Edmonton isn’t the kind of city that boasts about all its awesome attractions, so you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know the very best things to do in Edmonton. Living in Alberta, we’ve visited there often and have over 20 top attractions for you to consider on your next trip.
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Edmonton Things to do
Being the provincial capital of Alberta, Edmonton sports of host of cultural attractions. And with a goal to become one of Canada’s finest winter cities, there’s infrastructure to support outdoor activities all year long. Here’s a look at our favourite Edmonton things to do.
Nestled with the river valley lies the Muttart Conservatory. This conservatory features more than 700 species of plants in 3 climate-regulated biomes, as well as a feature biome – all within stunning, glass pyramid structures.
Here, you can view plants that thrive in arid, temperate and tropical climates, much different than what you might see while travelling around Alberta. It’s an awesome spot for families – especially if you want to thaw out on a winter’s day.
Families will want to pick up a laminated kid’s scavenger hunt at the entry to each pyramid. It explains the scents, sights and textures you’re about to discover. Many plants change with the seasons, so each visit reveals something different. Free guided tours are available on weekends.
Explore River Valley Parks
Edmonton’s River Valley is one of the largest urban park systems in Canada and is home to more than 160 kilometres of pathways. There are 20 major parks linked together through this valley, and you can explore trails without getting lost by using the Discover YEG Map on your phone.
In summer, there are plenty of places to launch your boat to float the North Saskatchewan River (more on that later). There’s also several beautiful picnic spots for drop-in (under 50 people) or to book.
Neon Sign Museum
Edmonton’s Neon Sign Museum is the first of its kind in Canada. The collection is installed on the east wall of the TELUS building and the south wall of the Mercer Warehouse building (104th Avenue at 104th Street).
You can visit the museum just by strolling past the signs outside – they’re always functional and lit up 24/7. But the best time to visit is at night so you can see the signs all aglow. Some of the signs include Canadian National Railways, W.W. Arcade, Running Room and the Pantages Theatre.
Alberta Legislature Building
Edmonton is Alberta’s capital city, making it home to the Alberta Legislature. The legislature building and its beautiful grounds are open to the public. During summer, there’s a wading pool for the littles to cool off in and in winter there’s a lovely outdoor ice skiing rink upon its grounds.
Free tours are offered hourly within the Legislature. Tours cover the levels of government, previous leaders, Alberta history and the art inside the building. Be sure to ask about the “magic spot”. Currently, tours need to be booked in advance online.
Even if you don’t go inside, the building is a work of art from the outside, too. The nearby Visitors Centre holds two galleries, a 4-D theatre and a gift shop.
Visit Old Strathcona and Whyte Ave
The Old Strathcona and Whyte Avenue area is a mix of historical buildings, boutique shops and cool experiences. This neighbourhood has some of the city’s trendiest eateries, such MEAT (brisket by the pound) El Cortez and The Next Act. For a small bite, consider Café Mosaics, Made by Marcus ice cream or Remedy Café for a lavish Kashmiri chai tea.
If you fancy of day of browsing boutique shops, you’ll want to check out Bamboo Ballroom, West Book Inn, Gravity Pope, Fish Vintage and When Pigs Fly. All of these shops are found on 82nd Avenue and the surrounding area.
One of the grandest movie theatres in Canada, this art house theatre was built in 1915 and still retains its historic charm. The Princess Theatre sports two screens showing the latest Hollywood films. Quite often they feature classic movies, too. Even if the movie you’re seeing is a flop, you’ll appreciate the ambiance.
Old Strathcona Farmers Market
Another great thing to check out in this hood is the Old Strathcona Farmers Market. The market can be found just off Whyte Ave, and is open every Saturday, even in the winter because it’s indoors.
Visitors can pick up some fresh, locally grown and produced goods produced by local makers, picklers and gardeners. As a bonus, you’ll find free parking nearby.
Fort Edmonton Park
Fort Edmonton Park is a living historical museum in the Edmonton River Valley. This museum really comes to life with its costumed interpreters. The exhibits feature different times and attractions in history such as 1846 Fort, 1885 Street, 1905 Street, 1920 Street, and the Capitol Theatre.
Within Fort Edmonton Park are plenty of places to eat and shop. Take a ride on a train, streetcar, wagon or pony. The Park just added a brand-new Indigenous Peoples Experience to enjoy as well.
