When I first decided to move to Edmonton, Alberta, from Vancouver, BC, for school, people would always ask me why I’d want to leave the big city and beautiful coast for Edmonton. My west-coast pals thought there wouldn’t be anything fun to do in my new home, and I was a little worried too. I decided to embrace the opportunity and immersed myself in the city’s culture, discovering the hidden gems among the many things to see throughout my school years. In the end, I fell in love with Edmonton and decided to stay. I turned my new-found passion for the city into a professional opportunity, and am currently working with Edmonton Tourism. My job has taken me all over the city, I’ve found tons of things to do in Edmonton, and I’m more in-the-know than ever.
I love sharing the best of this wonderful city with anyone who’ll listen (which means you!). If I were visiting Edmonton for one summer weekend, here’s how I’d spend it…
9AM: Elm Café
Kick off the day with a craft cappuccino and inventive breakfast sandwich at Elm Café. Located in Edmonton’s Oliver community (a vibrant residential area in the heart of the city), Elm Café is a 200 square-foot space tucked away on a century old tree-lined street. Don’t let the quirky location fool you—this café has some of the best espresso and sandwiches the city has to offer.
10AM: Explore City Market
Walk or taxi downtown to the al fresco City Market on 104 Street and pick up ingredients for an afternoon picnic. You’ll find everything Edmontonians love about summer: food trucks, live entertainment, unique handmade goods and fresh local produce.
12PM: Picnic in the Park
It’s a 15-minute walk to Ezio Faraone Park, nestled right by the iconic High Level Bridge. This park is the perfect place to lay down a blanket for a picnic, or to throw around the Frisbee. You’ll experience views of the river valley the way the locals do, without the crowds.
3PM: The Alberta Legislature
From Ezio Faraone park, you’re only steps away from the Alberta Legislature Grounds. Known as the “ledge” to locals, the marble and limestone building is where Alberta’s politicians debate and make history. Catch one of the free guided tours—ask to stand on the “magic spot”! Cool off by dipping your feet in the beautiful fountains, or immerse yourself in the province’s history at the 4-D theatre in the newly restored Federal Building (one of a few examples of Art Deco in the city).
6PM: Unforgettable Dinner at Corso 32
Take a short walk to Corso 32 for dinner (make reservations!). This Italian restaurant has been receiving international attention for its delicious food. Order at least one of these must-try dishes: the short rib (melt-in your mouth deliciousness) or arancini (fried balls of creamy risotto… aka heaven).
8PM: Drinks at Woodwork
Head over to Woodwork, a hole-in-the-wall craft cocktail bar with a New York feel, and enjoy something from their original drink list. I recommend the Violet Fizz: a tasty mix of gin, frothy egg whites and violet liqueur, topped with an edible orchid!
10PM: Concert at The Needle Vinyl Tavern
Cap off the night with an indie concert at The Needle Vinyl Tavern, known for hosting live music seven days a week. Discover new bands before they make it big and rub elbows with the best of Edmonton’s music scene. Follow them on Twitter to stay in the loop.
9AM: Little Brick Café
Start Sunday bright and early with breakfast at Little Brick. This place is the definition of a hidden gem… to the point where you may not be entirely sure you’ve arrived until you smell the coffee! The café is located inside a small brick house (built in 1903) within a residential neighbourhood off the trails of the river valley. They also host intimate concerts that are only announced through social media, so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled. Check them out on Twitter and Facebook to stay in the know!
10AM: A River Valley Adventure
Explore the North Saskatchewan River valley by Segway… it’s all the fun of walking, without the hassle of moving your legs! Though a tour may seem like the typical visitor thing to do, the Segway tours at River Valley Adventure Company aren’t. Many locals don’t even know these tours exist, and it’s the best (and speediest) way to take in Edmonton’s amazing views. Finish your tour with a scoop of locally-made Pinocchio Gelato, available inside the tour booking office.
12PM: Ride the Streetcar
Hop on the High Level Streetcar for a bird’s eye view of the city. The beautifully refurbished vintage trolleys date back to the 1900s, and you’ll get a little history lesson as you pass over the highest streetcar crossing in the world. The south side stop will leave you at the foot of the shops along Whyte Avenue in Old Strathcona.
3PM: Shop Whyte Avenue
Whyte Avenue has an amazing selection of boutiques and smaller retail stores to excite even the most discerning fashionista. Pop in to my favourite boutiques: Bamboo Ballroom and Poppy Barley. Bamboo Ballroom is one of Alberta’s most supportive retailers of local designers, and has an awesome selection of edgy basics and flirty party dresses. Poppy Barley allows you to design your own made-to-measure shoes for the perfect fit. Just stop in and they’ll help you create your own custom footwear!
6PM: Patio Party
Finish the weekend on one of Whyte Avenue’s patios for a beer and some good old-fashioned people-watching. Insider tip: get one of city’s best burgers, on one of city’s cutest patios by going to The Next Act and ordering their peanut butter burger! Then hop over the The Black Dog’s aptly named ‘wooftop’ patio to keep the party going. Remember—the sun sets late in our city —so while you’re here, stay out late as the Edmontonians do.
If you’re looking for more insider tips and fun things to do in Edmonton, check out this list of summer must-dos I wrote during my Edmonton Tourism internship!