City of Edmonton, population 674,513 (2002),
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, as is 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 centre 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. Through the system of River Valley Parks runs a network of bicycle and footpaths which cross and recross 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, Old Fort Edmonton having been destroyed by the Blood First Nation, New
Fort Edmonton was established at what would become the Legislative Grounds. The Fort has been reconstructed on a new site on the south bank of the river and is the centerpiece 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.
One of the early residents of the south side of the river was John Walter. His homestead is preserved as the John Walter Museum, located across the Walterdale Bridge from the Walterdale neighbourhood. The days when river boats plied the waters of the North Saskatchewan are preserved by The Edmonton Queen, a stern-wheeler floating restaurant. The history of the various railroads of Alberta may be experienced at the
Alberta Railway Museum
With the discovery of oil at Leduc, south of Edmonton, in 1947 the boom years for Alberta began. To the east of Edmonton a major refinery was built in 1948 and today there is a huge collection of petroleum and related industry 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 destinction of being chosen in the 1970's 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 Winspeare Centre, located downtown just east of Churchill Square. The Winspeare is also the home of the Edmonton Opera. Just south of the Winspeare is the Citadel Theatre, a three stage 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 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 Herigage Festival a celebration of Canada's multicultualism. The Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival fills Old Strathcona for ten days at the end of August. The Labatt Blues Festival during the last weekend of the Fringe brings the festival season to an end.
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 stop between 103 street and 104 street, runs through Old Strathcona's residential area, over the highlevel bridge, to the Grandin LRT station just beside the Legislature Grounds.
The eastern edge of Old Strathcona is marked by the Mill Creek Ravine Park. A paved multiuse path winds through this Park following the old Edmonton, Yukon and Pacific Railway line. The path crosses the Mill Creek on some of the original train bridges. This path continues through Gallagher park (sight of the Folk Festival), past the Muttart Conservatory and on to a non-vehicular bridge across the North Saskatchewan. A network of gravelled paths also lets pedestrians explore the wooded ravine. At the heart of the park is the Mill Creek Swimming Pool, like the Queen Elizabeth pool 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. 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 one of the few remaining independant booksellers in this age of "big box" stores. The inukshuk outside the coffee shop on the corner of Whyte Avenue at 106 Street. The Varscona Theatre and the Walterdale playhouse, both in Old Strathcona Fire Halls on 83 Avenue. The Farmers' Market every Saturday next to the Walterdale playhouse. The Old Strathcona Library next to Gazebo Park on 104 Street (formerly Main Street). TheStrathcona Hotel, the original hotel for rail travelers, at the corner of Whyte Avenue and 103 Street. And, if visiting in August, the Fringe Festival which takes over the entire area with hundreds of live performances, food vendors, street performers and international crowds of people.
On the night of March 13, 2003, a number of historic buildings on the north-east corner of Whyte Avenue and 104 Street (Main Street) were destroyed by fire.
With over two thousand 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. The New Asian Village on Saskatchewan Drive, has a wonderful array of well prepared East Indian food (including a terrific lunch buffet!) It overlooks the River Valley, is neat and clean, and boasts a selection of 250 different beers! Julio's Barrio on Whyte Avenue for some great Mexican food and pleasant atmosphere. Da~De~O also on Whyte has excellent Cajun/Creole cuisine (Jambalaya and Hush Puppies, etc), as well as a cozy retro atmosphere. The King and I, for fine Thai cuisine, in a newer building. Prior to a fatal cooking related fire, Ron Wood and his entourage visited the original location (when The Stones were here on the Voodoo Lounge Tour.) If something else is desired, check the online reviews from SEE Magazine, or from the online service Edmontonplus. A good link to see the variety available is Dialanddine Restaurant Delivery Service (sadly, most readers are likely outside the delivery area). 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, all of which will not be listed here. The place to start is the Provincial Museum of Alberta and Government House located on the north bank of the River Valley west of downtown. The Provincial 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 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 and, if you like this kind of thing, the building itself is 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 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 reenacted each day at the park. 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.
TheValley Zoo, while not the largest of Zoological gardens, is a constantly growing an improving facility that is well worth the visit.
The Odyssium, 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 (particularly the comfy seats) and the Imax theatre has that really big Imax 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 locamotives. 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, Faculte 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 Community College built on land reclaimed from the old downtown railyards.
Edmonton has a number of premier sport teams including the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. The Eskimos play home games at the Commonwealth Stadium, built for the 1978 Commonwealth games.
The Edmonton Trappers play baseball in the Pacific Coast League at Telus Field on the Walterdale flats in the river valley.
The Canadian Finals Rodeo is held at Edmonton Northlands, near the Skyreach Centre 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.
The Edmonton Cricket Club founded in 1882, continues to keep the tradition alive in Edmonton.
The Temple of Mammon
This link is provided simply because the place seems to be so popular with so many visitors to Edmonton. Yes, the world's largest shopping mall (it calls itself),
West Edmonton Mall.
Visitors who are coming to Edmonton by air usually arrive at the Edmonton International Airport located south of the city near Leduc. There is another airport, the Edmonton City Centre Airport, just north of Downtown, but it has little passenger traffic.
By rail visitors will arrive at the Via Rail station in North Edmonton at 12360-121ST Street.
The principal highways coming into Edmonton are: the Yellow Head section of the Trans-Canada Highway which crosses North Edmonton running east to west (or west to east); and Highway 2, which comes into the heart of Old Strathcona from the south. 1
Ambitious tourists may arrive on foot by means of the Trans-Canada Trail network. This trail system is progressing toward completion. The Alberta section may be checked at the Alberta Trailnet website.