You’ve heard of the countless things to do in Edmonton, especially in our long but fleeting summer. But where do you start? And for those in the core, add the question: how do you get there?
While the weather outside is delightful, rather than frightful, we’ve got a dare. We dare you to explore the heart of your city in one (or all!) of the following ways. Get out there.
WE DARE YOU TO: BUY ICE CREAM
Craving a cone? Finding an ice-cream truck or storefront is tricky in the core, never mind chasing one down. But places offer grab—and—go ice creams and other frozen treats, if you know where to look.
The Canterra Centre on 109 Street and Jasper Avenue is the core’s ice-cream oasis. Marble Slab Creamery offers standard fare, while nearby, La Carraia Gelato in the Mayfair has authentic Italian gelato. For ice cream with an Asian flair, head to ZenQ, Tsujuri or Snowy Village Dessert Café (all three are also within the 109 Street area) for shaved ice and other eye-catching dessert bowls. There are a handful of other places offering Asian shaved ice downtown, including Ono Poke on 104 Street and Dream Tea in Oliver Square.
And no matter where you are in the core, you’re probably not far from a place offering Pinocchio ice cream— Edmonton’s homegrown maker of ice cream, gelato and sorbet. Pinocchio doesn’t have a retail storefront itself, but hundreds of cafes and restaurants— including many downtown, like Care-it Urban Deli and Planet Organic—have a freezer filled with their products. Pinocchio’s website has a map showing all the locations that supply their stuff, so you can tailor your own Edmonton ice cream odyssey.
WHERE: 109 Street and Jasper Avenue.
GET THERE: Walk or bike, with connections to the protected bike grid using Railtown Park.
WE DARE YOU TO: ENDURE DOWNTOWN CONSTRUCTION
You should be forgiven for thinking everything feels closed. A number of our flagship cultural attractions are shuttered for renovations, including Fort Edmonton Park and the Muttart Conservatory. Both the City Hall wading pool and one of the pools at the Legislature are closed for repairs; they’re slated to open this summer (fingers crossed). Louise McKinney Park technically isn’t closed but large parts of its trails are, thanks to LRT construction. The funicular is closed fairly regularly (and randomly) and it’s almost impossible to keep track of the closures and detours along LRT lines. LRT construction extends throughout downtown, is leading to rolling road closures and, coupled with other development projects can make walking down the street a dangerous challenge. Make sure to tell 311.
But many things remain open. Though its ultimate fate is still unknown at this point, Oliver Pool is happy to welcome you this summer. If the pool is too busy when you and the kids need to cool off, head to the splash pad in nearby Kitchener Park. Or visit Paul Kane Park, where upgrades just over a year ago can remind you that even though construction sucks, the end result is often well worth it. Or check out Alex Decoteau Park downtown, which has a mini garden and a dog run. Or head just south of downtown for Queen Elizabeth Pool.
WHERE: The core.
GET THERE: However you need to, but bring a towel.
WE DARE YOU TO: BIKE A MOUNTAIN
Edmonton’s ribbon of green is a mountain-bike paradise. The city’s extensive network of singletrack routes provide (almost) continuous routes along trails that form hundreds of kilometres of access to ravines and river valleys. The trails are mapped on Trailforks, a crowd-sourced database which counts 678 different mountain-bike trails in Edmonton and more than 40 user- created routes.
There are several trailheads from downtown to the network of valley trails. For one of the best views, head to the 100 Street Funicular, beside the Hotel Macdonald, and ride it down to the Low Level Bridge. This gives you quick access to trails to the southeast in Cloverdale and Forest Heights, to the west and to the direct south, including Mill Creek Ravine.
Another trailhead is the High Level Bridge, which connects to the trails by the University of Alberta. From there follow the trails west through Emily Murphy Park and into Hawrelak Park. MacKinnon Ravine extends out from the west side of downtown, just north of Hawrelak.
Normally Groat Road Bridge provides a quick connection to either side, but check your route before heading that way: construction has caused various detours and path closures.
If you’re looking for fellow mountain bikers in town, there are several groups and clubs. There is the Oliver Bike Club, which meets Wednesday’s at 6pm, though that’s less about mountain biking. If you’re looking for terrain, the Edmonton Road and Track Club hosts weekly rides, including some for women only. The Edmonton Mountain Bike Alliance is another good resource that offers reports on trail conditions and events including Trail Care Days where volunteers help spruce up the local trails.
