers, Laurent Garneau, this is one of Edmonton's earliest neighborhoods and lies west of Strathcona. Overlooking the North Saskatchewan River Valley, Garneau is well connected to other neighborhoods in the city such as Downtown and Whyte Avenue. Despite having been a timeless fixture in the city, this neighborhood does have a modern outlook in terms of dining options and culture. While you can here, make a day out of visiting the Garneau Theatre for a movie, visit the John Walter Museum, and sip on coffee at Transcend. Those who love their beer can drop by the Sugarbowl for a lovely craft beer.

Ritchie

Located in southeast Edmonton, this residential neighborhood also is a good way to explore some of Edmonton's most stunning nature trails that are open round the year. Biking through the neighborhood is sure to give you a great feel of the place, and provide you an escape from the city's din. Later, you can explore the eponymous neighborhood market and enjoy a quick bite at one of its many eateries.

Alberta Avenue

This pretty tree-lined, pre-war neighborhood is home to the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, and hosts festivals like the Kaleido Family Arts Festival and the Deep Freeze Winter Festival.

Edmonton's entertainment scene is a reflection of the city's diverse population and the varied interests of its citizens. While it plays host to big-name entertainers from around the world, the city also showcases and takes pride in the people, the history and the spirit that are uniquely its own.

Festivals
It always seems to be festival season in Edmonton, but from May through August, "Canada's Festival City" really comes alive. Music, visual art, theater, or just plain fun - there is definitely something for everyone.

Late in June, the Yardbird Jazz Festival features jazz and blues artists at various indoor and outdoor venues throughout the city. And, the International Street Performers Festival fills the downtown streets with the antics of clowns, jugglers, magicians, and other performers.

Thousands flock to Hawrelak Park for the Heritage Festival, a delightful celebration of ethnic diversity. The 50 pavilions showcase the costume, music, dance, food, and art of a specific culture each. The Freewill Shakespeare Festival is also held here.

Edmonton's Folk Music Festival, held every August at Gallagher Park, is recognized as one of the top folk festivals in North America. It has featured well-known performers like Jackson Browne and Joan Baez, as well as Canada's own Bruce Cockburn and Blue Rodeo. When the sun goes down, the lights of downtown start to glow, and the music strikes a chord somewhere within, you'll know you're having "a folk festival moment."

The end of summer is marked by the Fringe Theatre Festival, a lively event that takes place in Old Strathcona and features all types of "alternative" performances at both indoor and outdoor venues. Taste of Edmonton, a 10-day festival held at Sir Winston Churchill Square, opens to enthusiastic foodies and culinary explorers as well over the summer.

Winters are filled with magical festivals that transform the city into a wonderland of sorts. From Ice on Whyte, where expert ice-carvers display their splendid talent, to the Silver Skate Festival, there is no stopping Edmonton denizens from enjoying a fun-filled winter.

The Pride Parade is proudly held in Spring, along with others like the Nextfest arts festival and the Nuova Opera and Music Festival.

Music
The nearly acoustically-perfect Francis Winspear Centre for Music is the home of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, which maintains a busy schedule, satisfying a variety of musical tastes through a wide range of programs such as the Masters Series, the Lighter Classics, and Symphony for Kids. The Winspear is also host to internationally renowned singers and musicians. Edmonton Opera performances take place at the Jubilee Auditorium, located on the University of Alberta campus. The Skyreach Centre and Commonwealth Stadium can accommodate larger audiences, and often feature popular rock and pop artists. Rogers Place, a top entertainment venue in the ICE District, is where all the big-ticket concerts are held, having featured artists like Ed Sheeran, Keith Urban, Coldplay and Bruno Mars, among others.

Theater
Edmonton's premiere live theater facility is the Citadel Theatre, where top actors from across the country perform in a variety of classical and modern plays. There are also several smaller, more intimate theaters, where you can see talented local actors perform. Others like the improv-comedy specialist Rapid Fire Theatre, the Shadow Theatre, and the Varscona Theatre are also worthy of mention.

