Difference between revisions of "Edmonton"
Revision as of 22:30, 25 May 2009
Edmonton  is the capital city of Alberta. Its metro area is home to 1.1 million people and is the northernmost city in North America of at least one million people. The city is home to plenty of stuff for travelers to check out whether you're into tourist traps or not. The city is home to West Edmonton Mall which is the largest mall in North America and Fort Edmonton Park which is an amazing opportunity to view Edmonton's history. On top of that Edmonton is famous for its beautiful river valley which is great for trails, city views, and going to some of the hundreds of festivals that call Edmonton home. The city has a vibrant cultural scene with many theatres, festivals, concerts, and much more. In winter, the city turns into a paradise of skiing and snow ball fights - a truly winter experience.
The area around Edmonton was home to native populations for hundreds of years before the arrival of European settlers. In 1795, Edmonton House was constructed and work on Fort Edmonton began. The original site was near Fort Saskatchewan, but was relocated near the present day Legislature in 1930.
The town developed around the fur trade, and in the early days there was little to distinguish it from other such settlements in the area. The first hotel and hospital were built in the 1870s. The latter part of the century saw an influx of wealthy families, and in 1892 the Town of Edmonton was officially founded.
Early developments were centered around the Quarters area. In 1905, Edmonton was declared the capital of the province of Alberta, and a year later was designated a city. The 1907-1914 period saw the city experience an unprecedented boom, with the population rising from around 6,000 to 78,000. During this period, the University of Alberta was founded
In 1947 oil was discovered just south of the city, which spurred a second period of growth, leading to urban sprawl and the development of US-style malls. The Royal Alberta Museum opened in 1967.
The utilitarian office buildings that dominate that downtown landscape today were mostly constructed in the 1970s.
Today the city is known a an up-coming place to live and do business. While it may lack the style of Vancouver, the city does offer multifaceted charms that attract both business and tourism.
The best time to visit is in the summer months, particularly July and August. Visiting in summer guarantees great festivals, more people out and about, and not freezin' your tooshie off. Winter can be great too, but people from more southerly climates will need to be prepared.
Edmonton's climate is "northern continental", with a wide range of weather all four distinct seasons. In total Edmonton receives 2,289 hours of sunshine per year, making it one of Canada's sunniest cities. Rainfall is low to moderate, and entire weeks can pass without clouds or precipitation through the late spring and summer.
Bright green foliage appears in May, signaling spring. Even as the city shakes off its winter chill, cold snaps and the occasional snowfall can still occur. The region's golf courses are generally open by this time.
Summer days generally bring temperatures up to 21-25°C (70-77°F) in June, July, and August, though temperatures will often rise over 30°C (85°F) for a few days. Thunderstorms sweep in from time to time during the summer months, usually in the evening. Humidity is relatively low, so warm days are more comfortable than they are in humid climates. At the height of summer, Edmonton enjoys more than 17 hours of daylight, with twilight extending past 11PM in June and July.
Fall starts in mid September and is highlighted by bright yellow and orange foliage in Edmonton's extensive river valley parks. This season ushers in cooler temperatures ranging between 10-20°C during the day. For some tourists, Edmonton acts as the gateway to the fall hunting season.
Winters are not as harsh as those further east on the Canadian Prairies. Periods of mild temperatures with daytime highs over 0°C (32°F) can occur. Such mild weather makes outdoor winter sports extremely popular with the locals. Stop by a local outdoor ice rink to catch the fever of children and adults alike taking part in community hockey. Colder days in Edmonton are kept reasonably comfortable by the low humidity index, but it's wise to have some lip balm and hand cream with you, as the skin and lips can get cracked and chapped quickly in this dry environment.
Edmonton gets much less snowfall than many other Canadian cities and even some American cities further south. Winter walking and driving are not often affected. But cold snaps with temperatures down to and beyond -40°C/F do occur during the winter although it's unusual for these frigid spells to last more than 3 or 4 days. Extremely cold temperatures are usually accompanied by the crisp blue skies and bright sunshine of a prairie high-pressure zone. Even regular winter temperatures can become very cold if there is a noticeable wind so if you are visiting between December and March, be prepared.
