Freezing temperatures, icy snow piles, and blustery days? Perfect. It’s the time of year when Edmonton freezes into a city wide winter playground. All you need is a toasty pair of snow pants and you’ll be all ready to play. What are you waiting for? Summer is coming…too soon!
I. Outdoor Activities and Places to Explore During Winter in and around Edmonton
1. Mill Creek Ravine
9562 82 Ave NW
Warm up with a hot chocolate at the Millcreek Café, then crisscross the frozen creek on one of many footbridges or old trestle style train bridges. A natural winter playground in the heart of the city, perfect for walking, cross country skiing, birdwatching, or winter picnics.
2. Strathcona Science Provincial Park
South of Yellowhead, West of Anthony Henday
Once the site of an annual Indigenous gathering, this beautiful area is now a protected Provincial Park. Snow covered fields and hills are perfect for tobogganing, with many hiking, snowshoeing and geocaching trails. Birdwatch, or walk across the river on the pedestrian bridge to Rundle Park.
3. John Janzen Nature Center
7000 143 Street
Bundle up and head into the snow for snowshoeing and skiing, or an educational nature drop in program in the river valley. When it gets too chilly, you can take the whole family inside the facility to enjoy the indoor playground, host a party or event, or try a drop in class.
4. Waskahegan Trail
Various locations in and around Edmonton
The Waskahegan trail is 309 kilometers of trail spread out over private and public land in and around Edmonton. You’ll have to leave your dog at home though, because this trail is for adventurous hikers with boots, skies and snowshoes only. If you are an outdoorsy person and like a challenge, this might be your next winter adventure!
5. River Valley
North Saskatchewan River Valley
Edmonton’s spectacular river valley is the longest continuous urban parkland in Canada. Stretching 48 kilometers long, with over 20 major parks and countless trails, ravines, parks and hills, this 18,000 acre winter wonderland is just waiting to be explored.
6. Cooking Lake
Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area
Bring your skate skis and cross country skis, and enjoy over 85 kilometres of scenic track set trails through the wilderness. Skate on the rink, or bring your snowmobile or dogsled, this expansive multiuse park has room for everything.
7. Sleigh Rides
530048 Range Road 183
There’s no easier way to travel over snowy fields than with a sleigh ride. Cozy up with a blanket (or a pile of hay!) as your team of horses and driver pulls you effortlessly over snow covered hills and through tree lined trails.
8. Elk Island
54401 Range Rd 203, Fort Saskatchewan
Hike, ski or snowshoe at Elk Island National park, located just outside of Edmonton. Bring binoculars and spot hundreds of species of birds, or watch bison grazing in the snow. Try winter kiteboarding, or have a winter picnic around a crackling fire.
9. Strathcona Wilderness Center
52535 Range Road 212
Take a deep breath of cool, crisp winter air. Cross country skiing, winter hiking and snowshoeing in a beautiful natural area, just outside of the city. Bring your own equipment or rent it here, along with day passes and seasonal passes.
10. Edmonton Funicular
10065 100 Street NW
Ride into the river valley in Edmonton’s Funicular. The wheelchair and stroller accessible cable railway will take you from the Hotel MacDonald, down the hill to a jutting look out point near Low level bridge.
11. Red Willow Trail System
Over 85 kilometers of trails stretch through the Red Willow Trail System and are connected to many parks and lakes, such as the Lois Hole Provincial Park. Leave the skyscrapers behind you while you enjoy winter hiking, picnics, snowshoeing or skiing just a short drive out of Edmonton.
12. Stony Plain Trails
25 Kilometers of hiking, skiing and snowshoeing trails await you, connecting various parks, ponds, and year round recreation facilities. Bring your skates and glide across the frozen pond in Rotary Park, or visit for one of their special events. Dress for the weather and bring the whole family on New Year’s Eve to enjoy hot chocolate, hot dogs, bonfires, and fireworks at Family Fest!
13. Aurora Borealis
Winter is one of the best times in Edmonton to watch the sky for geomagnetic activity. Wake up early or stay up late for fiery red, pink and orange winter sunrises, or stay up late to maybe catch a glimpse of glowing green Aurora Borealis.
14. Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve
North of Highway 16, Elk Island National Park
Reconnect with the natural world in this 300 square kilometer dark sky preserve. Stargaze under a crisp winter night sky around a crackling campfire. Or plan your visit to maybe catch a glimpse of stunning green Aurora Borealis!
15. Winter Horseback Ride
53312 RR 272 Spruce Grove
There’s nothing like spending a sunny winter day outside, riding a horse through back country trails. Choice an equine companion and head for the trails in a saddle. Ride your horse through snow covered fields or walk beside your children as they try to stay astride. Warm up with a burger, fries, and choice of beverages after.
