Home to Alberta’s Number One Tourism Draw
Edmonton, Canada’s Festival City, is rolling out the welcome mat. With a population of more than one million people it’s all about excitement redefined in the Greater Edmonton metropolitan region. In some cases, it’s about discovering some of Canada best secrets. Visit and you’ll come across some of North America’s biggest and best attractions in Edmonton: one for shoppers and one for outdoor lovers. Or drop by Canada’s largest living history park. And that’s just for starters. Get festive – and not just during the traditional holiday season – as Edmonton hosts more than 30 major festivals throughout the year that celebrate music, theatre, arts, sports, film, culture, and winter.
Weather-permitting, Edmonton is also one of the best cities to view the Aurora Borealis. The lights can be viewed almost every second or third night during the winter months. Or go Jurassic and see life-sized, and startlingly realistic, dinosaurs come alive just minutes away from the city. Have we tempted you yet?
Big Impact, Big Selection
Tourism is a $1 billion-plus industry in the Greater Edmonton Region, encompassing more than 2,975 establishments in the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation or food services business. Each year, about 4.16 million visitors spend an estimated $1.11 billion in the Edmonton area in part because they’re drawn to West Edmonton Mall, North America’s largest shopping and entertainment complex, or Edmonton’s spectacular River Valley, North America’s largest urban green space. Within the Greater Edmonton Region you’ll find:
- More than 40 distinct tourism attractions
- 13,000 hotel rooms (more than 120 properties) and at least 3,500 restaurants
- More than 30 annual festivals and a variety of sports and cultural events.
Edmonton is also one of Canada’s sunniest cities with about 2,300 hours of sunshine per year. In June, the city enjoys up to 17 hours of daylight per day. Top that off with this bright piece of news – Edmonton has been named the most Sociable City in North America by the Responsible Hospitality Institute (recognizing Edmonton’s success in creating a safe and vibrant nightlife) – and you can begin to see what the excitement is all about.
Arts and Culture Vultures
In the heart of down you’ll find Edmonton’s iconic Art Gallery of Alberta. Wrapped in a winding 190-metre (623 feet) steel ribbon that references the forms of the North Saskatchewan River and the Aurora Borealis, the Art Gallery of Alberta features historical and contemporary paintings, sculptures, installation works and photographs by Canadian and international artists.
The gallery is a key anchor of the Downtown Arts District, which also includes the Francis Winspear Centre for Music (home to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra) and the Citadel Theatre, the latter being a hub for theatre goers and one of theatre’s top spots in western Canada – theatre lovers will find that Edmonton is the place to be with more than 20 companies and dozens of acting co-ops offering a wide selection of entertainment options.
Those options expand further when you add in Edmonton’s festival component – here are just a few suggestions:
- There’s the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, a four-day outdoor music extravaganza that attracts more than 80,000 music lovers. With a spectacular River Valley backdrop this annual music festival has sold out every year for over a decade and is Canada’s largest Folk Music Festival.
- Or consider the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival, Canada's oldest celebration of street theatre.
- Looking for a festival that combines fun and theatre? Then check out one of the world’s largest fringe festivals. Attracting more than 500,000 visitors, the Edmonton Fringe Theatre Festival is the largest and longest running festival of its kind in North America.
Shop, Shop, Shop
West Edmonton Mall, Alberta's number one tourist attraction, is the city’s shop-until-you-drop destination wrapped up with nine theme park attractions. You’ll find a fully integrated tourism, entertainment and retail ‘city’ of 492,000 square metres (5.3 million square feet) that comes with an indoor water park, indoor amusement park and some of the world’s best retailers. With more than 800 stores and services and a growing reputation as the destination for retailers in expansion mode, this shopping marvel is a must see. The average yearly visitation to West Edmonton Mall is approximately 28.4 million, more than eight times the population of the province of Alberta. But don’t let West Edmonton Mall be your only stop if shopping is on your agenda. Old Strathcona, Edmonton’s vibrant south-side nightlife hub, is also well-known and has been named as one of the 10 best shopping districts in Canada. Amid its historic buildings, the shopping fare ranges from uniquely Edmonton retailers to in-demand stores known for their allure and style. You’ll find everything from apparel to accessories and arts and crafts to unusual gifts. And find time for the shopping destinations of 124th Street and the High Street area, minutes from downtown and literally steps away from each other. With more than 125 shops, there’s everything from fashion, home décor options, knickknacks and so much more to choose from. Top this all off with an artistic touch as you’re now right in the heart of the city’s art gallery district – shop or browse, it’s an exhilarating experience if art is what makes you tick.
