Edmonton Essentials: Alberta's Best-Kept Secret

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday August 28, 2019

Summers in Edmonton can last for 17 hours, but it's the autumn foliage from mid-September through early November that wows visitors with its vibrant shades of yellow, red and orange. With a metro population just over 1.3 million, it's home to more than 80 annual festivals, nearly a dozen farmer's markets, and the green onion cake, a local snack that may someday dethrone poutine.


Edmonton boasts 20 theater companies and even more collectives presenting works throughout the year. Founded in 1982, the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival draws an international crowd each August, as more than 1,600 artists take over the city for 11 days. But there's plenty to take in any time of year.

The Citadel Theatre has become a hub for incubating new works. Most recently, theater fans witnessed the development of "Hadestown" before it transferred to London, and eventually Broadway, where it won the Tony Award for Best Musical. "Six," a new musical that reimagines Henry VIII's wives as a 21st-century female pop group, returns to Edmonton, where it premiered at the Fringe Festival in 2017, for a limited run before it opens on Broadway in March 2020.

Other cultural attractions include the shimmering Art Gallery of Alberta. Designed by Randall Stout, the eye-catching building features a 623-foot steel ribbon, inspired by the North Saskatchewan River and Aurora Borealis. Inside, visitors will discover a collection rooted in contemporary Canadian abstract painting and sculpture. Upcoming exhibitions include

Taste of Edmonton celebrated its 35th anniversary this summer, with more than 40 participating restaurants offering the best culinary bites the city has to offer in Capital Plaza. But even if you're not in town for this epic event, Edmonton has plenty to satisfy every palate. Here are five spots worth checking out:

RGE RD - Owner-chef Blair Lesback utilizes locally sourced products from western Canada to create an ever-changing menu the celebrates the bounty of the seasons. The farm dictates the menu, so be open to the possibility of liver paté, "questionable bits" (utilizing whole-animal cooking), King oyster mushrooms, pork belly and more. For a full-on experience, book an on-site farm dinner.

Situation Brewing - Legislation changes have enabled a craft beer boom in Alberta, and there's no better spot to sample than Situation Brewing, where you can discover innovative creations like crisp cucumber ale, pink guava tea Saison and Declan's dry Irish stout. Sharable bites like Argentinian potato bomb and warm pretzel with smoky beer cheese make the beer all the better.

Biera - Chef Christine Sandford knocks it out of the park with an outside-the-box menu that elevates the brewery dining experience to an entirely new level. The Calmont ale or the Zestyzee, an unfiltered wheat beer, add complexity and clarity to Sandford's offerings. Start with housemade sourdough served with kefir butter and whipped lardo, followed up with Korean-style short ribs, lobster mushrooms and indulgent "sourdoughnuts" with whey curd.

Clementine - Inspired by French art nouveau, this intimate cocktail lounge roots its menu in the classics (stop by on a Tuesday for "Try Before You Die" when 25 of the world's greatest cocktails are offered for $9 each) but also offers beautifully balanced original creations such as the Harvest (Aquavit, buckwheat honey, herbs de Provence, bitters and lacto-fermented carrot) and the Simone (vodka, rhubarb, Manzanilla sherry, lemon and lavender).

Local Shopping
There are plenty of spots to load your suitcase with souvenirs and local goods, but if time is limited, head to Whyte Avenue and the Old Strathcona neighborhood. Pop into ANNMS Clothing for a curated selection of menswear, or The Quiltbag, an LGBTQ retail store with clothing, accessories and items for the transgender community such as chest binders and compression underwear. Vinyl collectors will love Blackbyrd Myoozik, the city's premier independent music store dating back to 1993.

For an insightful look into Edmonton's LGBTQ history, download the Edmonton Queer History App, which features interviews with community leaders and bookmarks for local landmarks.

Where to Stay
Metterra on Whyte Avenue offers a central location (especially if you're in town for the Fringe Festival) and a sleek, modern sensibility. Inspired by the elements, room types include Earth, Water, Fire and Air with corresponding color palettes.

The newly opened JW Marriott ICE District offers a splashy new option for travelers interested in easy access to the Citadel Theatre and convention center. The modern lobby features soaring ceilings and a view of Rogers Place Plaza, while guest rooms offer a cozy respite in neutral tones with accents in lush, deep blue and gold.

Want more ideas? Visit www.ExploreEdmonton.com.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.