16. Village at Pigeon Lake
Pack your winter gear and hit the road for a day trip to Pigeon Lake. Skate, ski, ice fish, dogsled, and snowshoe. When you’re tired of playing outside in the cold, warm up with some shopping, or dinner at the Chef N Pigeon Lake Restaurant or the Eco Cafe.
17. Old Strathcona
Whyte Avenue, Edmonton
Glowing blue LED lights are wrapped around the trees all along Whyte Avenue, creating a magical frosty ambiance. Walk, talk, and sip hot chocolate as you window shop in the falling snow. Warm up at Da Capo Café or have on of Remedy cafes famous hot Chai tea lattes.
18. River Valley Adventure Co
9735 Grierson Hill NW and 11160 River Road
Chances are, you’ve never been on a Segway before! It’s a bit like a scooter, but with two wheels and a lot of fun. Try something new and race along the river valley paths with this brand new toy. This adventurous activity center is located right behind the Shaw conference center, so it’s easy to get to and close to everything.
19. Ice Castles
William Hawrelak Park, 9330 Groat Rd
Entirely handcrafted out of water and icicles, the giant Ice Castle is an entire acre of crystal ice caves, frozen waterfalls, and snowy paths. At night, the Ice Castle is illuminated with pink, white, blue and yellow lights.
20. Winter Camping @ Miquelon Lake Campground
Full service winter camping with showers, washrooms, electricity, tenting and RV spots. Pack your snowshoes and bundle up for a walk around Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, then warm up by roasting sausages over a crackling bonfire.
Best Toboggan Hills of Edmonton
1. Gallagher Park
You’ve likely heard of Folk Fest, Edmonton’s annual sell out music festival in the heart of the city. In the winter, the huge hill turns into the best toboggan spot around. Stop at the top to take in the exhilarating view of downtown Edmonton before you and your date soar down the hill. @ 9505 96 Ave
2. Highlands Park
Highlands is a smaller park and toboggan hill, best suited for families with young children. After tobogganing, skating, or playing on the playground, stroll to nearby 112 Ave. Warm up with hot chocolate and cookies at Mandolin Books and coffee shop, or have dinner at Bodega by Sabor restaurant. Browse unique toys and gifts at Be-a-Bella, the old fashioned candy and toy shop. @ 6112 113 Ave NW
3. Rundle Park
Rundle Park is an outdoor oasis conveniently located in the river valley with a huge playground, washroom facilities, indoor change areas and spaces to gather. Frozen ponds become skating rinks and there is an outdoor playground and two toboggan hills, Walton’s Mountain and Act Hill. @ 2909 113 Ave NW
4. Emily Murphy Park
Perfect tobogganing with a river valley view. Close to Hawrelak Park and the Royal Mayfair golf club, with sloping hills, picnic tables, and washroom facilities. @ 11904 Emily Murphy Park Road
5. Strathearn Park
Every September, thousands gather in this expansive green space for the Strathearn Art Walk. This winter, enjoy the stunning view of downtown while you slide on the toboggan hill, perfect for all ages. Afterwards, walk a few blocks to the licensed, family friendly Juniper Café and Bistro for post sledding treats. @ 9300 87 Street
6. Whitemud Park North
Enjoy a winter hike through the trails and over the frozen creeks in Whitemud Ravine, or stick to the park and spend a day sledding down the hill. Washrooms and picnic tables make this park a great place to hang out on a not so chilly winter day. @ 13204 Fox Drive NW
7. Castle Downs Park
Wear your mittens so that you can climb everywhere on the huge playground, or strap on your skates for a turn or two around the outdoor rink. Host a winter event in one of the Pavilions multipurpose rooms, or spend the day sliding down the hill. @ 11520 – 153 Ave
Top Outdoor Skating Trails
1. City Hall
All you need to do is show up, and enjoy the provided hot chocolate, skates and Marshmallows. Every Sunday in January and February, the rink in front of City Hall will turn into a Sugar Swing n’ Skate event, with dancing demos by the Sugar Swing Ballroom, live music, and skating! Who says you can’t dance and skate at the same time? @ 1 Sir Winston Churchill Square
2. Legislature grounds
In the winter, the lower field is turned into a sheet of solid ice. Skate past trees adorned with red, green and blue lights, and then head up to the grand staircase (formally named the Legislature Rotunda) for free daily choir performances and music. @ 10800 97 Ave NW
4. Hawrelak Park
The frozen five hectare lake becomes a skating oasis in winter, surrounded by snowy fields, with glimpses of city buildings above the treeline. Bring your skates, or rent them here. On site washrooms, a playground, warming areas, snowshoeing, hiking and skiing trails, and fire pits are available. @ 9330 Groat Road
