A Local's Guide to Edmonton

Picture: The River Valley
Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and a city with a neighbourhood feel. We are a hardy bunch, who find pleasure in long white winters and hot dry summers. There is plenty to do in this great city and friendly people to do it with. Having spent most of my lifetime living and working in Edmonton, I thought I’d share some of my favourite places, events and things to do in my great city. 

River Valley

The River Valley is the jewel of Edmonton; it is also the longest continuous urban parkland in North America. Full of wildlife that you don’t expect in the heart of the city of course squirrels, beavers, chipmunks, and all kinds of birds but don’t be surprised if you happen upon a deer, moose or dare I say a BEAR! Of course these are not everyday happenings but it’s a wilderness that runs right through the city. There are great hiking and cycling trails in the river valley that are accessible from all over the city. The air always seems fresher in the river valley and it does give you the feeling that you’ve left the city for a few hours. Life isn’t free but having fun in the Edmonton River Valley is.

Fringe Festival. Photo Credit: Tourism Alberta


Edmonton is also known as Festival City and with over 30 annual festivals it’s a well deserved nickname.  The majority of these festivals take place in the summer time when the weather is the most amicable and the sun is up till 10pm!

Freewill Shakespeare Festival is as it sounds a festival that features the historic Shakespeare not noted in the title is that it takes place in the Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park. The Amphitheatre offers the perfect combination of shelter from most summer storms and ambience that adds to the performance. I love to bring my blanket and unpack a picnic on the grass while enjoying great entertainment. A few years back I was lucky enough to watch Macbeth through a summer storm and as I cuddled into my blanket I was mesmerized by the essence of the play like I’d never been before.  

The Fringe Festival is a local favourite and features over 1800 theatrical performances in just 10days; it’s the largest of its kind in North America.  What’s great about the fringe is that it oozes with talent and enthusiasm, and every year the theme gets better.  Plus there are beer gardens, mini donuts, food trucks and artisans which combined makes for that perfect summertime vibe. Located in Edmonton’s coolest area and just off Whyte Avenue there are also plenty of shops and eateries in the area should you just want to people watch.

The Art Gallery of Alberta: Photo Credit - Tourism Alberta

Favourite Places

Fort Edmonton Park is Canada’s largest living history museum and has such features as a Steam Train, Fort, Mosque and a 1920’s style Midway. I’m personally a purist, by my own definition the park should be toured from the Fort to the Midway. Start your journey back into history on the train. Plan to spend some time in the fort and on each "street", there is so much Canadiana and you will really start to understand what the west was built on. What trades established territories and how the people fought the elements and conquered the land. The new/old Captial Theatre is one of the most recent additions and it is a beautiful re creation of Edmonton theatre history.

Art Gallery of Alberta is located downtown in the Edmonton Art district and the building alone is a work of art. Inside you’ll find 30,000sq ft of exhibition space as well as a cafe, restaurant and gallery shop.  I love coming to the art gallery on a hot summer day, you know that they will have the temperature regulated! It’s really a beautiful peaceful place where you can take in impressive works from across the nation with a focus on western Canadian art.

Image credit: Tourism Alberta


I am constantly on the lookout for independent restaurants that offer authentic and unique cuisine, the flavours that remind me of my world travels. I have found some very special spots here in Edmonton and normally I wouldn’t share in fear that you’ll take my seat but I guess sharing is caring and I’m trying to be more thoughtful these days.

Tres Carnales is Edmonton’s first Taqueria and is located in the heart of downtown; it offers authentic Pacific Mexican cuisine. It’s fresh Mexican so if you are looking for mexi-fries and burritos then you are in for a serious surprise. I highly recommend everything on the menu! Next time I’m going to try the Al Pastor Torta, I hear there is a Salsa Verde & Guacamole love child sauce on it that's to drool for. You can eat in or take out, I like that it’s just steps from the Central LRT station and also if I do drive there is ample parking.

Thai Valley Grill is one of those places that you discover on a whim or someone mentions it in a blog, you go and try it out and leave absolutely elated. This is a tiny little restaurant with the most amazing Thai food this side of the Rocky Mountains! The first time my husband and I went, we ordered the food on the spicy side. There was a whole lot of sweating and conversation about how this tasted way too authentic and was it a dream? Best to make a reservation or order take out before you go, there will be a line and it will be long!

Do you have any Edmonton favourites you would like to share? Leave your comments below!

Author: Lisa

Born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, my summers were spent road tripping around Canada with my family. In 2001 I moved to Banff, Alberta, working in high end hotels I really had no idea what a hostel was.

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Gavin's picture
Fort Edmonton Park is best place to enjoy vacations with family

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