Edmonton may be chilly in winter, but spring, fall, and especially summer -- with 18 hours of daylight -- are ideal for playing outside.
Most know Alberta's capital city as home to the world's largest shopping mall, but did you know it also has North America's biggest urban park? Edmonton has dozens of gorgeous green places to play, relax, and connect with nature. Here are five of the best.
1. Wilderness near the city at Elk Island National Park
It's just east of Edmonton, but Elk Island is wonderfully wild. Spot herds of plains bison, black bears, moose, elk, and a variety of birds at Canada's biggest fully enclosed park. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of shy lynx or gray wolves, too. Hike one of 11 varied trails or spend the day lounging on the beach under the big sky.
2. Get active at Edmonton River Valley
A river runs through it -- that's the winding North Saskatchewan, which originates from the Canadian Rockies' Columbia Icefield. And you could easily spend a week exploring Edmonton's River Valley, North America's biggest urban park at nearly 19,000 acres. Boat, jet ski, paddle, pan for gold, and fish for goldeye, lake sturgeon, and northern pike. Golf or picnic at 20 parks, or hike some 90 miles of trails.
3. Dance to folk music at Gallagher Park
Gallagher Park becomes a community of charming tents and booths in August during the hugely popular annual four-day Edmonton Folk Music Festival, with six stages, concerts, workshops, a beer garden, and craft fair. Fans from around the world celebrate, dance, and picnic in the natural amphitheater on the river valley's southern slopes (a ski hill in winter). Past headliners have included greats such as k.d. lang, Van Morrison, Loreena McKennitt, and The Head and the Heart. Killer views of the downtown skyline match the world-class performances.
4. Beautiful blooms and butterflies at Devonian Botanic Garden
If you're a fan of exotics, don't miss the University of Alberta's indoor-outdoor Devonian Botanic Garden, with 10,000 plant species on 240 acres. Just 15 minutes outside Edmonton in Devon, the showcase includes herbs, special collections of iris, lily, and peonies, a Native Peoples and Japanese garden, ecological and wetland reserve, plus nature trails spanning 110 acres.
5. Take a walk in the park at William Hawrelak Park
The huge lake with little islands and inviting grassy areas with lots of elbowroom make 168-acre William Hawrelak Park a favorite for everyone. Catch one of several major festivals here (heritage, Freewill Shakespeare Festival, Symphony Under the Sky) at the Heritage Amphitheatre, or just stroll or cycle, play beach volleyball, take out a paddleboat, read a book on a bench, or enjoy a leisurely picnic.
Edmonton is a modern city of nearly one million, so of course there's plenty to see and do: museums, sporting events, shopping, festivals, boat cruising, rodeos. But we recommend starting with these parks.