Looking to explore more of Canada? There are plenty of things to do in Edmonton, Alberta's capital city, making it well-suited for family travel. Local mom of one, Judith Lam Tang of Juicy Green Mom, takes us on a tour of where to stay, eat, and play while visiting Edmonton as a family.
Family Friendly Things To Do In Edmonton
Tell us a bit about you, Judith. How long have you lived in Edmonton?
I was born and raised in Edmonton and lived here all my life (even though my sister and parents abandoned me to move to BC and Australia). I live here now with my husband and daughter.
Any interesting facts about Edmonton?
- Edmonton recycles, composts, or diverts over 50% of its waste.
- Edmonton has over 80 community gardens.
- In 5 years, Edmonton solar energy has grown 2740%.
Where to Stay in Edmonton
If you have a big budget, you can stay at the beautiful Fairmont Hotel MacDonald , where all the famous people stay, and people get married – it’s a beautiful historic building, and the view is amazing, located in downtown overlooking the river.
We’ve been there for a few weddings and the food is always amazing as well. My husband and I were fortunate enough to stay there once as an anniversary gift, and it really is a beautiful place to stay, with amazingly comfortable beds, and exceptional service. (This isn’t a joke, I looked at the pillows they had because I slept so well – and then ordered the same pillows online. Because they were that comfortable.)
Union Bank Inn is another luxury hotel that has a lower price point that the Fairmont. It’s also located downtown, and is also a historic building. I’ve heard really good reviews about it.
Matrix Hotel is also downtown, and it’s more of a modern, funky style hotel. It has a more reasonable price point, and I’ve heard good things about it as well.
If you want to stay in the Strathcona/Whyte Ave area (you’ll see that’s where a lot of good stuff is!), the Varscona Hotel on Whyte is a great option as well. Run by the same company as Matrix Hotel, this is one that profs traveling to the University of Alberta will stay in, as it’s close to campus.
Where to Eat in Edmonton
If you like Japanese food, Izakaya Tomo is one of my favourites. It is a Japanese restaurant and bar, and they have big wooden tables with benches that kids love to sit on too. No specific kids menu, but my daughter likes to munch on the different tapas we get. It’s a small place, but they have great service. Located on the south side of Edmonton.
Remedy Cafe is a bit of an Edmonton staple, being one of the best places for real chai, and a twist on Indian food. They are one of the most accommodating places for food allergies and sensitivities, lots of options for gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, etc. Just their station for sweeteners is a sight to behold (cane sugar, agave syrup, honey, coconut sugar, etc.). There are a few locations around the city, with 2 in the University area where all the hip and happening stuff goes on!
I’ve been to Juniper Cafe & Bistro a few times for brunch and it is SO delish. A newer hip place to eat, they choose organic and local ingredients as much as possible. (Insert happy sigh here.)
Under the High Wheel is a little restaurant in the Roots building on Whyte Ave (the hip and happening ave in the city) that serves comfort food with locally sourced ingredients. Yum!
Where to Shop in Edmonton
Whyte Ave is definitely the place to hit if you’re looking for unique, funky, hip stuff with some granola thrown in. My absolute favourite store is Lucid Lifestyle, which sells eco-conscious clothing for women (also right next door to a Remedy Cafe – perfect!!!).
On Whyte, you’ll also find our historic used bookstore, Wee Book Inn and a variety of stores with cool gifts, clothing, accessories, and lots of restaurants and cafes.
If you go to the Whyte Ave area on the weekend, the Old Strathcona Farmers Market is awesome to check out local food and artisans, and it’s fun for kids with balloon artists, face painting, and buskers. You can eat there too – we often go for brunch at the market where Toast Kitchen makes delicious local fare.
Another great shopping hub is the 124 Street (or High Street) area, which is home to cool local shops for fashion, art, food, and more. My favourite store there is Carbon Environmental Boutique which is really the best source for anything and everything eco-friendly, toxin-free, and healthy for your home. There’s also another Edmonton staple Carol’s Quality Sweets, which has lots of cool chocolates and candies you won’t find anywhere else, and a kids store Head Shoulders Knees and Toes which has a neat selection of clothing and toys.
If you want mall shopping, of course, we also have the huge West Edmonton Mall , that also has tons of attractions and things to do with kids (like Galaxyland, the amusement park, the World Waterpark, mini golf, bowling at Ed’s Rec Room, the Sea Caverns, etc.). WEM has everything from high-end fashion (think Tiffany, Michael Kors, Coach, Ugg, etc) to discount stores like Winners.
A smaller but really nice mall is Southgate Centre, which has been more recently renovated. I love Southgate because they care about the environment, use wind power, and have sorting stations in the food court to divert waste from landfills.
Tell us about some Edmonton attractions. Where should we take our families for fun?
We’ve already talked about West Edmonton Mall and Whyte Ave, they’re definitely neat places in Edmonton depending on your taste!
The Telus World of Science is our science centre and they have great exhibits for kids and adults alike, an IMAX theatre, and a star theatre as well. It’s always a fun time!
Fort Edmonton Park is the historic adventure attraction detailing Edmonton’s history. It’s fun to walk up and down the streets from the 18-1900s, take the train or street car, and the classic old style amusement park is always fun for kids.
The Edmonton Valley Zoo is fun to visit as well, with lots of things for kids to play on and interact with (zoo train, mini carousel, dinosaur “bones”, beaver dam, paddle boats, etc). Lucy the elephant has been a longtime resident of the zoo, along with many other animals like otters and red pandas!
The Art Gallery of Alberta is one of the most beautiful modern buildings of Edmonton – even just seeing the outside is pretty cool. It’s gorgeous inside as well, and they do have a kids gallery as well.
Where should we go in and around Edmonton for outdoor activities?
Hawrelak Park is probably one of the biggest parks in Edmonton, with lots of sites for barbecues, a little lake for paddle boating, and an outdoor amphitheatre that hosts a variety of shows during the summer. If you go in the winter, you can go skating on the pond. There are many, many other parks throughout Edmonton that are little havens of nature, including the Rainbow Valley campground area.
Edmonton’s river valley has lots of little gems for hikes as well. The City of Edmonton website actually has some great information on trails you can check out.
Jurassic Forest is just north of Edmonton in Gibbons, and it’s a really cool outdoor forest-like experience with animatronic dinosaurs all over! There’s also a huge dino-themed playground for the kids. I think my husband may have been even more excited about it than my daughter.
Prairie Gardens Adventure Farm is about an hour north of Edmonton in Bon Accord, and it is a super fun place to visit year-round. In the summer they have a U-pick farm, and year round there are loads of fun activities to do for the kids, including a big play area, petting zoo, puppet shows, and more. We go every fall during the pumpkin festival (pumpkin cannon and corn maze are big hits!)- such a treat!
What's the neatest thing about Edmonton?
It’s hard to nail down the most unique thing about Edmonton! It’s a place that embraces multiculturalism and is known as “festival city” in the summer time. There are always things to do and see – even having grown up here, there are lots of places I still want to see!