Goran Crnkovic / flickr
IntroductionListed in the Guinness Book of World Records, the West Edmonton Mall is a gargantuan two-level complex with 800-plus stores, 13 movie theaters, themed attractions and more than 100 eateries. Though diehard shoppers might think the mall is what put Edmonton on the map, the city also is—and more importantly—the capital of Alberta. To get a sense of what that means, visit the Alberta Legislature Building, seat of the provincial government, which was built on the original site of Fort Edmonton. Afterward see what the fort looked like at Fort Edmonton Park, Canada's largest living-history museum.
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In DepthFew first-time visitors to Edmonton are prepared for what they discover when they arrive. From trading post to metropolis within some 200 years, Edmonton continues to surprise visitors by its size, quality of life, sophistication and beautiful river valley location.
Edmonton owes its existence to an abundant and varied supply of natural resources, which prompted each of its three major booms. In 1795 the Hudson's Bay Co. founded Fort Edmonton on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. Traders bartered with Cree and Blackfoot First Nations for luxuriant and sought-after pelts of otters, beavers, muskrats, minks and foxes. A trading settlement developed and became the main stopping point on routes to the north and to the Pacific.
This stopping point became a starting point for gold seekers rushing to the Klondike; they gathered supplies in Edmonton for the harsh trip north. When gold failed to materialize and many prospectors realized they weren't going to get rich, let alone get rich quick, they returned to Edmonton to settle for a slower but surer way of life.
A bust for prospectors was a boom for Edmonton. The city grew to six times its previous size, making it a prime choice for the provincial capital when Alberta was formed in 1905.
In the years that followed, the capital city earned its nickname, “Gateway to the North,” because of its status as a transportation hub and gateway to the regions beyond. In 1915 Edmonton became a major link in the Canadian Pacific Transcontinental Railroad, emerging as an important crossroads stop between east and west as well as north and south.
In February 1947, the Leduc No. 1 Well gushed crude oil 40 kilometres (25 mi.) southwest of Edmonton. Since then more than 2,250 wells within a 40-kilometre (25-mi.) radius of Edmonton have coaxed the precious natural resource to the surface. Enormous industrial growth resulted; the city's population quadrupled in the 25 years following the Leduc gusher. Today more than 450,000 barrels of crude oil are refined daily in Greater Edmonton.
With about 938,000 residents in the greater metropolitan area, Edmonton has been careful not to sacrifice the natural resource that makes it livable—its green space. Edmonton's river valley parkland is reputed to be the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America, encompassing 7,340 hectares (18,348 acres). The city contains more than 11,000 hectares (27,181 acres) of parkland, playgrounds and open areas. Stretches of parks along the North Saskatchewan River Valley let residents and visitors spend long summer days enjoying such warm-weather activities as golf, hiking and water sports. When the cold weather arrives, the park system provides a playground for cross-country skiing, ice-skating, dog sledding and snowshoeing.
An extensive system of underground and overhead “pedways” in the downtown area makes it possible to travel in climate-controlled comfort regardless of the weather. Those who'd rather play indoors head to West Edmonton Mall, which combines 800-plus retail stores with restaurants and such attractions as an amusement park, a water park, an aquarium and an ice-skating rink. The largest of its kind in North America, this shopping and entertainment center has undergone three major expansions since its 1981 opening and draws an estimated 28.4 million people each year.
By CarTwo major highways run through Edmonton. The Trans-Canada Yellowhead Hwy. (Hwy. 16) provides access from the east and west; Queen Elizabeth II Hwy. runs north and south between Edmonton and Calgary.
Street SystemEdmonton's street system is a grid with streets running north and south and avenues running east and west. Most streets and avenues are numbered starting from the southeast corner of the city; a few are named.
Edmonton's street plan includes several traffic circles. When approaching a traffic circle, make sure you are in the correct lane. Use the right lane if you plan to exit, the left lane if you are traveling around the circle. When in the circle, the vehicle on the outside must yield to the vehicle on the inside.