5. Jackie Parker Park
Skate on the lake and warm up in the pavilion. Bring a winter park picnic and enjoy use of the playground, washrooms and an off leash dog area. @ 4540 50 St NW
6. Beaumaris Lake
If your idea of skating is heading to a frozen pond, pay a visit to this frozen storm water lake. Snowshoe, hike, or skate around the 14 hectare lake. @ 11010 153 Ave NW
7. Kennilworth Community League Family Ice Trail
Skate around the 400 meter frozen ice track, or skate to the music on the recreational ice rink, decorated with lights. @ 7104 87 Ave
8. King Edward Park
Throw your skates over your shoulder and bring them for a walk along Whyte Avenue. Have breakfast at the Saturday morning farmers market in Old Strathcona, and then enjoy a weekend skate at the Community league rink, which is sandwiched between the King Edward Elementary school playground, and the splash park. @ 7708 85 Street
9. Victoria Park IceWay Skating Trail
Skate along river valley trails. At night, the paths are illuminated by a series of laser cut wooden and LED lanterns, created by local artist Dylan Cooper. Beautiful reds, greens, and glowing geometrical patterns are reflected on the ice while you skate. @ 11004 – 12004 River Valley Rd NW
10. Rundle Park IceWay
This year enjoy Rundle Park IceWay, a forested trail just under two kilometres, that features a shinny hockey pond, large skating surface and a smaller family rink located next to a picnic shelter and fire pits. There are two warming huts, and the Rundle Family Centre Warming Pavilion with washrooms and water fountains. @ 2909 113 Ave NW. Skating hours: dawn to dusk
Snowshoeing & Cross Country Ski
1. Hermitage Park
Snowshoe through natural trails along the water, or let your canine companion run ahead of you in the off leash dog area. Fishing, winter hiking, cross country skiing and portable washrooms. @ 2115 Hermitage Rd NW
2. Gold Bar Park
Nothing beats walking on a cloud, especially if you’ve got a backpack full of great snacks and a friend with you. Strap on a pair of snowshoes for a breath catching winter hike on top of the snow. @ 10955 50 St NW
3. Victoria Park
Strap on your skis and glide over snow at Victoria Park, or skate the Iceway. Lockers, washrooms, and a changing and warm up area make this a great central spot to spend the day. @ 12030 River Valley Road
4. Edmonton Nordic Ski Club
Get to where you are going the fun way, on a pair of cross country skis. Edmonton’s continuous river valley park system is a skiers dream. Sign up for a lesson, or hit the trails like a pro! @ 10980 17 Street
Ski, and snowboarding Areas
1. Edmonton Ski Hill
2. Snow Valley
Race down the hill on a snowboard or pair of skis. Or if you aren’t ready to race, take a few lessons first. Skiing, snowboarding, and winter sports…but right in the heart of the city. @ @ 13204 Rainbow Valley Rd NW
3. Rabbit Hill
Try your best tricks at the terrain park! Rabbit Hill is Capital regions’s biggest ski area, with over 40 acres of hills and trails, just outside of the city. @ 25512 Township Rd 510A, Leduc
4. Sunridge Ski Area
Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced, you’ll find a spot to suit your skills in one of the three terrain parks. Take the chairlift up, and try snow tubing down the hill. @ 10980 17 St
Winter Patio Season
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1. Café Bicyclette
Café Bicyclette is located in the French Quarter of Edmonton. Come celebrate la joie de vivre with a hot mug of apple cider or a croissant at this licenced café. The outdoor patio is well equipped with heat lamps to keep you toasty on a cold winter’s day. @ 8627 Gaboury St NW
2. Wild Earth Café
With all those winter layers on, you probably just want to enjoy the morning outside. Take your sunrise breakfast sandwich, double espresso and red velvet chocolate covered cake ball with you. Patio season in Edmonton isn’t complete without a few snowflakes. @ 8902 99 St
3. Little Brick Café and General Store
A first glance, you might miss it…this beautifully restored brick historical house blends seamlessly into its Riverdale neighbourhood. Try a cup of quality roasted coffee, and French toast topped with lemon whipped cream, or cozy up with a handcrafted latte around the fire pit outside. @ 10004 90 St NW
II. Outdoor Festivals and Fun Events
1. Christmas & New Year
2. Winter Wagon Rides
Who can resist wagon rides and winter lights in the beauty of the Edmonton river valley? Gather friends, family, and your special someone for Winter Wagon Nights. You and your guests will enjoy a mesmerizing trip through Fort Edmonton Park’s 1920s Street in a cozy horse-drawn wagon. Make lasting memories as you enjoy hot chocolate, shimmering lights, and beautiful sights.
