An Adventure Hub Plus So Much More: 8 Edmonton Must-Do’sBy Breanna Mroczek
With a beautiful, lush river valley covering the city and close proximity to one of Canada’s national parks, Edmonton is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts and those who love to stay active.
But even if your idea of being “outdoorsy” is being outside on a patio with a drink — or some ice cream — in hand, Edmonton is great for that, too. Whether you want to eat, drink, enjoy live music, explore the great outdoors or shop, Edmonton has a number of experiences for all travelers.
Explore the River Valley
At 22 times the size of New York City’s Central Park, Edmonton’s stunning river valley has plenty of access points, paved pathways and amenities throughout. From downtown Edmonton you can take the funicular for free into the river valley and then explore via foot or bike.
Book a tour with River Valley Adventure Co., and hop aboard a Segway for a guided group tour of some of the river valley’s most scenic spots. Head to the Keillor Point viewing area for a bird’s-eye view of the expansive river valley.
Rent a canoe or kayak and get a tour of the river valley by paddling through the North Saskatchewan River. If you’re looking for a more leisurely float down the river, book a ticket aboard the Edmonton Riverboat.
Relax on a Patio with Food and Drinks
When the sun is shining, there’s nothing like enjoying food and drinks on a patio. Choose from 145 beers at Craft Beer Market to sip on the rooftop patio. Alchemy‘s huge fifth-floor patio has sweeping views of downtown and is heated on cooler evenings; head up there to enjoy a unique cocktail
In Old Strathcona, MKT has one of the most popular patios in town — snag a seat and enjoy the people-watching while sipping a cold beer and eating pub fare. The hidden backyard patio at El Cortez Mexican restaurant and tequila bar is a fun spot to enjoy tacos and sip margaritas.
Immerse Yourself in a Festival
There’s a reason Edmonton is often referred to as “festival city.” Edmonton hosts unique festivals year-round, but things really pick up in the spring and summer months when not a weekend goes by without a festival.
Put down your tarp on the hillside and enjoy live music and good vibes at Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Pick from hundreds of plays at dozens of venues during Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival, and enjoy the beer gardens, food trucks and other activities between shows.
Enjoy Outdoor Attractions
Take a short drive out to Jurassic Forest and stroll through a picturesque boreal forest to view realistic dinosaur animatronics. Stroll the beautiful, landscaped grounds at the Alberta Legislature — it’s even more picturesque when it’s lit up at night.
It’s almost impossible to visit Edmonton and not make a plan to visit West Edmonton Mall. Besides shopping at hundreds of retailers, visits to Galaxyland amusement park and World Waterpark are a must.
Shop for unique, locally created products (they make great souvenirs!) at TIX on the Square, Majesty and Friends, Glass Bookshop and The Makers Keep. If you’re a Wes Anderson fan, peek into The Prints and the Paper.
Locally Made Ice Cream
Hidden down an alley just off trendy Whyte Avenue is Made by Marcus, featuring unique sweet and savory flavors made from natural ingredients. At Yelo’d you’ll find soft serve ice cream made with Filipino flavors like ube and mango.
Kind Ice Cream scoops up hard ice cream in familiar favorites like salted caramel and strawberry and always has a few vegan flavors to pick from.
Take a Road Trip to Elk Island National Park
Just a 45-minute drive from downtown Edmonton is Elk Island National Park, which is full of outdoor adventures and cultural activities. Get active with hiking, boating and cycling, plus keep an eye out for wildlife like elk, porcupine and bison.
As a Dark Sky Preserve, Elk Island is a great spot for stargazing and, occasionally, seeing the aurora borealis (northern lights).
Take a Distillery Tour
Edmonton is home to three craft distilleries that offer tours and tastings of their spirits. At Hansen Distillery you’ll learn about a family history of moonshining and get to sample a variety of ryes, vodkas, gins, cream liqueurs and moonshines. Be sure to stay for one of their innovative cocktails in their tasting room.
Strathcona Spirits is the smallest (and cutest) distillery in North America and makes liquors with locally grown herbs and botanicals. Rig Hand Distillery makes dozens of varieties of liquors using entirely locally grown ingredients, including a unique sugar beet “rum.”