No matter how much you love the ice and snow, winter in Edmonton can be a real beast. When there's slush piling up along the roads and several feet of the white stuff to shovel in your driveway, it can be hard to find many reasons to get outside. When it's so cold that you have to open your fridge to heat the house, it can even be hard to get out of bed.
But the Edmonton spirit is all about facing wintery adversity with a smile—or without bursting into tears, anyway. We're a city of wintery warriors. It's no wonder we've been dubbed one of Canada's best urban centers to visit during wintertime by Canadian Geographic. Each year in Edmonton, there are tons of activities and attractions that make it easy to embrace the chilly season. So pull on your toque and thermal underwear, because here are four local ways to shake the winter "blahs" this year:
Explore the Ice Castles
The Ice Castles are back. The captivating crystalline structures at Hawrelak Park feature maze-like tunnels, an ice slide, and a waterfall, not to mention thousands of glacial icicles that light up after dark. Your kids will love exploring the two acre footprint of this massive fortress, pretending to be Elsa and Olaf from Disney's Frozen.
What started as a man in his backyard with a hose has become one of Edmonton's best winter attractions. And, sure, we will never complain about warmer weather, but lower temperatures mean that the Ice Castles will just be bigger and more captivating this year.
For pricing, hours, and online ticket sales, visit the Ice Castles Edmonton website.
Visit Ice on Whyte
It can get a little quiet around the city after the holidays, but there are still plenty of festivals to keep you busy. One of the best of these is Ice on Whyte, the ice carving festival that takes place in Old Strathcona. Since 2004, production teams have worked since autumn to create a spectacle of sculptures created by some of the world's best carvers.
Undeniably, Ice on Whyte's sculptures are the big draw for many people, but there's plenty more to do too, from a giant ice slide to craft beer to live music. A number of workshops run during the festival where you can learn to carve sculptures of your own or to paint the Strathcona 2017 mural.
Check out the Ice on Whyte official website for details and tickets.
Skiing and Snowshoeing Around Edmonton
If you prefer powdery snow to hard ice, Edmonton has no shortage of ski hills in the immediate area, including the Edmonton Ski Club, Snow Valley Ski Club, Rabbit Hill Snow Resort, and the Sunridge Ski Area. With lift tickets in the $40 range for adults and around $30 for children, they make for a great family outing all winter long. All of these sites offer lessons and rentals for those new to the slopes, but more advanced skiers will find plenty to challenge them as well.
If you prefer to live life at a slightly slower speed, consider snowshoeing through one of several Edmonton parks that the city recommends for snowshoeing. This traditional mode of transportation is not only extremely healthy, it's a great way to explore, watch for birds and wildlife, and socialize.
Take a look at the City of Edmonton's snowshoeing guide for locations.
Escape to the Muttart Conservatory
Missing the summertime? The best approximation you're going to find this winter—without hopping a flight to Hawaii, anyway—is at the Muttart Conservatory. With its four themed pyramids, this distinctive addition to Edmonton's skyline houses gardens and flowers from the four corners of the earth. In winter, the tropical plant life of the Conservatory makes for a brilliant escape from the mountains of snow outside.
Always peaceful, the Muttart Conservatory is a great place to rediscover the tranquility of warmer seasons, while reading a book or just sitting and thinking about your day. Each year, from January to March, one of the pyramids is dedicated to celebrating the Chinese New Year, with Asian plants like orchids, bamboo, citrus, and azaleas planted alongside Asian-inspired statuary. So it's also a terrific opportunity to celebrate the New Year!
Learn more about visiting the Muttart on the city's official website.