Alberta’s capital is a beautiful, river-side city with plenty to do for people of all ages. Here is a 3 day itinerary, if you are visiting Edmonton with kids.
It is known worldwide for West Edmonton Mall, but offers many entertainment options beyond the mall. If you plan to spend a few days in Edmonton, it’s worth investing in the Edmonton Attractions Pass. This pass allows you to choose 4 attractions, or to do it all by the end of the year if you’re a repeat Edmonton visitor. The list offers something for everyone – the history buff that wants to hit every museum, the daredevil that needs to try out the Snow Valley Aerial Park, the animal lover that wants to meet Lucy the Elephant at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, the dinosaur fanatic that needs to walk with life-size dinosaurs at Jurassic Forest. If you happen to time your visit for K-Days, it even works as admission to the fair! Any of these days can be done independently depending on your interests.
Day One in Edmonton
Telus World of Science
For a day that can only be had in Edmonton, head to the Telus World of Science first. The main exhibit changes annually, and the standing exhibits offer tons to do for kids (and their grown-ups) of all ages. There are live demonstrations on the hour to take in with a regular admission, and many of the exhibits are hands-on. The Body Fantastic explores the amazing (and sometimes just a little disgusting) human body, while the Science Garage lets you play with light, sound, energy, and gravity – if you can pull yourself away from the mesmerizing Electric Balls Circus audio kinetic sculpture. Don’t miss the new early childhood development gallery CuiouscCITY upstairs – it’s an amazing space to allow kids space to play, build, climb, and generally run off some steam. If all that isn’t enough, there is also an IMAX theatre and the Zeidler Dome laser shows. Basic admission can be bundled into your Edmonton Attractions pass, but the IMAX and musical laser shows require a ticket upgrade. Educational laser shows are included in the base ticket. Plan to spend three hours here, plus time for any movies or the lasers. It gets busy in the afternoon, so if you can visit in the morning (opens at 9 a.m. daily) get there early.
Northern Chicken: Northern Chicken has a cult following in Edmonton and beyond. The restaurant serves “down south comfort food”, local craft beer, small batch soda pop, and some great homemade pie for dessert (if you manage to save room). The fried chicken with mustard sauce, and the dorito-topped macaroni and cheese are always a safe bet.
Royal Alberta Museum
The Royal Alberta Museum is the largest museum in western Canada. The RAM explores the heritage of Alberta’s people and natural environment, featuring natural and human history halls showing the history of Alberta’s people, animals, and landscapes, an expanded Bug Gallery with visible hatchery, and a Children’s Gallery specifically designed for hands-on learning through play. Everyone will find an exhibit that they think is especially interesting, whether your personal “thing” is bugs, rocks, dinosaurs, the history of settling the West, or stories of the original inhabitants of the plains. Again, once the attention spans for looking have waned, there is fun to be had in the Children’s Gallery. This space features several different themes, from dinosaur plan to vintage classic toys. The Big Machine (a system of pipes, pulleys and conveyor belts that let kids move plastic pellets from one area to another) and the Responsive Sand Table (that projects an elevation map onto the sandy creations as you make them) will also fascinate the adults in the group. The RAM will leave you feeling like you’ve seen Alberta from every angle and era.
When you get hungry, find a great local place to eat again! There are loads to choose from, but for the best family dining, Edmontonians recommend OTTO for sausages, Turquaz Kebab House for Turkish and Lebanese cuisine, or Soda Jerks for burgers.
Day Two in Edmonton
Snow Valley Aerial Park
A new attraction in Edmonton, the Snow Valley Aerial Park is a tower playground for all ages. It is very safe – you are always attached to the safety line by your CLiC-iT belay system – but it will test your nerve and your balance as you move across the themed elements to move around the park. Challenges are rated like a ski hill (green, blue, black) to help you decide which way to go. There is a kid’s area near the ground for anyone between 100 and 140 cm (or anyone that doesn’t want to get too far up). This area still uses the belay for safety, but is sized for shorter participants. This aerial park is one of a kind in Canada, and is only the third in North America. Make sure to book your spots ahead by phone or online, and arrive early to go through the check-in and orientation process. Most people will play for 2-3 hours – there is a lot to try! The suspended camper, bicycle, and snowboard balance bridge are all favorites. The official website does not do it justice, so take a peek at this video if you think you’re brave enough to go for a climb.
