The City of Edmonton1, is the capital of the Province of Alberta, Canada. The Alberta Legislature, overlooking the North Saskatchewan River Valley, is the seat of the provincial government. A virtual tour of Edmonton is available online, where you'll also find a virtual tour of Edmonton City Hall. City Hall is located in the centre of downtown, just north of Churchill Square, the central plaza of the city.
The city is located roughly in the middle of Alberta on both the north and south banks of the North Saskatchewan River. The river valley is given over almost entirely to parkland, and much of it remains wooded with native spruce and poplar forests. There is a system of river valley parks in which a network of bicycle and footpaths cross and re-cross the river a number of times. The river Valley Park System is the largest urban park in North America, stretching for 48 kilometres and covering 7400 hectares.
A Little History
Old Fort Edmonton was founded in 1794 at the confluence of the Sturgeon and North Saskatchewan Rivers (near the modern city of St Albert). In 1808, New Fort Edmonton was established at what would become the Legislative Grounds (Old Fort Edmonton having been destroyed by the Blood First Nation). The fort has been reconstructed on a new site and is the centrepiece of a constantly expanding historical park, which traces the history of the City.
Edmonton was incorporated as a village in 1871. The village was situated wholly on the north side of the river. In 1891, the Calgary and Edmonton Railway, which later was taken over by the Canadian Pacific Railroad reached the south bank of the river in the village of Strathcona. Edmonton was incorporated as a city in 1904, and became provincial capital in 1905 with the creation of Alberta as a province. The history of Alberta as a part of the British Empire - and later the Commonwealth - may be experienced at Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor, the Crown's representative. Although Strathcona (incorporated as a city in 1907) and Edmonton amalgamated in 1912, the memory and atmosphere of a separate municipality are kept alive by residents of Old Strathcona with the help of the Old Strathcona Foundation.
The boom years for Alberta began with the discovery of oil at Leduc, south of Edmonton, in 1947. A major refinery was built to the East of Edmonton in the following year, and today there is a huge collection of petroleum and other related industries in that area.
Edmonton hosts a stunning variety of arts festivals and permanent institutions. The Edmonton Symphony is a world-class orchestra, which has the rather odd distinction of being chosen in the 1970s to be the backing band on the album Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. When you hear 'Conquistador' you are hearing Edmonton. The Edmonton Symphony has its home in the stunning Winspear Centre, located downtown just east of Churchill Square. The Winspear is also the home of the Edmonton Opera. Just south of the Winspear is the Citadel Theatre, a three-stage theatre complex which had its start in an old Salvation Army mission building.
On the south side of the river, on the University of Alberta campus, the northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium is a facility capable of hosting everything from rock concerts to performances of the Alberta Ballet.
Arts festivals fill the summer months in Edmonton, and a poetry festival, the Stroll of Poets, fills the winter. Spring begins with The Edmonton International Film Festival in March. The summer festival season begins with The Works, a visual arts festival which takes place downtown around Churchill Square for two weeks at the end of June. At the same time the Jazz City International Jazz Festival runs at venues all over the city including The Yardbird Suite and the Cosmopolitan Music Society in Old Strathcona. A few days after the Works closes, the Edmonton Street Performers Festival begins. This festival of buskers lasts for ten days around Churchill Square as well. The Edmonton Folk Music Festival fills an extended weekend in early August at Gallagher Park on the south bank of the river. Also at the beginning of August is the Edmonton Heritage Festival, a celebration of Canada's multiculturalism. The Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival fills Old Strathcona for ten days at the end of August. The Labatt Blues Festival happens during the last weekend of the Fringe.
Although not strictly an arts festival, on the last Sunday in June Giovanni Caboto Day is celebrated in the heart of Edmonton's 'Little Italy' in Giovanni Caboto Park. At the festival, Edmonton's Italian community welcomes everyone to a celebration of everything Italian, particularly Italian food.
On the last weekend of August in Giovanni Caboto Park and other venues in the McCauley neighbourhood, the heritages of the City's Italian, Chinese, and African communities are celebrated in art, music and food during the East Meets West Festival.
Old Strathcona is bounded on the north by the North Saskatchewan River. North of Saskatchewan Drive, parkland stretches down the slope of the valley to the river. The Queen Elizabeth Swimming Pool, the Kinsman Recreation Centre and the John Walter Museum are all within this part of the Valley Park System. Dominating the River Valley Flats is the high level bridge over which the Edmonton Radial Railway Association runs an historic streetcar during the summer festival season. The streetcar leaves from a small open-air terminal between 103 Street and 104 Street, runs through Old Strathcona's residential area, over the High Level Bridge, stops adjacent to the Grandin LRT station just beside the Legislature Grounds and ends its run at a dedicated terminal near Jasper Avenue and the Corona LRT station.
The eastern edge of Old Strathcona is marked by the Mill Creek Ravine Park. A paved multi-use path winds through this park following the old Edmonton, Yukon & Pacific Railway line. The path crosses the Mill Creek on some of the original train bridges, continues through Gallagher Park (site of the folk festival) past the Muttart Conservatory and on to a non-vehicular bridge across the North Saskatchewan river. A network of gravelled paths also lets pedestrians explore the wooded ravine. At the heart of the park is the Mill Creek Swimming Pool, which, like the Queen Elizabeth pool, is an old-fashioned outdoor public pool.
The western boundary of Old Strathcona is the campus of the University of Alberta, which provides so much of the intellectual and artistic spirit of Old Strathcona and Edmonton.
To the south, Old Strathcona blends into the residential and industrial neighbourhoods that grew up as its suburbs.
