On average Edmonton receives 2,299 hours of bright sunshine per year, so even when the temperatures fall the city still comes out to play.
Edmonton is affectionately known as Alberta’s winter city, a moniker it’s earned by embracing the season wholeheartedly. Instead of hibernating, get outside and make the most of the sunny days and fluffy snow. Here are 10 ways to enjoy winter in Edmonton. Remember, layers are the key to winter fun.
Get cozy on the patio
Yes, you read that correctly. Patios aren’t just for summer months, especially in Edmonton. Numerous restaurants throughout the city have made their patios warm and comfortable year-round. More are expected join the winter patio club, but for now you can safely socialize under a winter dome at Boxer in Old Strathcona, sip a cocktail outside at the Cask & Barrel downtown, have a coffee date at Little Brick or rest your legs next to a dazzling skating rink at Culina on the Lake in Hawrelak Park, just to name a few.
Play in the famous river valley
The North Saskatchewan River Valley is hard to miss. It’s the largest expanse of urban greenspace in North America, even outdoing Central Park in New York City – not to mention, a year-round activity hub. Segways are a fun and easy way to navigate the winding pathways in the winter or rent a fat bike and peddle through the extensive park system. If you’re up for an extra dose of outdoor fun, rent a pair of cross-country skis from River Valley Adventure Co. and have an adventure in the middle of the city.
Skate on the iceway
The Edmonton river valley is also home to the Victoria Park Iceway. But this isn’t your average skating rink. The iceway winds through tree-lined paths and is lit up in rainbow patterns at night, making it extra magical. If you’re in the mood for skating in the downtown core, try the neighbouring Alberta Legislature grounds or head to City Hall. You’ll be steps away from some of the city’s best spots for a post-skate bite or drink.
Shop like a local
Edmonton has a love for weekend farmers’ markets. The Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market is the longest-running and a city staple. It’s located in Old Strathcona, which is easily one of the most eclectic neighbourhoods in the city. Across the river, stop in at Downtown Farmers’ Market near the Arts District. Both markets are filled to the brim with fresh produce, tasty seasonal treats and unique gift options handmade by local artisans.
Visit candy cane lane
Candy Cane Lane is an Edmonton holiday legend, and you’ll see why. Homes from 92 to 99 Avenue along 148 Street in the Crestwood community bring the holiday cheer with over-the-top decorations and light displays. Plan for an evening stroll to take in the amazing lights, it is great opportunity to get festive with your family and witness the warm holiday spirit on display in the local community. Candy Cane Lane opens in December, and admission is free with a donation to the Edmonton Food Bank.
Hit the holiday light drive-throughs
If viewing lights from the comfort of your car is your thing, Edmonton has another more drive-through light displays running until early January 2021. Pick up some warm drinks and venture just south of the city to Nisku for the Canadian Tire Magic of the Lights at Castrol Raceway. The event features a 2.5-kilometre (1.5-mile) route decked out in more than one million twinkling lights – including a 61-metre (200-foot) light tunnel. Watch for some recognizable Christmas characters along the way, too. Advanced tickets are recommended.
Experience the magic of Luminaria
The University of Alberta Botanic Garden celebrates winter by starlight and candlelight with Luminaria. Find tranquility on the paths that wind through the Kurimoto Japanese Garden, catch a glimpse of woodland creatures and Snow Sprites and enjoy some delicious food and hot drinks as you stroll through. On select dates, gather around the fire to hear Indigenous stories – all from a safe distance, of course. This experience must be reserved in advance and includes admission to Luminaria, which runs every evening in December (except December 24 and 25).
Ski (or snowboard) in the city
Did you know the greater Edmonton area is home to three ski resorts? Snow Valley Ski Club is the perfect spot for beginners to gain confidence and hone their skills, with 20 acres of skiable terrain. Snow Valley is found on Rainbow Valley Road in South Edmonton, the resort offers plenty of easy runs and lessons for beginners, right up to a terrain park for more advanced skiers and boarders. Lift tickets may be pre-purchased online or in person, based on availability.
The Edmonton Ski Club has been a winter destination since 1911, with 25 skiable acres ranging from green to black diamond. Those who are feeling adventurous can hit the terrain park, and there’s snow tubing for those looking for a different way down the hill. The addition of a tube park and ice-climbing wall brings even more adventure to the centre of the city.
Rabbit Hill Snow Resort is Edmonton’s largest ski destination, logging 40 acres of skiable terrain. The resort has been operating in the scenic North Saskatchewan River Valley, just 15 minutes southwest of Edmonton, for more than 60 years. They do not require advanced booking for Full Day, 4 Hours or Less, or our Last 2 Hours Tickets.
Take a snowshoe tour
What makes exploring magical snow-covered trails even better? A pair of showshoes. The pastime – not to mention, a longstanding winter mode of transportation – is an easy way to enjoy the outdoors, and you don’t even need to leave the city to do it. Haskin Canoe offers snowshoe tours and rentals throughout Edmonton, which means a chance to explore more than 150 kilometres (93 miles) of trails that wind through the river valley.
If you’re looking for snowshoe destination that’s still close to the city, venture to Elk Island National Park. BYOS (bring your own snowshoes) or rent a pair from the Astotin Lake campground kiosk and get ready to explore. Keep an eye out for bison and other wildlife while you take in the serene winter scenery. Elk Island is also a dark sky preserve, which means there’s no light pollution and you can spot all kinds of starry sights. Sign up for a snowshoe and stargaze tour and get to know the night skies with the help of expert guides.
Celebrate at a winter festival
Edmonton is also known as Festival City, and for good reason. The Boardwalk Ice on Whyte Festival is an annual winter staple and takes place in late January. As the festival says, “the real fun starts when the temperature drops below zero.” They may be right, as Whyte Avenue plays host to some of the best ice carvers around, coupled with carving lessons, winter activities and delicious food.
January is also time for the Flying Canoë Volant festival, a reminder of how special winter can be. The festival is built upon a Canadian legend and celebrates the country’s bilingual heritage and Indigenous people.
The Silver Skate Festival is one of the longest-running winter traditions, with offerings such as snow sculpting, roving performers, & horse drawn sleigh rides. The family-friendly festival is set in Edmonton’s scenic river valley and showcases the best of winter sport, arts and culture.