Ways to embrace Edmonton's chill this winter

by Theresa Tesolin

Hibernation is for bears. As a human, there are plenty of outdoor winter activities and festivals in Edmonton to entice you out of your cave. Bundle up and check out the best things to do in YEG this winter. [Image credit: iStock.com/Sanjeri]

Ways to embrace Edmonton's chill this winter

While it gets mighty cold in Edmonton, it’s the third sunniest city in Canada, averaging over 2,300 hours of sun each year. When you live in a cold climate, you either choose to hunker down at home until the first signs of spring or learn to embrace the chill. Luckily, Edmonton has chosen to do the latter with its WinterCity Strategy along with the help of local businesses and community support.

Outdoor Winter Activities in Edmonton

  • Outdoor Patios
    Who says patios are only good in the summer? A few local cafés have set up outdoor heaters and blankets so you can dine al fresco. Visit Café Bicyclette, Urban Green Café, Little Brick Café, Sherlock Holmes (downtown and campus) and The Carrot Coffee House.
  • Tobogganing
    Grab your sleds and saucers and head for the hills. Popular hills include Rundle Park, Jackie Parker Park and Gallagher Park. Whitemud Park North is another popular spot.  The Alfred H. Savage Centre, a multi-purpose building, sits at the bottom of the hill and makes enjoying the river valley in all seasons easier with washrooms and a warm-up place.
  • Horse-drawn sleigh rides
    On Saturdays in December, grab a sleigh ride in Old Strathcona by donation – all proceeds go to local charities.
  • Skating
    Rent, or pick up a pair of used skates at Totem Outfitters and All Sports & Cycle. A few popular outdoor rinks include Hawrelak Park, the oval skating track at Victoria Park and the sheet of ice at City Hall. There are also many indoor and outdoor skating rinks at community league centres around the city. In January and February, dance on ice at Swing ‘n’ Skate Sundays in Sir Winston Churchill Square at City Hall.
  • Snowshoeing
    Once a traditional means of traversing the deep snow, today snowshoeing is a great winter exercise. Wide open spaces are best for snowshoeing. Check out Terwillegar Park, the trails behind Fort Edmonton Park and John Janzen Nature Centre, Rundle Park and Hawrelak Park. Snow shoe rentals are available at Totem Outfitters and guided tours and rentals are available through River Valley Adventure Co.
  • John Janzen Nature Centre
    The nature centre offers year-round programming for families to explore the River Valley with nature walks, snowshoeing programs and winterscaping (a creative way to create sculptures with snow, ice and natural materials).
  • Skiing
    For downhill skiing within Edmonton, visit Snow Valley or Edmonton Ski Club; Rabbit Hill and Sun Ridge are just a short drive beyond the city limits. Cross-country skiers can enjoy the extensive trails throughout Gold Bar, Kinsmen and Snow Valley with lit trails for night-time fun. The Edmonton Nordic Ski Club is a good resource for cross-country skiers.

YEG Frosty Festivals

There are too many winter festivals to mention – here are a few favourites:

December:

January:

  • Ice on Whyte Festival, End of Steel Park. An international snow carving competition transforms this park into an outdoor wonderland complete with giant ice slide.

February:

  • Flying Canoë Volant, Mill Creek Ravine. A unique festival celebrating French, Metis and First Nations cultures with music and bannock in a magical illuminated woodland.
  • Silver Skate Festival, Hawrelak Park. This 10-day family festival features sports, sculptures and fun. The majestic hand-crafted ice castles are a sight to behold and explore during the day and night.

Edmonton is the perfect place to enjoy the snow with outdoor activities and is home to a number of winter festivals and cultural events. Sip hot chocolate or mulled wine and embrace the beauty of the winter season.

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