Why Visit Edmonton in the Summer
Note: Any attractions, businesses, tours, shows, events, and other information listed in this post may not be accurate due to the current Covid-19 pandemic. While I love to travel and going to live events I strongly urge you to stay home right now. If you must travel be safe by wearing a face mask, washing your hands and using hand sanitizer, keeping a distance of 2m/6ft from others, and following any other local/provincial/state/federal health guidelines.
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One of my favourite things about summer are the many summer festivals that take place in the Edmonton region. I won’t list them all because there are too many, but I will mention a few of my favourites.
The Edmonton International Street Performers Festival
If you want to see a variety of street performers, then The Edmonton International Street Performers Festival is for you. It takes place downtown at Sir Winston Churchill Square for ten days in July. See a man catching a watermelon on his head? Check. Watch some crazy acrobatic stunts? Check. Have an excellent time for a relatively low price (admission is free, but always tip the buskers)? Check. For myself, The Street Performers Festival signals that summer is here, and it’s a festival I look forward to attending.
Taste of Edmonton
What is a festival without food? At a Taste of Edmonton, over 60 different restaurants from around Edmonton come out to offer two or three menu items for people to try. Taste of Edmonton works on a ticket basis, with each menu item costing between 2 and 4 tickets. Aside from just food, there’s also a beer and wine tasting at the Sip and Savour tent, as well as live music and vendors. I’m already looking forward to all the delicious food I’ll get to try at this year’s festival.
Heritage Days Festival
Canada is a multicultural nation, and Edmonton showcases this at The Heritage Festival on the first weekend in August. Over 85 cultures are represented at 60 different pavilions at William Hawrelak Park. Each offers a few dishes for people to try, and like Taste of Edmonton, Heritage Festival also works on a ticket basis. Each cultural pavilion often has handmade and authentic crafts, as well as cultural information. There are also different cultural performances happening during the festival like Hungarian dancing and Japanese drumming. Heritage Festival is free to attend, but everyone is encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for donation to The Edmonton Food Bank.
The Edmonton International Fringe Festival
Considering how much I love theatre it’s probably not too much of a surprise The Edmonton International Fringe Festival is my favourite festival. This is the second-largest fringe festival in the world, and it’s the biggest and oldest in North America. I’ve volunteered at The Fringe, and I’ve watched shows as a regular attendee. Aside from the shows, there are food trucks (get the green onion cakes), and street performers outside the Fringe Theatre at Old Strathcona. This year’s Fringe is from August 14 to 24. You never know what you might see at The Fringe, but you’ll have a good time.
There are a lot of festivals in Edmonton, many like Cariwest, The Edmonton International Jazz Festivals, Interstellar Rodeo (which is a music festival, not a rodeo), and The Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival that I haven’t attended yet, but I hope to do so soon.
It’s Nice Outside
One thing that is common with most summer festivals and events in Edmonton is the fact many take place outside, and for a good reason. In Edmonton, winter can seem never-ending. Snow has been known to start falling as early as August (rare, but it’s happened) and it might not be completely gone until late April or May. When the weather gets warm, and the sun comes out Edmontonians take full advantage of the beautiful weather.
Despite the cold winters in Edmonton summer can get hot, sometimes up to 35°C (95°F). It is essential to wear sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. Depending on the weather (mainly if it’s been a rainy spring) Edmonton may also be cursed with little bloodsuckers (a.k.a mosquitoes). Be sure to spray on some bug spray as well. Enjoying Edmonton outside can be done in a variety of ways.
Like being active? Go for a walk/run/bike or canoe along the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton’s river valley, which is the largest expanse of urban parkland in North America. If you want views of the river valley without all that hard work, then you could take a Segway tour.
Wanna just hang out with friends or family? Have a BBQ at a local park like Hawrelak Park. Or enjoy drinks outside? Whyte Avenue has some great outdoor and rooftop patios.
If you’re a foodie, then you can wander around and check out some of Edmonton’s local farmers’ markets. Fresh food and produce during the summer growing season is always the best.
Like history and learning? Do you have kids (or are you just a kid at heart)? Spend the day at Fort Edmonton Park, a large living history museum. They have actors portraying historical figures, and recreations as well as original buildings from the city dating back from 1846 to 1920. There’s also a working steam train you can ride, a theatre where you can see a show, and a bar that was once the longest bar in the world where you can grab a drink.
Sports fan? Cheer on the Edmonton Football Team (name pending change as of 2020) at a Canadian football game (like US football with a few differences) at Commonwealth Stadium. If you like soccer (a.k.a football outside of North America), then you can watch an FC Edmonton game at Clarke Stadium.
The Days Are Long
Being a city that far north means that Edmonton is blessed and cursed with long days in the summer (and short days in the winter). In the summer, the sun can rise as early as 5 am and might not set until 10 pm. This makes backyard BBQs, and drinks on the patio a fun way to spend a summer evening. If you need complete darkness to sleep, I recommend bringing an eye mask to help block out the sunlight.
Away from Edmonton
Edmonton is a great city to visit because there’s a lot to do here, and it’s close to some other excellent places to visit. Here are some day trips from Edmonton worth taking.
Elk Island Provincial Park is located about 50km east of Edmonton just off Highway 16. Elk Island has plenty of hiking trails, areas for a day picnic, and lots of opportunities to see wildlife such as buffalo and elk.
Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is located east of Edmonton by Elk Island Provincial Park. This is an open-air museum like Fort Edmonton Park) that shows what life was like for early Ukrainian settlers in western Canada. It’s only open seasonally from May to September.
Pigeon Lake is a provincial camp park located about 100km southeast of Edmonton where you can go camping If roughing it isn’t your style then you could stay and shop at The Village at Pigeon Lake instead.
Camrose is about 100km southeast of Edmonton and is a small city of about 18,000. The Main Street area has cute and historic shops, dining, as well as theatre. A few blocks from Main Street is Mirror Lake where you just might see a few swans.
You’re likely wanting to visit the Rocky Mountains, but if you aren’t then you should. Jasper National Park is located 350km west of Edmonton on Highway 16. Entering the Rocky Mountains you’ll be greeted with stunning mountain views, crystal blue lakes, and lots of wildlife. If you have the time drive the Icefield Parkway (Highway 93) south to Banff for one of the most scenic drives in Canada.
Calgary is the biggest city in Alberta and is located 300km south on Highway 2. While I’ve made plenty of day trips to Calgary, the city is large and busy enough to warrant spending a few days here. If you come in early July, you might be able to check out the world-famous Calgary Stampede.
Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump is a World Heritage Site about 475km southwest of Edmonton. Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump might be an odd name, but it shows the history and ingenuity of the Plains Native Americans who lived in the area and hunted the plains buffalo for their survival.
Drumheller is located 300km southeast of Edmonton in the Alberta badlands. Drumheller is home to some of the world’s best dinosaur fossils, many of which are on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Close to Drumheller is the ghost town of Wayne where you can stay and eat at a real wild west saloon. The landscape of this area of Alberta is otherworldly, and it’s always a pleasure to see. If you love theatre check out the nearby hamlet Rosebud, which has a professional theatre school and puts on productions throughout the year.
Things To Know
If you are planning to visit Edmonton this summer (or any time of year) and are looking for a hotel you can book one here.
What would you do on a visit to Edmonton in the summer?