Edmonton is isolated, geographically speaking, but in many ways, that isolation has given rise to a character unlike anywhere else. Modern, historical, and natural attractions team with a lively year-round festival scene to ensure there’s always something to see and do in Edmonton. To help you narrow it down, here’s a list of the best things to see and do in Edmonton:
Visit Fort Edmonton Park. It wasn’t that long ago that Edmonton was just another fur trading post serving elite society’s appetite for beaver pelts. Hop onto this living history park’s steam train and step back in time for a stroll through 1846, 1885, 1905, and 1920, speaking with costumed interpreters and visiting historical and replica buildings to get a real feel for the early days of the city. Walking the dirt streets and boardwalks can be thirsty business, so make sure to pop into the elegant Hotel Selkirk for an old-fashioned cocktail.
Get back to nature in the North Saskatchewan River valley. The North Saskatchewan cuts the city in half, and on either side of its tree-lined banks runs an extensive system of nature trails and parks totaling 18,000 acres. William Hawrelak Park is one of Edmonton’s finest, with paddleboats available for rent in summer and ice skating in the winter. Whatever the season, don’t be surprised at the unusually friendly songbirds, which get up close and personal when there’s the prospect of a few crumbs involved.
Shop City Market Downtown. Edmonton’s downtown farmers market runs year-round, shutting down 104th Street north of Jasper Avenue from Victoria Day in May to Thanksgiving in October. Packed with just-picked produce, mind-blowing baked goods, and unique products from local artists, it’s one of the few places you can find the city’s culture really getting out in the open. In the winter, City Market Downtown moves indoors to nearby City Hall.
Take in the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival. Staged over 11 days every August at venues primarily in the Old Strathcona neighborhood, the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is the largest and the oldest in North America. Modeled after the famous Edinburgh, Scotland, event, the Fringe features performances from 600-plus local and international artists each year. Don’t forget to stop at the green onion cake stand — for many locals, these fried circles of dough are really what the Fringe is all about.
Bar hop along Whyte Avenue. While downtown Edmonton’s nightlife scene is rapidly growing, Whyte Avenue, on the city’s south side, is where the real action is after dark. Not for the faint of heart, Whyte Avenue’s large concentration of nightclubs, bars, and pubs draws revelers from all corners of the city and all walks of life into a six-block stretch. Add alcohol and extreme weather to the mix, and it makes for unpredictable fun at best and, at worst, interesting people watching.