Cinema
In every corner of the city you can find a "first-run" cinema, and West Edmonton Mall's super-deluxe Scotiabank Theatre Edmonton, complete with fire-breathing dragon, is worth a visit. Two of Edmonton's oldest cinemas, the Princess and the Garneau, both located in Old Strathcona, play a combination of alternative, first-run, and repertory films.

Sports
Thanks to Wayne Gretzky, everyone who knows anything about hockey has heard of the Edmonton Oilers, a team that draws a big local crowd during its home games at Rogers Place. Here, you can also watch the Western Hockey League's Ice Kings play. Commonwealth Stadium is the home of the Edmonton Eskimos, the city's professional football team. There are seldom sell-out crowds at any of these games, which is good news for visitors who want to see these teams in action. To watch some college teams play, check out game schedules for the University of Alberta Pandas and Golden Bears.

Museums & Galleries
The Royal Alberta Museum hosts world-class exhibits. One of the museum's permanent exhibits, the "Syncrude Gallery of Aboriginal Culture," offers a rare insight into the history and culture of America's native peoples.

TELUS World of Science houses an Imax Theater, a star theater, an observatory, a discovery gallery for children, and three exhibit galleries, the themes being the environment, forensics, and health.

A museum with a difference is the Muttart Conservatory, located in the river valley. Its impressive glass pyramids house flowers and plants from tropical, temperate, and arid climates.

The Art Gallery of Alberta exhibits the work of Canadian and international artists, and even has a rental and sales gallery. The smaller galleries in the vicinity of Jasper Avenue and 124 Street, along what has appropriately been dubbed the "Gallery Walk," exhibit works mainly by Albertan and Canadian artists.

Nightlife
Edmonton is not well-known for its nightlife, but ask around and you're sure to hear mention of a few tried and tested stalwarts that are well-worthy of their repute. The Black Dog Freehouse is one of these - a casual pub with an inviting dive bar ambiance that hosts a stellar line up of DJs, live music and movie screenings throughout the year. In summer, the Blackdog opens its rooftop patio to eager Edmontonians hoping to make the most of the pleasant weather. Woodwork, on the other hand, is best known for its eclectic, inventive and ever-changing cocktail menu, fashioned from the finest barrel-aged spirits.

The Pint is the place to catch the big game and groove along to 90s music, while Blues on Whyte is Edmonton's legendary destination for live blues. For country music, there's Knoxville's and the Cook County Saloon, and The Common is a popular gastro-lounge that attracts a more upmarket clientele. The city may not be a party capital, but with such a wide berth of options to explore, evenings in Edmonton are most certainly not dull.

Shopping
The West Edmonton Mall is really a one-stop, entertainment, shopping, dining, and nightclub complex. This mammoth shopping center is reputed to be one world's largest, unmatched by any other in North America, with over 800 shops and a whole host of entertainment options. It even has an amusement park, a full-size waterpark, a skating rink, and a mini golf course. It's a city within a city!

Southgate Centre and South Edmonton Common are alternate avenues for shopping. Although not as large as the West Edmonton Mall, they feature an impressive array of shops, restaurants, and cafes, and are a healthy mix of big-name brands and local boutiques.

There are some 2,000 eating establishments in Edmonton, and they represent a wide variety of cuisine. Take a walk down Bourbon Street, West Edmonton Mall's restaurant strip, and you will get an idea of how the city's culturally diverse population is manifested in its dining options. Here's a look at some of the neighborhoods in Edmonton that dominate the scene.

Downtown

The hub of the city's varied dining scene can be found in the heart of the city, where a melting pot of culinary cultures make Edmonton as popular as it is with the touring crowd. From splendid Italian fare at Corso 32 on Jasper Avenue, to Mexican magic at Tres Carnales, and Mediterranean selections at Sabor, downtown has it all. If you seek an upscale meal, then look no further than The Marc, a contemporary French restaurant. For quick bites, the Grandin on 109th Street does not fail to please with its fish 'n' chips menu, while vegetarians can enjoy a hearty repast at Padmanadi, where a host of South East Asian meals come together to tantalize your taste-buds.