3. Free Admission at Elk Island National Park
Make the short drive east of Edmonton and discover all the winter activities to enjoy at Elk Island National Park. Come at dawn or dusk for the best chance to view wildlife, spend the afternoon skating or snowshoeing across a frozen Astotin Lake, or cuddle up around the campfire and catch an early sunset.
4. Snowshoe & Stargaze
Get to Astotin Lake, Elk Island National Park for a short guided hike on snowshoes, enjoy snacks around a fire and learn about the night sky above.
5. Full Moon Birkie Series
Cross country ski under the light of the full moon! Enjoy 2 to 12 km ski tour on track-set trails, demos, and more at Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area.
6. World Snow Day
Visit Snow Valley for World Snow day and enjoy just for fun races and obstacle courses.
7. Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival
Bundle up and get ready to celebrate winter at the Deep Freeze festival. Movies, roaming hula hoopers, fire dancers, plays, puppet shows, art installations, family friendly beer gardens, food vendors, Ice and Snow kingdom, and Cree dances.
8. Ice on Whyte
Marvel at the intricate ice sculptures created by local and travelling artists in this international ice carving competition. If you feel like learning something new, head to the inflatable igloo and try carving some ice yourself. Dance to live music, mingle with storytellers, sip steaming hot chocolate or have a hot toddy at the Ice Bar.
9. South West Ski Fest
If you’ve never tried snowshoeing or cross country skiing, this is your opportunity! There will be skis and snowshoes for you to try (or bring your own if you’re already an aficionado) hot cocoa, chili, and bonfires!
10. Polar Bear Plunge
Have you ever wanted to throw yourself into an icy cold winter lake on purpose, just to say you did? Take the plunge and take part in this unique fundraiser to benefit the Special Olympics.
11. Winter Fest in Castle Downs
Wear your mittens and snow pants, because you’ll want to play! Sleigh rides, hot chocolate, pallet races, music, sledding, and fun for all ages.
12. Silver Skate Festival
Lace up a pair of skates (If you don’t own skates, you can rent them) and glide effortlessly around the frozen lake, or laugh as you fall down. Stroll through “Lovers Lane” and cozy up in front of a crackling fire to try a piece of crispy bannock. Enjoy a horse drawn sleigh ride, warm up with live music, or take a break to enjoy a live theater show.
13. Winter Bike to work day
Spend the rest of your winter bragging to your office about the time you…biked to work. Through a snowstorm. Up a hill. After a free pancake breakfast and hot chocolate. Sign up online and help your city come out on top (or at least beat Calgary) in this friendly competition.
14. Flying Canoe Volant
Embrace winter at this festive event celebrating French Canadian and indigenous traditions. Explore the walking trails, which are illuminated with stunning light installations, fiddle music, dance floors, igloos, and bonfires, warming stations, families and revelers.
15. Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival
Imagine clear snow covered plains, trails, and a few thousand skiers. Cheer from the sidelines with a hot coffee, or strap on some skies, there are events for everyone from beginner to expert. On Feb 8 to 10 @ Blackfoot
16. Capital Classic Pond Hockey Tournament
Come feel like a kid again! Food and drinks for purchase, fires, music, and more! Old fashioned 3-on-3 pond hockey tournament played in the great outdoors. @ Lake Summerside 1720 88 St. SW, Edmonton
17. Family day at the legislature
Head to the lower field for ice skating, snowball fights or pack a winter picnic. If you need to warm up, there are a variety of all ages activities located in the Pedway from the visitor center.
18. Hypothermic Half Marathon
Run away from the cold in a half marathon, or bundle up and cheer from the sidelines along Ada Boulevard. Register in advance for 5k, 10k, half marathon runs, or brunch!
19. Coldest Night of the Year
Bundle up for this super fun outdoor fundraiser. A family friendly event geared towards raising money for the city’s homeless and most vulnerable residents.
20. Canadian River Valley Revenge
With single-track technical sections, cliff-hugging climbs, and views that make you forget you’re in civilization, this bi-annual ultra race series has something for everyone. You get what you train for. Have you got what it takes?
21. Front Yards in Bloom Winterscapes
Who doesn’t love a good snow fort? Or snowman, fairy house, snow carving, or winter garden? Join this friendly city wide completion and turn your front yard into a work of art. Last year’s weekly prizes included free passes to the Ice on Whyte festival and Ice Castles at Hawrelak Park.
22. Carnavale des Sucres (Maple Sugar Carnival)
Fill up with flakey Tourtiere, maple taffy and sugar pie, then dance it all away to French Canadian music. The annual Maple Sugar Carnival has games, music, crafts, and food in a beautiful heritage park!