By far the fastest and most comfortable way to get to Edmonton from outside Alberta is by flying. Most major airlines service Edmonton. General travel times to Edmonton are 45 minutes from Calgary, 1 1/2 hours from Vancouver, 4 1/2 hours from Montreal, and 4 hours from Toronto. Edmonton's main airport is the western hub to Canada's North.
To Europe, Edmonton has daily service to London-Heathrow on Air Canada. To Mexico City, Mexico Mexicana offers 3 times weekly flights. To the United States, Edmonton has scheduled departures to 10 United States airports: Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Minneapolis, and Chicago.
Edmonton International Airport has seasonal charter service to/from:
Acapulco, Bahias de Huatulco, Cozumel, Holguin, La Romana, Las Vegas, Laughlin, Liberia, Manzanillo, Mazatlan, Montego Bay, Puerto Vallarta, Varadero, Cancun, Punta Cana, Puerto Plata, Samana, and San Jose del Cabo.
There are also many flights to more American cities from Calgary, where someone can easily make a connection.
Edmonton is located in Central Alberta east of the Canadian Rockies, with a deep river valley extending from the southwest to the northeast. Known as Gateway to the North, Edmonton is the largest city on the Yellowhead branch (Alberta Highway 16) of the Trans-Canada Highway system. Edmonton is 3 hours north of Calgary on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway (formerly Highway 2) and 3.5 hours east of Jasper on Highway 16.
From Vancouver, Edmonton is best accessed using Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada) east to Hope, then Highway 5 (the Coquihalla) from Hope to the Highway 16 eastbound junction. The average travel time in summer is 12 to 13 hours. Travelers from Saskatoon will find Edmonton about 5 hours away using the Yellowhead Highway.
From British Columbia, average travel time during winter (November to March) can be much longer. International travelers are advised that while this major trucking route is well-maintained, severe winter storms can arise suddenly, particularly on the major inclines between Hope and Kamloops in British Columbia. Nevertheless, travelers cognizant of road conditions will find winter trips to Edmonton generally safe.
Greyhound,  services Edmonton from all major Canadian cities. There is also a premium service between Edmonton and Calgary, Red Deer, and Fort McMurray with Red Arrow Motorcoach,  which feature more spacious seating (only three seats to a row) and workstation seats with electrical connections for business travelers and their computers.
VIA Rail, 12360-121 Street,  provides passenger train services for Edmonton, and is linked to several major cities along the Canadian National Railroad. The VIA train station is located a short distance from downtown just a couple of blocks north of the Yellowhead Highway and near the northwest corner of City Centre Airport. The station has free wifi, just ask a staff member for the passkey (as of Jan. '08, is 7804482575).
VIA Rail prices are higher than train prices generally in Europe. Their passenger trains arrive through Edmonton numerous times during week. Passengers experience leisurely travel through some of the most amazing scenery in the world. Though somewhat more expensive than bus travel, service on a VIA Rail train even in the lowest class is superior to any bus. You can get up and walk around the carriages, dine conveniently, and you will find plenty of legroom in the comfortable seats. If you can afford the extra cost, it is generally worthwhile to take the train rather than the bus.
A large part of the city, built before and during the Second World War, is laid out in a grid pattern of straight streets, which makes for easy navigation by car or foot. There are a number of bridges, including the Walterdale Bridge and High Level Bridge, going in and out of the downtown core.
Edmonton's downtown is fairly eclectic, home to numerous Government of Alberta buildings as well as modern office towers, including the CN Tower near City Hall and the impressive, white marble-clad Bank of Montreal on 101 Street. Visitors from large metropolises such as Vancouver and Toronto will find much of Edmonton's downtown fairly dated-looking. Despite this fact, the 'minitropolis' of Edmonton contains some of the most architecturally significant buildings in the province, including the crimson-coloured Citadel Theatre and the church-like spires of MacEwan College.
Edmonton's road system follows similar cities like Saskatoon, Minneapolis and Calgary. Edmonton's housing that was built before 1950 was built on a grid, with streets N/S and avenues E/W, but some older neighbourhoods like Boyle Street have a diagonal grid pattern, with streets NW/SE and avenues SW/NE. During the 1950s and 1960s, roads were designed less grid-like, but they are still easily navigable. New subdivisions such as Windermere in the southside and and the Village and Greisbach in the northwest are designed with more curves, cul-de-sacs and named streets. If visiting these newer areas, a current city map is highly recommended.
