Edmonton used to be afraid of its cold, dark winters, but within the last 10 years, the level of optimism within the city has changed. Previously, a list like this would have been filled, from 1 to 5, with a variety of different ways to say "hide until the sun comes back." Now we fully embrace the snow and the cold, thanks in part to the many winter activities available to Edmontonians.
As Explore Edmonton's winter mantra goes, "Cold? Yes. Dark? Yes. Boring? Never."
So, with a little less than 2 months left, what are the 5 things you have to do before winter ends?
1) Ice On Whyte
The Ice On Whyte Festival is a yearly ice carving festival that began in 2003 by local sculptors who partnered with the Old Strathcona Business Association. In just a few short years, the festival outgrew its original location in McIntyre Park and has moved to what is known as "Festival Park" on 85 Ave and 104 St. Beyond the many intriguing ice sculptors, the festival also comes equipped with a giant ice slide, an ice castle, live entertainment, horse drawn carriages, children's play areas, a Mardi Gras party and more! The festival only occurs on the last two Thursday to Sundays of January.
2) Hawrelak Ice Castle
This massive “Narnia-Like” ice castle, which required over 400 icicles per meter of castle to build, is adorned with lights, music, slides, waterfalls, caves, and tunnels! A beautiful labyrinth of ice and ingenuity, I hope this becomes a regular fixture in Edmonton's winter season lineup for years to come. It’s a perfect example of Edmonton’s move to grab their gloves, boots, and toques and start embracing the winter season.
3) Enjoy An Outdoor Rink
Is there anything more Edmonton—no, more Canadian—than enjoying an outdoor rink with your family or friends? Almost all of us have nostalgic memories of growing up and going for a skate at an ODR, then curling up in front of a fireplace with a cup of joe or hot chocolate after. And why not? Edmonton has some of the most idyllic outdoor rinks in the world! Below are my top 4.
The Alberta Legislature Building - some may love the legislature in the summer, but the winter is when it really comes alive. On the north side, the light show itself is enough to get you to come down, but on the south side, there’s an intimate spot for ice-skating that plays Jazz at night. Well worth checking out.
City Hall - The public ice plaza in the heart of downtown is open daily to anyone who wishes to slip on a pair of skates! On Saturdays, city hall also hosts the year-round Farmers' Market, which could make for the perfect skate and shop Saturday.
Hawrelak Park - This rink is not only massive, but it comes with a stunning view of the river valley. To those that don’t own a pair of skates, they also offer skate rentals on-site, so your friends and family have no reason to say no.
The Victoria Park Freezeway - A new addition to Edmonton's outdoor rink family, the Victoria Park Edmonton Freezeway is a 400-meter skate path that opened up in December. It was Matt Gibb's (an Edmonton Native) master's thesis in landscape architecture.
4) Winter Walk Day
Want to really embrace winter in Edmonton? Take part in the 10th annual #WinterWalkDay experience, which is occurring across Alberta on February 3rd. The event, which always occurs on the first Wednesday of February, encourages thousands of Albertans to take to the streets, the trails, and the parks, to celebrate living in the beautiful winter wonderland we call home. It’s the perfect opportunity to show the world that living in Alberta and being surrounded by snow is nothing to frown about, but an opportunity to celebrate!
For more information on the event, click HERE.
5) Winter Warrior Challenge!
We’re going to kick it up a gear for the last and final must-do event of the winter season! You’ve heard of the Tough Mudder challenge, right? Meet its winter cousin, the Winter Warrior Challenge! Occurring on March 12th, this uniquely Canadian obstacle course will not only challenge you to embrace the Edmonton elements and the course obstacles, but may help a child’s wish come true.
With each registration, $15 of the fee will be going to The Rainbow Society of Alberta, a non-profit charity dedicated to fulfilling the wishes of children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses. For a quick glimpse of the event, watch the video HERE.