If you are lucky enough to visit Edmonton, you will find that you can enjoy a vacation jam-packed with fun and engaging activities. This city is Alberta’s capital, and it sits roughly in the province’s center, straddling both banks of the North Saskatchewan River. It is a vibrant city with something to suit everyone, no matter when you visit, and there are activities to enjoy in both the daytime and in the evenings. So that you can plan your vacation in this fantastic city, here are some of the best things to do for first-timers visiting Edmonton, Alberta.
Go Shopping at West Edmonton Hall
Although Edmonton is known for its fantastic arts and culture scene, it is probably most famous for its shopping mall. The West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton is one of the world’s most extensive shopping and leisure centers. Although it is a shopping mall, it is also an attraction as there is a lot more than shopping to enjoy at this venue. It is also home to movie theaters, an aquarium, an ice rink, a hotel, and multiple restaurants. West Edmonton Hall is also home to Galaxyland, one of the world’s largest covered amusement parks. It has a roller coaster, family rides, and fun attractions. Furthermore, there is a water park on-site, which has many exciting water slides and the world’s largest wave pool.
See the Exhibits at the Royal Alberta Museum
In 2018, the Royal Alberta Museum moved to a new location on 103a Avenue NW in Edmonton. Since the move, it is now the largest museum in Western Canada and one of the city’s most popular attractions. The permanent collections include both cultural and natural history exhibits, and there are also constantly-changing temporary exhibits. Some of the museum’s most impressive exhibits are the large aquariums of native fish, the dinosaur fossils, and the tanks of large and exotic live insects. An entire gallery is devoted to displays for children, and another section of the museum focuses on exploring aboriginal cultures. The museum also has a café and a gift shop.
Have a Day Out at Elk Island National Park & Beaver Hills
The Elk Island National Park & Beaver Hills is just outside Edmonton, and it is a fantastic day out for all the family. There are wooded areas, wetlands, and lakes that are home to a diverse range of wildlife, including a large herd of bison, along with deer, moose, elk, and beavers. Visitors can drive through the buffalo enclosure and hike or bicycle around the grounds, and they can also kayak or canoe on the lakes. The Beaver Hills section of the attraction is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and it includes a wilderness center, a bird sanctuary, and a dark sky preserve.
Visit the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village
The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is an open-air museum that preserves Edmonton’s Ukrainian immigrants’ cultural heritage. Ukrainian immigrants first settled in Alberta during the 1890s. On-site, various historic buildings reflect the lives of those living in the area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of the buildings include a general store, a market, a blacksmith, and houses. The attraction also hosts many events throughout the year.
Go to Muttart Conservatory
The Muttart Conservatory is the top horticultural facility in Edmonton. It consists of four pyramid-shaped hothouses that sit along the bank of the North Saskatchewan River. Each of the pyramids has a different environment to represent different biomes. If you stand on the high ground at the side of the river, the pyramids are an impressive sight on the skyline.
Step Back in Time at Fort Edmonton Park
A brilliant place to learn about Edmonton’s history is Fort Edmonton Park, an open-air museum. It contains buildings that reflect the historical development of the area. An unusual and enjoyable way to get around the village and see the buildings is by taking a horse-drawn carriage ride. Alternatively, you can take a steam train ride.
See the Exhibits at the Art Gallery of Alberta
One of Edmonton’s top attractions for art enthusiasts is the Art Gallery of Alberta. The museum was founded in 1924, and it is Alberta’s oldest cultural institution. A range of display and exhibits showcase more than six thousand objects. There is both historical and contemporary art on display, with examples of both local and international pieces. At this venue, there are also educational events and workshops taking place throughout the year.
Go to the Alberta Legislature Building
The Alberta Legislature Building is one of Edmonton’s most historically significant landmarks. You can take an educational guided tour of the building, and you should also visit the Legislative Assembly Visitor Center. After taking the tour, spend some time in the park-like grounds on which the building stands. From the building’s terrace, there are spectacular views across the North Saskatchewan River.
Meet the Animals at Edmonton Valley Zoo
If you are visiting Edmonton with children or you love animals, a fantastic attraction is Edmonton Valley Zoo. The zoo has over 350 animals, with examples of more than 100 species. Some of the animals are native to Canada, while others are from locations across the globe. There are many ways to learn more about the animals, including during talks, displays, and feeding times. The zoo is in sections, with areas themed to represent the animals’ natural habitat. Other things to enjoy at the zoo include a carousel, a miniature train, paddle boats, and children’s rides.