Major roads in Edmonton are as follows: Southeast: 50 Street, 66 Street, Ellerslie Road, 75 Street/Wayne Gretzky Drive Southwest: Ellerslie Road, Fox Drive, Belgravia Road, 34 Avenue City Centre: 97 Street, Jasper Avenue/101 Avenue, 107 Avenue, 111 Avenue, 118 Avenue, 124 Street Southside: Whyte Avenue, 114 Street, 109 Street West End: 170 Street, 178 Street, Stony Plain Road Northside: 137 Avenue, 167 Avenue, Fort Road, Mark Messier/St. Albert Trail
Edmonton's main east-west highway south of the North Saskatchewan River is Whitemud Drive. It goes through the West and South areas of the city.
Currently, Anthony Henday Drive is a highway-in-progress with a number of four-way intersections still present. By 2016, it is planned to be the ring road of Metro Edmonton. Currently west, southwest, southeast and east legs are complete.
Edmonton's main highway north of the river is known as Yellowhead Trail (Alberta Highway 16). Travelers wishing to discover Edmonton proper (and avoid the trendy, but tourist-clogged Old Strathcona on the southside) are strongly encouraged to take this route. Some of the city's greatest cultural landmarks, including Rexall Place (home of the Oilers) and Commonwealth Stadium are accessible from the Yellowhead.
Other major roads include Groat Road, Mark Messier/St. Albert Trail, the Sherwood Park Freeway, Stony Plain Road and Wayne Gretzky Drive.
Edmonton is served by a number of taxi services small and large. The major ones are:
All Edmonton taxi companies offer 24/7 service and are highly recommended after a night of bar-hopping. From the last weekend in November to New Year's Eve on weekends, Operation Red Nose is in operation (780-421-4444).
By public transit
Edmonton has a safe, efficient and inexpensive public transportation system: the Edmonton Transit System . With hundreds of different bus routes, you can get nearly anywhere you need to go usually with few transfers .
During peak hours, buses run as frequently as every 15 minutes. Outside of peak, the frequency drops to every 30 minutes and on some routes to industrial areas or far-flung suburbs as infrequent as one service per hour. Many major bus routes will operate as early as 5 am to as late as 1 am, but there are a number which stop running at 8PM-9PM or only run only during peak hours (6AM-9AM and 3PM-6PM). Some bus routes simply do not run on Sundays. For more information or to plan your bus trip, you can call Transit Information at 780-496-1611 or check out the Trip Planner , or Google Maps. For where routes go and their names which is essential, go to .
The transit system in the greater metropolitan area is not unified, so if you wish to visit the suburbs be prepared for more transfers and increased fares.
Edmonton was the first North American city with a population of under 1 million (Metro Edmonton today has over 1 million) to have developed a Light Rail Transit (LRT)  system. It is a part of the Edmonton Transit System (ETS), which also manages the buses. It stretches from Clareview Station in the northeast section of the city to the Health Sciences Station at the University of Alberta Hospital. The LRT line is currently being expanded to the University of Alberta South Campus (April 2009) and further yet to Southgate Centre and Century Park (2010).
During peak hours on weekdays, LRT trains run every 6 minutes. Outside of that and on Saturdays, frequency is every 7 to 12 minutes, depending on the time of day. Sundays and holidays, trains run every 15 minutes throughout the day. Trains operate from about 5:26 am to 1:26 am. On Sundays and holidays, the LRT stops running past 12:26 am.
Fares are $2.50 for adults and $2.25 for youths and seniors. Day passes can be bought for $7.50 regardless of age group. A pack of 10 tickets can be purchased for $21.50 (adults). Tickets can be purchased at the ETS online store, automated fare vending machines located at all LRT stations, or at the ETS Customer Information Centre located on the pedway level of Churchill Station. Note that Mac's convenience stores in Edmonton no longer sell adult bus tickets.
