Edmonton, a Canadian city relatively unknown to many outside of that great vast country. It’s a city that fades into the background behind the well-known cities Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Yet, Edmonton is one of those hidden gem kind of cities that us travel-folks love to discover.
Edmonton is full of surprises. It is one of those cities that the more you learn about it the more you become fascinated with it. I found it to be a truly charming city and could easily have spent longer there.
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10 Reasons To Visit Edmonton
1. Edmonton Foodie scene
Our first meal in Edmonton was at the super-hip Uccellio, an Italian restaurant focusing on stripped back honest rustic food. We sampled the Pollo Al Mattoon (chicken cooked under a brick) which was heavenly. That set the bar for the rest of the trip where we sampled incredible food at the Taste of Edmonton festival, Range Road Dinner at Prairie Gardens, and El Cortez. Edmontonians LOVE their food and there are plenty of cuisines to choose from.
2. Independent businesses/entrepreneurial spirit
There is fantastic entrepreneurial spirit about Edmonton with independent businesses spring up all over the place. We had the honour of spending time with inspiring entrepreneur in the form of Kendall from shoe company Poppy Barley. We were treated to breakfast and business chat with Kendall who shared the story of starting up an ethical retail business and how Edmonton was the ideal place to nurture their brand.
3. Vintage shopping in Old Strathcona and Whyte Avenue
Edmonton is a haven for vintage shopping. We enjoyed an afternoon of strolling around the Old Strathcona and Whyte Avenue area, nipping into vintage shops and boutiques. If my luggage allowance let me I could totally buy all of the beautiful vintage clothes.
4. Low taxes on shopping and souvenirs in Alberta
Alberta has no provincial sales tax and only 5% goods and services tax so that means some great shopping to be had. Hit up North America’s largest mall, the West Edmonton Mall, to get spending.
5. Edmonton largest urban parkland
Edmonton is home to the the North Saskatchewan river valley parks system which is the largest urban parkland in North America. Complete with lakes, ravines and even a couple of campsites. There are trails, golf courses and, of course, all weather activities from cycling in the summer, to cross-country skiing in the winter.
6. Lots of cultural festivals
It’s impossible to have a gap in your weekend diary with the sheer amount of festivals in Edmonton – there are over 50 festivals held there every year! Their fringe festival is the second largest in the world after Edinburgh’s. It’s also host to folk festivals, heritage days, and seasonal celebrations.
7. Edmonton is one of Canada’s sunniest cities
On average Edmonton experiences about 2,300 hours of sunshine a year. When we visited in July we were lucky to experience gloriously long summery days. I was struck by how dreamy and golden the light was in Edmonton, it made for fantastic photographs.
8. View the northern lights
Edmonton is home to some spectacular placdes to view the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis can be spotted just a short drive from the city if you’re lucky. Check out the aurora website to see when the northern lights are visible locally.
9. See the wildlife at Bison Park
Nearby Elk Island is neither an island nor exclusively home to elk. Rather, this has become primarily a sanctuary and conservation area for wild bison. In fact, as we learned on our tour of the facilities, this place was instrumental in saving bison from extinction. As well as being home to bison you can also spot moose, deer, beaver, lynx and coyote. You can also take a canoe boat trip to spot some of the 250 bird species that live on Elk Island along with enjoying at the striking scenery.
10. Industrial city turned cultural
In some ways Edmonton reminded me of Birmingham, where we currently live in the UK. Birmingham has this rather unwarranted negative perception from the rest of the country as being an overly industrial. In fact, Birmingham and Edmonton are totally the opposite. Yes, both cities have an industrial element a long-history of commercial development. But with that brings an entrepreneurial spirit that we can see with the flourishing indie business scene in Edmonton. There’s a flourishing foodie scene and heaps of cultural activities throughout the year.
Is Edmonton worth visiting?
Edmonton is shedding its industrial image and revealing itself to be a quirky, creative, and fun city to visit. With weekly festivals, hundreds of restaurants and a stunning landscape to explore, you’d be hard pressed to not find anything to interest you. Plus, it has the most sunny days per year
I would love to head back to explore Edmonton further, it’s the kind of city that puts you at ease and truly makes you feel like you’re on holiday.