14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Edmonton
Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, stretches along both banks of the North Saskatchewan River in roughly the center of the province. Varying economic forces including the early fur trade, cross-Canada railway, 1897/1898 Klondike gold rush, Alaska Highway, and oil and gas extraction have had a swinging influence over the city. With that economic prosperity, Edmonton has invested in art and culture by building excellent theaters and museums. The city's greatest claim to fame, however, is the West Edmonton Mall, which is one of the largest leisure and shopping centers in the world. Even during the long cold winters, when temperatures average -15°C, shoppers are still enticed to linger.
See also: Where to Stay in Edmonton
1 Royal Alberta Museum
The Royal Alberta Museum is home to a mix of permanent cultural and natural history exhibits, as well as always-changing temporary installations. Particularly impressive are the fossils from dinosaur and ice age eras, aquaria of native fish, and live insects - including some exotic and enormous species. The museum's cultural history departments explore aboriginal cultures with artifacts from Blackfoot, Cree, and other First Nations.
Address: 12845 102 Ave NW, Edmonton
2 Elk Island National Park & Beaver Hills
This national park 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.
The Beaver Hills area was originally the tribal home of the Sarcee Indians. The Cree drove them out, however, hunting beaver and buffalo pelts for 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: Site 4, RR #1, Fort Saskatchewan
3 West Edmonton Mall
Canada's largest shopping center and one of the largest in the world, West Edmonton Mall is a major tourist attraction. In addition to hundreds of shops and restaurants, the facility contains a hotel, movie theaters, a huge water park, ice rink, and much more. In Europa Boulevard many of the shops have European-style fronts and carry the names of international fashion designers. Bourbon Street, a copy of the famous New Orleans street, is a destination for Creole food and live music. The mall's Galaxyland is one of the largest covered, indoor amusement parks in the world. There are all kinds of rides including a triple-loop rollercoaster.
Address: 8882 - 170 Street, #2472, Edmonton
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 the Ukraine, who settled in what is now Alberta in the 1890s. 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.
Address: Hwy 16 E, Tofield
5 Fort Edmonton Park
Another open-air museum, 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 143rd Street, Edmonton
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 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 St NW, Edmonton
7 Legislature Building
In the midst of a park-like garden where the last Fort Edmonton once stood, is the 1912 Legislature Building. From the terrace, there is a beautiful view across the North Saskatchewan River to the far bank. Guided tours are the best way to learn about the history, architecture, and secrets of the building.
Address: 10800 97 Ave NW, Edmonton
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.
Address: 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton
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 dinosaurs - steam tractors, threshing machines, caterpillar tractors, and trucks. There are also veteran aircraft and vintage motorcycles to admire.
Address: 6426 40 Ave, Wetaskiwin
10 K Days
The greatest event in Edmonton's calendar is the ten-day festival known as K Days, formerly called Capital Ex, held every year at the end of July. 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.
11 Edmonton Valley Zoo
Opened in 1959, the Edmonton Valley Zoo has traditionally focused on research into threatened animal species. But its family-oriented grounds are also home to more than 350 animals both exotic and from the province of Alberta. Animals and their caregivers are regularly out and about meeting and engaging with guests. Children's rides at the zoo include paddle boats, a miniature train, and a carousel.
Address: 13315 Buena Vista Rd, Edmonton
12 Alberta Aviation Museum
The Alberta Aviation museum is a must see for all aviation buffs with its 40 aircraft on display. 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.
Address: 11410 Kingsway Ave NW, Edmonton
13 TELUS World of Science
In a modern white building, the TELUS World of Science in Edmonton is an all-ages educational experience. 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 theatre shows fascinating films from all over the world.
Address: 11211 142 St NW, Edmonton
14 Shaw Convention Centre
Though the building is mostly underground, there are great views from the Shaw Convention Centre across the North Saskatchewan River. It's a good spot to begin a tour of the relatively small city center.
Address: 9797 Jasper Ave NW, Edmonton
Where to Stay in Edmonton for Sightseeing
We recommend these great hotels in the vibrant downtown area and West Edmonton near the famous mall:
- The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald: riverside luxury, landmark 1915 building, elegant decor, heated indoor pool, well-equipped fitness center.
- Matrix Hotel: mid-range downtown hotel, free breakfast and parking, great restaurants nearby, light-filled contemporary style.
- Staybridge Suites West Edmonton: affordable three-star hotel, spacious suites with kitchens, social evening reception Mon-Weds, complimentary buffet breakfast, lovely indoor pool.
- Hilton Garden Inn West Edmonton: budget-friendly rates, helpful front desk staff, free cookies, hot tub and heated saltwater pool, comfortable beds.