Whether you're traveling to Edmonton on business or taking advantage of its nature gateway status to access such attractions as Jasper National Park or the Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, you'll find the city has much more to offer than overnight accommodations and Ikea browsing.
Art: The Art Gallery of Alberta houses works from a number of artists for a $12.50 per person entry fee. The best value however, can be found in their family pass which allows two adults and up to four minors to experience the gallery for a combined ticket costing only $26.50. Along with a number of natural history displays, the Royal Alberta Museum celebrates a traditional tribal art form with a fairly extensive First Nations' feathered and beaded clothing exhibit. Adult tickets for this venue ring it at $10 each, although half price entry is available on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. To explore the work of local artists for free, check out the Gallery Walk of Edmonton and the Alberta Craft Council, which showcases fine crafts from artisans throughout the province. Interested in art shopping while you eat? The Blue Plate Diner offers cheap eats you can experience in a quirky, funky atmosphere which includes wall art that's actually for sale. Value offerings include such items as $5 maple-glazed grilled cornbread and a $6 vegan onion cake with spicy dipping sauce.
Performances: In addition to the downtown arts district's five-stage Citadel Theater and the intimate Francis Winspear Center for Music, home to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, live performances also abound in Old Strathcona. This area boasts a hip street scene with older brick buildings, outdoor murals, international eateries and unique indie theater offerings. Teatro La Quindicina hosts a variety of plays each year, and has a fun urban vibe with a bit of an edge. Alternatively, the neighborhood's Varscona Theater makes its home inside an historic fire house. For those interested in exploring Old Strathcona more extensively, the Metterra hotel provides trendy, mid-range accommodations within walking distance to most of the area's attractions and performance venues. With no rental car necessary, and breakfast and evening wine and cheese sessions included, their rooms offer a significant value.
Festivals: Also known as Canada's festival city, Edmonton is home to a wide variety of celebratory cultural events throughout the year. For example, this city hosts one of the largest fringe festivals in the world, allowing visitors to experience diverse theater groups and single-artist acts for far less than what it would cost to travel to all of the performances independently. The folk festival is also of note, bringing in musical acts from around the world. Other fun celebrations include Improvaganza and Ice on Whyte, a winter festival held in January. Festivalcity.ca has further details on the event schedule.
Shopping: Home to numerous shopping centers, the city's largest claim to shopping claim is undoubtedly the world-famous West Edmonton Mall. Boasting roughly 800 stores, two hotels, a water park, ropes course, roller coaster rides and a Vegas-style recreation of Bourbon Street, it's a retail extravaganza one won't soon forget. While I don't recommend tackling it without a map, you should be able to find nearly anything you need at this venue.
Theriault is the best-selling co-author of the book "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget," and founder of TrekHound.com, a website for independent travelers. She also founded TheLessonMachine.com, a website for teachers.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun