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Canada’s Summer of Sport city guides: Edmonton

Our special series of city guides continues with the ‘City of Champions,’ home to great food, shopping and North America’s largest urban green space.

04 February 2015
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In 2015, the sporting world will make its way en masse to Canada. Toronto hosts the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games and FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 action plays out at six cities across the nation.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg: F1 Grand Prix, Rogers Cup tennis, RBC Canadian Open golf, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and Canadian Football League will all get fans out of their seats while the sun shines.

To help visitors enjoy Canada’s Summer of Sport, we’re running a series of short and occasionally irreverent city guides for the seven host destinations of the World Cup and Pan Am and Parapan Am Games.

Up now: Edmonton, AB

Age: 123 years

Appearance : A river runs through it—Edmonton is defined by the meandering North Saskatchewan River, which bisects the city and vitalizes North America’s largest urban green space. You simply haven’t seen a sunset until you’ve seen one on the Prairies.

Edmonton in five words : Festivals, parkland, artists, shopping, [Wayne] Gretzky

Is it easy to get around? The city is structured on a simple numbered grid—avenues run east/west and streets run north/south—so it takes a real effort to get lost in E-Town. There’s no need to drive, because LRT mass transit zips quickly cross-town to Commonwealth Stadium.

What’s the city’s hidden gem? Eschewing a typically stuffy reputation, the Alberta Legislature Building—“The Leg”—invites summertime visitors to frolic in the cool-water fountains at the provincial government headquarters’ doorstep.

Where can you catch the sporting action live? Thanks to its open-air design and natural grass field, the 56,000-seat Commonwealth Stadium, home to 11 FIFA Women’s World Cup games (including the opener), is one of the best sports venues in Canada.

Are there fun bars and pubs to watch the games from, too? South Edmonton Common’s lively Local Public Eatery is popular with—no surprise—locals. Hudsons Canadian Tap House always has a game on at any of its four locations, but the loudest crowds prefer its pub on Whyte Avenue. Order a hometown Alley Kat beer at any of them.

Enough about sport—where are the hot spots to eat and drink in the city? Alberta means AAA beef and LUX Steakhouse + Bar serves steaks with gusto. For a modern twist, Woodwork connects hip diners to local ingredients via wood-fired cookery. The Marc Restaurant entices with famously friendly staff and contemporary French cuisine. The moustachioed waiters at North 53 weave a culinary tapestry by delivering uniquely Canadian dishes paired with Canuck wine. Night-owl diners should visit Mercer Tavernfor a plate of MFC (Mercer Fried Chicken) and local lager from Yellowhead Brewery—then stay late to watch the games on big-screen TVs.

Some visitors like to shop ‘til they drop—where should they go? It’s hard to stay humble when a city has West Edmonton Mall. Annually, about 31 million shoppers are lured in by the mall’s 800 shops, 100 restaurants and après delights ranging from a waterpark to a piano bar. Across town, Southgate Centre distinguishes itself via its collection of haute-couture stores, while South Edmonton Common offers 130 open-air hectares of retail giants. Edmonton is also big on small business—a stroll along Whyte Avenue or 124th Street connects you to dozens of boutique merchants.

What’s the nightlife like? Whyte Avenue is a mash-up of arts venues, neon-lit nightclubs, sports bars, Irish pubs, locally owned eateries and coffee houses. There’s no place like it, any night of the week.

Life isn’t just fun and games—where can visitors feed their minds? A reflective marvel of glass, steel and zinc inspired by the aurora borealis, the Art Gallery of Alberta’s architecture is as impressive as the 6,000-item collection within. The modern Winspear Centre, at Churchill Square, is an imposing home for both the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra as well as a three-storey pipe organ.

One of Canada’s attractions is its amazing nature—what are some nearby outdoor delights?“Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam…” Actually, they’re bison—and they wander with abandon at Elk Island National Park, located about 45 minutes east of E-Town. Hikers will delight in more than 80 km (50 mi) of marked trails. If camping’s your thing, there’s no need to come equipped as Elk Island rents fully stocked campsites. Just bring your own s’mores.

Make local friends in Edmonton: Toast to the “City of Champions”—and the five Stanley Cups (hockey) and 13 Grey Cups (Canadian football) that bestow Edmonton’s best-loved nickname.

Make local foes in Edmonton: Calgary Flames fans need not apply.

Looking for more visual inspiration from Edmonton and Alberta? Browse our Brand Canada Library for thousands of images and videos from all over Canada.

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