Straddling the North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton is one of Canada’s most northerly cities, and one of its most fascinating.
Edmonton is a city of contrasts. Its leafy suburbs are a stark contrast to the bustling and built-up downtown area famed for its restaurants and shopping. This contrast continues with the seasons as the city varies dramatically from summer to winter. Its bitter, snowy winters attract skiers and winter sport lovers, while its summers mark the start of festival season.
It is Alberta’s second-largest city and capital, and is a popular place to stopover. It lies on Highway 16 and is en route to Jasper National Park, which is four hours’ drive west. The park is a vast, open landscape to the north that is popular with explorers and well worth a visit.
If you stopover in Edmonton for a couple of days during your next holiday or trip in Canada, then there are plenty of attractions you can visit and things you can do. Here we take you through how to see the best of the city in 48 hours.
Fort Edmonton Park
One of the first places you should visit in the city is Fort Edmonton Park. Not only will you learn about Edmonton’s early history, but you can explore beautiful parkland too.
Nestled on 158 acres of wooded parkland along Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River valley, the park has reconstructed the 1846 Hudson’s Bay Fort as well as the Streets of 1885, 1905 and 1920. Storytellers in period costume give visitors an insight into how Edmonton evolved from a fur trade post to a booming city after the First World War.
As well as the impressive fort and streets, the park is also home to a train, streetcars, a midway that features an authentic carousel and a Ferris wheel.
Loads of events are hosted throughout the year. These include Halloween events, theatrical performances, music festivals and a variety of exhibitions.
Grab some lunch
Edmonton is full of different cultures reflected in its cuisine, which means visitors can tuck into an exciting array of restaurants spread out across the city.
If you are looking to grab some lunch, one of the best cafes in the city is the unique Little Brick Café and General Store.
The food is locally sourced, simple and gives a great insight into the excellent cuisine Edmonton boasts. The café emphasises freshness and quality, making it very popular with locals. Comments from local bloggers interviewed by the Huffington Post include: “dishes like a ricotta tartine, with cherry tomato and thyme, or a duck breast with crispy potato pave, apple fennel slaw, and saskatoon berry make it obvious this isn’t your typical café lunch”.
The café itself is very relaxed and is a popular stop-off for locals wanting a cup of coffee. This laid-back style is demonstrated by the café’s motto: “We believe in good coffee, simple living and the finest quality products.”
Ride on a Segway at Edmonton River Valley
A Segway tour around Edmonton has to be one of the quirkiest ways to get your bearings, and it’s great fun at the same time! There are plenty of tours that you can choose from to show you the city and its surroundings.
One of the most highly rated tours is the Edmonton River Valley Segway Adventure from River Valley Adventure.
Their Segway tours, which run all year round, showcase the beautiful Edmonton River Valley. Guests effortlessly glide through the park, which is North America’s largest urban parkland. See the blooming spring buds, breathtaking lush summer greenery, colourful fall foliage or Edmonton’s magical winter wonderland!
You’ll receive in-depth training before the tour to help you drive your Segway. Trust us, it’s a piece of cake and is perfect for the whole family. After the training you can start your adventure, lasting from 30-90 minutes.
Visit TELUS World of Science
If you still have some time to play with, then visit the TELUS World of Science. It’s a great experience for the whole family to enjoy and should definitely be on your list of things to do.
The museum has a large number of fascinating permanent exhibits that you can visit. In the Robotics Lab you can build a programme and watch Lego models perform a number of challenges. The Body Fantastic exhibition shows how the body works and how brains make sense of the world around us.
Taking a break from the hands-on fun, there is an IMAX theatre and a Zeidler Star Theatre where you can watch films and see science demonstrations.
Grab dinner at the Canadian Brewhouse
The Canadian Brewhouse has restaurants in north, south and downtown Edmonton, and no matter which branch you visit, you’ll enjoy your thoroughly Canadian meal.
