Whoever thought that a winter city trip to Edmonton would be a cool thing to do? Me neither until lately I discovered a whole different side of this city when visiting in February. Edmonton has many activities and attractions that are specific for winter. It creates a winter wonderland with free and fun things to do. Totally worth visiting.
Just about 3,5 hours drive West from Edmonton you will find the absolute gorgeous and laidback mountain village of Jasper. Don’t miss out on this opportunity, it was my favorite destination on my 2-week Alberta itinerary. Check out my best things to do in Jasper in winter blog. Stay connected in Canada, buy a sim card for Canada travel on arrival.
All my video highlights about Edmonton can be found here: my Instagram highlights of Canada 1 and Canada 2, more than 30 minutes video material about my winter trip to Alberta.
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1. Spot wildlife in Elk Island National Park
Safari in winter? Yeah it is definitely possible and I can tell you it was an incredible experience. I was told finding the bisons would be the best thing to do around here in Elk Island National Park and they were right.
It took a little while but we finally found these incredible animals. You can easily drive around Elk Island National Park yourself. You will need your own car though. It is about 40 minutes drive from Edmonton downtown.
It seriously felt like a safari on the Africa Savannah but then in a spectacular winter wonderland. The bisons are the most active around sunrise and sunset and the bisons crossing the road just before sunset confirmed this. They passed by our car really close, it was an amazing experience.
Don’t skip spotting the bisons at Elk National Park when you travel to Edmonton in winter. It is so worth it, definitely a must do.
More about spotting wildlife in Alberta can be found in the link. A complete blog post about our winter trip written by Kim Paffen, an award winning wildlife and travel photographer.
2. Snowshoe and stargaze at Elk Island National Park
We drove Elk Island National Park a little bit more after sunset, but then it got dark. We decided to eat a pizza in the nearby Lamont village before we hopped on a snowshoeing and stargazing tour.
Related: What to Wear in Canada in Winter. Check out my packing list for Canada in the link.
This tour departs nearby Astotin Lake inside Elk Island National Park. The tour guides were super friendly and even provided me with extra gloves as I was freezing. Unfortunately it was almost full moon and it was a little harder to spot the stars.
The guides started a bonfire and we sat around it sharing winter travel stories, watching stars and drink hot chocolate. Dress up for a cold night out in the forest to stay warm, but although pretty cold this was one of the amazing Edmonton winter activities.
3. Winter wonderland at the Silver Skate Festival
This annual returning winter festival in Edmonton actually had its 30th birthday in 2020. It is an great thing to do in Edmonton for families and it is completely free. It is an extravaganza of art, sports, recreation and culture.
Learn about Edmonton history on the Folk trail or try Lantern Making. Go ice skating, snowshoeing or cross country skiing. There is a winter cinema, lantern procession and at the end of the evening they set ice sculptures on fire. Of course don’t miss out on the ice castles.
Don’t forget that all of these Edmonton activities at the Silver Skate Festival are for free!
4. Visit the Edmonton Ice Castles
Absolutely must visit in Edmonton in winter. It was my first time visiting ice castles and I was amazed. I had no clue what to expect, but while walking in I simply stopped and stared: WOW! Super cool to walk around this winter wonderland and I kept on wondering how they created these things.
There was a maze of ice caves with narrow passage ways to wander through and several ice slides. For kids… or young adults! LOL
See the video of this slide in my Canada 1 highlights on my Instagram account.
Take a look at my Instagram stories of Edmonton: the video of me going down an ice slide was one of my favorite things to do in Edmonton in winter.
5. Rust Magic Mural Tour
Learn a lot more about Edmonton in this tour around some of the biggest murals of Edmonton.
The two artists behind Rust Magic are an extremely laid-back couple passionated about their mural projects around Edmonton town. In summer these mural tours are walking tours. We decided to do it by car.
