Edmonton: The Hidden Gem of Western Canada

By Tina Albo:

In my travels, I have met many interesting people and learned quite a bit from these encounters. However, an amusing confusion ensues when they ask me where I’m from. As soon as I mention that I’m Canadian, the first thing I’m asked is, “So you’re from Toronto?” I then politely correct them by saying that I’m from Edmonton, and the response I receive is a blank stare.

It’s true that Edmonton is not a towering metropolis like Toronto, but my hometown has always been able to hold its own. It’s not an oceanside city like Vancouver or a Winter Olympics host like our southern sister city of Calgary. It’s Edmonton, plain and simple.

One thing I can honestly say about my fair city is that it is ever changing and will adapt to anything thrown in its path. We’ve endured a terrorist attack, an NHL Stanley Cup playoffs riot, and even a devastating tornado . . . yet here we still are, still standing and thriving.

Like many destinations, Edmonton has its attractions. Most of all, Edmonton is known as “Festival City” because we enjoy a good celebration. It doesn’t matter what we are enjoying; we celebrate as much as we can, however we can.

For the cultural aficionado, Edmonton boasts a number of different festivals to suit many different walks of life. The summer months are known as our festival season, with several coming right on the heels of one another. Here are a few that might pique your interest:

For the opera lover, our “Opera Nuova” festival begins at the end of May and concludes at the end of June. I will point out that it’s the only opera festival of its kind in Canada, and it extends to several venues across the city. It houses a collection of main stage operas, musical theatre shows, and other Enlightenment Events that enrich the soul.

This photo was taken and posted by Dean Smith via flickr.

The works of William Shakespeare are performed and celebrated between mid-June and mid-July through the “Freewill Shakespeare Festival” at the Heritage Amphitheatre. Housed in the heart of William Hawrelak Park in South Edmonton, fans of the playwright can enjoy professional, contemporary, and innovative productions put on by the Freewill players. This festival is currently in its 31st year and sells out every season.

Our historic Whyte Avenue is home to the “Edmonton International Fringe Theater Festival” from August 15th to August 25th. This unique festival features buskers, outdoor performers, artisans, and vendors during its 11-day stint.

This photo was taken and posted by Edmonton Economic Development via flickr.

The Varscona Theatre, nestled in the heart of Whyte Avenue, is home to avant-garde productions that you just cannot miss. If you need further convincing, you need only ask Nathan Fillion—before starring in television shows like Firefly and Castle, he graced this particular stage with his presence.

The “Edmonton Folk Music Festival” is another gem that can’t be bypassed. From August 8th until the 11th, Gallagher Park is the place to be if you enjoy live music from artists such as the Harpoonist, the Axe-Murderer, and Blue Rodeo. Since 1980, it’s been one of our most popular attractions and will remain that way for years to come.

Edmonton is not just about arts festivals, though. We take pride in the many cultures that have settled here. Multiculturalism is warmly embraced by my fellow citizens, and it shows everywhere you go. Community spirit is always in the air, and it’s contagious!