We’re going to take a guess and say that Edmonton probably isn’t near the top of your bucket list, but it’s starting to look like it should be.
That’s right, Alberta’s capital is stepping it up, and it might just be Canada’s next great city. Here are 26 reasons why:
1. It’s a greener place than you think
Where’s the largest expanse of urban parkland in Canada? Nope, it’s not in Vancouver. Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River valley parks system takes that title with a total of 7,300 hectares (you could fit about 18 Stanley Parks in there, if you squashed them). In fact, 20 back-to-back parks make up the system, which spans along both sides of the river (itself winding through the middle of the city), making this capital a whole lot greener and natural than you may have thought.
2. They take festivals very seriously
Edmontonians will throw a festival at any time of the year, but the summer calendar is especially jam-packed. From the Fringe Festival to the Folk Festival, the Pride Festival to K-Days, the Shakespeare Festival to the Symphony Under the Sky — there’s no shortage of reasons to let the good times roll.
3. Edmonton is gaining worldwide cred
National Geographic recently included Edmonton in its list of the “Best Summer Trips for 2015” — the only Canadian entry — praising the city for its endless festivals (see above), eclectic neighbourhoods and one-of-a-kind restaurants.
4. Beauty summer days aplenty
Edmonton is one of the country’s sunniest cities, and its northern location means it gets some really lengthy summer days. On the longest day of the year, the sun rose at 5:04 a.m. and didn’t set again until 10:07 p.m.
5. FIFA has put the city on the map
An unlikely place for soccer records, Edmonton briefly held one for the largest crowd watching a Canadian national team in Canada, ever, in any sport. In mid-June 2015, 53,058 soccer fans watched Canada take on (and beat) China in the FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament opener. Vancouver swiped the record from them a couple of weeks later with a 53,855-strong crowd at the Canada-Switzerland game, but for a while there, Edmonton set the bar pretty high for the rest of the country.
6. They’re setting up a massive slip ‘n’ slide in the city
A ginormous 1,000-foot-long slip ‘n slide will be set up on a hill in the middle of the city in the middle of July, because that’s totally what every city should be doing. A single slip on the slide costs $15 and a full-day pass costs $45 — you just need to bring your own inner tube.
7. Edmontonians are a resourceful bunch
Make Something Edmonton is a grassroots organization that brings creative types together to share resources and show off their projects, which range from community gardens to an app that helps with garbage disposal.
8. No, they the north
Toronto may throw around the “We The North” slogan, but Edmonton lives it. While the rest of Canada’s major cities hang out about as close to the 49th parallel as possible (or even lower) Edmonton hangs out way up at the 53rd. Sure, that makes for slightly longer winters but it also makes for pretty respectable bragging rights.
9. It’s where the buffalo’s cousins roam
Elk Island National Park is just 35 kilometres east of the city and it’s a great spot to watch bison in the wild. They’re the biggest land animals you can find on the whole continent.
10. It’s surrounded by giants
In Alberta, it ain’t a road trip until you’ve pulled over to take your photo next to a giant replica something or another. And the Edmonton area has a ton of those. There’s a giant baseball bat, a giant milk bottle, a massive Stanley Cup, a huge cowboy boot, an oversize badminton racket and, of course, a massive pair of shoes and stockings. Not far out of the city you can also find a giant mallard, a giant Easter egg, the world’s largest pierogi (see below) and a giant sausage.
11. Their baked goods got the BuzzFeed stamp of approval
Dutchess Bakery prides itself on baking only from scratch with some of the world’s finest ingredients. The end result is a mouth-watering collection of sweets, for which BuzzFeed dubbed them “arguably the best bakery in Canada.”
12. They know eco
The relatively new Metterra hotel in funky Old Strathcona is the biggest hotel in Canada entirely powered by green electricity, generated entirely from renewable energy sources. Take that, oil sands.
13. Three words: skate to work
14. They have a UFO landing pad
Yes. It’s true. In St. Paul, the municipality a couple hours’ drive away from Edmonton, you can find the world’s first UFO landing pad, built in 1967 to “attract both visitors and Martians to the municipality.” Right…
15. You can take the train there
Via Rail service is pretty sparse in western Canada, and while you’d think they’d head straight across the country via Calgary, the rail line actually goes up through Edmonton to Jasper, Alberta, and onto Vancouver.
16. There’s a brand new provincial museum in the works
And you thought moving a one-bedroom apartment was bad. The Royal Alberta Museum is packing up its worldly goods and moving downtown into a brand new building with double the space and new wings to show off more of Alberta’s natural history. In December 2015, the current museum will close to make the transition to its new digs, scheduled to open late 2017. Patience!
17. They’ve got the longest continuously running jazz club in Canada
Yardbird Suite has been keeping the city’s hepcats entertained since 1957. It’s also entirely volunteer-run, which means the music is the priority here.
18. There’s a Rubik’s Cube exhibition coming
Whether you’ve conquered Rubik’s Cube or have given up forever, this exhibition at Edmonton’s Telus World of Science will leave you with more appreciation for the simple-looking toy. Learn about its early days in Communist-era Hungary and meet a robot that can solve the cube in a matter of seconds.
19. Restaurants are making waves
The four-year-old Rge Rd, a.k.a. Range Road, has already made it onto EnRoute magazine’s list of top restaurants across the country and is wowing locals and visitors with its whole-animal approach to farm-fresh cooking.
20. Two words: Bacon Festival
Yep, they’ve got a festival for that, too.
21. Fantasyland still exists!
The West Edmonton Mall may be aging beyond its glory days but it’s still home to the Fantasyland Hotel, where you can choose from 120 themed rooms, including the Princess, Polynesian, Roman, Igloo and African. Also, never forget the West Edmonton Mall whale, which is making its triumphant return soon.
22. They’re always thinking about making the city better
You know you’ve got a happy city when locals come together one day just because it feels good. On the longest day of the year, June 21, Edmontonians took to the streets to make their city even better as part of the #DIYCity initiative. There were random public art installations, impromptu concerts, community kite flying, craft sessions, free yoga and more.
23. The city is proud of its pride
To mark this year’s Pride Festival in Edmonton, city workers painted rainbows across three intersections in Old Strathcona, and there’s already a petition to keep them there permanently.
24. They have the biggest pioneer village in the country
Head back in time at Canada’s largest living history museum (a fancy way of saying a place where people dress up in old-timey costumes and talk about the good ol’ days). Fort Edmonton Park covers the early days of the fort, which was established in 1759, and travels all the way up until the 1920s.
25. They know a champ when they see one
Wayne Gretzky is still Edmonton’s golden boy. The Great One helped the Edmonton Oilers win four of their five Stanley Cups back in the ’80s. When the team won its fifth cup, the year after he was traded to LA, the city erected a life-sized bronze statue of the guy even though he never played for the city again.
26. And they stand by their team
While much of the rest of the country likes to rib on the Oilers, they’re the second-last Canadian team to win a Stanley Cup, so maybe the team’s very dedicated fan base has good reason to keep the faith. As a reward, the team has a brand new arena in the works for the 2016-17 season. Don’t worry, Bronze Gretzky is coming, too.