While visitors to the Western Canadian province of Alberta often set their sights elsewhere, the best things to do in Edmonton might be one of the biggest surprises on your Canada road trip.
Settled around the twisting North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton is graced with a beautiful natural setting that’s steps away from some of that oh-so-fine! nature that Canada is justifiably famous for.
Not sure what to do in Edmonton? Explore Alberta’s unassuming modern capital with this guide to the best places to visit in Edmonton…
Top tourist attractions in Edmonton
North Saskatchewan River Valley
Central Park ain’t got nuttin’ on Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River Valley. With over 18,000 acres of greenspace, this ribbon of urban parkland, snaking around the banks of its namesake river, is the largest park of its kind in North America. (Take that NYC!)
As you’d imagine with its immense size, the opportunities for exploration are nearly endless. There’s over 150 kilometres of trails within the parkland for your walking, hiking, or mountain biking pleasure.
If there’s any place to unwind from your Edmonton sightseeing adventures, it’s here.
Art Gallery of Alberta
Before you even step into the Art Gallery of Alberta, you’ll be enchanted by its unique architectural design, standing out as one of Edmonton’s most recognizable buildings and one of the coolest things to see in Edmonton.
Although the gallery has stood on its current Churchill Square site since 1969, the ambitious redesign project demolished much of the original Brutalist-style building, replacing it with a shimming zinc and glass exterior that represents the city’s main river and the aurora borealis (Northern lights).
Inside the Art Gallery of Alberta, you’ll discover a collection of over 6,000 works of art by Albertan, Canadian, and international artists.
Besides the collection itself, the art gallery puts on a series of drop-in workshops and is home to a popular restaurant, Zinc, serving innovative local cuisine inspired by the province.
Visit on a Tuesday between 11:00am and 5:00pm to take advantage of the pay-what-you-may-day (suggested donation is $5).
West Edmonton Mall
All it takes is one glance to know that the West Edmonton Mall is not your every day Canadian shopping complex. This gigantic mall—the largest in North America actually!—offers not just an unforgettable retail experience but a whole host of entertainment options that seats it among the top family-friendly activities in Edmonton.
The mall is carved into various themed streets, each having their own look & feel, including Europa Boulevard, Bourbon Street and Chinatown.
Elsewhere in West Edmonton Mall, you’ll bump into amusement areas like Galaxyland, World Waterpark, and the Santa Maria, a full-size replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship.
If your loonies & twoonies are burning a whole in your pocket, check out the mall’s swanky Starlight Casino for a small dash of Vegas in Western Canada.
Fort Edmonton Park
History buffs visiting Alberta’s capital should set their sights on Fort Edmonton Park, one of the most interesting places to see in Edmonton.
This living history museum recreates scenes from the Canadian western frontier dating back to the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
There’s a handful of attractions at the heritage park including a horse-drawn carriage ride through a reconstructed 1885 street, a vintage theatre, a midway, and a model of Edmonton’s original trading fort.
TELUS World of Science
Wear your science geek badge proudly? Then you’ll absolutely love the family-friendly fun at the TELUS World of Science!
Home to five interactive exhibits, this popular science museum offers hands-on experiences ranging between learning about the human body at The Body Fantastic and building cool tech at The Science Garage to creating your own lightning storm & tornado at the Syncrude Environment Gallery and exploring Mars in a rover at the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery.
Even if you’re not visiting Edmonton with kids, pop into the Zeidler Dome theatre for one of their evening music laser shows or attend one of the DARK MATTERS 18+ events for exclusive evening access to the exhibitions (washed down with a few adult beverages, of course!).
Elk Island National Park
Located just 35 minutes east of the city, Elk Island National Park is one of the best day trips from Edmonton and a relaxing escape from the bustle of Alberta’s capital.
Despite its name, Elk Island National Park is most famous for its bison conservation efforts. Along with the approximately 450 bison living within the park, there’s also thriving population of elk, deer, moose, beavers, and coyotes that you may catch a glimpse of on your visit.
For amateur astronomers, the park is also designed as a dark-sky reserve. Visit at night to marvel at one of the starriest skies you’ll ever witness or, if you’re lucky with your timing, to watch the Northern lights dance in the sky.
One of the most interesting places to visit in Edmonton, the Muttart Conservatory is as famous for its architecture as its horticulture.
This popular Edmonton attraction splits its biomes into four Louvre-like glass pyramids, each representing a different world plant habitat including desert, temperate, tropical, and a feature garden with rotating seasonal flora.
The Muttarrt Conservatory is also home to the popular Culina Café, serving innovative bistro-like dishes and desserts.
Alberta Legislature Building
Although watching the petty squabbles of politician would be of zero interest to most, the stately architecture of the Alberta Legislature Building will certainly inspire a visit.
With its towering marble pillars and grand central dome, the Alberta Legislature Building, affectionately known as “The Ledge” by locals, is perhaps the finest example of Beaux-Arts architecture in Canada.
The grounds are equally beguiling, centred around a large central square sprinkled with trees and home to a wading pool that’s perfect for kids to cool off in Edmonton’s summer heat.
To check out the inside of the building, snag a spot on one of the hourly free guided tours.
Centred around Whyte Avenue, the trendy downtown Edmonton neighbourhood of Old Strathcona is one of the most interesting places to go in Edmonton thanks to its mix of heritage architecture and boutique stores, art galleries, and hip restaurants & cafés.
There’s a handful of historic buildings to keep your eyes peeled for in Old Strathcona including the Strathcona Hotel, Knox Church, and the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market.
The most exciting way to experience this historical Edmonton district though is to spend the day shopping the local shops along Whyte Avenue followed by unwinding with a glass of wine or craft beer at one of area’s many restaurants, pubs & bars.