On Monday, I posted a 24-hour guide to Calgary, Alberta. As I noted in that post, we’ve written a lot about Alberta’s beautiful Banff and Jasper National Parks on this site—like here and here—but not as much about Calgary and Edmonton, two great and close-by North American cities.
Edmonton is the northernmost North American big city (one million people or more), and it’s also the Albertan capital. It’s known to always be celebrating something, hence its reputation as “Canada’s Festival City.” There’s the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival and Taste of Edmonton, and there’s K-Days and much more. It’s traditionally a blue-collar city in touch with the outdoors (like Calgary, it sits in the prairie close to the Rockies), but more recently, a wave of restauranteurs and new energy has brought it international recognition. It’s also home to North America’s largest mall.
Here’s a quick guide to Edmonton, a city I hope to soon see for myself:
Stroll for breakfast
Start your day with a stroll through downtown Edmonton. Grab a coffee and a small bite at BRU Coffee + Beer House (Jasper Ave) or Credo Coffee (right off Jasper Ave), or fill up with more at one of the downtown area’s diners. Urban Diner, west on Jasper, is a good bet.
Sir Winston Churchill Square
The square named for Sir Winston is always bustling with things to do (and free Wi-Fi). There are shops, a giant chess set and free live entertainment from all different types of street performers. If you’re lucky, you might also walk into a festival.
The art of Alberta—and more
Just a short walk from the square is the Art Gallery of Alberta, which hosts exhibitions by native Albertans and acclaimed international artists alike. It’s the oldest cultural institution in Alberta (1924) and a place to appreciate both the historical and the contemporary. One Friday a month in summer, there’s live music inside.
See what provincial government looks like
The Beaux-Arts-style Alberta Legislature Building is impressive from the outside, so make a point to walk by it for photos (at 107 Street and 97 Avenue). Better yet, take the free tour (available 362 days a year) and explore it from the inside.
Lunch of the world
The Edmonton food scene is big and getting bigger, which means you won’t be short on options when lunchtime rolls around. So where to start? Prairie Noodle Shop is ramen as good as it gets outside of Japan. El Cortez offers inspired Mexican street food and is “one of only 9 establishments in the world certified by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (the Tequila Regulatory Council).” Solstace Seasonal Cuisine, for a few more Canadian dollars, is an award-winning farm-to-table gem. Pick any and enjoy.
Science, history and botany the Edmonton way
The TELUS World of Science Edmonton ($19.95 Canadian or about $15 US) takes kids and adults into interactive worlds of science, space and technology. Bring the kids—or go alone—to the Robotics Lab and then an IMAX or planetarium showing. Through September 5, you can also wander through “The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes.”
Fort Edmonton Park, meanwhile, offers an interactive, Colonial Williamsburg-style historical experience for $26.20 Canadian (about $20 US) per adult (children are $20 Canadian or about $16 US). The park is broken into four worlds, each a different era in Albertan life in fun and surprising detail.
Even if you don’t get inside them, the glass pyramids of the Muttart Conservatory are striking. From the outside, they help define the Edmonton skyline. Inside, the beauty is matched by fabulous colorful botanical gardens (Canada’s largest), which you can explore for $12.50 Canadian (about $10 US).
Dinner on Whyte Avenue
Walk for dinner flanked by historic buildings and trendy shops and eateries along one of Edmonton’s arteries: Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona. The restaurant scene is booming, and Whyte Avenue is full of alternative energy, so feel free to follow your gut. Or, try MEAT, a sleek yet homey BBQ smokehouse that’s turning new guests into regulars at an impressive rate
Take in a show—and/or go for a nightcap
After a filling dinner, plunk yourself into a theater seat to digest—at the Princess Theatre for a movie, the Citadel Theatre for a play or at the ornate Winspear Centre for acoustically brilliant opera or music.
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