Edmonton has excellent cycling routes which allow for all-year cycling, though winter cycling can be challenging for those unaccustomed to Edmonton weather. These marked routes, combined with a lack of freeways to traverse and relatively low traffic compared to other major cities, low snow or rainfall, and a fairly flat terrain, make Edmonton an easy city to travel by bicycle. The City of Edmonton provides free maps  of the bike routes.
Edmonton has a street system that is mostly numbered, although it does have named streets: usually major roads and roads in the newer residential areas. Streets in Edmonton run north-south, while avenues run east-west. The downtown core of the city is centered near 101 St and Jasper Ave (which corresponds to 101 Ave), with streets increasing in number to the west, and avenues increasing to the north.
Addresses are generally easy to find in Edmonton, since they are logically arranged so that even-numbered building/house numbers are on the north side of avenues and west side of streets. The first two or three digits of a building or house number will tell you which street it lies just west of, or which particular avenue it lies north of. For example, 10219-101 Street would be located on the east side of 101 Street, just north of 102 Avenue.
The vast majority of the city lies in the NW quadrant with the counterpoint near the southeast corner of the city proper, and it is common to omit the "NW" from street addresses in the NW quadrant. The grid's official "zeros" are called Meridian Street (what would be 0 St) and Quadrant Avenue (what would be 0 Ave), but they are not important streets for any other reason. Meridian & Quadrant do not even intersect as of yet - Quadrant only exists between 199 St NW/SW and 207 St NW/SW - and if they did, residents would generally consider their intersection to be far outside the city. There is also a NE quadrant but very few addresses are there and should not be a problem.
Edmonton has stunning art by great local talent, amazing architecture that gives a touch of Edmonton's history, and unique attractions like the Muttart (below).
North Saskatchewan River Parks
There are wonderful walking, jogging and cycling paths through the River Valley, and over a hundred kilometers of walking, biking, and skiing trails joining them along the banks and flood plains of the North Saskatchewan river. Altogether, the city's trails and parks make up the largest connected urban parkland in North America.
One of the most popular parks is Hawrelak Park, located just off Groat Road near the University of Alberta. It encircles a large pond, home to a variety of ducks and geese in summer. It's the site of a variety of different festivals, including Shakespeare in the Park and Symphony Under the Sky. In winter after the ice has frozen thick enough it is a popular venue for outdoor ice skating.
Another good one is Louise McKeeney Park just outside downtown. Still under construction, but even now it is pretty darn good. It has gazebos, benches, sculptures and is right on the river. When complete it will be a great urban park. It is just below Shaw Conference Centre.
Edmonton has a lot of very beautiful architecture. The Downtown Core, Old Strathcona, and University of Alberta are the places to look for pre-war styles. Old industrial buildings can be found in the warehouse district whereas old shops and hotels can be found more in the Central Business District. Old Strathcona has a number of old buildings that were influenced by the railway
The city's real strength, though, is in early Modern styles. From 1947-1969, Edmonton experienced a large architecture boom with beautiful styles. These buildings are known for their clean lines, punched windows, plain colours, minimalism, and setbacks. The Downtown Core has a lot of these buildings, including the first curtainwall building in Canada. Westmount was the centre of attention of the era, and in that, it hosts the first strip mall in Edmonton, the first Canadian planetarium and the amazing Coronation Park. The University of Alberta also has a lot of these styles.
The 1980s were another high point for Edmonton architecture. Commerce Place and ManuLife Place are among Canada's most iconic structures from that era, using teal glass and fine steel, curved into unique shapes. Canada Place is one of the best examples of large scale, glassy, mid rise 80s architecture with its unique pink glass and elegant lines.
Among more recent work, the Downtown Core has a few beautiful structures like Robbins Health Center and City Hall.
Edmonton is a surprisingly lively city, considering it's covered in snow 6 months of the year. The summer brings many festivals into the city, and with Canada's most impressive mountain parks a half-day's drive away, Edmonton is fun year-round.
Although mostly unknown, Edmonton has a vibrant arts community dedicated to plays and shows. In the central area, there is the Winspear which focuses on concerts, the Citadel, which is a play mecca, the City Centre Theatre, with its Hollywood flicks, and the Roxy Theatre, with good plays.
