Edmonton Tourism

Scenic Settings

Edmonton, Your Gateway to Scenic Settings

Edmonton, Alberta – Park yourself in Edmonton for your next vacation and find yourself in Canada’s greenest city.

Green in this case refers to green spaces even though Edmonton gets top marks for being an environmentally friendly city: it started its curbside recycling program in 1988 and it can boast that it’s home to North America’s largest composting facility.

But with more greenery in its boundaries than any other city in Canada, it’s no surprise to find out that Edmonton maintains 4,600 hectares (11,367 acres) of grass and is home to more than 460 parks. It’s not just the grass alone though that makes Edmonton a scenic setting for visitors who adore the great outdoors. The city’s River Valley – arguably its crème de la crème of tourism gems – is the largest expanse of urban parkland in North America, weighing in at 21.7 times larger than New York City's Central Park. Although residents and tourists enjoy year-round River Valley access to more than 22 major parks and 150 kilometres (93 miles) of maintained trails for walking, jogging, bike riding, picnicking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, this is just the tip of Edmonton’s bond with nature.

For close and friendly encounters of the natural kind, consider adding the John Janzen Nature Centre and the Valley Zoo to your outdoor agenda. Although found in different parts of the city’s stunningly picturesque River Valley, the Janzen Nature Centre offers interactive exhibits and self guided interpretive nature trails as it seeks to raise an awareness of nature in an urban context. The Valley Zoo, with its own unique charm, has a rich history dating back to 1959 and is home to more than 100 exotic and native species – it’s a sure bet to be a hit with the younger set.

Floral beauty, meanwhile, comes to life in two dramatic settings.

Imagine the world famous pyramids but picture them made of glass instead. Inside, the wonders of the plant world will refresh and stimulate your senses. From a jungle setting to a desert oasis, Edmonton’s pyramids – otherwise known as the Muttart Conservatory – bring these beauties to life all year-round.

Just outside and west of Edmonton, the Devonian Botanic Garden – part of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Home Economics – is not only Canada’s most northerly botanic garden, it is a setting for 80 acres of display gardens. When there, be sure not to miss the Kurimoto Japanese Garden or the Sensory and Healing Garden.

Natural beauty, but on an even larger scale, is also easily accessible from Edmonton – a reason why many Edmontonians fondly refer to their city as the gateway to nature.

Two of Canada’s major national parks, Elk Island and Jasper, along with the provincial Blackfoot Recreation Area – are all within reasonable driving distances of the city.

Elk Island National Park is second only to Africa’s famed Serengeti for wildlife viewing. The park,  established in 1906, is the closer of the two national parks to the city and is Canada’s first federal wildlife sanctuary for large mammals. Less than an hour from Edmonton, Elk Island is home to herds of plains bison, wood bison, deer, elk, moose and some 250 bird species. The Living Waters Boardwalk, where you’ll find a floating sidewalk off the shores of Astotin Lake, is a favourite for children. Camping is also popular in this natural oasis.

Adjacent to Elk Island National Park there’s the Cooking Lake Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, home to The Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival, Canada’s largest cross-country ski festival. But the 24,000-acre provincial recreation area also offers 171 kilometres (106 miles) of equestrian, hiking and cycling trails on the rolling Cooking Lake Moraine. The park, which is open all year, has an extensive trail loop system that can be accessed from four staging areas.

Jasper National Park, which turned 100 in 2007, is the largest and most northerly Canadian Rocky Mountain national park. Sunwapta Falls, Mount Edith Cavell, and the Columbia Icefield Glacier Experience are just some of the scenic highlights this region offers. Jasper National Park is 370 kilometres (229 miles) west of Edmonton.

A little closer to the city and just east of Edmonton, the Strathcona Wilderness Centre encompasses 500 acres of parkland on the shores of Bennett Lake where you can immerse yourself in hiking, canoeing or bird watching or explore willow-lined shorelines.

And for some eco green to go with the traditional outdoor green, there’s the world’s largest ecomuseum – Kalyna Country. Covering 20,000 square kilometres (7,722 square miles), extending from Edmonton east to Lloydminster on the Saskatchewan border, this ecomuseum is a heritage district that invites people to learn about its history, culture and geography. Named after the highbush cranberry plant that is pronounced as Ka-liin-na in the Ukrainian language, this area also includes Lamont County – with the most churches per capita in North America at 47 – and the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, best described as a living history museum built to resemble pioneer settlements in east central Alberta.

In Edmonton and environs as you can see, it’s easy – and fun – being green.

Ribbon of Green

Edmonton’s majestic River Valley offers an abundance of recreational opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. With 22 different parks, more than 150 kilometres (93 miles) of trails and 48 kilometres (30 miles) of North Saskatchewan River beauty, it’s the largest urban stretch of parkland in North America.
  • Edmonton’s River Valley is 21.7 times larger than New York’s Central Park. It’s also eight times larger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park.
  • The North Saskatchewan River originates at the Saskatchewan Glacier 500 kilometres (311 miles) upstream of Edmonton. The river flows through the city in a southwest to northeast direction, winding its way through residential districts, downtown and into eastern Alberta.
  • While river systems in other cities have been subjected to heavy industrial use, the North Saskatchewan River Valley has remained a largely undisturbed natural preserve.
  • Development plans are being drawn up by the River Valley Alliance for a Capital Region River Valley Park that would include the neighbouring communities that the river valley runs through. The proposed $600 million Capital Region River Valley Park project would upgrade existing attractions, connect unlinked sections and outlines potential opportunities for exciting enhancements such as a marina, an outdoor amphitheatre and historical interpretation centres.
Edmonton Tourism
A Division of Edmonton Economic Development Corporation
For more information visit www.edmonton.com.