Fun Things to Do in Edmonton in the Winter

Fun Things to Do in Edmonton in Winter

A woman looking at the view of Edmonton Skyline from the River Valley and the Frozen North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton in the winter. One of the fun things to do in Edmonton in the winter.

I hate winter. I hate everything about it. Okay, that’s not totally true. The first snowfall is always beautiful. And when everything’s lined with frost, I always want to snap a million pictures to show everyone just how magical it looks. There are a lot of fun things to do in Edmonton in the winter. But I hate the rest of the winter. The short days, the winds that make it nearly impossible to keep your eyes open, when it’s -30°C outside but with the windchill it feels like -40°C… Why do we put ourselves through this?!

After being outside for just a minute my skin feels like it’s literally freezing. To avoid that, I’ve got to endure the hassle of wearing a scarf and glasses at the same time. This means I can either see and be cold or have a warm neck but a foggy pair of glasses. I think I’d like winter a lot more if it didn’t take up what seems like 9 months of the year.

Woman in the ice, black scarf and coat with foggy glasses from the cold. The Ice Castles in Edmonton are a fun thing to do in the winter.
At the Edmonton Ice Castle – one side of my glasses are foggy from the cold!

To help transform myself from an avid winter hater into a true winter lover, I’ve tried my best to do only winter activities that make me appreciate this icy time of year. If you can relate, here’s a list of the best things to do in Edmonton to keep you happy in the cold winter months.

16 Things to do in Edmonton this Winter

1. See the Aurora Borealis

Winter is the best time to see the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. The farther north you head, the greater your chances of seeing them are. But Edmonton is still north enough to get lovely sightings of the light phenomenon.

2. Go Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing just oozes Canadianness. I never feel more Canadian than when I strap on a pair of snowshoes and go for a hike in the thick snow. There are plenty of trails that you can take in and around Edmonton in winter in your snowshoes.

Astotin Lake frozen and covered in snow with Astotin Island in the back on a snowy day. It's a fun thing to do in the winter in Edmonton.
Astotin Lake in Elk Island National Park

Elk Island National Park has an event between December 22nd to February 23rd called Snowshoe & Stargaze which takes you on a guided hike with a park interpreter. You will walk around Astotin Lake followed by snacks around a fire under one of the darkest skies in Alberta. Perhaps you’ll even spot the Northern Lights on one of these hikes!

Elk Island National Park is located 30 minutes outside of Edmonton along the Yellowhead Highway at 54401 Range Road 203.

This is a registered event that costs $29.80 per person. Contact 780-922-5790 to book a spot!

3. Take a Winter Hike

Get yourself a great pair of snow hiking boots (you can attach chains for extra traction) and get out onto the trails! Within Edmonton the River Valley you’ll find the best spot for easy hiking. The trails are generally plowed, so they’re easily accessible to everyone. For a harder winter hike, I recommend heading to Elk Island National Park.

Wintery trail in the forest in the River Valley in Edmonton. A walk through the forest is a fun thing to do in Edmonton in the Winter.

The River Valley is located throughout Edmonton but my favourite trail is located in central Edmonton. You can reach my favourite trail by heading towards the Capilano area of town at 101 Avenue and 84th Street right next to the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton. It’s a strange little entrance but it leads to the best trails in the River Valley.

4. Try Cross-Country Skiing

This is another great thing to do in Edmonton in winter. I always see cross-country ski tracks running through the River Valley. I was in school when they first took us cross-country skiing. Instead of keeping on flat ground, our class decided to cross-country ski down a huge hill behind our school. Needless to say, our gym teacher was not happy!

5. Go Wildlife Spotting

Bison covered in snow looking at the camera in a snowy field

It’s a lot easier to spot animals in the white snow or in the naked trees in Edmonton in winter than it is when everything is covered by thick grass, shrubs and leaves. Head out to Elk Island National Park to see some bison, deer, coyotes and possibly even a moose!

6. See the Christmas Lights at the Legislature

The Legislature is one of the cooler looking buildings in the city. They do an amazingly beautiful display of lights around Christmas that you’ve got to add to your list of things to do in Edmonton in winter.

Alberta Legislature Building at Christmas

The Alberta Legislature is located in Edmonton at 10800-97 Avenue. The Christmas lights are all around the legislative grounds so access is free!

7. Follow the Muttart Conservatory Light Walk

If you want to get out of the cold but still do a winter activity, I recommend heading to the Muttart Conservatory Light Walk. Wednesday evenings are adults only! I really loved doing the light walk this year – it shows the Muttart Conservatory at night which gives it a totally different feel! Plus it smells great. It’s a really beautiful place at night and great for dates!

