Here guest writer and proud Edmonton resident John Thompson tells us about his favourite must-see places to visit in the underrated travel destination….
Edmonton is the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta and one of Canada’s most populous cities. It’s also a city that’s awash in culture and home to a superb year-round festival schedule, great museums, a fantastic range of sports, beautiful parks and other attractions.
Whether you’re a fan of architecture, art, history, sports, music or nature, there’s something for you in Edmonton. Shoppers will relish the West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping mall in North America and one of the largest in the world; for a unique holiday experience, book a room at the luxurious Fantasyland Hotel located inside the West Edmonton Mall. But as tempting as it may be, don’t spend your entire holiday in Edmonton inside the mall. Venture forth to catch a glimpse of some of these breathtaking attractions.
The Muttart Conservatory, with its gorgeous glass pyramids, is an Edmonton landmark you can’t miss. These botanical gardens, located in the North Saskatchewan River valley near downtown, were designed by architect Peter Hemingway and have been receiving visitors since 1976.
The Muttart Conservatory’s unique structure consists of four pyramids, which serve as year-round greenhouses for the garden’s many exotic plants and flowers, situated around a central core. Three of the pyramids house permanent displays, while the fourth houses seasonal displays. In the Temperate Pyramid, you can see plants from temperate regions of North America, Australia and Asia, including eucalyptus trees, pampas grass, redwoods, parrot’s feather and more. The Arid Pyramid showcases plants from the world’s desert regions, like agave, and the Tropical Pyramid features plants from the world’s tropical climes, like orchids and birds of paradise.
Art Gallery of Alberta
The fantastic and unique structure that is the Art Gallery of Alberta was originally designed by Brutalist architect Don Bittorf and recently renovated by Randall Stout Architects, Inc. The new gallery, which opened its doors in January 2010, boasts 7,900 square metres of exhibition space and is home to more than 6,000 works of art. The gallery hosts art competitions for emerging local artists as well as numerous exhibitions of works from local and international artists. Local artists are regularly encouraged to submit their work for exhibition.
Alberta Legislature Building
The Alberta Legislature Building was constructed between 1907 and 1913 by architects Richard Blakely and Allan Merrick Jeffers. This lavish structure, constructed in the Beaux Arts style that was fashionable at the time, incorporates Egyptian, Greek and Roman architectural elements and is the home of memorials to Chief Crowfoot, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll and Lois Hole. Free tours of the interior are available at regular intervals throughout the week.
North Saskatchewan River Valley
The North Saskatchewan River Valley Parks System consists of a collection of more than 20 parks and natural attractions located along the North Saskatchewan River which flows through central Edmonton. Collectively these parks represent the largest urban parks system in North America, with more than 7,400 hectares of outdoor space. Nature lovers will appreciate the more than 160 kilometres of walking and biking trails, which form part of the 309 kilometres of the Waskahegan Trail. Recreation opportunities include cycling, hiking and golf in the summer, and cross-country skiing, ice skating and downhill skiing in the winter.
The North Saskatchewan River Valley is home to native wildlife including muskrats, porcupines, deer, coyotes, rabbits and skunks. You’ll also see some of the biggest groves of American elm trees left remaining in the world, alongside lodgepole pine, white spruce, basswood, white birch, aspen, Manitoba maple and jack pine.
Strathcona Canadian Pacific Railway Station
The Strathcona Canadian Pacific Railway Station was built in 1907 and 1908 to be the northern terminus of the Calgary and Edmonton Railway. This picturesque structure is found in the heart of the Old Strathcona historic district; it incorporates a number of Renaissance Revival and Classical architectural elements, including its polygonal tower, its Tyndall-style masonry, its windows and its roof. It was actively used as a railroad station until 1980 and was home to the Iron Horse Night Club for 12 years, from 1998 to 2010.
If you’re taking your holiday in Edmonton this year, prepare to be dazzled by some of this bustling city’s most appealing attractions. Whether you enjoy fine art, architecture, beautiful flowers and exotic plants, or the great outdoors, there’s something for everyone in Edmonton. Make the most of your Edmonton holiday and visit see as many of these sights as you can.