skip to Main Content
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
The Old Strathcona Farmer's Market

Edmonton Weekend Getaway – What You Can Do

For this Calgarian, Edmonton is not the first place I think of for a weekend getaway. But my misconceptions about the city were rocked over three days as I discovered a multitude of great restaurants, shopping, culture and things to do.

An Edmonton weekend getaway is ideal year round. There’s always something interesting to do, an art exhibit to see, an amazing restaurant meal to enjoy or a festival or special even to take in.

Updated April 2020. This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

The start of our Edmonton weekend getaway - sunrise over the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton
Sunrise over the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton

Edmonton weekend getaway – plan around a festival

Edmonton is home to over 30 annual festivals – so plan an Edmonton weekend getaway around a festival or event you’d like to attend. I had come for the Red Bull Crashed Ice Event – a downhill skating race.

Caught the Red Bull Crashed Ice event on our Edmonton weekend getaway
The Red Bull Crashed Ice event

More Edmonton events and festivals

Other events I’d personally return for include the Canadian Birkebeiner – the largest ski festival of its kind in North America held every February. In late August, I’d definitely make the trip to attend the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival (only the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is bigger).

And once the bike trails are open and the North Saskatchewan River is flowing, I know I’d enjoy an epic weekend of cycling the 150 kilometres of Edmonton River Valley trails and paddling the North Saskatchewan River.

Biking in Edmonton on singletrack beside the river
Biking in Edmonton along the river

Where to stay on a weekend getaway

Choose a hotel in the downtown core for your weekend visit. Many of the activities are accessible by foot – and certainly great restaurants are within walking distance.

I stayed at the Chateau Lacombe Hotel and thoroughly enjoyed the river valley views, especially at breakfast. The Fairmont Hotel MacDonald also boasts excellent views and the companionship of Smudge, the resident dog.

Looking south over the North Saskatchewan River on a spring like March day near Chateau Lacombe Hotel
Looking south over the North Saskatchewan River on a spring like March day near Chateau Lacombe Hotel

What to do in Edmonton 

If I were a shopper, I’d head to the West Edmonton Mall, not so much for the shopping but the chance to see what the biggest mall in the world – at least until 2004 – looks like. And if I got up the nerve, I’d even take a surf lesson…..yes, at the mall.

Although I’m not a fan of malls, I do love markets – and came away very impressed with the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market. I wish I could have taken armfuls of pussy willows home with me – as well as some of the mouthwatering food.

The Old Strathcona Farmer's Market
The Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market
You know spring is on the way when you see pussy willow for sale
You know spring is on the way when you see pussy willow for sale

One of the best shopping neighbourhoods in Canada

The Strathcona area is also a hotbed for shopping. It’s been called one of the five best shopping neighbourhoods in Canada. Full of locally owned shops and restaurants, it’s a fun place to poke around for a few hours.

Bamboo Ballroom with local and affordable brands
Bamboo Ballroom with local and affordable brands

Add in a visit to Elk Island National Park

Just a 35 minute drive from downtown Edmonton is Elk Island National Park. If you want to see bison, this is the place to come. But it’s also a year-round destination for outdoor lovers. Hike from spring through fall. In winter visit with your snowshoes or cross-country skis.

Read: 5 Fantastic Things to Do in Elk Island National Park 

You usually see bison in Elk Island National Park
You usually see bison in Elk Island National Park – no matter what the time of year
Enjoying a winter bonfire by Astotin Lake
Enjoying a winter bonfire by Astotin Lake in Elk Island
I saw at least 10 bison on my visit
I saw at least 10 bison on my visit

Explore the North Saskatchewan River Valley

Edmonton is also home to the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America. The North Saskatchewan River Valley is a fantastic place to explore on foot or by bike. In the city core, there are stairs that take you up and down from the valley. Be prepared for a workout.

You're treated to beautiful views walking the trails along the river
You’re treated to beautiful views walking the trails along the river
Get a workout on an Edmonton weekend getaway walking up from the North Saskatchewan River Valley
It’s a workout coming up from the North Saskatchewan River Valley

Check out the art gallery

The Art Gallery of Alberta, the oldest cultural institution in Alberta deserves a visit – even if you’re not that into art. Do take the time to admire the architecture – both inside and out.

Graceful, flowing lines give it sex appeal in my view. Inside, expect ever changing exhibits. I found them to be thought provoking – and in some cases hard to understand without insight from a docent.

Art that makes you think
Art that makes you think

Where to eat in Edmonton

I was in foodie heaven while in Edmonton. The food consistently exceeded my expectations and I don’t say that often. All of these restaurants are winners.

MEAT at 8216 104th Street is a locally owned smokehouse serving barbeque with four different homemade sauces.

On an Edmonton weekend getaway check out MEAT Restaurant on 104th Street
MEAT Restaurant on 104th Street
Choose your BBQ sauce at MEAT
Choose your BBQ sauce at MEAT

Woodwork, just a few blocks from my hotel at 10132 100th Street in the historic McLeod building has a great ambiance about it. The southern US inspired food from the swoon worthy meatball to the kale salad with an apple cider, Dijon mustard and olive oil dressing to my brisket with corn grits was memorable. I would visit Edmonton again just so I could eat here.

On an Edmonton weekend getaway dine out at Woodwork
A memorable kale salad from Woodwork
Who knew it was possible to swoon over a meatball?
Who knew it was possible to swoon over a meatball?