The city speed limit is 50 kilometres per hour (30 mph) or as posted. A right turn on red after stopping is permitted; U-turns are not. A sign that reads “Bus and Taxi Lane Only” means it is illegal to drive, park or stop any vehicle other than the above in that lane.
ParkingStreet parking restrictions vary throughout the city; watch for and heed the signs. Parking is not permitted in the residential areas surrounding Northlands Park, TELUS Field and Commonwealth Stadium during major events; cars parked there will be towed.
Rates for city-operated parking meters are $2.50-$3.50 per hour. Most meters are free after 6 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays; however, there are some 24-hour meters. Rates for downtown parking lots range $2.50-$4 per half-hour during the day.
About the City
Elevation670 m/2,198 ft.
Sales TaxThe federal Goods and Service Tax is 5 percent and applies to most goods, food/beverages and services, including lodgings. Alberta does not have a provincial sales tax but does impose a 4 percent hotel tax. A 3 percent tourism levy also is charged in some areas.
Whom To Call
Police (non-emergency)(780) 423-4567
HospitalsGrey Nuns Community Hospital, (780) 735-7000; Misericordia Community Hospital, (780) 735-2000; Royal Alexandra Hospital, (780) 735-4111; University of Alberta Hospital, (780) 407-8822.
Where To Look and Listen
NewspapersEdmonton has two daily newspapers, the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun, both distributed in the morning. Canada's national newspapers, The Globe and Mail and the National Post, also are available at newsstands. Metro Edmonton is a free newspaper.
RadioRadio station CBC (740 AM) is a member of Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Visitor InformationEdmonton Welcome Centre 9797 Jasper Ave. N.W. West Shaw Building EDMONTON, AB T5J 1P7. Phone:(780)401-7696
Visitor information also is available at the Edmonton International Airport.
Air TravelEdmonton International Airport (YEG) is 29 kilometres (18 mi.) south of the city center; for information phone (780) 890-8382 or (800) 268-7134. Skyshuttle service to downtown costs $17.14 one way and $28.57 round-trip (phone to confirm fares); phone (780) 465-8515 or (888) 438-2342. Taxi service between the airport and downtown typically costs $55; a limousine costs $66. In addition many hotels offer free shuttle service for their guests.
Rental CarsHertz, downtown or at the airport, offers discounts to CAA and AAA members; phone (780) 423-3431 downtown, (780) 890-4435 at the airport, (800) 654-3131 in Canada or (800) 654-3001 outside of Canada.
Rail ServiceThe VIA Rail station is at 12360 121st St. N.W.; phone (888) 842-7245.
BusesThe downtown depot for Greyhound Lines Inc. is at the VIA Rail train station at 12360 121st St. N.W.; phone (780) 420-2400 or (800) 661-8747. The south side depot is at 5723 104th St. N.W. Red Arrow Express offers luxury motor coach service between Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray and Red Deer; phone (780) 433-1919 or (800) 232-1958.
TaxisTaxi companies include Alberta Co-Op Taxi, (780) 425-2525; Barrel Taxi (780) 489-7777; and Yellow Cab, (780) 462-3456. Taxi rates start at $3.43, plus $1.41 is charged for each additional kilometre (about 5/8 mile) or a portion thereof. Taxis can be hailed, but phoning is recommended.
Public TransportationEdmonton Transit System's Customer Service Centre, on the main floor of City Hall at 1 Sir Winston Churchill Sq., is open Mon.-Fri. 8-4:30; phone 331 within Edmonton or (780) 442-5311. Buses operate Mon.-Fri. 5:20 a.m.-1:30 a.m., Sat.-Sun. 6:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m. On holidays hours may be extended for special events. The Light-Rail Transit (LRT) operates daily 5:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Fare is $3.25. A 1-day pass is $9.50.
IQRemix / flickr
EssentialsTravel back in time at Fort Edmonton Park (7000 143rd St.), dubbed Canada's largest living-history park. Staffed by costumed interpreters, the site features both original and re-created historical structures—everything from a replicated Hudson's Bay Co. fort to a 1920s-style midway.
