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It’s nearly 8 p.m. on a warm summer evening, and my husband and I are seated in the outdoor Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park in Edmonton, Alberta, anticipating the evening performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Freewill Shakespeare Festival.
In most North American cities, it would be well after dark by now, but here in Alberta’s capital, summer days are extra-long, and locals and visitors alike celebrate those additional hours of daylight with festivals dedicated to music, visual and performing arts, food and sports.
It may come as a surprise, but North America’s most northerly major city is also Canada’s sunniest city. During summer solstice, Edmonton receives up to 17 hours of sunshine, followed by a twilight period that extends for the entire night. Averaged out over a year, the hours of sunshine the city sees is more than any other major city in Canada.
The warmth of the late-night sun makes the outdoor amphitheater comfortable, and we enjoy the performance as the play proceeds through its acts. It is after 10 p.m. when my husband and I exit and make our way back to the car, but the sun still isn’t quite below the horizon. We decide to stop at the lounge in our hotel and watch the sun set over the river valley.
As we relax on a terrace bathed in the glow of twilight, I am certain of one thing: If you want to party until the sun goes down in Edmonton, you’d better be prepared to stay up late. Long summer days are ideal for enjoying all that Edmonton has to offer, and on our visit we experienced great dining, toured several downtown attractions, explored the river valley and took in two summer festivals in a single day.
Here are a few suggestions when planning a summer itinerary in Edmonton.
Festivals and EventsWith more than 30 annual festivals, some of the largest of which occur during the summer months, Edmonton has a firm lock on its unofficial moniker of “Canada’s Festival City.” The summer festival season begins with the International Children’s Festival in May and ends with the Blues Festival in August.
One of the highlights of the summer is the Edmonton Fringe Festival, which is the oldest and largest fringe-theater festival in North America and the second largest in the world. There are also many major events held each summer.
This year, Edmonton will host 11 matches of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada, a 30-day, 24-nation, 52-match tournament featuring the best female soccer players in the world. Regardless of which festival or event you wish to attend, it’s a good idea to buy tickets in advance if possible.
Capital AttractionsAlberta’s capital city has world-class attractions such as West Edmonton Mall, Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Muttart Conservatory and Art Gallery of Alberta, just to name a few. If your clients plan to visit several Edmonton-area attractions, they can save money by purchasing an Edmonton Attractions Pass that gives them access to 16 of the most-visited attractions in the city and region. Passes for children and adults range from $24.50 to $59.95 and are commissionable to travel agents.
Ride the River ValleyAt 22 times the size of New York City’s Central Park, Edmonton’s River Valley Parks system is the longest expanse of urban parkland in North America. It encompasses some 20 urban parks, numerous attractions and more than 100 miles of maintained multiuse trails.
To get around in all that space, options range from Segway tours and rentals and mountain-bike rentals from River Valley Adventure Co. to road-bike rentals from Mountain Madness Tours. Visitors can ride the river in a voyageur canoe; enjoy a day or multiday canoe trip; or go for an evening paddle along the North Saskatchewan River. Companies offering canoe rentals and excursions include Canoe Heads, Haskin Canoe and Edmonton Canoe.
Edmonton Attractions Passwww.edmontonattractions.com
Mountain Madness Tourswww.mountainmadnesstours.com
River Valley Adventure Co.www.rivervalleyadventure.com