The fur trade brought the first Europeans to the area. Later the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon, fertile soils, relatively mild winters, and then oil and gas discoveries brought settlers here. Recently a strong technology sector has also developed. The North Saskatchewan River created Edmonton's river valley. At 22 times the size of New York's Central Park, this is the longest stretch of connected urban parkland in North America, full of natural beauty, with lakes, ravines, bike and walking trails. The city has the highest per capita area of parkland of any Canadian city.
A cultural, governmental and educational center, Edmonton plays host to a year-round slate of world-class festivals. The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performs classical masterworks, pops, and children's concerts. The Citadel Theatre has a five-hall complex of theaters with a variety of stage productions, both mainstream and alternative. The Jubilee Auditorium, on the University of Alberta campus, features performances of the Alberta Ballet, the Edmonton Opera, Broadway shows, stand-up comedians, theatre productions, popular bands, orchestras, and dance. For a look at some area museums and galleries, see our events and activities pages.
Often called the "Festival City" Edmonton has numerous events, especially during the long summer days, but also throughout the year. In August the popular Fringe Theatre Festival takes place, but there are associated events all year long. The International Street Fest features an featuring our international cast of jugglers, acrobats, hip hop dancers, sword-swallowers, musicians and more at Sir Winston Churchill Square each July. The biggie each year is K-Days in July, with ten days of concerts, fireworks, wine, food, a chuck wagon derby, horse racing, carnival rides and midway - and more.
Old Strathcona, in the historic district south-central Edmonton district, is the main arts and entertainment district, home to a vibrant independent theatre scene. Nine companies are at work at the Varscona Theatre, the Transalta Arts Barns, the Walterdale Playhouse and the Catalyst Theatre at C-103. The Rapid Fire Theatre, an improv comedy group, presents Improvaganza each June, with the best comedy acts around.
The Princess and the Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre are area art-house cinema/ theaters. The Edmonton International Film Festival takes place each year at the end of September. The closest queer film festival, Fairy Tales, screens in Calgary in late May/ early June. Dreamspeakers has an Edmonton June film festival by and about the world's Aboriginal Peoples, and Global Visions features the work of documentary filmmakers each November.
Edmonton Pride, nine days of celebrations each June, include a parade, a festival with stage entertainment and vendors, dance parties, and dozens of events. The gay scene is not large but it is lively with several gay and lesbian clubs, the Pride Center with drop-in social services, resources and library, and many organizations offering a diverse variety of social activities.
The West Edmonton Mall is the largest shopping center of it's kind in North America, with over 800 stores on three indoor levels; plus restaurants, cinemas and the World Waterpark, a five-acre playland with a huge wave pool, water slides, hot tubs, and tropical temperatures. Also here is Galaxyland, the world's largest indoor amusement park, featuring over two dozen rides.
The Edmonton International Airport has connections to the US, Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The Edmonton City Centre Airport closed in late 2013. Skyshuttle provides transportation to and from Edmonton International.
Inter-city rail passenger rail service is provided by Via Rail to points all across Canada. From the Edmonton railway station Toronto is a trip of 63.5 hours, and Vancover is 27 hours by train.
Edmonton Transit System is the main public transit agency, operating the Light Rail Transit line with service every 5-15 minutes at 15 stations along a 21 km route between Clareview and Century Park. They also have a large fleet of buses. Service ends by approximately 1:30am on weekdays and at around midnight on weekends, so taxis or a car are a necessary part of a night on the town.
Media and resources
The DailyXtra website covers LGBT news, current events, opinions and listings for Canada and the world, along with travel articles on this site.
Two gay/lesbian community groups sponsor local events: Fruit Loop, "for a diverse community of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transfolk, queers, two spirited, straights, allies, cherries and berries to mix, mingle and have fun" --on second Fridays May through August; and Qmunity League, building queer community on the plains.
For gay-friendly general listings and reviews of arts, film, music, restaurants and nightlife see VueWeekly.
The Pride Centre of Edmonton (10608-105 Ave) offers community programs and events throughout the year, and an extensive GLBTQ Library Collection.
Area groups include: the Buck Naked Boys Club with non-sexual gatherings each month and several outdoor weekend events each year; the Edmonton Prime Timers, older gay men from diverse backgrounds with common interests; and the Fellowship of Alberta Bears, with various events including their annual Bearacchus in April, and the Canadian Bear Weekend each June, to coincide with Edmonton's Pride Festival.
The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Wild Rose has activities in support of charities and organizations providing services to the GLBT community of Edmonton.
Bohemia (10217 97th St), arts-themed, diverse live music and performance venue with bar; calm, relaxing, quiet and intimate, to loud, vibrant and unpredictable, depending on the night.
Buddy's (11725b Jasper Ave NW), late-night dance club, young crowd, wet undy contests, drag shows.
e-Bar (10018 105th St), music video-bar and cocktail lounge, mostly straight mixed-crowd dance club; Latin and urban nights, vocal performances.
Evolution Wonderlounge (10220 103rd St), gay dance club, men/women, younger/older mix, karaoke nights, drag shows.
Starlite Room + Brixx Bar & Grill (10704 124th St), mixed crowd, all-ages, gay-friendly live music club; bar with rotating menu of tasty $2 appetizers.
Woody's Pub & Cafe (11723 Jasper Ave NW), casual karaoke neighborhood bar above Buddy's.
Down Under Mens Bath House - plans to relocate to new site after old building was demolished. See website for updates.
SteamWorks (11745 Jasper Ave) men's dry and steam saunas, cruise labyrinth, playroom, private rooms, fetish/kink nights, sex shop, porn videos.