Spend a few loonies at the West Edmonton Mall (8882 170th St. N.W.), the largest shopping and entertainment center in North America. The gargantuan complex boasts an amusement park, a water park, an aquarium, a shooting range and an ice rink.
Attend a show at the Francis Winspear Centre for Music (4 Sir Winston Churchill Sq.). Built in 1997, the main performance space is a modern interpretation of such shoebox-style concert halls as the Tonhalle in Zurich and the Musikverein in Vienna. The downtown Edmonton facility is renowned for its acoustics as well as a stunning 6,551-pipe concert organ fashioned by Orgues Létourneau Limitée of Québec.
Wrap your head around architect Randall Stout's Art Gallery of Alberta (2 Sir Winston Churchill Sq.), a curvy blend of steel and glass inspired by such undulating natural treasures as the aurora borealis and the North Saskatchewan River. When you're done ogling the ultra-modern exterior, head inside and admire the handiwork of such Canadian painters as Maxwell Bates, Emily Carr and David Milne.
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Cheer on the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place (10220 104 Ave. N.W.), which became the team’s new, state-of-the-art home in 2016. Along with the Oilers, the 9-foot-tall, bronze statue of legendary player Wayne Gretzky was relocated as well. The monument honoring “The Great One,” who led his team to four Stanley Cup victories, was erected in 1989 and has become a beloved city landmark.
Eat, drink and be merry in Old Strathcona, a five-block historic district now dominated by bohemian java joints, funky stores, live performance venues, restaurants and bars. Whether the agenda calls for a bit of window-shopping or some late-night carousing, your best bet is to stick to the section of Whyte Avenue between 99th and 109th streets.
Explore Edmonton's “Ribbon of Green,” a 48-kilometre (30-mi.) stretch of the North Saskatchewan River Valley with bragging rights to more than 20 major parks and public facilities. In winter, strap on your cross-country skis and traverse 130-hectare (1.3-sq.-mi.) William Hawrelak Park (9930 Groat Rd. N.W.). Or, if the weather's warm, play a round at Victoria Golf Course (12130 River Valley Rd.), said to be the oldest municipal golf course in Canada.
Party like an Edmontonian. A jam-packed calendar filled with more than 50 annual events—including July's Edmonton International Street Performers Festival , August's Edmonton Folk Music Festival and November's Canadian Finals Rodeo —at one time earned the provincial capital the nickname “Festival City.”
Tour the 1912 Beaux Arts Alberta Legislature Building (10800 97th Ave.) for sure. But spend the bulk of your time strolling the handsome grounds—monuments dedicated to military veterans, immigrant groups and prominent Albertans dot the 23-hectare (57-acre) park. Wading pools and shooting water fountains are huge kid magnets in summer, and the holiday light and ice sculpture displays that arrive come winter dazzle visitors of all ages.
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ShoppingFor the intrepid shopper, there is nothing like West Edmonton Mall , which occupies a 44-hectare (110-acre) site at 8882 170th St. N.W. Inside are more than 800 stores and services.
South Edmonton Common (1978 99th St. N.W.) offers about 130 hectares (320 acres) of retail space. The massive outdoor shopping complex at 23rd Avenue and Calgary Trail is home to more than 155 businesses, including IKEA, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 4TH. With more than 165 retailers, Southgate Centre (5015 111th St. N.W.) is South Edmonton's largest shopping center and includes Edmonton’s largest Hudson’s Bay store.
For those who want shopping on a less imposing scale, other popular malls include Kingsway Garden Mall (109 St. and Kingsway N.W.) and Londonderry Mall (258 137th Ave. at 66th Street).
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Manulife Place (10180 101st St. N.W.) contains designer boutiques and Holt Renfrew, an elegant retail store with a quaint in-store café. Rice Howard Way, an attractive outdoor pedestrian area lined with sidewalk seating and eateries, is downtown at 100th Street and 101A Avenue. It is particularly popular in summer.
At 102nd Avenue and 97th Street, the Chinatown Gate symbolizes friendship and welcomes visitors to Chinatown, which features several ethnic restaurants, shops and outdoor vendors selling fresh produce.