Fourth Street Promenade

This up and about neighborhood enjoys a great vibe, and fishing for restaurants here will leave you spoiled for choice. Oenophiles can find comfort at the Tzin Wine and Tapas bar, where small plates go splendidly with wine selections, all in a superb, intimate space that can be enjoyed with a small group of friends, or with a loved one. Other great options include establishments like Rostizado and Bundok.

124th Street

A great line-up of restaurants greet you at this busy street in Edmonton, from the casual, small-plates-serving Canteen, the game cafe The Gamers' Lodge and Zwick's, to shops that sell baked goodness like the Duchess Bake Shop, and RGE RD, where Western Canada's regional cuisine is beautifully presented.

Old Strathcona/Whyte Avenue

Like its other lively neighborhoods, Old Strathcona also features a diverse mix of restaurants, from the modern and chic Ampersand 27 and burger specialist Next Act, to Cafe Mosaics and El Cortez. DaDeo, a retro New Orleans-inspired diner, should be on your list if you wish to get hold of some delicious po' boys and southern jambalaya. Or, stop by the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market located off Whyte Avenue for a more eclectic range. Indulge your sweet tooth in glorious desserts at the Sugared and Spiced bakery located opposite the market.

Garneau

This neighborhood is perhaps best known for its fixtures like the High Level Diner, and coffee shops like Farrow (for amazing sandwiches) and Rosso's for wood-fired pizzas. Vegetarians will feel at home at Noorish, a lovely health cafe on 109 Street.

The Pub Scene
There is no shortage of pubs in Edmonton, and new ones seem to pop up all the time, and all over the place. Whyte Avenue and downtown have the largest concentration. Pubs are popular with the locals, and on Friday and Saturday nights the lines can be long; owners are diligent about not exceeding maximum capacities. While you enjoy whatever is on tap, indulge in finger food. The most popular item is definitely chicken wings, mild, medium or screaming hot.

Some of Edmonton's most visited pubs include Woodwork in Downtown Edmonton.

The Coffee Scene

Coffee, a favorite with Edmonton's denizens, has led to several locally-owned cafes popping up around the city. Try popular ones like Transcend, Leva and Lock Stock Coffee at Jasper Avenue.

Edmonton

Province: Alberta

Country: Canada

Edmonton by the Numbers
Population: 932,546 (city); 1,321,426 (metropolitan)
Elevation: 640 meters / 2100 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 36.6 centimeters / 14.4 inches
Average Annual Snowfall: 124 centimeters / 48.6 inches
Average January Temperature: -11.7°C / 11°F
Average July Temperature: 16.1°C / 61°F

Quick Facts

Electricity: 120 volts, 60Hz, AC

Time Zone: GMT-7 (GMT -6 Daylight Saving Time); Mountain Standard Time (MST)

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 780; 587; 825

Did You Know?

The North Saskatchewan River Valley is one of North America's largest, and is considered to be 22 times larger than New York's Central Park!

The High Level Bridge Streetcar is the highest streetcar crossing in the world.

Edmonton is also the seat of the Province of Alberta's parliament, where interested visitors can see democracy and legislation in action.

Orientation

Edmonton is the capital of Alberta, Canada and is located in the central part of the state. It is North America's northernmost city that lies on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Calgary lies 296 kilometers (184 miles) south and Vancouver is 1156 kilometers (718 miles) southwest.

Boomtown. Perhaps no other term suits Edmonton so well. Although no stranger to hardship, over the course of 200-some years, the city has ridden high on the crest of several economic waves.

In 1795, the Hudson's Bay Company built a walled fort on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. The company perceived the need for, and the value of, a trading post in the rugged prairie of central Alberta, a territory that had mainly been inhabited by the Cree up until that time. The 20-foot-high walls offered protection from the conflicts that erupted between the Cree and their rivals, the Blackfoot, when they came to trade at the fort. In exchange for rich pelts of otter, muskrat, beaver, mink and fox, these native Canadians obtained European-manufactured goods such as metal cooking utensils, guns, and gunpowder, which in turn would alter their lives dramatically.