Edmonton Valley Zoo
The Edmonton Valley Zoo is, as you may expect, in the river valley. It is home to over 350 animals, including Lucy the Elephant who you may spot out on a walk with her caregivers. The zoo is striving towards using natural barriers rather than bars, so you will have an unobstructed view of the lemurs, the red panda (who is likely sleeping as high in a tree as possible), and the zebra. Interpretive programs take place throughout the day. The otters, located right beside the entrance, eat three times a day so your odds of watching them catch a meal are high. The Arctic Shores exhibit is home to harbour seals, northern fur seals, and Arctic ground squirrels, and is one of the newest additions to the Edmonton Valley Zoo.
If you’re a member of your local zoo, check if it’s a member of CAZA. Edmonton has reciprocal agreements with many other zoos, so your visit could be free! Plan for 2-3 hours to see the entire zoo.
Edmonton has tons of options if you enjoy escape rooms, but the top recommendation is consistently GTFO. They have five different rooms that work well for everyone from a first timer or family with children (The Heist) to a large competitive group (Europa Colony 4386). The entrance and lounge features free bottled water and cookies, and a large assortment of board games to play while you wait. If you’re near Whyte Ave and prefer to stay there, there are several places to choose from: EXIT Edmonton, InTrap Escape Room, and Confined Escape Rooms. If you’re after an experience designed with the kids in mind, Captive Kids Family Escape Rooms caters specifically to younger audiences.
Day Three in Edmonton
You have probably heard of West Edmonton Mall. It’s got a little of everything: theme park, water park, ice rink, aquarium, and shopping that goes on for miles. Plan on a full day in the mall if you’re in the mood for either of the major attractions – the World Waterpark or Galaxyland. Both parks are fully indoors, guaranteeing perfect weather for you no matter what is happening outside. Marine Life provides a nice break from the noise, and lets you see more than 100 species of fish, sharks, sea turtles, penguins, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. Take in the sea lion show included in the price of admission, which happens daily at 2 and 4 p.m. If you enjoy ice skating – or have always wanted to try it – give the Mayfield Toyota Ice Palace a visit. Skates and helmets are available to rent. West Edmonton Mall has over 50 fast food options and 25 pubs and restaurants, so no matter where you end up hungry, you’ll be near something that sounds good. There are also over 800 stores to choose from, if you enjoy shopping when you go to the mall. The kids will be especially interested in the Nintendo kiosk near Marine Life, where they can play some newly released games for free. If you want to try it all, consider a stay at the Fantasyland Hotel on-site. It features several unique theme rooms where you can spend your stay in space, the old West, in an igloo, or in a princess castle.
What kind of shopping appeals to you? Home to the massive West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton can supply any experience and item you’re after. If you drove to Edmonton, a trip to IKEA can be paired with the kids visiting Chuck E. Cheese (an hour pass is a better value than purchasing points). If you’re after some deals from the outlet mall, you’ll want to head to Premium Outlet Collection near the airport. And if you can’t understand why anyone would want to do either, then you belong on Whyte Ave. Whyte Avenue is the original independent shopping street in Edmonton, and is known for being the place to find anything: clothing, shoes, home decor, books, stationary, all between some of the best restaurants and pubs in town. Whyte Ave is an excellent place to walk around and take in whatever catches your eye. It’s also only a few blocks to the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market – if it happens to be a Saturday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is Edmonton’s biggest indoor year-round farmer’s market, and it hosts over 130 vendors selling fresh local food and handmade arts and crafts. Keep an eye out for the shirtless guy on rollerblades playing his guitar.
Edmonton is served by the ETS, and can be navigated by train and bus. Google Maps is the easiest way to find your transit route. Children under 12 ride for free. It is generally easier to go by car, or a taxi/Uber. Most attractions will have plentiful parking.
Where to Stay
The usual chains are in Edmonton, so you can always find your favorite standard hotel if you’ve got one. If you’re after something more local:
Fantasyland Hotel : It’s on the pricey side, but it will be an unforgettable family experience. Also a good choice in winter, if you’d like to move into the mall and never go outside.
Air BnB: Air BnB is well established in Edmonton and a great way to get a suite with several bedrooms and a functional kitchen. If you have need of 4 bedrooms, The Other One Off Whyte is a great deal.
Crash Hotel: One of a kind, Crash is right across from the downtown arena. It’s going to be loud on the weekends. Still, if you want to find a place with bunk beds and a good price, this is it.
Edmonton is a destination with something for everyone. If you’d like some more ideas, check out this alternative itinerary and make the trip that’s just right for you.
By: Anna Cole
Anna Cole is a mom of two (ages 6 and 8) from Saskatoon, SK. She works as a municipal engineer and enjoys city cycling, craft beer, and escape rooms.