So Many Choices …
You may soon find that a trip to Edmonton leaves you with so little time to check everything out. Consider the multitude of options you’ll have when selecting Edmonton as your tourism destination. Here’s just a sampling:
- Outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of North America’s largest urban parkland, Edmonton’s River Valley. It’s 22 times larger than New York’s Central Park, with 150 kilometres (93 miles) of trails on which you can enjoy walks, bike rides, picnics, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and more.
- The Muttart Conservatory, with its signature glass pyramids, offers a spectacular botanical display including one of North America’s largest collection of orchid species.
- Travel back in time by visiting Fort Edmonton Park, Canada’s largest living history museum, which features more than 70 period buildings – from four different eras in time – on its 58 acres (23 hectares).
- Time travel even further back to the days of the dinosaurs. Watch them roar to life again in Jurassic Forest, a 40-acre (146 hectare) prehistoric preserve, just 15 minutes from Edmonton. See massive and majestic vegetarians like the Stegosaurus and Triceratops peacefully graze while deadly meat eaters such as the Albertosaurus and the lethal Tyrannosaurus Rex hunt down their prey.
- Go western. The Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) has been bringing top rodeo competitors together from across Canada and the United States, competing for a purse of more than $1 million. Edmonton has hosted Canada’s championship rodeo for more than 30 years and the CFR’s economic impact is estimated to be $60 million to city businesses annually.
- Go eco. Just outside of Edmonton, check out Kalyna Country. At three times the size of the province of Prince Edward Island it is Canada’s largest eco-museum and home to more than 40 designated informal natural areas.
- Try your luck at one of seven casinos or choose from more than 70 golf courses in the region.
- Shoot and score: if you’re a sports fan, Edmonton has something for you. Starting Dec. 25, 2011, Edmonton and its co-host city Calgary, will host the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Or catch one of Edmonton’s own pro sports teams in action by taking in games of the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League, the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, the Edmonton Rush of the National Lacrosse League or the Edmonton Capitals of the Golden Baseball League.
- Rev up your engines. Take in the Edmonton Indy as it rolls into town with a race that is sure to pump up the action.
- Or throttle into a slightly lower gear and head to the majestic Canadian Rockies. Edmonton is the gateway to the Rockies via road, air or train. Choose among hiking amidst spectacular scenery, exploring gorges, soaking in natural hot springs, and some of the largest ice fields around.
Tourism is Job One
Bringing everything together is Edmonton Tourism, the destination marketing organization that creates, implements, and evaluates tourism marketing initiatives for Greater Edmonton, working in conjunction with both public and private tourism industry partners.
Major Edmonton Tourism initiatives include:
- You’re Welcome Edmonton, a program designed to recognize employees and volunteers in the service industry who pride themselves in promoting Greater Edmonton through exemplary service, warm hospitality and commitment to excellence
- Industry Partners, where more than 600 tourism operators and businesses work and come together as one voice for the entire region.
- The Edmonton Film Office, a liaison office geared to making film projects happen here.
- Visitor Centres, as well as an airport express service from downtown Edmonton that includes convenient check-in and transportation service for Edmonton International Airport travellers.
- Festival City in a Box, which provides event planners with an opportunity to capitalize on Edmonton’s signature festival theme and incorporate it into their program.
- Fresh, a green initiative –in partnership with Edmonton Tourism and local hospitality groups – that aids conference planners who want to add environmental or cultural components to their event.