Weekend Getaway: Edmonton
Weekend Getaway: Edmonton
You might already know that Edmonton—provincial capital, gateway to the North, industry hub—is Canada’s fastest growing city. But if you’re not familiar with Central Alberta, you might not realize just how cosmopolitan the city (now with a metro population of almost 878 thousand) has become in the last couple decades. Entrepreneurial, young and urban, with an ever-growing downtown and a hip, arts-and culture-focused 35-year-old mayor to boot, the city teems with restaurants, live-music venues and outdoor activities—yes, even when the mercury drops (well) below zero.
Dance With The Deejay at Bower, 10 p.m.
With its retro furniture and co-owner/DJ Blair McFarlane (Junior Brown) spinning records in the back booth, Jasper Avenue’s bar-meets-dance-club, Bower, feels like a swanky (and sweaty) basement party. Depending on the night, electronic, hip-hop and reggae tunes keep the ceiling thumping into the wee hours. Here on hump day instead? Don’t miss McFarlane’s mom’s cooking at soul food Wednesdays—next door at the adjoining Red Star Pub.
Fuel Up At Rostizado, 12 p.m.
Daniel Braun, Chris Sills and Edgar Gutierrez—the folks behind downtown’s popular street-food-inspired taco joint Tres Carnales—expanded last summer with Rostizado, an elegant, sit-down, family-style Mexican eatery. As well as serving up authentic old-world fare, the resto benefits from its prime location: the bottom floor of Mercer Warehouse—a four-storey, exposed-brick 104th Street hub of activity—home of Startup Edmonton (a mini Silicon Valley of sorts), hipster-chic spots like unisex hair salon Weekly Barber Shop & Boutique and Transcend coffee shop, and, of course, the always-active Mercer Tavern. No time to sit down? Tres Carnales is just around the corner, dishing up tacos and sangria in minutes. If he's working, ask Nana for a tequila shot (on the house).
Embrace the outdoors (or not) in the River Valley, 2 p.m.
Edmonton unfolds around the North Saskatchewan River and the River Valley is one of the country’s best city-found nature oases for running, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or even being pulled in a horse-drawn wagon. Prefer to stay indoors between Edmonton’s long winters? The city’s Muttart Conservatory botanical gardens – housed in four gorgeous glass pyramids – offers an escape from the weather in some of the city’s most iconic structures. Three different climates are permanently available, while the fourth pyramid houses a changing seasonal display.
Be A Food Snob at Bodega, 8 p.m.
Sister resto to its neighbour, the fine-dining, exposed-wood resto Sabor on 103rd, Bodega is Edmo’s only authentic tapas bar, boasting the city’s best sangria, a killer wine list and real-deal menu items such as—wait for it—pata negra ham from the Iberian black boar. Chef’s-choice tapas options and tasting menus abound. Plus, half-price wine every evening Monday through Thursday means you won’t break the bank, even if you burst your belt buckle.
Boutique-Crawl On Whyte Avenue, 11 a.m.
The south-side strip across the river from downtown—located in historic Old Strathcona—is known for its raucous, wee-hourclubbing and nightlife. But in the daytime, Whyte Avenue is also a destination for local designers (find ’em in fashion emporium Bamboo Ballroom), hard-to-find international labels like Gsus and Ya Los Angeles (Colour Blind Boutique) and one-off original shops like Foosh, which hawks the coolest streetwear—from designer sweats to fitted T-shirts and retro-style Jordan sneakers. Bottom line: despite the pull of its water park, rollercoaster and indoor skating rink, you don't need to trek to the West Edmonton Mall to shop ‘til you drop.
Within blocks of all the best downtown nightspots is luxury boutique hotel the Matrix (10640 100 Ave NW). Rooms are modern and minimalistic and offer views of the downtown core. Splurge on the reasonably priced, totally spacious Platinum (from $260 pernight) and Onyx (price upon request) suites—both for honeymooners and non-honeymooners alike. Oh—and complimentary parking, wine-tasting, internet and breakfast for all hotel guests. (Where else does even one of those things happen?) If classic elegance is more your style, the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald (10065 100 St. NW) is where you want to be: perched on a north bank overlooking the River Valley, The Fairmont offers stunning nature-scapes and moments for movie-style opulence. Weekend rates start at $249, but be on the lookout for specials: it's the Edmonton landmark's 100th anniversary this year.