Known as the Gateway to the North, Edmonton has 18 hours of sun in the summer giving you plenty of time to enjoy the great outdoors. In the colder months, the river valley is transformed into a winter wonderland as the Northern Lights dance in the sky. As Canada’s northernmost major city, Edmonton is also one of the coldest cities in the world.
Don’t let that stop you from visiting though, Edmonton’s year-round attractions include the largest shopping mall in North America, Canada’s largest living history museum, Canada’s largest historical park and Canada’s largest indoor botanical gardens. No matter what time of year you visit you’ll always find some amazing things to do in Edmonton.
Top Things to Do in Edmonton
Are you ready to discover the best things to do in Edmonton? The capital city of Alberta has something to satisfy all tastes in travel. Known as the City of Festivals, Edmonton has more than 50 festivals a year, giving Montreal a run for its money. So no matter what time you visit, there is sure to be something going on.
Book your airport transfer in advance to avoid airport hassles. Your private driver will take you from the Edmonton Airport (YEG) to your downtown hotel. Your driver will be waiting with a name plate and will track your flight so you don’t need to worry about delays.
1. West Edmonton Mall
West Edmonton Mall is not the largest shopping mall in the world (as some tend to believe), but it is North America’s largest mall and a very impressive entertainment destination. Featuring more than 800 shops, a water park, an ice-skating rink, a golf area, and a replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship the Santa Maria used in 1492, this mall is definitely worth a visit.
Even if shopping is not on the list you must go to the West Edmonton Mall to see the spectacle. Besides the fun attractions, there are variety of restaurants, stores and boutiques. You can even book accommodation in one of the two hotels at the mall.
- Fantasy Land Hotel and Resort – If you want to stay at West Edmonton Mall, this hotel has theme rooms and is connected directly to the mall.
- West Edmonton Mall Inn – For a more affordable option just steps away from the mall check out the West Edmonton Mall Inn.
Edmonton World Waterpark
Featuring over 17 slides in a tropical, exotic environment, World Waterpark is one of the best places to hang out. The water park was opened to the public in 1986 and is located inside the West Edmonton Mall.
It is one of North America’s largest indoor water parks, so it will keep the whole family entertained for hours, if not for a whole day. And don’t worry if you didn’t bring a towel with you on your trip, just get there and rent a towel at the admissions office.
2. Edmonton Muttart Conservatory
Discover the pyramids! Not the ones in Egypt, but the ones in Edmonton, Alberta! We’re talking, of course, about the botanical gardens at the Muttart Conservatory. Four pyramids feature more than 700 different species of plants from around the world in three climates – Arid Pyramid, Temperate Pyramid, and Tropical Pyramid. The fourth pyramid is the featured pyramid with seasonal displays and celebrations. It is one of the largest indoor botanical gardens in Canada.
An important horticultural attraction in Edmonton, Muttart Conservatory is located on the North Saskatchewan River valley, close to the downtown area. This is a year-round attraction and one of the best things to do in Edmonton taking you from Myanmar to Fiji. ‘Make sure to take a walk to the high ground the river for views of the skyline. American Redwoods and Australian Eucalyptus.
Self Guided Audio Tour
Get this self guided audio tour before you leave for your Edmonton trip. You can explore the city at your own pace as you listen to facts and history about Edmonton landmarks and attractions. Stops include, Sir Winston Churchill Square, Central Station, Citadel Theatre, Stanley Milner Library, Edmonton City Hall, St. Joseph’s Basilica, William Hawrelak Park and more.
3. Alberta Legislature Building
The Alberta Legislature Building is known as “The Ledge,” hosts the Legislative Assembly and the Executive Council. The architecture of the building is superb, but don’t walk away as soon as you get your photos with it. Make sure to go inside for views across the Saskatchewan River from its terrace.
The Alberta Legislature Building offers free guided tours through this iconic landmark in Edmonton. Constructed between 1907 and 1913, it is recognized for its stunning Beaux-Arts architecture. You can check their website for details.
Don’t miss going outside, The Legislature Building is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens and grounds that offer a peaceful and scenic environment for visitors to enjoy. The gardens include a reflecting pool, fountains, and numerous statues and monuments.
Alberta Legislature Building Visitor Centre
Don’t miss checking out the Visitor Centre which has a 4D immersive experience at Pehonan Theatre a visual history of the province of Alberta from its indigenous origins to the 20th century. The Vistor Centre is located on the main floor of the Queen Elizabeth II Building.
4. Edmonton River Valley Parks
The people of Edmonton know how to enjoy the great outdoors. The North Saskatchewan River Valley Parks System covers 18,000 acres combining 20 different parks across 48 km. Anything outdoors that your heart desires is available in this green space.
