For the uninformed, Edmonton might be overlooked as a frigidly cold 'stop-over' city, before heading to the mountains (specifically, Jasper National Park), but we know better...
Having spent the first four years of our Canadian adventure calling this city our 'home' (although, we're now living in Calgary), we've got some notes. Lately, Edmonton has been catching the attention of top travel lists, and for good reason: the food scene is booming with award-winning restaurants, and the people are so attitude-free they even have a name for it, Minnesota Nice.
Truth be told, it's easy to be underwhelmed if you
don't know where to go. But that's the point: it's a place you have to get to know. And if you're visiting for a few days, that's going to be a little difficult.
That's where I come in—your personal, virtual travel agent with a no BS list of everything you need to know about one of Canada's sunniest cities, so you can make the most of your time here. Edmonton will pleasantly surprise you.
A foodie, who is into the arts-cultural scene and loves to explore new places in Canada.
Since Edmonton is best known as 'Canada's Festival City', you might want to coincide your visit with one of the many festivals held throughout the year including Fringe Theatre Festival, the Folk Music Festival and the Carinval, K-Days (2020, July 17th - 26th).
The Canadian currency is the Canadian Dollar (CAD). Gratuities are seldom included on the bill in Canadian restaurants. It is customary to tip approximately 15-20% on the total bill before tax, less for poor service, more for truly exceptional service.
The plugs in Canada are type B (the same as the US). The standard voltage is 110-120 V, and the standard frequency is 60Hz. Edmonton is safe city to walk around.
Edmonton's weather can be a huge deciding factor on when to visit since we do experience all four seasons and of them all, very harsh winters.
Edmonton weather is the best during the late Spring (May) and Summer (June - August), when it's warm and the days are longer because the sun doesn’t set until 10 p.m, which means more time to explore.
Although hotel rates are higher, it's always fun to co-ordinate your Summer visit with the Folk Festival in early August (2020, 6th - 9th).
Winter lasts from November through March, with the majority of snowfall occurring between December and February, with much shorter days. Winter can be pretty harsh and you can expect snow and temperatures dropping to -30, so if you don't enjoy the cold, it's unlikely going to be the best time to go.
If you’re arriving by air, you’ll be flying into Edmonton International Airport (YEG), located in Leduc just 30 minutes from Downtown Edmonton. You can book transport with SkyShuttle into Downtown Edmonton for $18 per adult and $10 per child or use Uber, estimated $40-50 per trip.
You can also take the train with Via Rail service which goes through Edmonton to Jasper, and then onto Vancouver.
Once you're Downtown, most things are within walking distance, but you can also use Transit. Edmonton Transit provides extensive bus and light rail transit (LRT) services. The LRT provides fast and convenient service to 15 stops around the city. You can pay per trip or get a day pass.
A current popular form of getting around the city is the electric scooter rentals, which you can book through the Lime or Bird apps.
Edmonton is also said to be taking Canada's food scene by storm! So, of course my perfect itinerary is food-orientated. Scatter in some coffee shop stops and a stroll along Whyte Avenue and I'm pretty happy. It's the kind of itinerary that would work in Winter or Summer, but I'd add in a couple seasonal activities or events too.
I'd skip West Edmonton Mall and the Zoo and opt for more unique and quintessential Edmonton sights like my below picks that you cannot miss on your visit to Edmonton!
If you'd like to extend your stay, you could roadtrip 3 hours or fly 45 minutes to the neighbouring Albertan city (and our new home), Calgary.
During summer, temperatures average around 21- 25°C, but can reach highs of over 30°C, meaning shorts and flip-flops are a must! A sunhat and loads of SPF is a must for those outdoor patios.
In Spring (April - May) or Fall (September - October), temperatures are crisp, and average 11°C to 17°C.
During winter, temperatures vary between low positives, to -30°C. The key to surviving the harsh cold is dressing in layers and thermal gear. A thick winter jacket, beanies (or so-called toques in Alberta), mitts, and warm winter boots are all a must!
See below for outfit suggestions!
The best area to stay in is the Downtown area, along or close to Jasper Avenue. Edmonton doesn’t have the best hotel scene, but the Union Bank Inn (more traditional) and Matrix Hotel (more contemporary) are solid options for those looking for small hotels with character.
If you’re looking for something grand Downtown, the Fairmont Macdonald — the place that looks like a castle overlooking the river valley — is your best bet. If you're looking for something new, luxurious and modern, the new Marriott in the Ice District Downtown is perfect for you. (We haven't been yet, but we can't wait to try it out)
Alternatively, you can also stay in Old Strathcona, on or near Whyte Avenue. Metterra or Varscona are good options located on Whyte Avenue.
We have also stayed at Airbnbs in the area. You can use this link for CAD $45 off your first booking.
Planning to visit Edmonton soon? Here’s your guide from a somewhat ‘local-tourist’. We spend our weekends literally exploring Edmonton like it’s our weekend getaway. That means we are basically (self-proclaimed) pros on the topic and we will happily be your guides around town. We’re pretty keen on Edmonton, and you should be too. So, how’s about you book the plane ticket and I’ll plan the rest for you, deal?
Let's start with what NOT to miss. You'll notice that many of these sights are included in our Edmonton Instagrammable Spots List.
From May to June, the sun is shining, it's warmer outside, and the city feels busier. July & August is officially summer & high-tourist season. It's also when the city is host to several different festivals.
You must pack: comfortable walking shoes, casual comfortable clothes & a lightweight jacket (I usually take my denim jacket with me everywhere, which I think suits the Edmonton-alternative-style and goes with almost everything). Find more looks & packing lists here.
From September to October, the sun is shining, it's warmer outside, and the city feels busier. July & August is officially summer & high-tourist season. It's actually my favourite time of the year to travel most places.
You must pack: jeans, a cute turtleneck or sweater and a lightweight puffer jacket like this one.
From November to March, the sun is shining, it's warmer outside, and the city feels busier. July & August is officially summer & high-tourist season. We've been in August which is a busy month for events including the Pride Parade and & the Celebration of Light.
You must pack: comfortable walking shoes preferably waterproof or rain-boots, casual comfortable clothes, a lightweight hooded rain-jacket & an umbrella (although some high-end hotels have some on hand for you).
Spring arrives early in February or March,
You must pack: comfortable walking shoes preferably waterproof or rain-boots, casual comfortable clothes, a lightweight rain-jacket & an umbrella (although some high-end hotels have some on hand for you).
Edmonton's foodie scene is booming, so you must make time to try out some of our local favourites. We've started off by ranking our top 5 for each meal of the day, but we also share our favourites according to area and budget. Just click the filters accordingly.
$ = Less than 20 CAD (less than $15 USD)
$$ = 20 to 49 CAD ($15 to $40 USD)
$$$ = 50 to 100 CAD ($40 to $75 USD)
$$$$ = More than 100 CAD (more than $75 USD)
Do you know how Instagrammable Edmonton really is? Have you explored all the Instagrammable Spots in Edmonton? If not, here’s a list of locations to take a photo and up your Instagram Game, including a list of Instagrammable Cafes and Walls around the city!