Fondly dubbed Canada's "Festival City", at no time is that moniker more evident than in the summer in Edmonton.
From June through September, this city pulses with non-stop festival fever, beginning with June's annual Jazz Festival. Next out of the festival chute is the Works Art and Design Festival, Giovanni Caboto Day, the International Street Performers Festival, Capital Ex, the Bluegrass and Country Festival, the Fringe Festival and last, but certainly not least - one of North America's top Folk Festivals, which occurs in August.
Some of the world-class headliners at recent Edmonton Folk Festivals have included Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, Solomon Burke, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and dozens more. Edmonton also has more theatre groups for its size than any other city in the country. So, it's easy to see why Edmonton's most popular festival is the Fringe, the largest festival of alternative theatre in North America. About 500,000 people attend the Fringe each summer.
If you wrap your holiday around any of these festivals - and with so many, it's impossible not to - you're bound to find yourself in the North Saskatchewan River Valley. Laced with 58 km of paved bike trails, the largest urban park in North America (22 times larger than New York's Central Park) is one of the prime venues for summer festivals, picnics and theatre in the park.
Water activities on the North Saskatchewan River include jetboating, canoeing (in voyageur as well as tandem canoes) and sightseeing cruises aboard the Edmonton Queen, the city's paddlewheel tour boat. The river valley also boasts six golf courses, 29 day campsites, the Whitemud Equine Centre (yes, you can horseback ride here), two outdoor pools and some 24 running routes.
You'll also discover Edmontonians are respectful of the many cultures that invigorate the city's flourishing ethnic areas, making it a foodie's delight. Old Strathcona is home to one of the boadest ranges of cuisine in the city. Within a few blocks, diners can choose from Thai, Mexican, German, Japanese, French, Cajun and more. One hot spot in Edmonton City Centre is L'Azia, an eclectic joint that serves everything from fish and chips to elegant Asian-infused dinners.
And with Edmonton ranking as Canada's sunniest city, you'll want to take advantage of the many outdoor patios that grace the Old Strathcona area, such as Yianni's and Packrat Louis'. Those intent on sipping a cool Chardonnay while feasting on the very best views of Edmonton should pull up a chair on the sunny deck at the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald or next door at the Courtyard by Marriott, both of which overlook the lush river valley. Just so you know - those glass pyramid-like structures below you are the Muttart Conservatory, yet another stop to add to your roster of must-sees.
After an amble along the boutique-laced Whyte Avenue, most power shoppers make a beeline to West Edmonton Mall where they'll find nationally known retailers and intimate specialty shops all under one roof. And while you're there, go beyond the shops. Take in a California sea lions show, visit African Blackfooted penguins, ride the triple loop rollercoaster known as the Mindbender, gamble at a Las Vegas-style casino or bunk down at the Mall's Fantasyland Hotel.
If you've done all this before, take a detour at the Mall to Chinatown (one of their newest additions) or zoom across the Waterpark's new 310 foot long Zip Line and the Giant Swing (that rocks you back and forth 106 feet above the water). For those who love white-knuckle rides, check out the Space Shot - a new ride in Galaxyland that shoots you up 14 stories high - so fast, in fact, that G-force is a critical part of the experience.
ATTRACTIONS IN EDMONTON
West Edmonton Mall
Edmonton Queen Riverboat
ACCOMMODATIONS IN EDMONTON
Best Western Cedar park Inn
Delta Edmonton Centre Suite Hotel
Edmonton Marriott at River Cree Resort