16 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Edmonton
Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, stretches along both banks of the North Saskatchewan River in roughly the center of the province. The city has had a long rivalry with Calgary, just over two hours south, which claims that Edmonton is a boring government town. Well nothing could be further from the truth. Edmonton is Alberta's center for culture, with excellent theaters, top-notch museums, world-class galleries, and a thriving musical scene.
The folks that live in Edmonton are a stout and hardy breed. The city is among the coldest cities in the world, with a population of over one million, other members of this elite club include Moscow and Harbin, China. The cold weather doesn't stop Edmontonians from getting out and getting busy at winter festivals and events, including the Deep Freeze Festival and the Ice on Whyte, featuring fun and crazy events sure to beat the winter blues.
Learn more about this exciting city with our list of attractions and things to do in Edmonton.
See also: Where to Stay in Edmonton
1. Shop & Play at West Edmonton Mall
Canada's West Edmonton Mall is not only the country's largest shopping center-and one of the largest in the world-it's also a major tourist attraction. In addition to hundreds of shops and restaurants, the facility contains a hotel, movie theaters, an ice rink, an aquarium, and much more.
Adding to the appeal are the themed sections of the mall, designed to mimic the feel of popular travel destinations around the world. In Europa Boulevard, for example, many of the shops have European-style fronts and carry the names of international fashion designers, while Bourbon Street, a copy of the famous New Orleans street, is the place to visit for Creole food and live music.
The mall's Galaxyland is one of the largest covered, indoor amusement parks in the world, boasting a variety of family-friendly rides, including a triple-loop roller coaster. Also fun is the recently renovated World Waterpark, the largest such attraction in North America. Highlights include the world's biggest indoor wave pool, and two 83-foot-tall (and very steep) water slides. The park, in fact, has a variety of slides, ranging from beginner to extreme.
Address: 8882 - 170 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Official site: www.wem.ca
2. Royal Alberta Museum
The Royal Alberta Museum moved to its new location in 2018, and is now western Canada's largest museum. Home to a fascinating mix of permanent cultural and natural history exhibits, as well as always-changing temporary installations, a visit to this ultra-modern facility is certainly time well spent. Particularly impressive are the many fossils from the dinosaur and ice age eras, a large aquaria of native fish, and live insects-including some exotic and enormous species.
New additions include a large feature gallery hosting traveling exhibits from across Canada and around the world, a huge new kids' gallery, and a bigger bug room with live invertebrates and a visible nursery. The museum's cultural history departments explore aboriginal cultures with artifacts from Blackfoot, Cree, and other First Nations. A well-stocked gift shop and a café are also located on-site.
Address: 9810 103a Ave NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Official site: www.royalalbertamuseum.ca
3. Enjoy Nature at Elk Island National Park & Beaver Hills
This national park is just a 30-minute drive from Edmonton and covers a wooded area with lakes and wetlands, and is home to all kinds of wildlife, including moose, elk, deer, and beaver. But the main attraction of Elk Island National Park is the large herd of buffalo (bison), which graze over a special enclosure.
Anyone driving slowly along the road through the park cannot fail to catch sight of one of these massive shaggy beasts. Fun things to do here in the summer include hiking and biking, kayaking and canoeing, as well as camping, while winter activities include snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
The Beaver Hills area has now been designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and includes a dark sky preserve, a bird sanctuary, and a wilderness center. Originally the tribal home of the Sarcee Indians, it was the Cree, however, that hunted the beaver and buffalo for their pelts, which were then traded with the large fur-trading companies.
With hunting and settlement, the buffalo were almost wiped out, though some Beaver Hills buffalo are thought to have been captured in 1909 and placed in a reserve of their own. These are the forebears of the animals now living in Elk Island National Park.
Address: 54401 Range Road 203, Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta
Official site: www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/elkisland
4. Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village
Established in the 1970s along the Yellowhead Highway, this open-air museum preserves the cultural heritage of the many immigrants from Bukovina and Ukraine who settled in what is now Alberta in the 1890s. Known locally simply as "the Village," various historic buildings have been reconstructed on the site, and the pale onion dome of a Ukrainian church is visible from afar.
There are many living history elements to explore, including a blacksmith, market, and an old-fashioned general store. Part of the fun is the opportunity to interact with the costumed guides, here to explain what life was like for these early settlers. If possible, try to time your visit with one of the many events or workshops hosted throughout the year, from cooking demonstrations to harvest celebrations and a commemoration of Ukraine's national day.