Fort Edmonton is open from June to the end of August, but they offer fall events including DARK and Dead Centre of Town.
Edmonton Valley Zoo
Edmonton Valley Zoo is home to more than 350 animals including red pandas, mini ponies, bees, zebras, Camels, reindeer and seals. The zoo has a strong focus on conservation and education.
The Zoo is also home to a year-round Urban Farm which can be found in Nature’s Wild Backyard, near the red pandas. Visitors can also head to the Makira Outpost to visit the lemurs.
Visit the zoo 7 days a week by booking a timed entry online. Admission starts at $7.75.
Visit West Edmonton Mall
West Edmonton Mall is the second largest shopping mall in North America, just behind the Mall of America. (West Ed was the largest in the world until 2004.) There’s so much to do at the mall besides shopping, you could spend days inside and not repeat an activity.
Shopping at West Ed
West Edmonton Mall holds over 800 stores and services. There are three themed street: BRBN Street, Europa Blvd. and Chinatown. The mall offers a few exclusive stores including St. Laurent, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Uniqlo, Canada Goose, Tiffany & Co., SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker, Mackage and Simons. If any of these stores sound up your alley, this is one of the only places you can find them in Alberta.
Galaxyland is North America’s largest indoor amusement park and features the Mindbender, the world’s tallest indoor roller coaster. The amusement park sports more than 27 rides, with a great mix for both kids and adults. The littles love their ball park, while the older set barrels down rides like Galaxy Express, Galaxy Orbiter, Mindbender and Trouble Twist.
The Park also includes arcade games and a rock wall. If you’re hungry, there are concession stands within the park or you can visit one of the mall food courts just across the hall.
World Water Park
West Edmonton Mall also is home to the world’s largest indoor wave pool and the second largest indoor waterpark. The waterpark features more than 17 unique waterslides including the Cyclone (extreme), Twister (advanced), Corkscrew (Intermediate) and Sky Screamer (Extreme). The waterpark also offers smaller slides for wee ones. For a fun overview, hop on the Sky Flyer Zip Line which crosses over the entire pool.
The wave pool is built like a beach, with the water getting deeper the further out you go. With a clear, domed ceiling, it feels pretty tropically even in the middle of summer. If you’re looking for some privacy they have private cabanas to rent.
Skating at West Edmonton Mall Ice Palace
That’s right, there is an actual ice-skating rink right in the middle of West Edmonton Mall. It’s open on weekdays, year-round for public skating. The Oilers used to practice at this rink, and now it’s often used by minor hockey teams in Edmonton. No need to bring your own skates, as they rent them on-site.
West Edmonton Mall is home to two different mini golf courses. Professor WEM’s Adventure Golf is an 18-hole miniature golf course that’s played on the lower-floor of the mall. This is a fun activity for young families.
Dragon’s Tale Blacklight Mini Golf is a blacklight course themed around helping save dragons. Both courses cost the same for admission. Dragon’s Tale also features a Crystal Labyrinth Mirror Maze, which is available as an add on to your golf or on its own.
Smash down tenpins without ever having to ever leave the mall. Ed’s offers tenpin and kingpin bowling plus billiards, an arcade and snacks. Walk-ins are available and each lane has a maximum of 8 guests per lane. Lanes are a flat rate per hour.
There’s also an escape room located within Ed’s. You can find Ed’s on the third floor, near the food court in Phase III.
Paddle the North Saskatchewan River
The North Saskatchewan River flows right through the heart of Edmonton, making paddling a great activity on a hot summer’s day. Bring your own kayak, canoe, floaty or stand up paddle board and launch from any number of locations in Edmonton (find them here).
Don’t have your own? You can rent from AQOutdoors or visit Edmonton Canoe for guided tours and rentals. Use caution when floating on the river and be sure to wear a life jacket and follow all city guidelines.
Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village
Situated just 25 minutes east of Edmonton, this living history museum depicts what life was like for the thousands of Ukrainian pioneers who settled in east central Alberta from the late 1800s until the 1930s.
Open from May Long weekend until Labour Day, over 35 historical buildings and costumed role-players portraying real pioneers provide an immersive and authentic glimpse into the past. Impressively, all the buildings at Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village have been restored and refinished to their original appearance. It usually takes about 2-3 hours to stroll through the site, popping into the historic buildings and catching a demonstration.