Hiking and cycling trails,(fat biking in winter) a golf course, ravines, and lakes and if you are into zoos, The Edmonton Valley Zoo is within the parks system. In the winter, there’s cross-country skiing and even a downhill ski slope at the Edmonton Ski Club where you can go snow tubing.
Some parks you’ll be passing through if you rent a bike or go for a run include:
- Hawrelak Park: A popular park with a lake, picnic sites, playgrounds, and events throughout the year, including the Heritage Festival.
- William Hawrelak Park: A large park with a lake, walking trails, picnic sites, and several events throughout the year, including the Symphony Under the Sky.
- Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park: A park with walking trails, picnic sites, and river access.
- Rundle Park: A large park with a golf course, walking trails, picnic sites, and a playground.
- Emily Murphy Park: A park with a playground, picnic sites, and river access.
- Terwillegar Park: A park with walking trails, picnic sites, and river access.
- Victoria Golf Course: A golf course located within the River Valley.
5. Louise McKinney Riverfront Park
One of the most popular parks in Edmonton is the Louise McKinney Riverfront Park. Located in the heart of downtown Edmonton along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River it is a beautiful park to spend some time outdoors. Rent a bicycle to go for a ride on its bike trails or simply stroll along the waterfront to take in the city skyline views.
Make sure to go to the Chinese Garden for some serenity and to see the Edmonton Chinese Garden Nine Dragon Wall which features a mural of the Great Wall of China on one side, and nine dragons.
You can book bicycle rentals in advance to spin your way through the streets of Edmonton. Rental includes tool bag, spare tubes, flat pedals, pump and helmet. You can also rent an e-bike for an easier ride, which we suggest for sightseeing. The River Valley Adventure Company also rents bikes in Edmonton.
River Valley Adventures
The River Valley Adventure Company is located in the park and they offer Segway tours and bike rentals in the summer and fat bike and snowshoe rentals in the winter.
You can book this segway tour that let’s you experience Alberta’s Edmonton River Valley in a unique way on two wheels. You’ll have see of the Edmonton Riverboat along the North Saskatchewan river and the scenic Walterdale Bridge which offers beautiful views of the Edmonton skyline.
6. TELUS World of Science in Edmonton
The science center is located in the Woodcroft neighborhood, close to Coronation Park. Telus World of Science aims to ignite curiosity and inspire discovery, and this makes it a wonderful destination for people of all ages, kids included. Children and adults alike have the opportunity to engage in science, participating in different experiments, and discovering the interactive galleries.
And if your kid has a soft spot for science, you can even organize a birthday party for him here! The staff is friendly, and the food court offers a variety of dishes to choose from, so you can spend a few hours here enjoying the learning experience!
7. Fort Edmonton Park
Time has stopped at Fort Edmonton Park where the streets are frozen in time. The 158 acre park is the largest living history museum in Canada and it’s definitely worth seeing when you visit Edmonton.
Costumed performers walk the replica of an 1885 street and you can tour an 1846 fort from the days of the Hudson Bay fur traders. Take a ride on the historic street car from 1909 and visit the recreation of the 1929 Capitol Theatre. It hosts events and concerts.
There is a Hudson Bay Fort and streets recreating Edmonton’s early history in 1885, 1905 and 1920. If you want a look at bits and pieces of Alberta and Canadian history the Fort Edmonton Park offers memorable experiences for everyone. Visit the fort for details.
8. Art Gallery of Alberta
The locals call it AGA (the acronym for Art Gallery of Alberta). The 8000 square meters building is located in downtown Edmonton, so you won’t have any issues finding it. Dedicated to visual arts emphasizing Western Canada. 6000 pieces, gift shop, restaurant and theatre space.
The building itself is an impressive piece of architecture. But there is more to the AGA than the magic of modern architecture. Art Gallery of Alberta is among Canada’s largest galleries featuring contemporary and historical exhibitions.
9. Alberta Aviation Museum
Are you passionate about aviation? The Alberta Aviation Museum is a good place is a good option if you want to learn more about Canadian aviation history. The museum is housed in a historic airplane hangar at the former Blatchford Field, which was once one of the busiest airports in Canada.
Visitors can enjoy a wide range of exhibits, including vintage aircraft, engines, and aviation artifacts from the early days of aviation to the modern era. With 40 aircraft including a World War II bomber and a replica of the Silver Dart, the first powered airplane to fly in Canada, this is a dream for history buffs.
The museum also offers educational programs and events for visitors of all ages. Children can participate in the museum’s Junior Pilots Program, where they can learn about aviation through hands-on activities and interactive exhibits.
10. Royal Alberta Museum
Located near the Art Gallery of Alberta, these make for a great combination. The Royal Alberta Museum is a natural and human history museum with the usual See exhibits distinctly Albertan highlighting Alberta’s Heritage and environment. Dedicated to natural history with more than 10 million objects on display. With 82,000 square feet of exhibit space, the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM) is the Western Canada’s largest museum.