The 124th Street & Area commercial district, which extends from Jasper Avenue north to 111th Avenue, is home to a wide variety of businesses, including the handful of art galleries and boutique shops comprising the 12-block Gallery Walk area.
Old Strathcona at Whyte Avenue (82nd Avenue from 99th to 109th streets), the main outdoor shopping street on the south side of the city, has the look of historic Edmonton and offers boutiques, specialty shops, restaurants, bistros and coffee bars.
Don't forget that the major museums have interesting shops with items sometimes impossible to find elsewhere. Of particular interest are the six period shops in Fort Edmonton Park and the Alberta-branded shop in the visitor center at the Alberta Legislature Building
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Performing ArtsTheater season runs from September through May. For live theater visit the Citadel Theatre complex, 99th Street and 101A Avenue, which consists of four theaters, an amphitheater and a beautiful atrium; phone (780) 425-1820 or (888) 425-1820. Family-themed theater, produced by Fringe Theatre Adventures, can be enjoyed by all ages from October through May at the STB Financial Arts Barns in Old Strathcona at 103rd Street and 84th Avenue; phone (780) 409-1910.
Prominent Canadian and American performers take to the stage at Mayfield Dinner Theatre at the Doubletree West Edmonton, 166th Street and 109th Avenue; phone (780) 483-4051 or (877) 529-7829. Jubilations Dinner Theatre, in the West Edmonton Mall at the intersection of 87th Avenue and 170th Street, features musical comedy; phone (780) 484-2424.
Kotomi_ / flickr
The free publications Vue Weekly and Where Edmonton give detailed, up-to-date information about arts and entertainment in Edmonton, and local newspapers provide current performance information. Ticketmaster outlets handle ticket sales for most sports, recreation, theater and concert events; phone (855) 985-5000.
Goran Crnkovic / flickr
Driving ToursThe most scenic areas in Edmonton are along the North Saskatchewan River Valley. On the south side, the drive north along Saskatchewan Drive from 76th Avenue and 120th Street to 99th Street offers a picturesque trip around the University of Alberta campus.
Chris Neuman / flickr
Walking ToursHeritage Trail leads from the Shaw Conference Centre to the Alberta Legislature Building, a route that links government and industry by way of Edmonton's past. Old Strathcona, south of the North Saskatchewan River, offers a view of many original buildings and street scenes characteristic of an early 20th-century prairie town. Edmonton Gallery Walk joins nine private art galleries around Jasper Avenue and 124th Street.
EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
Edmonton offers a smorgasbord of events. Concerts, workshops, club dates and outdoor events characterize the Edmonton International Jazz Festival , held late June to early July. Also occurring late June to early July, The Works Art and Design Festival brings together artists and artisans at some 30 venues offering demonstrations, entertainment, exhibits, receptions and tours.
In June and July the Freewill Shakespeare Festival presents evening performances during the week and two shows on weekends at the Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park. Edmonton International Street Performers Festival in early July offers 6 days of free performances by street acts including magicians, clowns, jugglers, mime artists, musicians and comics at Dr. Wilbert Mcintyre Park.
Two music venues, several parades and midway entertainment keep the city alive with activities during Edmonton's K-Days , a 10-day celebration held in July. Kids can pan for gold and learn about the history and cultures of First Nations peoples in gold rush-themed Klondike Park. The fun comes to a close with a large fireworks display.
The Edmonton Heritage Festival in early August offers more than 70 outdoor ethnic pavilions showcasing 100 countries and cultures. Also in August are the Edmonton Folk Music Festival ; Cariwest , a Caribbean arts festival; the Edmonton Blues Festival ; the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival ; and the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival , an 11-day extravaganza of plays, dance, music, mime and street performances. The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra's 3-day Symphony Under the Sky festival takes place at William Hawrelak Park from late August to early September.
Post-summer events include the Edmonton International Film Festival , featuring independent short and feature-length movies from late September to early October, the Canadian Finals Rodeo in early November, and New Year's Eve special events.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
Places in Vicinity