Why is Edmonton different?
There are theories. Maybe it’s our northern home, where for years we’ve learned to make our own fun. Perhaps it’s our legacy of entrepreneurs dreaming up oddities: the continent’s first, biggest and wildest Fringe theatre festival and a shopping mall that at one time had more submarines than the Canadian navy. Edmontonians have always been unusually keen to try, and build, something new.
We’re a big city with small town values; a vibrant urban centre in the heart of wilderness. From close encounters with free roaming bison to surfing indoors to taking your taste buds on a journey to some of the hottest craft beer taprooms, hyper-local bistros and indie bakeries in Canada, you’ll find there’s a uniqueness to how Edmontonians do ordinary things. And we want you to be a part of it.
One thing’s for sure – if you’re looking for an unforgettable, original experience, you’ll find it here. Peruse our list of activities and poke around ExploreEdmonton.com for all the proof you need.
Here are some great places to grab a bite to eat in an around the very walkable Edmonton Downtown Restaurant Map:
Download the Edmonton Attractions Map to plan out your activities while you’re here!
Quirky and little known facts about our city that will surprise you. Check ‘em out…
- Fort Edmonton Park is Canada’s largest living history park, tracing the growth and development of Edmonton through four historical periods represented by The Fort, 1885 Street, 1905 Street and 1920 Street.
- West Edmonton Mall welcomes more than 30 million visitors each year, making it Alberta’s number one tourist attraction. It’s the largest shopping and entertainment complex in North America, and was the largest in the world from 1981 to 2004.
- West Edmonton Mall holds records for the world’s largest indoor amusement park, the world’s largest indoor triple loop rollercoaster, the world’s largest indoor lake (complete with a replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship, Santa Maria), the world’s largest indoor wave pool, and the world’s largest permanent indoor zipline feature. It also boasts the world’s largest parking lot; it can accommodate a whopping 20,000 vehicles.
- The Alberta Legislature sits on quicksand! Patches of quicksand were discovered during construction in 1908. Concrete piles were driven in before the footings could be set into the ground.
- In 1984, Edmontonian John Stanton opened the first Running Room, a small shop located in the living room of an Edmonton home. Since the opening of his small athletic store, word spread quickly of Stanton’s passion for quality running shoes that meet the specific needs of those who required them.
- Open year-round (on 104 Street in the summer, and at City Hall in the winter) Edmonton’s City Market downtown was named best farmers’ market of the year by National Geographic Traveller (2013).
- Fashion-forward, Edmonton is home to several custom designers. Approachable and offering great value, working with Todoruk Designs or Poppy Barley puts Edmontonians and visitors in one-of-a-kind looks.
- Alberta boasts no provincial sales tax, making Edmonton one if the best places to shop in Canada.
Arts & Culture
- Edmonton enjoys a diverse theatre scene with more than 20 established companies and dozens of theatre collectives presenting work year-round. The historic Old Strathcona district alone is home to seven theatre companies.
- The first Muslim mosque in North America was the Al Rashid Mosque, now located at Fort Edmonton Park.
- Edmonton’s impressive Chinatown Gate was built as a symbol of friendship between Edmonton and its sister city, Harbin, China.
The Great Outdoors
- Edmonton has the longest stretch of urban parkland in North America, which is 22 times larger than New York’s Central Park and eight times larger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park.
- Elk Island National Park has higher densities of hoofed mammals per square kilometre than any other wild area in the world. Elk Island National Park of Canada – located less than one hour east of Edmonton – protects the wilderness of the aspen parkland, one of the most endangered habitats in Canada. It is also home to herds of free roaming plains bison, wood bison, moose, deer and elk. There are over 250 species of birds; the park is a bird watcher’s paradise.
- The Canadian Birkebeiner – held in Strathcona County east of Edmonton – is the largest Classical Cross Country Ski Festival in North America.
- The Victoria Golf Course is the oldest municipal golf course in Canada (1907). There are more than 80 golf courses in the Edmonton region.
- Jasper National Park – 370 kilometres (192 miles) west of Edmonton – is the largest and most northerly Canadian rocky mountain national park.
- Largest in North America, and second only in size to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Edmonton’s International Fringe Theatre Festival attracts 700,000 visitors each summer and some 1,600 performances from across the world. Fringe Theatre Festivals across North America were modeled after the Edmonton Fringe, established in 1982.
- A magician and a juggler on the Board of Directors? You bet. Meet the Edmonton International Street Performers’ Festival. Since 1985, the festival has attracted over five million visitors. (And they are known in the international street performers’ community for being some of the most generous when the hat gets passed around.)
- There are over 40 restaurants represented at A Taste of Edmonton. Going strong since 1984, ‘Taste’ has grown to include culinary workshops, evening pop-up restaurants, and the Taste 4 Kids program.
- Bringing the world to Edmonton since 1975, Edmonton’s Heritage Festival is an annual opportunity to sample ethnic foods from more than 85 different cultures in an unmatched outdoor experience.
- Edmonton is home to the Canadian Finals Rodeo and Farmfair, which is second only to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
- Oil country? Green country. North America’s largest collection of modern, sustainable waste processing and research facilities are located in Edmonton. (Thanks to the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, about 60% of garbage is currently diverted from landfills, which will jump to 90% by 2016.) And in 2014, Edmonton was the first in the world to turn trash into biofuel.
- In 1795, a fur trading fort established by the Hudson’s Bay Company at the junction of the North Saskatchewan River and the Sturgeon River. Edmonton is named after the home of the HBC chief factor’s clerk in London, England. The name “Edmonton” is a Latinized version of a Saxon word meaning “Happy Hamlet.”
- Edmonton’s sister cities are Hull, Quebec (1967); Nashville, Tennessee (1992); and Harbin, China (1985).
- The first Booster Juice location opened in Sherwood Park – east of Edmonton – in 1999. Booster Juice was co-founded by its president and CEO Dale Wishewan of Sherwood Park.
- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck – was filmed at Fort Edmonton Park in the fall of 2005. Several locations in the park were utilized by the production, including the park’s working steam train which was used in a robbery sequence; the train’s interior was refurbished by the production crew for even more historical accuracy in a goodwill gesture to the park.
- The High Level Streetcar operates spring through fall giving visitors a trip over the world’s highest streetcar bridge – the High Level Bridge – built in 1912.
- Edmonton is one of Canada’s sunniest cities with 325 days of bright sunshine each year – or 2,345 hours. In June, Edmonton enjoys up to 17 hours of daylight per day!