View the Exhibits at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum
The Reynolds-Alberta Museum is just outside Edmonton in the town of Wetaskiwin, and it is the town’s main attraction. Its focus is vehicle and aircraft construction, and there are planes, agricultural machinery, tractors, trucks, motorcycles, and various other vehicles on display. There is a cafe, a gift shop, and a theater on-site.
Go to the Alberta Aviation Museum
Even if you are not an avid aviation enthusiast, there is plenty to enjoy at the Alberta Aviation Museum. The museum is close to the airport, and it is easy to locate as there are two fighter jets mounted at the entrance. On display are more than 40 aircraft, plus many more exhibits, including a rare aircraft hangar from WWII. Visitors can look at the displays on their own or take an informative guided tour.
Have an Educational Experience at the TELUS World of Science
The TELUS World of Science aims to educate and inspire visitors about topics relating to science and technology. In addition to the science and technology exhibitions, there is also an observatory and two state-of-the-art theaters. There are various events and workshops in which visitors can participate throughout the year.
Enjoy a Stroll Around the University of Alberta Devonian Botanic Garden
Suppose you want to visit a peaceful venue to get away from the bustling vibe of the city. In that case, one of the most serene spots is the University of Alberta Devonian Botanic Garden. There are impressive plant collections, cultivated gardens, nature trails, and a conservatory. The gardens span 240-acres, so there is plenty to explore. One of the highlights is the Tropical Show House, which is home to a collection of lilies, a Japanese garden, and many exotic butterfly species.
Ride a Train at the Alberta Railway Museum
The focus of the Alberta Railway Museum is to preserve the Alberta Railway’s history. It is an outdoor museum that replicates a terminal and station. There is a vast array of outdoor exhibits to see, including buildings, equipment, locomotives, and rail cars. Visitors also have the opportunity to ride on a vintage train.
Go on an Edmonton Ghost Tour
A ghost tour of the city is both a fun and an unusual activity to include in your vacation itinerary when you visit Edmonton. They are a fascinating way to learn more about the darker elements of Edmonton’s history. The tours are also a great way to enjoy the city’s sights at night.
Take a Ride and Enjoy the Views on the High Level Bridge Streetcar
Streetcars have run through Edmonton since 1908, so they are a significant part of the city’s heritage. Edmonton is now famous for the streetcar ride over the North Saskatchewan River, which is one of the highest streetcar river crossings anywhere in the world. From the streetcars, you can enjoy fabulous city views. If you are interested in the streetcars’ history, you can visit the museum at the Streetcar Barn at Strathcona.
Explore William Hawrelak Park
Although there are many beautiful outdoor spaces where you can spend time in Edmonton, one of the prettiest and best maintained is the William Hawrelak Park, named after one of Edmonton’s former mayors, and it is in the River Valley area of the city. Some activities to enjoy in the park include hiking, swimming, boating, and relaxing with a picnic. There are also playgrounds, shops, and several food outlets. If you visit Edmonton in the winter months, you can also enjoy ice-skating and cross-country skiing.
Spend Time in Old Strathcona
Located on Edmonton’s south side, Old Strathcona is a neighborhood known for its street performers, artists, festivals, unusual architecture, and antique stores. It is a place in which you should spend at least a day during your Edmonton vacation. Whether you want to watch the buskers or browse the vintage shops, you will find something to enjoy in this neighborhood.
Walk the Trails in Mill Creek Ravine Park
If you enjoy spending time outdoors, one of the best places to explore is Mill Creek Ravine Park. The park sits by the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, then stretches along a small ravine. It has a trail network, known as the River Valley Trails, and there is also an outdoor swimming pool and a children’s playground. There are picnic tables and BBQ pits around the park, so it is a great place to enjoy some alfresco dining.
Take the Kids to Hide 'n' Seek Indoor Playground
If you are in Edmonton with children on a rainy day, a top place to go to is the Hide’ n’ Seek Indoor Playground. There are rope climbs, ball pools, slides, zip lines, and trampolines at this indoor playground. Children can also have fun on the car racetrack or sit in the quiet reading area. Parents can sit in the café enjoying a hot beverage with a light lunch or a cake while the children play.
The activities listed are only some of the ways you can spend your time in Edmonton, Alberta. You can explore many more attractions during your visit, so take some time to think about which activities you will enjoy the most while you are in this diverse and fascinating city.