Time your visit so you arrive hungry. This is the spot to tuck into traditional homemade Ukrainian foods such as pyrohy (perogies), holubsti (cabbage rolls), kovbasa (garlic sausage) and borshch (beet soup).
Royal Alberta Museum
The largest museum in Western Canada, the Royal Alberta Museum is also one of the top museums in Canada. This museum is all about exploring human and natural history through its 4 permanent galleries: the Human History Hall, Natural History Hall, Bug Gallery and the Museum Zone.
For the kids, there’s a live bug gallery and a Children’s Gallery just for them. Even if you’ve been before, there’s always new exhibitions to suss out. For sure, don’t forget to visit the gift shop on the way out.
Telus World of Science
Telus World of Science is another engaging family activity to do in Edmonton. It features an IMAX theatre and themed laser shows, as well as permanent and travelling exhibits. Permanent exhibits include Nature Exchange, Zeiss Star Projector, Copernicus Photo Exhibit, Science Garage, Health Gallery and Arctic Gallery.
Here, you’ll encounter a great mix of hands-on activities for kids, plus interesting exhibits for adults. Telus World of Science is open from Wednesday to Sunday. Just be aware extra fees are added for special exhibits, IMAX and laser shows.
Go to a hockey game
Edmonton has two professional hockey teams, the Edmonton Oil Kings from the Western Hockey League and the Edmonton Oilers from the National Hockey League. Both teams play at the newly built Rogers Place area in the heart of the Ice District.
The Oil Kings are professional junior hockey players aged 16-21. These seats are usually cheaper, with prices ranging from about $20-$40 per seat. The Oilers play in the NHL, which is the highest level of professional hockey in North America. The tickets go for at least $115USD per seat. We recommend that you buy seats in advance for the Oilers, as those games sell out quickly.
Cheer on the Edmonton Elks
Edmonton is home to the Edmonton Elks of the Canadian Football League. The CFL is the highest level of competition for Canadian Football. The 21-week season runs from mid-June to early-November. Ticket prices tend to range between $40 and $150 per seat. The Elks play at Commonwealth Stadium, a 10-minute drive from downtown Edmonton.
University of Alberta Botanic Garden
Located just 15 minutes southwest of Edmonton, this beautiful garden is the perfect outdoor activity for couples and families. Within the grounds are many different gardens to explore including a Japanese Garden, Alpine Garden and there is an Indigenous Garden.
The UofA Botanic garden offers a brunch picnic box option that includes admission to the garden, an individual brunch box and a non-alcoholic beverages. They also offer a Twilight picnic box with food for two, live entertainment, garden games with admission included. These boxes are a great way to take in the tranquil garden views over a lovely meal.
In winter, visit Luminaria at the Botanic Garden for candle-lit pathways, hot cider, live entertainment and a winter village.
Art Gallery of Alberta
If you’ve been to Edmonton, you may have seen the outside of this gallery which is an architect’s dream, located in Churchill Square. The Art Gallery of Alberta features three floors of premiere exhibition space, the Singhmar Centre for Art Education, 150-seat theatre and a gift shop.
The gallery has over 6,000 works of art and specializes in Canadian abstract painting and sculpture. This is a superb spot to suss out local Albertan and Canadian artists.
Where to Stay in Edmonton
There are plenty of great hotels to stay at in Edmonton. Here are 3 that particularly stand out.
One of the city’s newer hotels, JW Marriott is a luxe property, situated in the Ice District, which is where you want to be if you’re in town for a hockey game or want to explore downtown.
If shopping and entertaining your family is what you’re after, than a stay at Fantasyland Hotel, located inside West Edmonton Mall can’t be beat. With over 100 themed rooms, you can sleep like royalty in a princess or Roman themed room. Let the kids be in the driver’s seat in a truck themed room or hibernate inside an igloo. Just don’t reserve a Hollywood room, unless you want to explain what a pole is doing on it’s own platform.
Fairmont Hotel Macdonald
One of the most iconic buildings in the city, Fairmont Hotel Macdonald overlooks Edmonton’s river valley. Designed to look like a chateau, you’ll feel like royalty when bedding down at this majestic property. Because it’s a Fairmont, service standards are high as is the food and cleanliness.
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