Can I start with a confession? When I was invited to Canada by the Explore Edmonton tourist board, I had to look it up to establish where exactly Edmonton was.
With cheap direct flights from London to Edmonton on WestJet, it’s become much more affordable to visit Canada beyond the East Coast. The flight that I was on from Vancouver to Edmonton was full of Brits taking advantage of the cheap flights through the city, spending a few days on their way through.
I was in town the weekend of the Edmonton Marathon and although a few months ago I had thought I might try to run a BQ here, I needed a mental step back after Edinburgh Marathon. Because the race was the day after Seawheeze, I opted for the 10K race option as a recovery run.
This year Edmonton hosted the Lululemon 10K race, and if Seawheeze was anything to go by, the race will be awesome. (My friend Amanda ran it at the start of the summer- you can read her race recap here).
For those that love trail running, I hear from a reliable source that the River Valley trails are amazing and can make you forget you’re in the city. Not to mention the local countryside surrounding Edmonton.
We stayed at The Westin on our final night and I took advantage of their running map for a 3.5 mile easy run along the river. They also host 5K and 8K runs from the hotel every Tuesday and Wednesday morning at 6.30am for guests. The route provides amazing views across Edmonton, and is along a gorgeous paved trail for the most part.
One of the highlights of my long weekend in Edmonton was joining November Project for their Monday morning workout. Nadim, one of the leaders, works for the Tourist Board and had messaged me on Instagram to ask if I wanted to join them. He then sent me the exact location of the workout and basically made me give a verbal (NP speak for a promise to show up) And I’m so glad I did.
With many of the NP group having run on Sunday, Monday’s workout was a fun ‘pick a move out of the hat’ game. With challenges such as wheelbarrows, cartwheels, partner press-ups and trips down the slide. There were a LOT of mosquitos which was the only dampner.
I would highly recommend joining this fun and welcoming group if you’re in town on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday (find out more about where they’ll be and when, here). They were the first November Project in Canada, back when there were only 3 or 4 other locations in the world, so they hold the prestigious name of November Project Canada!
One of my favourite things about social media and instagram in particular is the connections you can make through it. I was so thrilled when some YEG (Edmonton’s airport abbreviation and popular nickname) locals reached out to invite me to check out their respective jobs/businesses. (And it’s given me an idea for a whole new travel project so keep your eyes peeled!)
Robyn is a spinning instructor at YEG Cycle, a really fun spinning studio with a couple of locations across the city. I joined her for a really fun, upbeat (and super sweaty) class at 6am before we left Edmonton. The studio was very sleek and modern, with great music and an awesome vibe. It reminded me a lot of SoulCycle.
Although not a workout, I highly recommend a visit to Arc by Pivotal Physiotherapy if you’re in town for a killer recovery session. They have hot/cold tubs, Normatec compression boots as well as massage therapists in their state of the art facility. It was certainly needed after running nearly 20 miles over the weekend, more than I have run in a long time!
Where to Eat
The thing that surprised both myself and my cousin most was just how incredible the food was in Edmonton. They have a plethora of great restaurants to suit all tastebuds and budgets. Our favourite meal was one of our first at Pip, a small locally owned restaurant serving ‘premium comfort food’. I also had one of the best Margaritas of my life here so take advantage of their delicious cocktail menu or ask the bartender to whip you up a favourite.
There are a number of plant based restaurants in the city, one of which is The Moth Cafe, which was delicious and a really cute space in downtown Edmonton.
I LOVE a fish taco (I ate them 3-4 times in my 10 day trip to Canada!) so our final night of the trip was spent at Tres Carneles, a small but delicious Mexican restaurant. Serving a selection of tacos, quesadillas and torts. This isn’t your usual Margs and guac affair though, it’s quick eating done right.
As far as breakfasts go, our two three picks were Farrow Sandwiches for a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich, Little Brick House for a London Fog (earl grey tea latte) and breakfast scramble, and Sugarbowl where I tried their infamous chicken and waffles. Whilst I probs won’t order chicken and waffles again (I just don’t get it, sorry!), their coffee was great and their portion sizes generous. Arrive early if you’re going on a weekend to avoid the queues.
Ice cream lovers should make a trip to Made by Marcus for some seriously indulgent scoops. Be warned, even a single scoop is actually a double so consider sharing or getting a kids portion if you’re not that hungry. We waited in line for 45 mins and it was totally worth it! (It reminded me a lot of Salt & Straw for those that have been on the West Coast of the US).
What to do
Summer and Winter in Alberta is very different (and I’m already desperate to go back for the winter fun). We really enjoyed joining an e-bike tour with Revolution Cycles, these run year round with fat bikes taking tours in the snow. The weather in Edmonton (or Alberta in general) is quite temperamental and as a local told me, you can get all four seasons in one day. So pack and layer accordingly. I was pretty cold by the end of our two hour tour.
Hike to the end of the world lookout. This used to be an illegal spot with a derelict overpass at Keillor Point that visitors and locals would climb out on to . Luckily, they have renovated the area making it safe for visitors and a gorgeous lookout point across the river. You can forget you’re in the city for a minute, plus the houses along this street are seriously lust-worthy!
Shopping! If you’re a Lululemon fan then you’re in luck, there are four in the city. Including a large store at the West Edmonton Mall, one of the largest malls in North America, and home to a petting zoo, water park, bowling alley, rollercoaster and sea lions. A good inside option for days when the weather isn’t playing ball. I also love the Canadian activewear store Lole – you’ll find a store in the Edmonton airport so save some room in your carry-on.
Elk Island National Park is about a 40 minute drive outside the city and especially worth a visit for those travelling with kids or wildlife enthusiasts. If you’re not taking a trip onwards into the mountains or just fancy an escape from the city, you’ll spot Bison, deer, elk and maybe even a moose as you drive or hike through the park.
Sadly the Muttart Conservatory was closed during our visit, but these botanical gardens housed in glass pyramids look beautiful and I’d love to visit next time I’m in Edmonton.
Where to stay
We stayed in both downtown and on Whyte Ave in Old Strathcona at the Metterra Hotel, and preferred staying in Old Strathcona. There were a lot more buzzy vibe especially at the weekend, with plenty of restaurants, shops and cafes. You can walk around this area very easily although parking can be more of an issue.
However, if you’re in town for the marathon, staying at The Westin (or other downtown hotel) puts you in the perfect position for the start and finish line. Ideal for runners and spectators!
Overall impressions of Edmonton were that the people and the food were amazing. And if you’re looking for a flat, fast marathon course in August, this is the one.