Outside the central area, the Old Strathcona-University area is home to the theatre district and the Jubilee Auditorium. It includes many independent venues like the Varscona and Garneau. In the west end, there are mega movie theatres and smaller, unique ones (most commonly dinner theatres) like Jubilation's and Mayfield.
Edmonton's river valley and Mill Creek area have an extensive network of trails, good for walking, biking and cross-country skiing. As you travel through the extensive stretches of linked ravines and forested areas in the river valley, at many points you can't even tell you're in a city.
There are a variety of bike shops, including a non-profit bicycle co-op . You can drop in on their workshop hours and wrench your own bike for cheap. Mechanics are on hand to help and answer your questions.
Bike maps are freely available at many places, such as City Hall and the University, in addition to most bike shops, eg. Revolution Cycle , United Cycle , Hardcore Mountain Bike Store  and others.
For skiing, Edmonton has a number of ski hills including Edmonton Ski, Sunridge Ski Area, and Snow Valley.
Albertans have a keen interest in golf, based on the province's sunny summers, large number of developed courses, and relatively low prices. A few are private, but you won't feel you're missing much if you stick to the public courses.
The quality differs, as does difficulty, and are not necessarily linked. The City of Edmonton runs three public courses, Victoria (central), Riverside (South) both of which are located close to downtown (though difficult to access without a vehicle), and Rundle Park (Edmonton/North).
Edmonton is home to a number of professional and amateur sport teams. The Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League are the most recognized team and have won numerous Stanley Cups. They play at the 16,839 seat Rexall Place which was built in 1979. Minor league hockey is also part of the Edmonton sports scene with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.
Edmonton is also home to the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League. The Eskimos have won 13 Grey Cups and play at the 60,000 seat Commonwealth Stadium. For basketball, the recently formed Edmonton Grads of the International Basketball League play at Grant MacEwan gymnasium against smaller US cities and other Canadian cities.
The University of Alberta Golden Bears (men's teams) and the University of Alberta Pandas (women's teams) participate in a number of sports including Hockey, Soccer, Football (men) Rugby and Track and Field. Other local entries include the Edmonton Rush of the National Lacrosse League and the Edmonton Cracker Cats of the Golden League of Baseball, who play at TELUS Field.
Major events and festivals
Edmonton is home to many regular festivals and special events during the spring and summer months. It is hailed as "Canada's Festival City" [] due to the wide range of festivals.
The Works features neat art from paintings, drawings, sculptures and much more. The Whyte Ave Artwalk is a nice way to stroll the trendy street looking at local art. Edmonton also hosts the largest Fringe Theatre Fest in the country, and second biggest in the world, which holds unique acts and mini plays. There is also the Canoe Fest which tells stories about morals and history. For music, Symphony Under the Sky is a nice way to listen to some fine music in the great outdoors. The Folk Fest is a very large festival where great musicians play folk music.
For culture, Edmonton has a few nice festivals. Heritage Days involves food, dance, and local ornaments from many different cultures. Edmonton Cariwest is a carribean festival that takes over downtown with colourful dances. Gay Pride is a large festival that closes Jasper Ave for people to be proud of gay rights.
In food, Edmonton has some festivals to keep you salivating. Heritage Days hosts food from all kinds of countries and Taste of Edmonton has food from Edmonton's best restaurants collaborated in one little place in downtown.
The Edmonton area has seven large casinos: Casino Yellowhead, Casino Edmonton, Bacarrat Casino, Palace Casino, St Albert Casino, Celebration's Casino, and Marriot Enoch Resort & Casino.
Edmonton is full of all kinds of shopping opportunities, with a lot of beautiful independent, high quality stores. Highlights include:
See the district articles for specific listings of different restaurants and fast food joints.
Edmonton is definitely world class when it comes to dining. There are two major dining centres:
Edmonton is the birthplace of two major Canadian restaurant chains: Boston Pizza (Italian), and earl's (Canadiana). These two have major locations across Canada. The city is also home to a lot of good quality fast food chains like Burger Baron and Fatburger.