Stories abound about how Fort Edmonton acquired its name. It was most likely named in honor of Sir James Winter Lake, the deputy governor of the Hudson's Bay Company at the time. Lake hailed from Edmonton, in Middlesex, England. One can speculate that the original Edmonton was at one time Edmond's Town—named, in the British tradition, after a townsman, in this case named Edmond.

Life at the fort followed a routine of trading, dispatching brigades to remote outposts, planting food and grain crops in the spring, harvesting them in the fall, and hunting and fishing to obtain meat for the fort's inhabitants. Change came in the 1840s, with the arrival of Methodist and Catholic missionaries, who competed with each other in their quests to "tame" the natives and provide religious services to the Hudson's Bay Company staff. The Methodists were the first to relinquish the safety of the fort. They claimed land outside its walls, and in 1873 completed the building of a church and a manse. These were the humble beginnings of the city of today.

The names of these early missionaries adorn the city's landmarks, buildings, parks and roads. For example, Rundle Park is named after the Methodist Robert Rundle. You can also find the names of Hudson Bay Company employees and the early entrepreneurs who lived outside the fort. They followed the missionaries' example, arriving from distant countries to claim land and set up businesses. For example, John Walter Museum honors the Scotsman who established Edmonton's first ferry. Rossdale, one of Edmonton's river valley neighborhoods, is named for Donald Ross, another Scotsman, who founded Edmonton's first hotel.

The 1870s and '80s were decades of intense social and economic development for this young community, which seemed suddenly ripe for development. The first newspaper was established, schools were built, businesses like butcher shops and livery stables opened, and commercial agriculture became a profitable industry. It seemed that things could only get better, and they did.

News about the discovery of gold in the Klondike, an area near Dawson City in the Yukon, reached Edmonton in 1897. Prospectors heading north stopped in Edmonton for supplies, which meant prosperity for many local merchants. It was a short-lived boom, however, lasting only a couple of years. Some prospectors didn't even make it as far as the goldfields, and those who did quickly realized that the backbreaking process of panning wasn't going to make them rich. Their misfortune was an added bonus for Edmonton, because many individuals who had planned on passing through the city decided to stay, boosting Edmonton's population six-fold.

The railway arrived in 1902, establishing Edmonton as a major point on the transcontinental travel and trade route. It was incorporated as a city in 1904, and designated the provincial capital in 1906. Edmonton enjoyed a period of economic, cultural, social growth and prosperity.

World War I led to one of the bleakest periods in Edmonton's history. The city joined the war effort wholeheartedly, sending both men and supplies. In return, its boomtown atmosphere vanished as construction came to a halt, immigration tapered off and unemployment skyrocketed.

In the 1930s, still struggling to get back on its feet, Edmonton was hit by a wheat market depression that led to even more economic chaos, and more unemployment. The city witnessed the unfortunate birth of a shantytown within the city limits, and the opening of the city's first "porridge kitchen."

Then, in 1939, the news of another war came, but this one had a positive effect on Edmonton's economic development. The airport underwent massive construction as the city became involved in the aircraft industry and in airfreight. To facilitate the movement of supplies north, construction of the Alaska Highway began. The city's dark times were over.

Edmonton's biggest boom began in 1947 with a 90-foot gusher of black crude oil in the suburb of Leduc, just southwest of the city. The pipeline and petrochemical industries were born, and all aspects of Edmonton's economy benefited. In the 25 years following the discovery of oil, the city's population quadrupled, and the accompanying social and cultural boom saw the construction of shopping centers, galleries, theaters and concert halls.

Architecturally, Edmonton is a young city. In fact, there are few buildings to marvel at. Since the early 1900s, styles have largely been imported from U.S. cities and from the larger Canadian cities of Montreal and Toronto. Thus, the Legislative Building resembles many state capitols, and the Hotel MacDonald resembles other Canadian "chateaus." In many old neighborhoods, the simple, stuccoed, wartime houses still stand. Newer buildings, like West Edmonton Mall, the downtown Grant MacEwan College, and the City Hall have distinctly modern, airy styles. Perhaps, with Edmonton's solid economy not needing another boom just yet, an architectural boom is on the horizon.

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