As we begin another chilly year, a lot of friends and family are leaving the frost-bitten prairie shores for the Shangri-Lai of beaches, all-inclusives and cheap cervezas down south. But if you’re one of the hardy Albertans scraping your windshield until April, why not enjoy your very own vacation right here in Edmonton? Enter the staycation.
Staycations are an art I’ve perfected over the years, from exploring local attractions I hadn’t been to since I was a kid to channelling my inner foodie at some of our best restaurants. Whether you're driving in from Calgary or Fort McMurray, come stay the night and experience Edmonton's local gems that will make those beach parties and tanning chairs a distant memory.
There’s nothing to do in winter. Sound familiar? I remember muttering those words as I would curl up to binge watch another season of Game of Thrones, dreaming of spring. But after a few years doing photography around the city, I've learned that Edmontonians don’t just survive winter; we embrace it. From ice castles to flying canoes, from mystical stilt walkers to friendly Vikings, we have weekend after weekend of winter fun. So grab your toque and mitts and don't miss these festivals coming up soon:
Ice on Whyte Festival
Every year, the Ice on Whyte Festival grabs Canadian winter by the snowballs and carves it into a wicked combo of ice and art. Hurry hard to the International Ice Carving Competition, ride a gigantic ice slide, or learn to carve ice just like a pro. One of the hottest shows is on the last night where you’ll see fire melt an ice sculpture right back into H20.
January 26 - Febrary 5
Flying Canoë Volant
Based on French and Métis folklore, the Flying Canoë Volant festival is a two-day journey that takes you deep into the mystical river valley, lit up with stunning art installations. Learn a square dance, listen to a storyteller, or skid down a snow slide in front of La Cité, home of Edmonton's Francophone Quarter.
Silver Skate Festival
Edmonton's longest-running winter festival, Silver Skate has it all: snow carvings, sleigh rides, skating, and did we mention Ice Castles? Discover a winter wonderland over two acres large transformed into your very own version of Frozen. Singing optional. And don't miss the fantasy folk trails and fire sculptures that light up the winter sky each weekend.
Edmonton is stepping up its game. If you haven't been to the city in a few years, you won't even recognize the place. From the heart of the action, downtown, to the rest of the city, now is the perfect time to see the new attractions and rediscover the old gems.
Let's start with downtown. Oilers devotees from around the province can now make their pilgrimage to the temple of McDavid: Rogers Place. With its stunning architecture and an interior that’ll make you think you just stepped onto the Starship Enterprise, Rogers Place is sure to make your jaw drop. Grab a drink and a bite at the Mercer Tavern on 104th street before cheering on the Oil next door.
Looking for something more low key? Escape winter for an afternoon and tour the four iconic pyramids of the Muttart Conservatory, complete with a unique biome in each pyramid. Or travel back in time at Fort Edmonton Park for brunch at the Hotel Selkirk on 1920 street.
When I was in college, flavour used to mean me putting Frank’s hot sauce on pretty much everything. Now that my palette has grown beyond blazing hot or bland, I’ve discovered that Edmonton’s food scene is diverse and expanding faster than my waistline. Authentic wood-fired Neopolitan pizzas, succulent Brazilian steaks and tasty tortillas that teleport you straight to the taquerias of Mexico are just some of the international treats waiting for you. Here are my favourites to get your taste buds tingling:
Rosso Pizzeria - 8738 109 St NW
A slice right out of Italy, Rosso not only has award-winning pizza, it has an incredible brunch as well. The french toast, featuring organic bread, berries and creamy vanilla sauce served in a cast iron skillet, will have you singing 'that's a'more!'
Café Mosaics - 10844 Whyte Avenue
For vegetarians and vegans, it's hard to beat Café Mosaics. Nourish yourself with a green smoothie before warming up with The Curry Dinner. And for dessert, the vegan pumpkin pie is one of the best in the city. Trust me. I've eaten an entire one to myself.
NongBu Korean Eatery - 8115 104 St NW
A new spin on Korean street food, this Whyte Ave hotspot was recently named Avenue Magazine's best new restaurant in 2016. I don't know a slice of Korean, but my taste buds need no translation. It's fresh, it's delicious, and you need to go there. Try the crispy seafood pajeon and ginger soy vinegar dipping sauce.
Rostizado - Mercer Warehouse, 102, 10359 - 104 Street
The latest endeavour from the creators of the legendary Tres Carnales Taqueria, Rostizado is a flavour fiesta you won't forget. The Tacón de Peerco is my drool-worthy go-to and for dessert the decadent churros and dulce de leche sauce will have you reaching for your stretchy pants.
Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse - 9929 109 Street
For over five years, Pampa's mission has been to serve authentic Brazilian churrasco, or barbeque, to the prairies. Channel your inner Gaúcho with its rodizio dining style featuring a continuous table-side service and a dizzying array of meats carved right before your eyes.
Edmonton is the perfect place for a staycation. Whether you've never been to the city or you've never ventured far, there's something here for everyone. With more festivals, restaurants and new attractions than you can shake an icicle at, there's plenty to entice you out of hibernation. So stay the night, pamper yourself and enjoy everything Edmonton has to offer. For more staycation ideas, explore our website and follow our social media channels for the latest updates.