10 child-friendly activities in Edmonton

by Athena Raypold

With more parkland per capita than any other North American city, Edmonton has plenty to offer in the nature department. Pair the beautiful outdoors and its myriad of cultural facilities with fantastic attractions like West Edmonton Mall, the Telus World of Science and the Art Gallery of Alberta, and Edmonton offers a wealth of child-friendly activities that are both fun and educational. [Image credit: iStock.com/Justin Horrocks]

10 child-friendly activities in Edmonton

1. West Edmonton Mall

Edmonton’s most famous destination for citizens and tourists alike is West Edmonton Mall. Between its plethora of high-end stores (more than 800) and its entertainment attractions like the Scotia Bank IMAX Theatre, the World Waterpark, Galaxyland, Ed’s Rec Room, Marine Life, the Ice Palace, mini golf, the Santa Maria, and the newest attractions – the Crystal Labyrinth mirror maze and the Sky Flyer Zipline at the World Waterpark – West Edmonton Mall offers fun for the whole family. The mall also offers a $10 Toddler Time for kids under 5 years old where little children can play in the Galaxy Kids Playpark or splash around the World Waterpark Monday to Thursdays between noon and 3 pm.

2. Muttart Conservatory

Edmonton’s river valley is home to the Muttart Conservatory: iconic, glass pyramids that host four unique climates and their vegetation. Escape to the jungle in the Tropical Pyramid where it’s hot, verdant, green and humid and you’re surrounded by gorgeous tropical horticulture: orchids, palms, vines and banana trees. Venture into the desert in the Arid Pyramid where it’s hot and dry and cacti are abundant and varied. Vacation in the Temperate Pyramid, which resembles the Australian climate and changes with the seasons; this pyramid is full of gorgeous fruit trees and home to many ferns. The fourth pyramid is a feature pyramid which changes five to seven times a year to give visitors an ever-changing experience. Children love experiencing the varying climates and learning about the plants. The Muttart Conservatory even hosts day camps and birthday parties for kids as young as four years old.

3. Fort Edmonton

Tucked away in Edmonton’s river valley is Fort Edmonton Park, a living history park full of adventure and educational fun where you can visit different eras of Edmonton’s history: The Fur Trading Era (at the 1846 Fort), the Settlement Era on 1885 Street, the Municipal Era on 1905 Street and the Metropolitan Era on 1920 Street and the Midway. The park also features a working steam locomotive, streetcars and costumed interpreters for an interactive adventure. You can lunch at the Selkirk Hotel, see a play in the Capitol Theatre and participate in holiday fun with Spooktacular and Christmas Reflections. Fort Edmonton also holds day camps and birthday parties.

4. Edmonton Valley Zoo

Another river valley treasure, the Edmonton Valley Zoo is home to more than 350 animals including tigers, a snow leopard, seals, sea lions, monkeys, red pandas and arctic foxes. Focused on conservation and improving the habitats and exhibits, the zoo’s programming is both fun and informative. Kids will love the Arctic Shores exhibit where they can see harbour seals, northern fur seals and Arctic ground squirrels up close. Offering exciting events throughout the year, the Edmonton Valley Zoo puts on a Candy Cane Tea and Zoominescence, a Festival of Light in December. The zoo also offers day camps, rides and birthday parties for kids.

5. Telus World of Science

Edmonton’s nexus for scientific, cultural, and technological learning is the Telus World of Science, a non-profit facility that inspires public interest in science and technology. Providing opportunities for children to both learn and engage, the Telus World of Science offers programming that positively impacts science and technology awareness and sparks an interest in children. From exhibits like The Science Garage and The Body Fantastic, which both encourage participation and interaction, to Space Place and Robotics Lab, the Telus World of Science gets kids thinking, creating, and imagining. The facility also hosts a variety of traveling exhibits and has previously showcased the Harry Potter exhibit, the Sherlock Holmes exhibit and Angry Birds exhibit. They also host kids’ birthday parties and day camps.

6. Jurassic Forest and Learning Centre

A paleontological attraction on a 40-acre prehistoric preserve that teaches children about nature, the Earth’s history and dinosaurs, the Jurassic Forest and Learning Centre boasts 2 km of trails through old growth forest accented by robotic, life-size dinosaurs that move, make sounds and are surprisingly realistic. Kids can participate in digs at the paleontological site, ride a Triceratops or join a scavenger hunt!

7. John Janzen Nature Centre

Located next to Fort Edmonton Park in Edmonton’s lush river valley, the John Janzen Nature Centre promotes awareness and engagement with nature right in the heart of the city. Children can explore indoors or outdoors with interactive exhibits including an indoor play space designed to mimic wildlife habitats; the exhibit room where kids can interact with plants, insects, and small wildlife like salamanders; the honeybee hive where kids can see bees busy at work; the prairie pond where they can examine pond life up close; and the compost school where they can learn about the composting process. The John Janzen Nature Centre allows children to have fun while they engage with the city’s natural plants and wildlife.

8. Art Gallery of Alberta

The Art Gallery of Alberta offers a variety of programming for kids in the city’s most unique architectural building. From the BMO All Day Sundays where the gallery provides engaging art activities and entertainment that tie into current exhibits to the Wednesday morning Tours for Tots where each week a new theme and activity is designed to build early childhood learning skills, the gallery is definitely family friendly. The AGA also offers two-hour-long birthday parties that include a tour and a studio art project with themes for different ages.

9. Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village

The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is an award winning, open-air, living museum that brings to life the history of Ukrainian pioneers. With more than 35 relocated and restored buildings (including a sod house, school houses, a grain elevator, a blacksmith shop and churches), costumed interpreters offer dynamic education and interaction for experiential learning. Children love that staff stay in character and are endlessly fascinated with the difference in lifestyle. The park offers a variety of programming for schools and drop-in tours for families.

10. Devonian Botanic Garden

Located about 30 minutes from Edmonton, the Devonian Botanic Garden is a beautiful park with cultivated gardens, plant collections, indoor showhouses and vast nature trails. From the Kurimoto Japanese Garden to the Tropical Showhouse with exotic butterflies, the facility hosts a wide variety of plant life. Offering Family Education Programs, the Devonian Botanic Garden provides families with hands-on education, interactive activities, games and a tour of the gardens. Children love the butterfly house and the various themed day camps and birthday parties that take advantage of the beauty nature has to offer.

All in all, Edmonton has a huge variety of fun and educational activities for families, particularly those that get you and your kids outdoors exploring nature!

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