Inside the Muttart Conservatory at night with Christmas lights decorating the trees

Muttart Conservatory is located in Edmonton at 9626-96A Street

The Light Walk goes from November 14th – December 27th on Wednesdays evenings (Adults only) and Thursday evenings (Family Friendly) from 5:00-9: 00 PM. Tickets to the light walk are the cost of regular admission. Adult admission is $12.50

8. Go Skiing

If you want to go skiing or snowboarding in Edmonton in winter but don’t feel like driving to the mountains, check out the Snow Valley Ski Resort or the less popular (and quieter) Sunridge Ski Area. These places are great for experiencing the fear of rushing down a hill at top speed! This isn’t for me, but I know a lot of people really love skiing and snowboarding. Last time I went skiing, my skis went down the hill before me and I had to chase after them! Running faster and faster, I looked like a snowman running down the hill.

A man snowboarding on a snowy hill

Snow Valley is located in Edmonton at 13204 Rainbow Valley Road. Full-day lift tickets for adults are $39.00 but hourly, evening and half-day passes are also available here.

9. Build a Snowman

A snowman with a scary smile and a tiny black hat
My creation is known as the Evil Snowman

This isn’t something to do in Edmonton all winter, because the fluctuation in temperature causes the snow to melt then turn to the ice again as it freezes. But sometimes there’s a really nice falling of snow that provides the perfect base for some snow art!

10. Explore Ice Castles

I’m warning you — this is the coldest place ever. Dress ten times warmer than you think you should. I don’t know if it’s because the castle is made out of ice or if William Hawrelak Park is just the freezer in an already cold world.

Edmonton Ice Castle in Hawrelak Park

William Hawrelak Park is located in Edmonton at 9330 Groat Road.

The Ice Castle is weather dependant so it is open as of January 4th, 2019 until it melts! It’s a ticketed event so be sure to register and get your ticket at the Ice Castles website.

11. Visit Edmonton Valley Zoo

This might be a bit surprising, but wandering around the zoo is a very enjoyable thing to do in Edmonton in winter. There are barely any crowds and you get to escape into the warm buildings often to see some adorable animals.

Edmonton Valley Zoo is open 364 days a year and located in Edmonton at 13315 Buena Vista Road.

The zoo is open from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm daily and admission is $10.25 for adults. More information can be found at the Edmonton Valley Zoo website.

12. Go Sledding and Tobogganing

Edmonton has a ton of super steep and slippery slopes that are perfect for a day of sliding downhills. You can do what my best friend and I did and dress in our giant food costumes and slide down the hills as pizzas! I can’t find any pictures of us going down the hill as pizzas – but here is a picture of Christina in her pizza costume from the same day (we also went Axe Throwing dressed as pizzas!)

13. Try Ice Skating

If you’re too cold to do this outside, West Edmonton Mall and several other recreation centres have indoor rinks, meaning you can still ice skate without freezing your butt.

West Edmonton Mall is located at 8882-170th Street. All-day ice skating is $12 and skate rentals are $6.

14. Wander along Whyte Avenue

Taking a stroll down the beautiful and historic Whyte Avenue located at 82nd Avenue in Old Strathcona is the perfect thing to do in Edmonton on a winter’s day. It’s always bustling with people and filled with many eclectic shops and restaurants. You can pop into several shops along the way or even stop to see a film at the historic Princess Theatre which is known to be haunted.

Related Post: Edmonton Ghost Tour – The Fireside Ghost Experience

15. See Glow Gardens

Glow Gardens sign at Glow Gardens Edmonton

Technically, Glow Gardens are located just outside Edmonton, but they’re phenomenal! The Christmas festival takes place inside the Enjoy Centre in St. Albert, where the sheer amount of lights and light displays are incredibly impressive! My favourite part of the entire display was the interactive hanging lights. Being there felt like being inside an art display. I really loved it! The only downfall was it was full of children. This made Glow a great place to visit as a family, but I really hope they decide to add a few adult-only evenings!

The Glow Gardens run from November 22nd to January 19th and is located at the Enjoy Centre at 101 Riel Drive in St. Albert.

Ticket prices range from $22.99 for an adult, $16.99 for children or the best deal (which is what my friend, her kids and I did) was a family pass for $69.99.

16. Experience Luminaria at the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens

This is an incredibly popular festival that takes place in the Kurimoto Japanese Garden. The snow-covered pathways are lined with thousands of candles and decorated with incredible ice sculptures. If you haven’t been to the gardens in winter before, be sure to dress warmly as it is an outdoor event!

