Edmonton, you temptress. After weeks of my family sending lovely good morning messages announcing their warmer weather all winter and all spring-long, the morning I left for Edmonton was rudely interrupted by the following snapchat from my brother:
Needless to say tears were shed when I pulled my black winter coat from the depths of my closet. Black like my soul in that moment.
Although the annual May snowfall is always expected by Edmontonians, my Torontonian self had been walking around in summer dresses all week. How would I be able to enjoy the few days I had in Edmonton when I would have to raid my mother’s closet for more layers? Luckily, I just had to wait until the afternoon for my answer. As soon as the sun came out, so did the heat and the snow was mostly gone that night.
The snow made the grass underneath greener than it was before, which means that the creator of the phrase “The grass is always greener (…)” was from Edmonton. Logically.
Thankfully, this meant better pictures at my brother’s high school graduation. (You can tell from his forced smile in most of the photos that he was thrilled to have his big sister be the designated photographer for an event he would most likely categorize as “stupid and useless.”)
As my brother’s graduating class only had 31 students, it was a one-day event, which meant I was able to visit friends and the city.
Unlike the dreary winters in Edmonton, summers in the Alberta capital are surprisingly lovely. (Even National Geographic thinks so.) Along with a seemingly infinite amount of sunlight comes an abundance of festivals, markets and outdoor activities (that don’t require bundling yourself up into a winterized Michelin man).
If you find yourself in Oil City during the summer, here are some tips on sightseeing and where the locals know to go:
The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald
Overlooking the North Saskatchewan river, this luxurious hotel will be celebrating its 100th birthday on July 5 this year. The best way to see it up close is Grierson Hill NW or across the river from Dowler Hill Road. For reservations or for brunch, visit their webpage: http://www.fairmont.com/macdonald-edmonton/
Baked goods, gelato and good coffee are all regulars at Cafe 1912, located on Whyte Ave. Check out their mismatched furniture during your visit. Tip: Bring some post-its and pen a message. The drawers of the coffee tables are filled with notes from Edmontonians and visitors.
The River Valley
As the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America with 20 major parks and over 160 kilometres of trails, the North Saskatchewan River Valley offers a long list of potential activities: walks, bike rides, picnics, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing… If you’re feeling the need for a good work out, the staircase leading up to the Alberta Legislature has over 200 steps. The River Valley also hosts many arts and culture events such as Shakespeare in the Park and Folk Fest (beginning of August).
Festivals, fun runs & events
There are a surprising amount of festivals and events that happen during the summer: K-Days, the Street Performers Festival and FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015, to name a few.
The Edmonton Eskimos
As the hockey fever dies down, the Edmonton Eskimos are a great way to keep the sporting spirit alive! (The FIFA Women’s World Cup is an exciting exception this year.) Don’t worry, we won’t expect you to repaint your house– wearing the team jersey is plenty of support.
The tree houses in Churchill Square
There are three treehouses in Churchill Square that were installed as an art initiative by Threshold Collective. Much to my disappointment, they aren’t adult-sized. However, its creators would probably disprove of a larger-than-house human as a part of Edmonton’s future urban growth, which is the commentary behind the art installation, according to the CBC.
West Edmonton Mall
The second-largest shopping mall in the world happens to be in YEG. If you’re not into shopping, there’s also a giant waterpark, an indoor amusement park, mini golf, bowling, a movie theatre, restaurants and a shooting range. It’s a one-stop shop. (Pardon the pun.)
Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market
Old Strathcona, never to be confused with Strathcona, is one of the oldest parts of Edmonton. And with over 130 vendors at its farmer’s market, it’s always a fun activity for Saturdays 8 am – 3 pm.
Duchess Bake Shop
As the receptionist at a doctor’s office for the past two summers, it was always a treat when pharmaceutical representatives would bring Duchess macarons for the office during their visit. Apparently, Buzzfeed agrees that they’re delicious- Duchess is #4 on their list of Twenty-three bakeries around the world you need to eat at before you die.
If the beautiful glass pyramids aren’t enough to spark intrigue, the collection of one of Canada’s largest botanical gardens will. This museum will fascinate you with its knowledge of plant science and also boasts one of Edmonton’s best dining experiences.
University of Alberta campus
Spoken like a true nerd at heart, but I would highly recommend visiting the U of A main campus. Its year-round beauty will capture your heart. Some sights to look out for: the iconic, albeit hideous Butterdome (the athletic building on campus that looks like a giant stick of butter), the beautiful ivy on the outside of the Arts building, the beautiful music in the Fine Arts building, the Harry Potter room in the Rutherford Library and the beautiful quad in the middle of campus. It’s smaller campus, Campus Saint-Jean, captures “un petit îlot” or a little island of French culture in the otherwise (mostly) anglophone community.