Edmonton is an interesting city, full of quirks and juxtapositions. We spent a whole month in and around this eclectic town, driving over 800 miles in this northern region of Alberta.
The City of Edmonton
Edmonton is full of opposites – on one side we saw a lot of homeless people, poverty, decrepit neighborhoods, and dilapidated buildings; on the other hand, ostentatiously wealthy neighborhoods and a farmer’s market with prices that raised even my eyebrows (and I am usually the one, who doesn’t think twice about paying over $6 for a latte).
What To See & Where To Go
Royal Alberta Museum
It’s smaller than you think it is. The exhibits are OK, but I just came from Washington D.C., so I was definitely spoiled there for incredible art, history, science, and nature museums.
I did like their Native American exhibit, which was really detailed and quite substantial. Some of the Native American (Native Canadian?) art was absolutely exquisite.
The best part of the RAM, at least for me, was the café – the indoor area is walled off by glass, which gives it an open, bright, and airy feel. The outdoor patio is perfect for families – it doesn’t have an outlet to the outside, so you don’t have to worry about your kids running out into the street. The food there is really good, I especially enjoyed their coffee and their freshly baked croissants, filled with all sorts of tasty goodness.
It’s a cute little neighborhood and since it was only a few blocks away from our temporary home, we did all our grocery shopping there. They have a great selection of everything – from dry goods, to fresh produce, a meat section, dairy, etc. and I was especially pleased with the European options like 20 different types of Milka and Ritter Sport chocolates.
Ukrainian Community, Food, Churches & Museums
The largest number of Ukrainian live in and around Edmonton, making it a perfect place to try delicious and homemade savory or sweet pierogy. There are also number of stunning churches – my favorite is St. Josaphat Cathedral – its stunning architecture and interior is a sight to behold.
Just past Elk Island National Park you can visit the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village and see how the nearly 250,000 Ukrainian immigrants lived in the 19th and early 20th century.
Lan’s Asian Grill
Honestly, not one of the best, but THE best Thai food outside of Thailand I have ever had. All the ingredients are insanely fresh and everything is cooked to perfection. Try their cashew chicken or won-ton soup. Don’t forget to sample their thick, creamy and delicious Thai iced tea. The family that runs it are just out of this world sweet and hospitable.
Parks around Edmonton
There are numerous places around Edmonton to take a stroll, go for a jog, or exercise in general. Both sides of the North Saskachewan River are developed mostly for people and families to walk, run, and bike around.
My favorite park within the city was the Gold Bar Park, which was well organized, with plenty of parking, and signs all over the park to tell you where you are going and how long it is going to take you to get there.
West Edmonton Mall
It was an interesting place to visit – especially on a cold and rainy day. The mall is absolutely enormous (5,300,000 sq ft.) – it took us a good two hours just to walk the whole place.
Fun facts: It holds over 800 stores and services including nine attractions, two hotels and over 100 dining venues in the complex, and parking for more than 20,000 vehicles. More than 24,000 people are employed at the property. The mall receives about 32 million visitors per year; it attracts between 90,000 and 200,000 shoppers daily, depending on the day and season.
There is an ice-skating rink, a huge waterpark with slides and indoor wave pool, an adventure golf, and an indoor amusement park with rollercoaster rides.
Of course, there are multiple food courts and restaurants galore. I really liked their Starbucks, which overlooks the ice-skating rink, so you can check out people’s skating skills.
In the middle of the mall is a giant pirate ship replica with an underwater aquarium (it requires admission to see) and a Sea Show a few times a day with lovely seals that perform tricks with their trainers for treats (say it fast five times :P)
Overall a nice little day trip on a funky day when there is nothing else to do.
To me, personally:
The High Level Bridge Streetcar – its great fun if you have kids, I would say, or you absolutely love waiting long times to take an extremely slow ride across a body of water. Round-trip fare is $7 per person, one way is $4.
The Edmonton Funicular – again, super long waits and not that impressive. A plus is that its free of charge, if you like long waits.
The Old Strathcona – it’s a historical district, which always translates to very limited parking availability and this place is no different. We came on Saturday to check out their Farmer’s market. I understand that farmers in Canada are subsidized and I see why. If they charged here in the U.S. of what they charge over there, they would starve in most places, because very few people were buying their overpriced produce. I am absolutely for buy locally and support local farmers and artists, but charging twice to three times the amount for the same product I buy at a local grocery store is a tad much.
From what I read in a local newspaper : The difference is that while U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for farm protections, in Canada, the cost is carried by consumers at the cash register and you can definitely see it reflected in the prices of local produce.
ELK ISLAND National Park
It’s fairly close to the city – only about a 30-minute drive, the park is a perfect day trip. With wildlife abound – from elk to geese, to enormous beaver dams to the coveted bison that roam the roads freely – it’s a real pleasure to drive around.
There are also nice stops along the way to park your car and walk around. We did hike a few trails, but the mosquitos are savage, especially during twilight, so beware and wear layers or carry around a bug repellent.
Lakeland Provincial Area
Lac La Biche was an exercise in futility, in my humble opinion. The lake is huge, but you can’t fish it, because it’s overrun by a blooming algae that covers everything. The seagulls literally took over the whole area a while ago – congregating and covering every green surface in the area. The drive was the fun part – we saw owls, elk and fox. We stayed overnight in a local hotel, since the drive is over 130 miles one way. The local people in the area are extremely nice and hospitable – in the hotel alone, my husband befriended the front desk manager and he made out like a bandit in free baked goods, water, juice, and other munchables.
Jasper National Park
There is so much to cover, I am dedicating a separate blog post to Jasper and the surrounding area, which you can find here.
I hope this guide helped you out in planning your own future trip to this interesting city.