Every year they organize the Rust Magic International Street Mural Festival and well known artists are flown in from around the world to brighten up some boring corners of the city. With great success! The murals were got to see were huge and damn impressive.
Cool thing was to learn more about these big pieces of art. How they do it, how long it takes, how much it costs and much more. Rust Magic is now managing more than 60 murals in Edmonton and every year they add a bunch of new ones. Let see what the city looks like in 10 years from now.
Have a look at the Rust Magic website, a great Edmonton winter activity.
6. Visit an Oilers Hockey Game
Unfortunately due to a delayed flight I missed the Oilers hockey game in the Rogers Arena. I was really looking forward to it as Edmontonians told me it is one big happening.
Hockey is the number 1 sport in Canada and the Oilers are famous all over Canada. The fans are fanatic and the vibe inside the stadium is roaring for the full length of the game they say.
Next time I travel to Edmonton in winter I have to make sure I am able to see an Oilers game.
7. Stroll around Old Strathcona neighborhood
South Edmonton is the Old Strathcona district. This place is the heart of bohemian Edmonton and much more European like.
The hippie and vibrant Old Strathcona is given soul by countless funky bars, restaurants, vintage shops, art galleries and much more. Without a doubt Old Strathcona was my favorite neighborhood to hang out in Edmonton.
8. Free tour around Legislation Building
Surely one of the best free things to do in Edmonton is the tour around the Legislation Building. You can’t miss the dome of this cathedral like building on a hill in the city. Probably one of Edmonton’s must visit landmarks anyway. Once you enter you will get into the main hall where there is a little tour desk. Tours around the building take about 45 minutes to an hour and are free. Winner!
9. Segway tour
Too scared to ride a segway on snowy tracks? Don’t worry even I found it a little exciting when I signed up for Segway tour in Edmonton in winter. But our skilled guide showed us straight away that there is not too much difference and riding on snow and ice is pretty much the same. Just go with a little more care and don’t go too fast.
The tour was about 2 hours and you have to dress up as it can be cold, definitely when there is wind. The guided Segway tour is one of the fun things to do in Edmonton in winter. It takes you to cool places around the city and gets you great views of the skyline. Find all the segway videos in my Instagram highlight Canada 1.
Our guide Yahya stopped at several points of interest around the city and explained some history and some other cool stuff to know about Edmonton.
10. Marvel at the Edmonton skyline
The city is built on a hill next to the North Saskatchewan River and from several viewpoints on the other side of the river you have amazing skyline views. As we stayed on the Strathcona side in the South, every time we drove towards the city we had great views over the Edmonton skyline.
The best view of the Edmonton skyline I would say though is from McNally High School. It is a 2 minute stroll through the park until you reach a couple benches to chill out on.You can easily park your car at the big parking lot of the school.
11. Experience the Northern Lights
This Edmonton winter activity was something I looked forward to, although my expectations weren’t that high. There is a decent chance of seeing Northern Lights in Edmonton, but I was unlucky. It is all weather depending but keep in mind that it is possible. If you want to spot the Northern Lights in Edmonton then check this Aurora Borealis forecast website before you go to sleep.
12. Eat sushi at Dorinku Tokyo
Just like you I was also looking for things to do in Edmonton and somehow found Dorinku Tokyo sushi restaurant. I checked it out on Google and it had a 4.5/5 rating from almost 1,500 reviews so my expectations were high. Dorinku Tokyo didn’t let me down and it was one of the best restaurants in Edmonton we tried this winter trip.
Go for the Tuna Tataki, but I can basically recommend all the sushi rolls we had.
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13. Have breakfast at Pip
A hipster spot in Old Strathcona district. It is first come first serve, but when you manage to get a spot it is one of the best places to go in Edmonton for breakfast. Delicious breakfast meals, good coffee, but unfortunately no fresh juices in winter.
