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The capital of Alberta, Edmonton is a mid-sized city surrounded by beautiful expanses of peaceful prairie. Known as the Gateway to the North, this friendly city features plenty of lively, urban culture. However, Edmonton’s location in the heart of Canada’s prairie does not go forgotten, and there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor pursuits near the dynamic city center.

Major Mall

While the area around Edmonton is known for its beautiful natural scenery, one of the city’s best-known attractions is decidedly urban. The West Edmonton Mall is the largest mall on the continent, boasting 800-plus retail stores along with a water park and an amusement park. Other popular attractions include the Telus World of Science, which features a variety of interactive exhibits for kids and adults, mostly focused on science, technology and space.

Rendering photo of the mall with a boat in the water

Daniel Case

Muttart Art

The Muttart Conservatory is also worth a visit for its numerous gardens and pyramid-shaped greenhouses, while the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is a living history museum that shows how Ukrainian settlers lived when they first came to the area in large numbers in the late 1800s.

River and Ponds

The winding North Saskatchewan River flows through town and entices anglers and boating enthusiasts. Capilano Park and Laurier Park both have boat launches to the waterway that are open from April to November (weather permitting). In the northeastern part of the city, Hermitage Park allows nonmotorized boating and canoeing on the river. There are plenty of great opportunities for fishing, with stocked ponds nearby that yield rainbow trout. Fishing in the North Saskatchewan River usually requires a license, but it’s free during the Alberta Family Day weekend and at the tail end of National Fishing Week in late June.

Trails on the Prairie

Surrounded by beautiful prairie, Edmonton offers plenty of opportunities to get outside and play. The 192-mile Waskahegan Trail runs right through town and out into the countryside and is popular with hikers and runners alike. The trail also goes through one of the largest urban park areas in the country: River Valley Parks, a collection of 20 parks featuring miles of hiking trails along with plenty of playgrounds, campsites and even tennis courts and swimming pools. In the northernmost reaches are all sorts of creatures, from moose, deer, elk and bison to pigmy shrews, not to mention hundreds of species of birds.

Positively 4th Street

Edmonton is a friendly, compact city with good public transportation and a decent network of bicycle lanes. While much of its appeal comes from its accessibility to nearby natural areas , the city also features an impressive array of cultural institutions that include the Art Gallery of Alberta, which boasts an extensive collection of Canadian sculpture and painting. To really experience the pulse of the city, head downtown to the 4th Street Promenade or further south to Whyte Avenue. Both offer an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants and shops.

Edmonton’s Fringe

Edmonton offers a robust calendar of events throughout the year, with peak festival season in the warmer summer months. Events worth traveling to include the Edmonton International Fringe Theater Event in August, which spans 11 days and features theatrical performances from across the world; it’s the second-largest Fringe event in the world, surpassed in size only by the one in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Art for Kids

The International Children’s Festival of the Arts in May is another big event (in fact, it’s the largest festival for children in North America) and offers all sorts of special activities for kids. Foodies won’t want to miss Taste of Edmonton in July, Canada’s largest food festival, while fans of documentary films might enjoy NorthwestFest in May, the longest-running documentary festival in Canada.

History Comes Alive

Man driving an old style car in the middle of the street

Getty Images

Like much of North America, the area now known as Edmonton was settled by First Nations people for millennia. It was inhabited by Europeans in 1795 and grew alongside the fur trade, with large influxes of migration toward the end of the 1800s and into the 20th century. Today, travelers wanting to learn more about the roots of the city flock to Fort Edmonton Park, the largest living history museum in the country. The park is split into different historical periods, with sections devoted to 1846, 1885, 1905 and 1920, each with its own set of era-specific activities, displays and costumed interpreters.

Superb Street Car

For a unique view of the city, hop aboard Edmonton’s High Level Bridge Street Car. The bridge opened in 1913 and was outfitted with three sets of tracks on its top deck; Canadian Pacific Railway trains ran down the center and local streetcars traveled on the outside. Operated by the Edmonton Radial Railway Society, the streetcar is a restored 1912 model that runs daily between May and September, and on weekends through Thanksgiving Day (in Canada, it’s mid-October).

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