Address: Hwy 16 E, Tofield, Alberta
Official site: https://ukrainianvillage.ca
5. Fort Edmonton Park
Another open-air museum that should be included in your Edmonton travel itinerary, Fort Edmonton Park has old buildings faithfully reconstructed to reflect Edmonton's historical development. The buildings include a typical 1846 fort belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, a street from a pioneer town of 1885, the up-and-coming provincial capital in 1905, as well as buildings from the 1920s.
Among the different forms of old transport, visitors can ride a horse-drawn wagon or a steam train. At the John Janzen Nature Centre nearby, there are exhibits about local geology and ecology.
Address: 7000 143 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Official site: www.fortedmontonpark.ca/
6. Muttart Conservatory
On the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River, four pyramid-shaped hothouses are home to rare and far-traveled species of plants. Each pyramid features a distinct environment representing different biomes of the world, from the tropical climate of Myanmar (Burma) and Fiji to the temperate pavilion with its American redwoods and Australian eucalyptus. With so many species of plants on display, the conservatory is the premier horticultural facility in Edmonton.
From the high ground above the river, there is a beautiful view of the gleaming pyramids of the Muttart Conservatory against the skyline of Edmonton city center.
Address: 9626 96A Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta
7. Alberta Legislature Building
In the midst of a park-like garden, where the last Fort Edmonton once stood, is the 1913 Legislature Building. It's an imposing and attractive building, and from the terrace there are beautiful views across the North Saskatchewan River to the far bank. Guided tours are the best way to learn about the history of what the locals refer to fondly as "the Ledge," including its architecture and secrets of the building. A highlight of a visit is spending time wandering the park-like grounds surrounding the building.
Be sure to also visit the nearby Legislative Assembly Visitor Centre, which includes important displays related to local art, culture, and history. There's also a cool 4D immersive experience that provides an impressive visual history of the province and its people, as well as a great gift shop selling arts and crafts from across Alberta.
Address: 10800 97 Ave NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Official site: www.assembly.ab.ca/visitorcentre/index.html
8. Art Gallery of Alberta
A twisting modernist building on Sir Winston Churchill Square, the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton is dedicated to visual arts with an emphasis on Western Canada. The gallery features changing and traveling exhibitions and maintains an extensive collection of more than 6,000 pieces.
The site also features a gift shop, restaurant, and theater space. Private guided tours are available and can be tailored to suit your particular interests. The facility also offers a variety of educational programs for all ages, as well as lectures and workshops.
Address: 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton, Alberta
Official site: www.youraga.ca
9. Reynolds-Alberta Museum, Wetaskiwin
One hour by car south of downtown Edmonton is the friendly little town of Wetaskiwin. Here, the main attraction is the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, dedicated to everything to do with aircraft and vehicle construction. There are open-air displays of old agricultural machinery and tools, including some real old dinosaurs-steam tractors, threshing machines, caterpillar tractors, and trucks.
There are also nearly 100 historic aircraft housed here, as well as in the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame, and numerous vintage motorcycles to admire. A café, store, and theater are also located on-site, with a good time to visit being one of the regular summer events when a variety of machines and vehicles are operating.
Address: 6426 40 Avenue, Wetaskiwin, Alberta
Official site: www.history.alberta.ca/reynolds/
10. K Days
The greatest event in Edmonton's calendar is the 10-day festival known as K Days (formerly called Capital Ex) held every year at the end of July, when the wild days of the 1890 Klondike Gold Rush come to life once more. Street-parties, dancing, parades, live entertainment, gold panning, and a midway liven up the whole city. Visitors who plan to be in Edmonton during the festival should be sure to book accommodation well in advance.
Official site: http://k-days.com/
11. Edmonton Valley Zoo
Opened in 1959, the Edmonton Valley Zoo has traditionally focused on research into threatened animal species. However, its family-oriented grounds are also home to more than 350 animals representing over 100 species, both exotic and from the province of Alberta.
The animals and their caregivers are regularly out and about meeting and engaging with guests. Popular species to visit include red pandas, lemurs, snow leopards, and arctic wolves, each located in specially themed areas to represent their natural habitat. Children's rides at the zoo include paddle boats, a miniature train, and a carousel.
Address: 13315 Buena Vista Rd, Edmonton, Alberta
12. Alberta Aviation Museum
The Alberta Aviation museum is a must-see for all aviation buffs. Located near the Edmonton city center airport, the museum is easy to find with its two fighter jets mounted in interesting positions, one nearly vertical. Along with its 40 aircraft on display, the museum is home to a rare form of aircraft hangar constructed as part of Canada's pilot training program in WWII.
