Hit the mall or go Ukrainian in this "Festival City"
Edmonton is truly Canada's "Festival City" with more than 30 major festivals throughout the year. Once warm weather arrives, the festivals occur, one after the other from June through August. It makes this capital of Alberta a very special place to visit.
Here are some highlights of the most notable ones. The Edmonton Folk Festival is rated one of the world's best by performers and fans alike. The Edmonton International Fringe Festival in mid-August attracts 500,000 visitors each year to more than 1,000 theatrical performances and many blocks of food and souvenir booths in the Old Strathcona neighborhood.
Heritage Festival is held every year on the long weekend in August in Hawrelak Park and features food and entertainment from over 50 cultures around the world.
The Children's Festival is held in nearby St. Albert each May.
The Edmonton International Street Performers Festival is Canada's first street theatre festival.
For 10 days each summer, Edmonton gets back to its roots with the annual Klondike Days. Celebrating the Gold Rush era of the late 1800s, K-Days is a communitywide event for all ages and tastes. Activities take place all over the city, with the Klondike Days Exhibition at Northlands, the Sourdough Raft Race on the river and daily shows at Sir Winston Churchill Square.
The Edmonton Kiwanis Music Festival features over 2,500 opportunities to perform or hear performers play over a month's time starting in mid-April.
Other festivals celebrate dance in March, poetry in April, long-form improvisation at the Bonfire Festival in April and the Vocal Arts opera festival in June.
Points of Interest
Between festivals, there is plenty to do and see in this beautiful city.
Thanks to the North Saskatchewan River valley, which bisects the city, Edmonton has a wealth of green space, popular for all those outdoor festivals and recreational activities.
Old Strathcona, site of the Fringe Festival, is one of Canada's top shopping districts and offers a variety of dining and pubs. This historic neighborhood also is a center for music, art and theater. Edmonton is home to more than 20 theater companies and dozens of acting co-ops, so there is always a big musical, improv or dinner theater somewhere in the city. And some of Canada's finest visual artists are on display at the 60-plus galleries and exhibits in the city.
At Fort Edmonton Park, Canada's largest historical park, visitors travel back through four time periods between 1846 and 1929 and end up at the old fort—the earliest European settlement in the area and a key part of the fur trade. Ride or walk through the pioneer times and enjoy activities ranging from riding the steam train or a streetcar, going for a pony ride, trying out the shooting gallery, playing miniature golf or riding the midway.
Located on the south side of the river near the University of Alberta, Whyte Avenue is a fun and funky strip of shops, restaurants, cafes and bookstores. It's also the home to several theatre companies and the largest farmer's market in Edmonton, which runs on Saturday mornings.
Edmonton's Valley Zoo is being modernized and shifting focus to become a center for learning about animals and their habitat with an eye toward encouraging conservation.
The Telus World of Science offers several galleries to explore and is a great place to take kids, as there are lots of things to do and there are usually new traveling displays coming through. There are several permanent galleries—environment, health, forensics, space, discovery land and the robotics lab.
The Muttart Conservatory, also known as "The Pyramids," is another place that both adults and kids can enjoy. It features a realistic look at the world's different biospheres. There are four glass pavilion pyramids—tropical, arid, temperate and one with a rotating display that is changed several times a year.
Perched overlooking Edmonton's North Saskatchewan River, the Royal Alberta Museum houses one of the largest Aboriginal galleries in Canada. It is an interactive gallery that depicts Alberta's First Nations from the Ice Age until present day. The museum also contains two other major galleries—the Habitat Gallery and the Natural History Gallery. The Habitat Gallery contains dioramas of wildlife in their natural settings.
The Downtown City Centre is a pleasant place to visit in the summer. Some visitors even take a swim in the reflecting pool!
No visit to Edmonton is complete without a visit to Skyreach Centre, home of the Edmonton Oilers. With over 20 seasons in the National Hockey League, including five Stanley Cup Championships, the team is one of the most storied franchises in professional hockey.
West Edmonton Mall
Not often do you visit a city where stopping at the mall is a "must see," but this city is an exception. The West Edmonton Mall is the largest, most comprehensive indoor shopping and entertainment complex in the world as well as Alberta's No. 1 tourist attraction. Millions of visitors come from around the world to visit this mall, which features over 800 stores and services, over 110 restaurants and kiosks, the world's largest indoor amusement park, the world's largest indoor water park, an NHL-size ice arena, four seaworthy submarines in the world's largest indoor man-made lake, dolphin shows, an exact replica of the Santa Maria ship, a miniature golf course, 19 movie theaters and a Las Vegas-style casino. With the Fantasyland Hotel, many fine restaurants and nightlife, the mall is a vacation resort in itself.
An hour's drive east of Edmonton is Elk Island, one of Alberta's national parks. Here, you can drive through and see buffalo, moose, deer, elk and other wild animals up close. There are hiking trails, campsites, places to kayak and canoe and a golf course in this park.
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