Rated as one of the best places to eat in the city, the Canadian Brewhouse chain was founded in Edmonton back in 2002 and is now regarded as one of the best Canadian-themed sports bars in the country.
Serving everything that’s popular with the whole family, their menu roves from juicy burgers to laden pizzas to smoked meat sandwiches.
Check out their full menu here. For a taste of Canada, try one of their seven poutines!
Go shopping at West Edmonton Mall
If you want to indulge in the best retail therapy that Edmonton has to offer, head to West Edmonton Mall.
Not just any mall, this is North America’s largest entertainment and shopping centre. There are more than 800 retailers ranging from big brands to boutiques to one-of-a-kind stores, and you can see them all under one roof.
In a complex spanning the equivalent of 48 city blocks, you’d expect more than just shopping on offer. There’s a casino, cinemas, mini golf courses, penguins at the Sea Life Caverns and Pablo the sea lion at Sea Lion’s Rock.
One of the most popular attractions is Galaxyland. The world’s largest indoor amusement park features more than 27 spectacular rides, attractions and play areas for all ages. World Waterpark is the world’s largest indoor wave pool that also has 17 waterslides for visitors to enjoy. Climb a full-size pirate ship, go ice skating or hit Chinatown. The choice is yours!
Get a bite to eat at the mall
Perfect after working up an appetite in their theme park, West Edmonton Mall has a range of restaurants that you can head to for a bite to eat.
From L2 Grill, a sleek surf ‘n’ turf eatery, to Earls Kitchen & Bar, which serves global dishes and beer, there are plenty of options!
Grownups will love the stylish piano bar at Red Piano, while the Las Vegas-inspired comedy club The Comic Strip will have you in stitches.
Edmonton Valley Zoo
There is a bus route from West Edmonton Mall to Edmonton Valley Zoo and we highly recommend you hop on it; the zoo is certainly one of Edmonton’s best attractions.
Edmonton Valley Zoo is located on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River and is home to more than 350 animals. Look in on Asian elephants, capybaras, zebras, Siberian tigers, snow leopards, wallabies, bald eagles, barn owls, macaws, pythons, tortoises and more.
Take in the views over some dinner
After a day exploring, treat yourself to La Ronde Restaurant. Edmonton’s only revolving rooftop restaurant is famous for its magnificent views.
Located on the 24th floor of Chateau Lacombe Hotel and revolving once every 88 minutes, the restaurant treats diners to unrivalled views and a fantastic dining experience.
The menu is full of Canadian, international and seafood dishes. Drool over Cuban pork sliders, indulge in classic steak tartare or treat yourself to their seafood trio dish that includes caraquet oyster escabeche, jumbo shrimp and seared scallops. Did we mention their Chateaubriand Wednesdays?
And if you have an extra few days…
Ski the winter blues away
The province of Alberta is known for being one of the best regions to go skiing in Canada, and from Edmonton you can easily travel to Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper.
Banff is one of the most popular skiing destinations as it has varied terrain for skiers to explore, whilst Lake Louise will blow you away with its spectacular mountain ranges and stunning views of the Canadian Rockies. Last, but certainly not least, the resort of Jasper is a hidden gem that offers open ski hills throughout winter.
Another great past time visitors to Edmonton can enjoy is watching the stunning northern lights. By driving a little way out of the city and with a thermos of hot chocolate you can just sit back and watch one of the most magnificent shows on earth.
Canoe the summer waters
In summer it is prime time to go canoeing or to go fishing. Visitors can have days of fun on the water from the middle of May to the end of September and the North Saskatchewan River is a great place to go canoeing.
The nearby Elk Island National Park is just a 40 minute drive from Edmonton. Not only a refuge for elk, bison and more than 250 bird species, its secluded waterways are perfect for kayaking and canoeing.
Canoeists heading down the river can get fantastic views of downtown Edmonton and if you go during the evening you can watch the sunset over the city.
Image Credit: Mack Male, River Valley Adventure, Kurt Bauschardt, IQRemix, IQRemix.