Italian food is very high quality in Edmonton. Famoso Pizza in Oliver is the best pizzeria, without a doubt. Chianti's, Sicilian Kitchen, Sorrentino's, Fiore Cantina, and Tony's Pizza offer hearty and filling pasta. The best are Whyte Ave, Downtown, or in Little Italy.
Edmonton has its fair share of cheap Chinese food, most of which is concentrated in Chinatown. WokBox is another Edmonton-based chain, offering fair priced Chinese food in a fast food environment.
Edmonton is home to a wide range of alcohol places. The two local microbreweries are Alley Kat and Ambers's Brewing. There are many pubs, clubs, lounges, and bars mostly clustered on Jasper Avenue and Whyte Avenue. Some of the most popular include: Filthy McNasty's, Black Dog, Ceili's Irish Pub, Vintage Lounge, Suede, and O'Byrne's.
There are two main areas for good coffee places. The Coffee Block refers to a block of really nice independent coffee shops between 103 St. and 104 St. on Jasper Avenue. Although there are only 3 cafés, they are all very good and the block seems to be attracting a lot of coffee shops with more and more popping up. Java Jive is another local institution, having been around for more than thirty years and locally owned. There are three shops on the University of Alberta campus, and a warehouse on 77th Ave and 99th St. The Three Bananas Cafe is another perfect stop; it's on the way to the LRT station at Churchill Square. Another area is Whyte Avenue which has more spread out coffee shops but pretty much each one is very good. Transcend in Argyll is a very classy coffee shop that not only makes coffee, will sell you the beans (if you want to take home). Mandolin Books and Coffee Company on 112 Avenue is another fantastic find. Other than that, just do some exploring, you might just find something that is just for you.
Edmonton has a lot of good smoothies. The mega chain Booster Juice was founded in Edmonton and is quite good and is home to a variety of drinks, there are many locations in Edmonton. Also, there is Jugo Juice and some independents that you just need to keep your eyes open for!
Most of the budget hotels in the city are concentrated in and around the south (e.g. Derrick Hotel) end of the city or in the deep east central area. There is also a lot in the nearby suburbs, see Edmonton's area.
There is such a wide range of the mid range hotels in every part of town.
Closer to the core, Delta:Downtown Edmonton and the Comfort Inn are the best bet. These two offer great views along with easy access to the benefits of downtown. In the north end, the Prospector's Gaming Room and North Inn and Suites are some great examples of some modern and simple good priced hotels at that part of the city. In the West End, with the closeness of West Edmonton Mall, there are a ton of hotels to choose from, most of which are on 100 Ave.
South of the river, in Old Strathcona-University the Campus Suites is your best bet with nice service and proximity to the University. Also on Gateway Boulevard there is a lot of hotels like Delta:South Edmonton, Ramada South, Travelodge South, Econo Lodge, Sawridge Inn Edmonton South and Cedar Park Inn are the highest quality and friendliness. In the east, there is a lovely Four Points hotel with easy access to the city.
Edmonton has a good variety of high end hotels in different locations in the city. Some of the most popular locations are:
Edmonton is patrolled by the Edmonton Police Service. In addition to the Police Headquarters/Downtown Division located east of City Hall, the EPS is separated into five operational Divisions (the name in brackets denotes the neighbourhood in which the Division station is located):
The overall crime rate is decreasing. There are some areas where increased caution is advised, particularly after dark:
Panhandling has increased in recent years, particularly downtown and in the Old Strathcona area. Just decline politely and it shouldn't be an issue. Try to avoid parking lots that aren't gated shut, as there is a clear entrance for panhandlers to get in and be more aggressive.
Navigation in Edmonton is made easier by city's street grid and relative lack of traffic compared to most other major North American cities. Visitors should note that additional hazards are presented by winter driving in the city, especially during and after the first few snowfalls of the winter. Ice can be a problem, especially on bridges. Ice on roadways can be almost invisible, which is where the commonly used - and dreaded - term "black ice" comes from.
Hospitals and major health centres
If you are on the north end, central, or in east central, the Royal Alexandra Hospital is the best. For the west, Misericordia is probably the best due to proximity. In the south side of the river, you may choose from Grey Nun's or University. Some people in central might go to University as well.