Ferry boat on the Saskatchewan River.

Take in the beautiful Saskatchewan River. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Spend a Weekend in Edmonton, Alberta — Western Canada’s Cultural City

Edmonton, Alberta, is a dynamic and expanding urban center where both the cultural and culinary scenes are flourishing. Each season transforms the city, from a snowy wonderland in the winter to the 18 hours of sunlight enjoyed in the summer. Divided by the North Saskatchewan River, the city blends outdoor adventure in the river valley with a vibrant downtown core.

And with a year-round slate of major events — from the global Edmonton Heritage Festival and the Fringe Festival in summertime to the winter Ice on Whyte festivities to the Edmonton International Film Festival each fall — there’s sure to be something thrilling on the docket no matter when you’re in town.

As always, check for travel guideilnes and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Explore the ICE District

Begin your adventure at the JW Marriott Edmonton ICE District, where you’ll find the perfect breakfast spot at Kindred Food + Drink on the main floor of the hotel.

Opened in 2019, this district is a mixed-used entertainment and sports hub — and Edmonton’s newest neighborhood. For amateur skaters, the ICE District Plaza has a public skating rink in the winter. Or, if skating isn’t your sport of choice, the nearby Grand Villa Casino offers a lively atmosphere for adults.

Chinese beef with peppers and vegetables
Enjoy some delicious Chinese food. (Photo: Marriott International)

The Royal Alberta Museum, a five-minute walk away, is the largest museum in western Canada, highlighting the province’s natural and cultural history with 419,000 square feet of exhibition space.

Spend the afternoon browsing its collections, taking a break for lunch at one of the casual and authentic Asian restaurants within walking distance. You’ll have your choice of a Chinese hotpot at Liuyishou Hotpot Edmonton, Vietnamese pho at Delicious Pho and Korean barbecue at Lee House Korean.

For dinner, dine at Tres Carnales Rostizado that serves a variety of tacos and shareable platters for larger groups. And for post-dinner drinks, head to Baijiu and check out the hidden bar behind the bookshelf, Little Hong Kong, where skilled bartenders make vintage-inspired drinks that are as photogenic as they are delicious.

Saturday: Hit the Museums

Start Saturday with either a continental or full American breakfast at The Westin Edmonton and then walk a few blocks over to the Art Gallery of Alberta. You’ll want to snap a picture of the building’s sculptural exterior, inspired by the northern landscapes and aurora borealis, before heading inside. The gallery has more than 6,000 objects, ranging from original contemporary art to historical exhibitions.

Biker going through the River Valley
Bike through the River Valley. (Photo: Getty Images)

Depending on the season, choose to Segway, snowshoe, paddle or bike through Edmonton’s river valley with River Valley Adventure Co. Make sure you grab a sandwich or picnic lunch to bring along — there are plenty of scenic spots to set up for lunch mid-expedition.

The expansive river valley is 22 times the size of Central Park in New York City, with more than 93 miles of trails, making it the perfect destination to get active and explore.

If you’re looking for an upscale dinner, make a reservation at stylish Bündok located downtown and serving beautifully composed small plates (of fish, vegetables and organic beef), suitable for sharing.

Alternatively, if you have tickets to an evening hockey game, dive in to the surprisingly tasty concession-stand snacks. The “Pierogi Nachos” — a must-try from Heritage Eats — are topped with cheese sauce, shredded cheddar, bacon, green onion, red pepper and sour cream.

Finish off with a couple of drinks at Alchemy Bar, a hidden speakeasy located on the fifth floor of ICE District. Tucked behind a bookcase, this bar has a bespoke menu inspired by both vintage and contemporary cocktail recipes, with turn-of-the-century furnishings to match.

Sunday: Indulge in Spa Treatments, Tastings and More

After a busy weekend, book some time to relax and unwind at the Spa by JW Edmonton. This peaceful oasis offers a wide range of body treatments, massages and aesthetic appointments.

Next, cross the North Saskatchewan River to enjoy brunch at Sugarbowl, which justifies its tagline of “the sweetest place in town” with plate-sized cinnamon buns (savory dishes are on offer, as well).

If the weather is nice, swing by Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market to pick up ready-made sandwiches and sweet treats for a scenic picnic along the river. If it’s not picnic weather, turn your Sunday into a fun day with a visit to Strathcona Distillery. Drop by for a tour and tasting — and be sure to try the barrel-aged juniper gin.

Skyline view of the Muttart Conservatory at sunset
Be sure to visit the Muttart Conservatory. (Photo: Getty Images)

On the same side of the River Valley is an eye-catching pyramid structure that houses the Muttart Conservatory. Explore climate-controlled biomes to discover more than 700 species of plants from regions ranging from arid to temperate and tropical.

Head back to the hotel to enjoy your last Edmonton dinner at Braven. Set in a deep-green dining room with copper and bronze accents, this steakhouse serves chops, house-made pastas and a truly impressive seafood “tower” loaded with oysters, shrimp, lobster, tuna tartare and more.

Once the sun sets, stroll down 104th Street Northwest to see the Neon Sign Museum, which features some of the city’s most beloved signs. The installations, which are entirely outdoors, light up the night, all year long.