Nice ice baby: Ice adventures in Edmonton

Life in our northern town means we can play in ice and snow all winter long. Explore an ice castle, stroll through an ice sculpture garden, slide a zippy ice slide and skate on a trail through the snowy woods. Here are all of the best ways to be cool as ice in Edmonton right now.

Victoria Park

North Bank, North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton, AB T5K 1L4

The city’s new Freezeway is a winter skating trail in downtown’s Victoria Park. The park is a popular speed skating venue with a brand-new swanky new pavilion for getting geared up and getting warm. Enter the 400 m trail off of the skating oval and wind your way through the snow-puffed woods, under woodcut lanterns and over a colourful solar-powered lights display shining on the ice.

Silver Skate Festival Society

10212 112 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5K 1M4

This free family event – and Edmonton’s longest running winter festival – takes over Hawrelak Park for 10 sparkling days from Feb 12 to 26, 2016. The festival combines sports – especially skating on the icy smooth pond – with art, history and culture. Take a family lesson in snow sculpting, ride a horse-drawn sleigh, meet a team of sled-dogs, follow performers down the twinkle-lit folk trail and witness a fire sculpture burn up the night.

William Hawrelak Park

9330, Groat Rd NW, Edmonton, AB T6G 2A8

Hand-sculpted out of 114,000 tonnes of shining blue ice, Canada’s first ice castle is the city’s most popular new winter attraction. The massive structure has slides, tunnels, caves, a waterfall and a rainbow of dancing lights after dark. You can spend about 45 minutes exploring the tunnels and lights – and you’ll save on admission by buying advance tickets online. Open until March – weather-permitting.

Ice On Whyte Festival Society

10447 86 Ave Nw, Edmonton, AB T6E 2M4

Edmonton’s 13th annual ice carving festival runs over two weekends at the end of January in Old Strathcona, one of the city’s coolest neighbourhoods. Watch 10 international teams carve intricate art from huge, crystal-clear blocks of ice. Plus, enjoy live music and hot beverages, a zippy ice slide, free skate rentals, horse-drawn carriage rides and a stew cook-off. The festival runs 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday to Sunday, Jan 21 to 24 and Jan 28 to 31, 2016.

Churchill Square

PO Box 2359, Edmonton, AB T5J 0K1

City Hall’s flat skating rink – on top of the summer fountains in Churchill Square – has free skate rentals on the weekends and a changing room in the building’s southeast corner. Come on Sundays in January and February for a series called Swing ’n’ Skate. Listen to live swing, jazz and big band music inside the hall and take dance lessons from the Sugar Swing Dance Club – or head outside and listen over the speakers while you practice your backwards cross-overs.

Legislative Assembly Office

9820 107 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5K 1E7

You can always bring the kids to this stunning rink on the edge of the riverbank and under the century-old Beaux-Arts sandstone dome of the legislature building – or you could get a baby-sitter for a very romantic date-night. Bring your sweetie and a thermos of hot chocolate to the rink on the south grounds and skate hand-in-hand under twinkly holiday lights, which are up until the end of January – after that, you’ll just have to settle for a million shining stars.

Walk with me, fellow design geeks, to seek out Edmonton’s best architecture. We’ll explore shining glass pyramids nestled in the river valley and a 16th-century French castle perched high up on the banks. Let’s dip our toes in cool reflecting pools, follow the swerving metal curves of the art gallery and snap a pic under the perfect light of the city’s oldest marquee. [Image credit:]
Say, classy lady, what are you doing this S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night? Cue up for a night of pool hall nostalgia, free your inner Freddie Mercury at karaoke or dig out that bowling shirt for a night on the lanes. Or, flashback to smashy-bashy roller derby, vintage arcade games, trivia night and board games – do it all and have a ball on one of these retro date nights in Edmonton.
All these things call for a nice, cold drink: hot summer days, sitting round with friends, the end of a long work week, showers. If you know all about shower beers, read on for a generous list of Edmonton’s small batch distillers, brewers and wine-makers – tour the factories and perhaps taste a small sample or bring some home for tonight’s barbecue. [Image credit: Bajic]
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