Edmonton

Destination Location

Edmonton, AB
  • 53.309722, -113.579722:primary
  • 53.309700012207, -113.580001831055:secondary

Overview

Known as Canada's Festival City, Edmonton hosts more than 30 established festivals each year, including internationally renowned folk, fringe and street performance fests. Edmonton is also home to numerous musical and theatrical productions, an annual July exhibition called the Capital EX and the Canadian Finals Rodeo in November.

Of course, a trip to Edmonton would not be complete without visiting the colossal, world-renowned West Edmonton Mall. This is one of the only places where you can find world-class shopping alongside an indoor water park where the weather is always tropical and the sound of crashing waves fills the air. But that's not all. The mall also features an amusement park, mini golf course, ice skating rink and three sea lions!

After hours, West Edmonton Mall offers exciting nightlife. Fun-seekers will love the many restaurants, nightclubs and lounges and the mall's comedy club is sure to have you rolling in the aisles.

While in town, you can also catch the Canadian Football League's Eskimos and National Hockey League's Oilers in action as well as the Edmonton Indy every July.

Prefer to spend time outdoors? You're in luck. Edmonton offers the longest stretch of urban parkland in North America! Spend a day at any of the city's 22 major municipal parks, exploring the Saskatchewan River valley by bike, boat or foot. Or, make the drive to Alberta's Jasper National Park, where you'll discover the beautiful Canadian Rockies – home to fantastic sports and scenery every season of the year.

Edmonton is a fantastic destination for:

  • culture and history
  • shopping and dining
  • sport and recreation

Destination basics

Cool is a good word to describe the weather in Grande Prairie. Winters here are typically cold and summers generally bring mild daytime temperatures, cooling off substantially in the evenings. With average January temperatures around -15 C and average July temperatures around 15 C, it's not difficult to figure out that this city is in the great Canadian North.

But due to Grande Prairie's geographic location near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, weather patterns in any season can quickly shift. Some winters see lots of snowfall with few mild periods. Other winters see little snow with many periods of warmer weather. Visitors should keep an eye on the forecast and pack appropriately.

 

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Edmonton

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 cuisine that dominates the scene.

Canadian/North American
Edmontonians love their meat—particularly their beef. After all, this is cattle country. The word "steak" or "steakhouse" is part of many a restaurant name. Alberta prime rib—a choice cut from the seven ribs just before the loin—is served at quality steakhouses like Von's and Teddy's. In addition to a variety of beefy steaks, burgers and ribs, other popular meat items include pork tenderloin, a variety of chicken dishes, and bison steak, all from locally raised animals.

The seafood served in the city's restaurants is imported from both of Canada's coasts. Thus, you can try Pacific salmon in one restaurant, Atlantic salmon in another. Typical offerings also include lobster tails, shrimp, scallops, mussels and a variety of other fish. A good option that is a bit on the upmarket side is Packrat Louie.

Steakhouses, seafood restaurants and other establishments that serve what is typically known as "Western" or "Canadian" food are found virtually everywhere in the city, with the biggest clusters in the west end (not far from West Edmonton Mall), in the downtown core, and on the south side along Calgary Trail. They range from counter-style to more elegant establishments like La Ronde, where you can dine with spectacular, rotating views.

Chinese/Cantonese/Szechwan
Chinatown, of course, offers the largest selection of these restaurants, but no matter where you are in the city, you are likely to find several more.

The majority of Chinese immigrants here in the West came from the region of Canton, in Kwangtung Province. The many Cantonese restaurants in Edmonton specialize in seafood dishes, tropical produce and rich sauces. Szechwan restaurants are also abundant in Edmonton and serve dishes with more familiar ingredients, which are flavored with red peppers, ginger, garlic, and Szechwan pepper grown in the prosperous province, Szechwan, in western China.

Italian
Fettuccine Alfredo, Veal Parmigiana, risotto, focaccia, bruschetta, tiramisù. They taste as wonderful as they sound. Italian restaurants in Edmonton range from lively pasta kitchens like Chianti to fancy, first rate establishments like Sorrentino's - Little Italy, all serving food to satisfy your hunger and warm your soul. And yes, there is pizza. You can have thin crust, thick crust, or stuffed (with cheese) crust, with anything and everything on it. Il Forno's pizza comes right out of it's signature brick oven.

French
Many of Edmonton's classiest (and most expensive) restaurants, like the unique La Boheme, fall into this category, offering classic French cuisine like chateaubriand, filet mignon, coquille St. Jacques and bouillabaisse, as well as veal and lamb dishes. A few of the French restaurants here, like The Creperie, specialize in crêpes, thin pancakes with delightful fillings. Be sure to follow your main course crêpe with a decadent desert crêpe.

Whatever type of cuisine you want to try, it's likely that Edmonton has it. Japanese, East Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Lebanese—the list goes on. And if you're vegetarian, don't be alarmed by the preponderance of meat items on every menu. There are some vegetarian (or almost-vegetarian) restaurants in the city. Most others offer at least a few vegetarian options. If you can't find anything on the menu, chances are the chef will whip up something meatless just for you.

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.

If you are planning to unwind in more private surroundings, it might help to know that the liquor stores in the province of Alberta are privately owned, so they don't keep government hours. They are open seven days a week and some until as late as 2a on weekends.

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, it has earned a status as a transportation hub, supply center and industrial capital. But, beneath this business façade, there is much more to this small city, dubbed the "Gateway to the North."

The City's Playground 

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. The block-long, cobblestone, pedestrian strip, Rice Howard Way, with its pubs and trendy cafes, is a favorite hangout of 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

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.

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 the largest shopping mall 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.

Easy Goings

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, greens 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.

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 surprises visitors.

Edmonton's entertainment scene is a reflection of the city's diverse population and the diverse 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.

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; then 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 in both indoor and outdoor venues.

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.

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.

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 the Rexall Place. Commonwealth Stadium is 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.

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.

West Edmonton Mall
This mall is really a one-stop, entertainment, shopping, dining, and nightclub complex. 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!

Edmonton

Province: Alberta

Country: Canada

Edmonton by the Numbers
Population: 932,500 (city); 1,321,400 (metropolitan) 
Elevation: 723 meters / 2371 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 50 centimeters / 19.6 inches
Average Annual Snowfall: 115 centimeters / 45 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; Mountain Standard Time (MST)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 780 

Did You Know?

Edmonton is home to North America's largest entertainment and shopping center, the West Edmonton Mall. The mall has over 800 stores and services and attractions including a waterpark and ice skating rink.

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. 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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