Informative guided tours are available and last around 90 minutes. They include a look at the fascinating restoration facility where many of these vintage airplanes were rebuilt.
Address: 11410 Kingsway Ave NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Official site: www.albertaaviationmuseum.com
13. TELUS World of Science
Situated in a modern white building, the TELUS World of Science (TWOS) in Edmonton is a fun, all-ages, educational science center experience perfect for those traveling with kids. The attraction's many interactive and hands-on science and technology exhibits cover topics like space, robots, forensics, and the environment. Adjoining is an excellent planetarium called the Margaret Zeidler Star Theatre, and the IMAX theater shows fascinating films from all over the world.
One of the best free things to do in Edmonton is to visit the on-site observatory, which offers a variety of interesting star gazing opportunities. A gift shop and café is also available.
Address: 11211 142 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Official site: https://telusworldofscienceedmonton.ca
14. University of Alberta Botanic Garden
Another Edmonton attraction for those who enjoy flowers and gardening is the University of Alberta Botanic Garden. Founded in 1959 and the largest such garden in the province, this 240-acre site includes 160 acres that have been set aside in their natural state.
Of the remaining 80 acres, notable features include a Japanese Garden, a large tropical greenhouse with butterflies, plus numerous displays of many other plant species, both indoors and out. Of special interest is the Indigenous Garden, consisting of plants that have been used by Canada's indigenous peoples for centuries.
A new addition to the attraction is the Aga Khan Garden, a nearly 12-acre site, inspired by Islamic architecture and landscapes, with a northern twist. It's a delightful garden to explore, and notable features include a number of pleasant forest paths, peaceful terraces, ponds and pools, plus a waterfall.
Free guided walking tours of the botanic gardens are available and come highly recommended. Of special interest to those who also love classical music is the annual Opera al Fresco event performed here by the Edmonton Opera Company each June.
Address: 51227 AB-60, Spruce Grove, Alberta
Official site: https://botanicgarden.ualberta.ca
15. Alberta Railway Museum
Located in the northern suburbs of the city and well worth the effort to visit, the Alberta Railway Museum (ARM) features a selection of still-operating and static locomotives and rolling stock. Established in 1976 to preserve the province's rich railway heritage, the museum features more than 75 engines and railcars, a number of original railway buildings, as well as many related artifacts.
A highlight is having the chance to ride on one of the trains during the summer months (check their website for schedules). Self-guided tour maps are available when picking up your tickets.
Address: 24215 34 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Official site: https://albertarailwaymuseum.com
16. Edmonton Convention Centre
Though the building is mostly underground, there are great views from the Edmonton Convention Centre-still sometimes known as "the Shaw," despite a name change-across the North Saskatchewan River. It's a good spot to begin a tour of the relatively small city center and is also home to a variety of accommodation and dining options.
Address: 9797 Jasper Avenue NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Where to Stay in Edmonton for Sightseeing
We recommend these great hotels in the vibrant downtown area of the city, along with a selection located in West Edmonton near the famous mall.
- The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald leads the way in luxury accommodations in Edmonton and boasts a beautiful riverside location in a landmark building dating from 1915, along with elegant décor, a heated indoor pool, and a well-equipped fitness center.
- Also popular in the luxury hotel category is the Union Bank Inn, located in the downtown core in an old bank and boasting chic rooms with vintage décor and fireplaces, a great breakfast, and an exercise room.
- Although on the somewhat gaudy (but fun) side of the luxury scale, the Fantasyland Hotel, West Edmonton Mall is a great choice for those wanting to be close to the world's largest shopping center, and comes with quirky rooms, plus a restaurant, and free parking.
- A favorite in the mid-range hotel category, the Matrix Hotel boasts a great downtown location with free breakfast and parking; great restaurants nearby; and light-filled, contemporary-styled rooms.
- Staybridge Suites West Edmonton is another great choice, an affordable three-star hotel featuring spacious suites with kitchens, a social evening reception, complimentary buffet breakfast, and a lovely indoor pool.
- Also, check out the hotel deals at the Metterra Hotel on Whyte, located close to the botanic gardens and featuring bright, attractive rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, a breakfast buffet, and the use of bikes to get around the city.
- The Hilton Garden Inn West Edmonton offers budget-friendly rates, helpful front desk staff, a hot tub and heated saltwater pool, comfortable beds... and free cookies!
- Other great affordable accommodation options include the Crash Hotel, a fun location with bunkbeds and shared bathrooms, just steps from the river and the downtown core.
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