I feel like most of my pro-Edmonton posts will have a “Yes, but” subtext to them, as it is sometimes difficult to see the silver lining in a city that so pales in comparison with the urban Meccas of London and New York. Still, while it is inevitable to grow accustomed, and in many cases, tired, of one’s place of residence, it doesn’t mean what’s old cannot become new again, or at least rediscovered.
After my visits last year to the immensely walkable cities mentioned above, I have been wracking my brain to think of ways to explore Edmonton’s charm preferably on foot, in a season outside of the various and sundry summer festivals.
So here are a few of my half-day suggestions, either for yourself, or tourists that you hope will venture beyond West Edmonton Mall:
- Legislature + Garneau: for a taste of history, the Legislature offers free year-round tours, with special mention always paid to the famous acoustic spot in the building. The Interpretive Centre is also worth a quick by for a silly photo-op great for kids (and the kid in all of us, of course). The grounds themselves should be taken in on their own right, and although lush in the warmer months, it’s worth a tranquil stroll or skate across the weather-permitting pond. Stop at Constable Ezio Farone Park across the way if another serene moment is needed. Walk across the historic High Level Bridge (the streetcar begins operation in May) to really appreciate beauty of the river valley, sparkling at dusk. Once across the bridge, a number of independent-minded eateries provide delicious incentives to relax and refuel: DaCapo Café, High Level Diner, Sugar Bowl, and Upper Crust.
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- Royal Alberta Museum + grounds: the very charming Vi’s for Pies can make for a great start to the day, especially when learning is to follow on the menu. On weekends, the Royal Alberta Museum charges half price admission to those entering before 11am, or if preferred, stop by the Government House for a free tour of the building. Like the Legislature, the grounds surrounding the Museum are worth a gander, as well as the swanky residential homes in the area.
- High Street + Edmonton Film Society: start off with some art, with a number of galleries that participate in the Gallery Walk, free to peruse. 124 Street, often labelled a “more upscale Whyte Avenue”, the High Street area is also known for its chic boutiques and unique dining options. Check out cute clothing retailers Ginger and Red Ribbon, stationer Notables, kitchen supply haven Call the Kettle Black, and tea shop Acquired Taste. For the foodies, Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut is on the block, as is the most divine gelato in the city in my opinion, Bueno Gelato, and the notable eateries Urban Diner, Violino, and Matahari. To end off the evening (if this happens to be a Monday), consider joining the Edmonton Film Society for a movie. The Royal Alberta Museum Theatre serves as the current screening location, showcasing classic films that should not be forgotten. The showings are bereft of popcorn, but with a loyal audience that bursts into gasps, laughs, and spontaneous applause, it’s definitely more fun than the average apathetic group.
- Old Strathcona: start off with brunch or lunch, depending on the day, at Café Mosaics, New York Bagel Café, or Murrieta’s. If it’s a Saturday, head to the always-festive Farmer’s Market for live entertainment, bustling crowds, and organic, locally-produced wares. A pay-what-you-can matinee over at the Varscona Theatre is a possibility on a Saturday, but so is an early screening at the historic Princess Theatre. Afterwards, you may still have a bit of time to do some shopping – affordable jewelry at the Plaid Giraffe, something vintage from the Junque Cellar, or a unique gift item from the Tin Box? To round off the afternoon, why not stop by the giant Stanley Cup in the parking lot of United Cycle and reminisce over what could have been?