Tres Carnales Taqueria at 10119 100A Street gives off a great vibe. Offering both lunch and dinner in a casual Mexican themed setting, you also have a take-out option.

The Mexican food is authentic, fresh and delicious. They say that all the protein, except for the fish, is farmed within one hour of the restaurant. Tortillas and bread are made locally and salsas and guacamole are made from scratch. Prices are reasonable.

The inside of Tres Carnales Taqueria
The inside of Tres Carnales Taqueria

I’d also suggest the Little Brick Café and General Store, in the Riverdale Neighbourhood. Housed in the historic J.B. Little home, in what was once the centre of the Edmonton brickworks industry, it is now a great place for coffees, breakfast or a light lunch.

Delicious food at Little Brickhouse
Delicious food at Little Brickhouse

Hit the bakeshops

Good luck watching your calories on a visit to The Duchess Bakeshop, located at 10718 124th Street NW. With everything from designer and delicious looking sandwiches to macarons and pies, the only problem will be in deciding what to have.

The place can get crowded! Check out the adjacent store boasting a great selection of books on baking as well as make your own macaron kits.

On an Edmonton weekend getaway stop in at the Dutchess Bakeshop
The Dutchess Bakeshop is famous for their macarons
Lots of interesting food items at the Dutchess Bake Shop
Lots of interesting food items at the Dutchess Bake Shop

Our weekend getaway in Edmonton was not nearly enough. I’ve got next years Birkie in my sights already.

Further reading on things to do in Alberta

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

What to do on an Edmonton weekend getaway

A big thank you to Edmonton Tourism for hosting my visit. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 30 Comments

  1. As a former Edmontonian, I loved this post. If you thought the River Valley was great when you saw it last weekend, come back in the summer or fall … such as awesome place to be at those times!

  2. I’ve never been to Alberta but I think I’d love Edmonton, especially the Strathcona Farmers Market. I love visiting and taking pictures of local markets worldwide. Of all your photos here, I love the one with the 2 red chairs facing the frozen lake. So profound 😀

  3. Great post! You’ve shown that there’s more to Edmonton than the shopping mall! The food scene looks incredible and I really miss those pussywillows – we used to pick them by the side of the road when I lived in Winnipeg. They cost a fortune here in Toronto.

  4. Being from Calgary I too often forget what a great get away Edmonton can be. Thanks for all the suggestions of things to do next time we are there!

  5. Because of the way we travel, we have a tendency to stay right away from big cities. You make Edmonton sound very attractive, though. If we ever get back to Canada…

    1. @Yasha I’m not usually one for big cities either, but for me Edmonton is only three hours away and it’s got such a different vibe in comparison to Calgary. It’s definitely worth a visit especially if you like festivals.

  6. What a wonderful urban adventure. Can’t say I’d go in for a big festival – hate the crowds and often inflated visitor prices, but your stellar pictures make a visit during the warm part of the year look incredible.

  7. I’ve visited Edmonton in every season over the years, and concur that it’s a wonderful city with a cosmopolitan vibe.I did find the West Edmonton Mall, rather underwhelming, but I’m from Minneapolis where we have the “Sprawl of America” clone, so I’m sure I’m inappropriately jaded. The Strathcona neighborhood is fun and funky and the restaurant scene is vibrant. A most beautiful situation with the River Valley running directly through the city.

    1. @Betsy I’m not a mall person so I can’r even imagine how big the Minneapolis mall is – too much shopping in one place for me. Edmonton does have a beautiful location – the river adds so much beauty to the city.

  8. We haven’t been to Edmonton in ages, though we are also Calgarians. I would enjoy a weekend visit, checking out the Strathcona market, Art Gallery of Alberta, and then some treats from the Dutchess Bakeshop. Downhill skate racing must have been exciting!

    1. @Shelley Good to know you’re also from Calgary. Edmonton is so worth a weekend visit. Pick a festival and work a weekend around something you’d enjoy doing. The Birkie and the Fringe Festival sound very appealing to me.

  9. Edmonton is no where near the top of my must-visit places, but you’ve made it clear I can easily enjoy a weekend there. I’ll head first to The Dutchess Bakeshop for a sandwich and pie, and then next door for a make- your- own- macaron kit.

    1. @Carole A macaron kit would also make a great gift. I was very happy at seeing another side of Edmonton – and will be back to participate in some of the Edmonton only city events.

  10. I admit I’ve only heard of Edmonton before because of the mall. So glad to know there’s a wealth of activities and attractions here including Elk Island National Park and the Strathcona Market. These are probably the two places we’d end up at. Those macarons look so tempting and I’d love to eat at Meat. Love the presentation of those BBQ sauces.

    1. @Mary If I had someone with me I would try surfing at the West Edmonton Mall – as it’s a place of entertainment as well as shopping. I still think of the mouthwatering food and will return for the food alone.

  11. I’d love to go to Edmonton some day, our country is so vast, we really need to see more of it.

  12. I’d love to visit Edmonton after reading your post – so much to see and do there. I’d skip the mall and head to the North Saskatchewan River Valley for some waling and exploring. It looks so beautiful!

  13. I confess that I’ve only really heard of Edmonton in connection with their NHL hockey team. (They have one, right?) I’m a Canadaphile and you’ve provided another place for me to visit — although probably later in the year. In late March, my body is telling me to head south.

  14. I’ve heard really good things about Meat and Woodwork, but I haven’t been to either of those spots yet. Glad you were able to check out Duchess and Tres Carnales – they’re some of my favourites places in Edmonton.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close search
Cart

Pin It on Pinterest