WHERE: Trailheads at the 100 Street Funicular and Ezio Faraone Park.
GET THERE: Biking to the funicular requires a bit of courage, so consider walking your bike along the sidewalk you’re forced onto. For Ezio Faraone, use the Railtown multi-use path.
WE DARE YOU TO: TAKE A TOUR
Okay, let’s say you’re not motivated to create a self-guided tour but still want to explore. Don’t worry, there are plenty of guided tours available. Pretending you’re a tourist in town is a great way to see the city through new eyes.
The Downtown Business Association’s Core Crew hosts free historical walking tours throughout the summer (look for their red T-shirts leading groups around town). There are also free tours at the Alberta Legislature and City Hall throughout the summer.
For something faster-paced, the River Valley Adventure Co., based in Louise McKinney Park, offers a number of popular Segway and cycling tours that will take you into and around the river valley.
WHERE: Louise McKinney, downtown, City Hall, Alberta Legislature.
GET THERE: On foot.
WE DARE YOU TO: DISCOVER #YEGHISTORY AND #YEGART
There is the Canada Permanent Building, or the Churchill Wire Centre, or Oliver Exchange. There is the public art, both held at institutions like the Art Gallery of Alberta, or just storefronts, like at the window of art outside Jobber, at Jasper and 105 Street.
Regardless of where you go, as you stroll the core look for historical markers, statues, monuments and murals; you may be surprised just how many you find. (Hint: Many of these are also stops in the Pokémon Go phone game, which is a great way to get kids involved. Go for a walk to catch Pokémon, but stop to learn about local history and art, too.)
If you’re looking for something more structured, download the City of Edmonton’s brochures for self-guided historical walking/biking tours, which include tours of historical buildings throughout downtown and Oliver. If art is more your jam, check out ArtTourYEG, which is a series of three self-guided tours of public art downtown.
If you just can’t get enough #yeghistory, check out the Edmonton Heritage Network which features dozens of local historical tours, events, museums and archives.
WHERE: The core.
GET THERE: On foot.
WE DARE YOU TO: SPLASH IN THE RIVER
It’s unclear if Cloverdale’s Accidental Beach, a short walk from the core, is here to stay. But there are other ways to get out and enjoy the river.
River Valley Adventure Co., based in Louise McKinney, offers stand-up paddle- board rentals and classes, as well as rafting adventures. Canoe Heads hosts various canoe trips, from beginner day to trips to more advanced overnight tours. Haskin Canoe also does regular canoe trips as well as kayak trips, in Edmonton and out at Elk Island Park.
Black Gold River Tours offers tours of the river by speed boat, if you’re looking for something high-powered instead of human-powered. And of course there’s always the venerable Edmonton Riverboat, formerly known as the Edmonton Queen. The Riverboat has recently been renovated and is now taking regular river trips. Like the trip for Accidental Beach, head to the funicular, cross the Low Level Bridge, walk about a block east to Rafters Landing and you’re there.
And one overlooked way to enjoy the North Saskatchewan is to test your luck at a fishing hole. (Note: Alberta sport fishing regulations apply, except on the City’s free fishing weekends.)
WHERE: At the river.
GET THERE: Countless options, the best of which are human-powered.
WE DARE YOU TO: EAT OUT AFTER MIDNIGHT
The late-night twilight in high-latitude Edmonton means we’re often up late and looking for somewhere to eat, and sometimes we want something other than a greasy pizza joint or 24-hour breakfast place. Downtown Edmonton has more late-night dining options than ever before. If you’re coming from an event at Rexall, head down 104 Street to Drunken Ox, Sober Cat (DOSC) for upscale steakhouse fare (kitchen open until 1am on weekends).
Central Social Hall on 109 Street is another late-night spot. The kitchen stays open until 2am on weekends and offers a range of casual fare, from flatbreads and burgers to classic comfort food like chicken and waffles.
But when you’re up *really* late, Chinatown is the place to go—some places stay open until the very wee hours of the morning. For classic Chinese food, there’s no beating All Happy Family Restaurant, which is open until 4am and offers standards like green onion cakes, fried rice and dozens of different noodle dishes. Sai Woo Garden (open until 3am) is another good choice; get the deep- fried calamari. If you’re in no hurry to get to bed, hunker down over a cauldron of bubbling soup at Asian Express HotPot (open until 2:30am).
WHERE: If it’s late, Chinatown, my friend.
GET THERE: Safely.
Read the full Summer 2019 issue of The Yards here.