Old Strathcona's Main Street is Whyte Avenue, a vibrant shopping district in the day and a dining and entertainment centre after dark. As mentioned above, the Old Strathcona Foundation has worked tirelessly for more than quarter of a century to preserve the varied character of the area. Some sights to see include the Princess Theatre, the first marble-faced building west of Winnipeg. Greenwoods Bookshoppe, just south of Whyte Avenue, is one of the few remaining independent booksellers in this age of 'big box' stores. There is an inukshuk outside the coffee shop on the corner of Whyte Avenue at 106 Street, while the Varscona Theatre and the Walterdale Playhouse are both in Old Strathcona Fire Halls on 83 Avenue. The farmers' market takes place every Saturday, next to the Walterdale Playhouse. The Old Strathcona Library is next to Gazebo Park on 104 Street (formerly Main Street), and the Strathcona Hotel - the original hotel for rail travellers - is at the corner of Whyte Avenue and 103 Street. If visiting in August, the Fringe Festival takes over the entire area with hundreds of live performances, food vendors, street performers and crowds of people.
Sadly, on the night of 13 March, 2003, a number of historic buildings on the northeast corner of Whyte Avenue and 104 Street (Main Street) were destroyed by fire.
With over 2000 restaurants and bars in the city, and with many opening or closing each week, it would be impossible to fairly recommend any in an entry such as this. Nonetheless, if one is looking for Greek dining, Yannis Psalios on Whyte Avenue is the place to go. If something else is desired, check the online reviews from See Magazine, or from the online service Edmontonplus. And if one wants to dine on a riverboat, The Edmonton Queen is the place to go in the summer.
Edmonton has an overwhelming number of museums. The place to start is the Royal Alberta Museum and Government House, located on the north bank of the River Valley west of downtown. The Royal Alberta Museum has displays of Alberta Natural History, a large gallery devoted to the history of Alberta's First Nations people that was designed in consultation with those First Nations, and hosts travelling exhibitions. The Natural History Gallery, particularly the zoo of large insects, is always popular with children. The museum restaurant also gets some pretty good reviews.
The Art Gallery of Alberta (formerly the Edmonton Art Gallery) is located just to the northeast of Churchill Square. As well as having a fine permanent collection, the gallery hosts travelling exhibits, offers art classes, has a wonderful interactive children's gallery. The Gallery's magnificent new, larger building opened at the beginning of 2010, replacing the old building which was a great example of 'brutal' architecture.
The glass pyramids of the Muttart Conservatory in Gallagher Park house living botanical samples from around the world. On a winter's day it is possible to take a walk through a desert or a rainforest, to sit on a bench and read a book or have a quiet conversation.
Fort Edmonton Park allows the visitor to walk through the history of the area among reconstructed and relocated historic buildings. Many of the daily activities (often mundane) of earlier generations are re-enacted each day. The John Janzen Nature Centre at Fort Edmonton Park allows visitors to explore the native ecosystem of the area.
The John Walter Museum is a memorial to one of the first citizens of Old Strathcona. The buildings of the museum are the actual buildings of John Walter's homestead.
The Valley Zoo, while not the largest of zoological gardens, is a constantly growing and improving facility that is well worth a visit.
The Telus World of Science, formerly known as the Edmonton Space and Science Centre, is a world-class science museum with an emphasis on space science. The Zeidler Star Theatre is a wonderful planetarium (it has particularly comfy seats) and the IMAX theatre has a really big IMAX cinema screen. There's also lots of hands-on science displays for both kids and adults.
The Alberta Railway Museum located in the far northeast corner of the city is an ever-growing outdoor collection of vintage railway rolling stock and locomotives. Regular rides on a steam-powered train are also offered.
There are a number of institutes of higher learning in Edmonton, the most prominent of which is the University of Alberta. The U of A also has a French language campus, Campus Saint-Jean, which is located a little north of Whyte Avenue on the east side of the Mill Creek Ravine. On the north side of downtown is the main campus of Grant MacEwan University, built on land reclaimed from the old downtown rail yards. The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) has a number of campuses around the city.
Edmonton has a number of premier sports teams including the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football2 League. The Eskimos play home games at the Commonwealth Stadium, which was built for the 1978 Commonwealth Games.
The Edmonton Capitals, the 2011 North American League Champions, play pro baseball at Telus Field, on the Rossdale Flats in the River Valley.
The Canadian Finals Rodeo is held at Edmonton Northlands, near Rexall Place once a year at the beginning of November. Northlands is also the main venue of the annual Klondike Days Festival held in the second half of July.
Beginning in 2006 The Edmonton Rush brings professional lacrosse to Edmonton at Rexall Place.
In 2011, FC Edmonton brings professional North American Soccer League association football to Edmonton at Foote Field on the South Campus of the University of Alberta.
The Temple of Mammon
Visitors who are coming to Edmonton by air usually arrive at the Edmonton International Airport, which is south of the city near Leduc. The alternative is the Edmonton City Centre Airport, which is just north of downtown, but it has little passenger traffic.
Visitors who arrive by rail will arrive at the VIA Rail station in north Edmonton at 12360-121st Street.
The principal highways coming into Edmonton are: the Yellowhead section of the Trans-Canada Highway which crosses north Edmonton running East to West (or West to East); and Queen Elizabeth II Highway, which comes into the heart of Old Strathcona from the south4.
Ambitious tourists may arrive on foot by means of the Trans-Canada Trail network. By early 2003, this trail system was progressing towards completion. The Alberta section may be checked at the Trans-Canada Trail section of the Alberta Trailnet website.
If there isn't a specific link to any of the locations detailed above, you will almost certainly be able to find the information you require on the official City of Edmonton website. Additionally, you can see what the city looks like for yourself on GoogleMaps Street View.