Luminaria Edmonton Path with two Light Angels
credit: blog.ualberta.ca

Luminaria is located at the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens just outside Devon at 51227 AB-60. Unfortunately, it is already sold out for the 2018 season, but it’s too cool to leave out! Be sure to check it out next year. 

Even if you are a winter hater like me, you can still find joy and relish all the festive things to do in Edmonton in winter. If all else fails, head to the mountains and experience the beauty of the Rockies. Check out my post on how to spend a weekend in Jasper National Park in the winter! Otherwise, there’s always the option of becoming a hermit and spending winter inside, knitting scarves for all your friends who are spending this season outdoors!

Related Post: Winter weekend getaway in Jasper National Park

Two women standing with the Edmonton skyline in the back ground in the winter.
Christina and I on a walk in the River Valley – with the Edmonton Skyline in the background.

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16 fun and exciting activities to do in Edmonton Alberta Canada this winter including awesome hikes, seeing the Northern Lights and wild life sightings!
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Comments 15

  1. As always, your pictures are just stunning. Even though we just got back from Germany, now I want to go find ice castles and snow. Like you, I enjoy the first snowfall. Then, I am pretty much GOOD. In CT, we loved building snowmen, watching the snow fall, and just cozying up. By the next day, the snow was dirty, blocking all of the parking lots, and just causing traffic havoc. Who wants to scrape ice off their car before work? NOT ME. BAH humbug. We plan on visiting Iceland in the new year, and I cannot wait to see the Northern Lights–that’s a winter must, for sure. All of these dreamy pictures have me day dreaming.

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      Thank you!!! That is so sweet of you to say! Yeah, it’s beautiful until day 2 – when everything you said becomes a winter reality for the next 6-7 months. I am glad someone understands! I can’t wait to see your Iceland pictures! Seeing the Northern Lights is always so spectacular! Never gets old.

  2. You running down the hill after your ski’s made me laugh harder than i should have.
    I will have to go see the christmas lights at the legislature buildings,they look beautiful.

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  3. I love the winter. But, yeah, first snowfall is the best. Granted, I’ve never had to endure a Canadian winter, or a Scandinavian one. But I love the short days, the darkness. Sometimes, insanely, I even like being cold. It is not unheard of for me to leave the window open all year.

    I like fresh air, okay…

    My mother always jokes that I was a mole in a past life because I love being underground and in the dark. Vitamin D, what the hell is that?

    That having been said, after spending the last two months in Eastern Europe, my face is so dried out it looks like my face is just a giant rash. A problem I’ve never had before since normally my skin is grease city.

    Right, moving on… I love that even though you don’t like winter, you’ve still embraced a fair amount of winter activities. And I’m going to echo Christine here and say that your photos are always gorgeous! And honestly, your winter photos are the best! You’re making me want to roll around in the snow and build snowmen…

    Also, I need to see the Northern Lights! I always forget Canada and Alaska get them!

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      Hahaha Vitamin D? who needs it! I didn’t mind Scottish winters with the extra cold rain, but winters in Alberta winters are harsh. It gets exhausting after a while -so I decided to embrace it and started with purchasing a pair of snowshoes several years ago. It’s a work in progress – but I try to like it!

      I am 100% like you in terms of loving cold weather (to a point) but when you were describing that cold Estonian air in one of your recent posts it made me so happy! Nothing is better than hoodie weather and a crisp cool air to make you feel alive!

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      Yes! throw on 10 coats to keep warm! I know you were originally from Vancouver but I can’t remember how long you’ve been in Edmonton. I hope you get to see them soon! I’ve seen them as far south as Red Deer – red ones too!

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      Haha! Yeah, it was really cold – even for me and I am already used to the cold! They are definitely worth it though!

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      So, I live just outside of the city and I get moose visitors to my house often! I should upload a video of three moose that stopped by recently!

  4. Did you say -30°C outside? I can’t really do the Celsius temperature conversion from the top of my head, but even I know that’s outrageously cold. I can’t begin to comprehend what it’s like being in such cold temperatures.

    Sometimes I wish we’d get winter temperatures down here in S. FL, but not quite sure I could hack such cold winters either. Even when we get our occasional mild “cool” days here I’m miserable. With that said, the ice castle, snow hiking, and the Northern Lights (huge bucket list item of mine) sounds pretty cool – at least for a day. ☺️

    Great post and awesome approach on how to make the best of it.

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      I did! It is -22F. It’s not always that cold but usually a few weeks to a month out of the season. I would LOVE a Florida winter! It would be a lot like spring/summer here I imagine. I will have to experience it to find out for sure! I hope you make it up here or somewhere with the Northern Lights! They are stunning.

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