Visit the RAM Website for more information.
Open Friday – Sunday
11. Neon Sign Museum
Let there be light! With some history behind it! This is actually an outdoor installation of vintage signs. Twenty neon signs originally from stores, railroads, and theaters have been reconditioned and hung on a building. It’s not your conventional museum, but you’ll definitely get amazing photos if you decide to take a walk in the area.
12. Alberta Railway Museum
If you get to Edmonton’s northern suburbs, you can visit Alberta Railway Museum. The museum was founded in 1976 to preserve the railway heritage. Here you’ll discover over 75 engines and an impressive collection of still-operating, as well as static locomotives. But the highlight of this visit is the opportunity to go on a train ride (only available during summer).
Who doesn’t love trains? This museum is home to a vast vast collection of vintage trains, including steam, diesel, and electric locomotives. It also has model trains. If you want to start a new hobby, you can learn all about model railroading here. Take a guided tour for an in-depth look at rail transportation and history in Alberta.
13. High Level Bridge Streetcar
Owned by the Edmonton Radial Railway Society, the High Level Bridge Streetcar is a heritage streetcar. Running on the former Canadian Pacific Railway One of the things to do in Edmonton is to take a ride in it and enjoy spectacular views of the city and the river valley.
Your journey through Edmonton’s river valley in the hundred-year-old old streetcar can take you to Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market and over the High Level Bridge. And the best part is that you get off when you want to visit a shop or grab a bite and hop on when you are ready to see more.
14. Hang Out at Old Strathcona Historic District and White Avenue
It is also known as 82 Avenue, and it’s one of the best places in Edmonton! Many make it a priority to get to the coolest neighborhood in Edmonton. With an eclectic mix of restaurants, theaters, and different shops, Whyte Avenue is an arterial road running through Old Strathcona.
The avenue got its name in 1891, after Sir Willian Whyte (superintendent of the CPR’s western division). We can say that Whyte Avenue is the heart and soul of the arts & fun district, so it is definitely a not-to-miss attraction. Speaking of CPR, The historic Canadian Pacific Railway Station is another attraction in the area that was built in 1908.
There are plenty of things to keep you busy in the Strathcona Historic District with the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market, the Strathcona Antique Mall and The Princess Theatre. The Princess Theatre dates back to 1915 and is a great place to catch a movie in a classic setting. There aren’t many of them left!
This walking tour takes you through Strathcona and White Avenue following the history from the Klondike Gold Rush to the people who lived there. The route begins at the old train station tracing the history of this historic area.
15. Rogers Place
No visit to any Canadian city would be complete without seeing a hockey game during the hockey season and Edmonton is no different. The Edmonton Oilers are legendary. It was the team that The Great One, Wayne Gretzky made history with during his hockey days breaking every record in the book. (too bad he’s hawking gambling ads these days, but that’s another story)
The Edmonton Oilers play at Rogers Place which opened in 2016. It’s one of the best sports and entertainment venues in North America. When hockey isn’t playing, it hosts several events and concerts.
16. Commonwealth Stadium
If you want to see some Canadian football, make your way to Commonwealth Stadium to watch the Edmonton Elks (formerly Edmonton Eskimos) play. Besides being used for the Canadian football league, it is also used for a variety of other sporting and cultural events throughout the year.
If you are visiting Edmonton during a time with no football on the books, don’t worry, there are several events and music performances throughout the year. Check their schedule for events.
17. Winspear Center
Winspear Center is home to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The center was opened in 1997 and is located in the city center. Winspear Center is a performing arts centre that hosts different types of events and concerts. The acoustic is fabulous, so don’t hesitate to go see your favorite concert here. See what is playing now at their website
18. Edmonton International Fringe Festival
Are you a theater lover? Then you’ll probably want to check out North America’s largest and oldest fringe festival. The Edmonton International Fringe Festival is held in August in the Old Strathcona District. Artists and street performers line the streets and original productions take place in the many theatres.
The Edmonton Fringe Festival features over 1000 performances featuring over 1500 national and international artists. Here you can experience innovative theater without worrying that your little ones will get bored. Fringe Theater Festival has family and kids-friendly performances and also Theater for Young Audience shows. Enjoy ten days of interrupted fun at the Fringe Festival in Edmonton!
19. Silver Skate Festival
Do you remember we said that Edmonton is a city of festivals? Yes, even in the dead of winter, locals get out to embrace the cold. The Silver Skate Festival is a celebration of winter sports and culture that has been held in the Edmonton for more than three decades.
The festival is named after a historic speed skating event, the Silver Skates, which took place on the frozen North Saskatchewan River in the early 20th century. Today, the festival includes a variety of activities such as ice-skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, live music, art exhibits, and food trucks.