14. Get lost in the West Edmonton Mall
Welcome to the 5th largest shopping mall in the world and the biggest one in North America. The West Edmonton Mall surely is one of the top Edmonton attractions. Its size is gigantic obviously and you will find an aquarium, bowling, cinema complex, rollercoasters, a water park, an ice rink and even a shooting range. The perfect thing to do in Edmonton when it gets really cold.
When I walked in I could hardly fantom this was a shopping mall as I walked right into a rollercoaster with several loops. It felt like an amusement park and that actually is what Galaxyland is. You will find attractions and things to do here for young and old.
Wanna see me getting dizzy from this dazzling rollercoaster ride? Click here to view my in my Canada 2 video highlights on my Instagram.
15. Old Strathcona Market
Every Saturday morning there is an indoor farmers market in Old Strathcona. It was cool to walk around and get to see all the international influences. There are loads of stands selling typical cuisine from their heritage: Korean, Pakistani, Vietnamese, Peruvian, Chilean and even Dutch stroopwafels. The national dish of my country! :)
Unfortunately I was looking for fresh fruit juices, as this is something I would expect on a farmers market, but couldn’t find one. But may be that is too ambitious when traveling to Edmonton in winter.
16. Try different craft beers at micro breweries
If you are looking for cool Edmonton winter activities this one has to be on your list. There are a bunch of micro breweries scattered around the city and they have beer tasting menus. Having some craft beers will keep you warm!
Some micro breweries even offer tours around the brewery and will happily explain you the whole process of making craft beer, the tours are free. If you are a beer fan this one of the best free things to do in Edmonton. I visited Situation Brewing in Old Strathcona, a cool place with super friendly staff and delicious food! Definitely don’t miss out on the vegan tacos and the tuna tartare.
17. Dinner at Rostizado
One of my favorite restaurants in Edmonton! The food I tasted here was so yummy that I had to add it to my list of places to go in Edmonton. Located in downtown this modern chic Mexican restaurant boosts a cosy vibe with its dimmed lights. We tried a bunch of different starters and they were absolutely delicious. The super friendly staff also served the best cocktails ever and I couldn’t stop myself from ordering more rounds.
Grab one of the high seats at the window and you stare over the streets of Edmonton and the only Neon Sign Museum in Canada.
18. Check out the Neon Sign Museum
Edmonton houses the only Neon Sign Museum in Canada and it is right next to the Rogers Arena and opposite Rostizado restaurant.
19. Lunch at Biera in Ritchie Market
Biera is another award winning Edmonton restaurant located inside the covered Ritchie Market. The concept of Biera is a co-existing with Transcend, a local coffee shop, Acme Meat Market, a butchery shop and Blind Enthusiasm, a micro brewery.
Combine a great selection of craft beers, with great barista coffee and delicious meat from a butcher shop and of course this is one of the places to go when visiting Edmonton. Their salads was yummy and so were their desserts.
20. Helicopter ride around Edmonton
Unfortunately this is a weather depended Edmonton activity and especially in winter it can be tricky. Sadly I was one of the unlucky ones as my helicopter flight got cancelled due to bad weather conditions. I bet this is the holy grail in Edmonton sightseeing. Well… next time!
Where to stay in Edmonton?
We stayed in the Old Strathcona district on the Southside of Edmonton. This lively neighborhood is concentrated around 82 Avenue NW where you can find the Metterra Hotel on Whyte, a lovely boutique hotel. The great location and included valet parking and breakfast were a blessing.
I took a trip to Edmonton in winter 2020 together with Traveltomtom team member and award winning travel photographer Kim Paffen. All the photos in this article are shot by her. She also wrote a spotting wildlife in Alberta in winter guide. Click to see more of her amazing photos. Also a Canada Winter Packing List can be found here.
More about traveling in Alberta in winter can you find in my 2-week Alberta itinerary in winter and in my best things to do in Jasper in winter article or check out our Canada 1 and Canada 2 highlights with more than 30 minutes video of our trip.
Enjoy your winter city trip to Edmonton!