After experiencing some of the best vibrant urban experiences in the 24 hour itinerary, it’s time to start day two by heading to the edge of the city and exploring a couple of ‘must sees’ for any visitor to Edmonton.
Less than an hour’s drive from downtown Edmonton, Elk Island National Park boasts incredible experiences that will remain with you long after you leave. Take a load of your shoulders, escape the city noise, and reconnect with nature! Make sure your camera is dusted off and the batteries are fully charged – you’re going to be getting good use out of it today. Home to massive herds of free roaming plains bison, wood bison, moose, deer, and elk, the park boasts the second highest concentration of large mammals in the world. Not to mention the area is a bird watcher’s paradise! 250 species of birds soar the skies of this beautiful oasis, nestling into the protected aspen woodlands at night, one of the most endangered habitats in Canada. By now, your memory card is probably maxed out so take a break from wildlife watch and head out for a hike, canoe ride, cross-country ski, or snowshoe. Rentals and tours are available no matter what the season!
After spending the morning exploring the national park, hop across the street to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village to grab some delicious homemade lunch at Kalyna Café. Is that your stomach we hear growling? There’s plenty of food to whet anyone’s appetite: pyrohy (perogies), kovbasá (garlic sausage), hólubtsi (cabbage rolls), and borscht (traditional soup made of beets). Put English aside and try ordering your food in Ukrainian! Now that you’ve had your Ukrainian feast, step back in history and explore the origins of Ukrainian settlers in Canada. Open from May to September, discover over 30 historic structures and interact with costumed interpreters who re-enact historic routines and activities. Experience a pioneer family lifestyle and learn about the domestic demands of a homestead settlement: attend school in the one-room school house, get down and dirty in a farmer’s garden, and visit the clanging blacksmith at work on his forge.
Blink your eyes and you’re back in the 21st Century! Head into the city and burn off some of those lunch calories by adopting a hobby loved by locals: shopping. Edmonton is a shopping paradise and there is no shortage of places to fill your bag to the brim. Want to hit up as many stores as possible under one roof? We’ve got just the place for you. With over 800 shops and services, West Edmonton Mall has brand name chains to one-of-a-kind boutiques and is the size of a small city; it spans the equivalent of 48 city blocks. The treads on your sneakers will definitely be worn out after this shopping trip. For a more laid back shopping experience, be sure to check out some of our other well equipped malls such as Kingsway Mall, City Centre Mall, and Southgate Centre.
Perhaps shopping local is more up your alley. Fear not, Edmonton is home to an abundance of farmers’ markets and local boutiques. Operating every Saturday year-round, the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market rotates a roster of nearly 300 vendors and showcases only locally produced handmade goods. After hitting the market, stroll down Whyte Avenue, one of Edmonton’s trendiest shopping areas anchored by a funky and bohemian spirit. Afterwards, why not head downtown by catching the High Level Bridge Streetcar. Take a ride in a beautifully refurbished trolley car dated back to the early 1900s and experience views of the river valley and the Alberta Legislature you wouldn’t otherwise see! It’s truly breathtaking. Catch it while you can as the operating season runs from May to September. Once across the river, you’ll find yourself in the heart of downtown Edmonton. You’re steps away from the 4th Street Promenade and the surrounding historic warehouse district and it’s here you’ll find City Market Downtown. Named Best Farmer’s Market in 2013 by National Geographic Traveler, the market is known for its friendly, open atmosphere and quality products. When summer starts to cool off and autumn hits, City Hall is home to the market for the remainder of the year.
Wow! Your biceps are probably toned beyond belief from carrying all those shopping bags; no need for the gym today. Now we know some of you probably shuddered at just the mere thought of shopping, and we haven’t forgotten about you. There are plenty of other things to check out! Breathe in colorful and exotic life at the Muttart Conservatory botanical garden. The iconic pyramids define the Edmonton skyline and are home to themed gardens representing different world biomes: tropical, arid, and temperate. For the architecture buffs, pay a visit to the Alberta Legislature. Known to Edmontontians as “the Leg”, this is where Canadian premiers and political parties debate and make history. The Beaux-Arts architectural style will leave you marveling at marble pillars, carved oak, and a large central dome towering above a spacious rotunda. Enjoy a free guided tour and learn about some of the building’s most peculiar stories. Discover why there is a preserved hamburger in the library, learn why Alberta’s original mace was made from plumbing parts, and listen for the phenomenon known as the “magic spot”.
Is it dinner yet? Stay downtown and make your way over to The Marc, serving up the best of Edmonton’s French cuisine. The entrecôte, or rib steak, is cooked to perfection and will melt in your mouth. It’s so delicious, in fact, that it was voted as Avenue Magazine’s best steak in Edmonton in 2015. Down the street and around the corner is Woodwork. The name pays homage to the owners’ passion for wood-fired cooking and barrel-aged spirits. Cornish hen, grilled brisket, wood-fired west coast clams….we bet your mouths are watering just thinking about it; ours sure are.
After dinner, take in a live performance at the Citadel Theatre or Winspear Centre. The Citadel Theatre is Edmonton’s multi-stage entertainment hub where the city’s finest actors and comedians strut their stuff. With five performance spaces, the theatre has brought to life works from Shakespeare to Tim Rice, and Moliere to A.A. Milne. It is also home to Rapid Fire Theatre, where their weekly improvised comedy shows will make you laugh until it becomes a form of abdominal exercise. Toned arms from shopping? Chiseled abs from laughing? You’ll be heading home as fit as a fiddle! Across the street, savour the musical magic of everything from classical masterworks to pop and kids’ concerts in an acoustically superb performance hall at the Winspear Centre. Here you’ll find Edmonton’s beloved Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, or ESO. Now this is no ordinary orchestra…their repertoire includes all genres from classical to country to hip hop! They’ve even shared the stage with the likes of Frank Zappa, k.d. lang, and Procol Harum. Not only that, Symphony In The City is an annual multi-day festival devoted just to ESO!
After a breathtaking performance, call it a night or venture out to one of Edmonton’s local pubs for a night cap. If you want to chat with locals and find out their favourite spots, just follow #exploreedmonton on Twitter or Instagram.
Phewf. What a trip! We are so happy you called Edmonton home for a couple of days. Come back soon!