The festival also hosts a number of competitions, including the annual Canadian Birkebeiner ski race, one of the largest cross-country ski races in North America. Check out another winter festival in Canada Winterlude Itinerary – The Ultimate Guide to Ottawa
Other festivals in Edmonton
In the summer Louise McKinney Riverfront Park is the heart of the festival scene hosting The River City Shakespeare Festival, the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival, and the Edmonton International Jazz Festival.
We have mentioned that Edmonton is a city of festivals and a few other festivals to keep an eye out for are the Edmonton Heritage Festival, The Shakespeare Festival, The Bright Night’s Festival
20. Elk Island National Park and Beaver Hills
Founded in 1906, Elk Island National Park is a protected area in the Beaver Hills region. It was created to preserve and protect the last of the big elk herds. Located just 35 minutes from Edmonton, Elk Island NP was the first wildlife refuge in Canada. Besides the big elk, it has also been a safe haven for the dwindling herds of Plains bison and wood bison for more than a hundred years.
The park covers an area of 194 square kilometers and is home to a diverse range of wildlife besides the bison and elk and it is a popular destination for outdoor recreation, with hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, and lakes for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.
Elk Island is also known for its dark sky preserve. In the winter, Alberta’s nights are long making for excellent opportunities to see the Northern Lights. Elk Island National Park offers a unique opportunity to stargaze under some of the clearest night skies in the country.
The Elk Island National Park is easily accessible from Edmonton. The Yellowhead Highway goes through the park. You will have to get a pass to go through the park, but the views are absolutely spectacular. Read more: The Most Beautiful National Parks in Canada
21. Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village
Located 50 km east of Edmonton, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village (known locally as The Village) is an open-air museum dedicated to preserving the Ukrainian Culture and history fo the Ukrainian immigrants who came to Canada.
The village is home to over 30 authentic historical structures, including homes, churches, schools, and farm buildings. These structures have been carefully preserved and restored, providing visitors with a glimpse into the past.
The village is set in a picturesque rural landscape that offers visitors a peaceful and relaxing environment. The village’s natural setting includes rolling hills, forests, and streams, making it an ideal destination for a day trip from Edmonton.
22. Trip to Jasper
No trip to Edmonton would be complete without seeing the Canadian Rocky Mountains and Jasper National Park. If you drive, you can get to Jasper from Edmonton in about 4 hours. You can also take a bus, but it will be a longer ride, approximately 5 hours. By train is no less than 6.5 hours.
Despite the fact that it is not very easy to get there, a trip to Jasper is one of the best things to put on your to-do list while in the area. Jasper National Park is the largest park in the Canadian Rockies, and this is just one of the things that makes Jasper an appealing destination for many travelers. Check out all the Amazing Things to do in Jasper.
How to Get to Edmonton
Edmonton International Airport YEG), is 30 km from the city. To get around Edmonton and Alberta we highly suggest renting a car. You can check out Car Rentals for prices and availability. Taxis, Uber and airport shuttles can take you downtown.
If you aren’t renting a car, you can hire an airport taxi or take The Edmonton Skyshuttle. Uber and Lyft are also available. We suggest booking a private driver in advance to take the hassle out of finding transportaiton when landing.
By Car: Edmonton is easily accessible by car, with several major highways passing through the city. The Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16) connects Edmonton to British Columbia to the west and Saskatchewan to the east. The Queen Elizabeth II Highway (Highway 2) connects Edmonton to Calgary to the south. Other major highways that connect to Edmonton include Highway 216 (Anthony Henday Drive) and Highway 28. Compare Car Rental Prices for Edmonton here.
Edmonton is 3 hours straight north of Calgary up Highway 2. By Canadian standards, this is a short drive. Grab your Tim Hortons Double Double and get driving. Compare car rental prices here.
But if you want to take a more scenic drive, make your way to Banff and go up the Icefield’s parkway to Jasper and then onward to Edmonton. Why not make a full loop?
By Train: Don’t rule out the train. Edmonton can be reached by major Canadian cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg or Saskatchewan. Via Rail operates train services to Edmonton from other major Canadian cities, including Vancouver and Toronto. The Edmonton train station is located in the heart of the city at 12360 121 St NW, making it easily accessible by public transit, taxi, or car.
By Bus: Several bus companies, such as Greyhound, offer services to Edmonton from other Canadian cities, including Calgary, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. The Edmonton bus station is located downtown at 10041 103 St NW, making it easily accessible by public transit, taxi, or car.
Final words about your trip to Edmonton, Alberta
A year-round destination, Edmonton has plenty to offer visitors. And it’s difficult to make a list of the top activities to try while in the city, especially if you have little time.
Some choose to come to Edmonton and spend most of their time on the golf course, while others find it difficult to leave North America’s largest mall as there is no shortage of entertainment there. If you do decide to book a vacation in Edmonton make sure you get out to enjoy its beautiful parks, cultural attractions, and museums. Edmonton has a lot going on!