Recently, I have been binge watching the Netflix series called “The Layover” featuring my unnatural celebrity crush Anthony Bourdain. He may be 60 years old, but that man has refined confidence paired with bad boy swagger that no woman can resist, and he can cook.
If you haven’t seen the series it is all about the reality (for some) of having short layovers in some major urban cities, and a quick guide of what you can do in the city during that short amount of time (24-48 hours). Edmonton isn’t yet considered a “major urban city” but it has unique places and great people who make this city an exciting place to live and visit. Whether you are a business professional heading somewhere else in the world, or you are planning a trip somewhere else in Alberta (Banff, Lake Louise) with a stop over in Edmonton, there are some really good tips of places you wouldn’t want to miss out on if you have just 24-48 hours. Edmonton Layover edition…
First thing Bourdain would do on the series is tell you how to get into the City from the major airport. What most of the cities he visited had in common was excellent transportation systems. Keep in mind, most of his layovers were in Europe. They are years ahead of us with their transportation system planning, but we are steadily improving the gateways to our city. Edmonton has one major international airport (YEG international). Hence “YEGandBeyond” by the way.
Getting to town:
The most cost-effective method would be to take the city bus. There is an express bus running from the airport to the City of Edmonton South side transit lined called Route 747. The service runs every 30 minutes during peak hours, and the fare is $5.00. The ride takes about 25 minutes, and from there you can transfer onto the LRT transit line that can get you to the downtown core within 15 minutes, where many of the featured hotels and restaurants are located.
- Total cost: $5
- Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour (dependent on wait times)
If you want to save time you can hop in a taxi (yellow or co-op) which would cost you around $55 flat fee to downtown core, but get you there in 25 minutes.
- Total cost: $55
- Time: 25 minutes
In Edmonton we have access to UBER and TAPCARR, not all provinces have allowed the use of this driving service because of regulations around vehicle for hire services, but we are all for it here. If you have a mobile phone you can get access to this more affordable option and you will save around 35-40% of your fare*, also 25 minutes or so depending on your hotel.
- Total cost: $35.00 *
- Time: 25 minutes
Places to stay in town:
Luxury: If you have the means and you’re looking for a luxurious stay, absolutely book a room in the classic Fairmont MacDonald Hotel. An Edmonton landmark constructed in 1911, rooms start at around $250/per night, but the views of the North Saskatchewan River and River Valley (the largest urban parkway in North america by the way, no biggie) are more than worth the price. I used to call it the Disney castle on the hill when I was younger. The ballroom brunch is amazing.
Mid-Range, comfort: The Westin is located right on 100 ave (Rice Howard Way). It’s close to what I would call the music & arts district of downtown. Westin provides comfort and style in their rooms, and it is a common stay for NHL hockeyplayers on their stopovers in Edmonton, so you never know who you will bump into.
Budget: Crash Hotel: Located downtown in the ICE district . You are in the centre of the action right next to Rogers Place, and staying at a renovated landmark site in Edmonton, now a modern boutique hotel. Each room has a unique edgy theme, flexible stay options, and I would say that for most this is perfect landing pad for a quick stop over in Edmonton. You can get a room for $100 a night (sometimes less), and you are close to an amazing array of restaurants and bars.
What to Eat/Drink:
If you are in Edmonton briefly you will notice that there are an abundance of dining options, especially downtown. If I had to take any guest for a good meal on a stop over here Woodwork would be it. Headed by an award-winning chef Lindsay Porter, the Woodwork menu is simple, with delicious mainstays cooked by wood fire and seasonal dishes that never disappoint. It’s a great opportunity to try the Alberta beef. The drinks are crafted beautifully from their award winning bartenders, and their drinks are the star as they are a repeat showcase as Edmonton best cocktail by local readers of Vue.
Edmonton is also known for two greasy, late night eats in particular. The Donair, and of a FAT FRANK hot dog. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life…but I will ask, if you don’t partake in at least one Donair in your life…are you really living? The donair “walk of shame” is a must on a late night walk back to the hotel. There are shops on every popular Edmonton late night street.
What to do: *Limited time (seasonal)
The best arts scene: It would be a shame to come to Edmonton for a layover and not experience some of the great arts scene this city has to offer. A hub for design and arts, Edmonton hosts artists, makers and performers for decades that have created series events.
- Rapid Fire Theatre – Live improv. Improv battles amongst provincial teams. It’s comedy at its wittiest, and a proud part of the theatre community in Edmonton.
- Edmonton Symphony Orchestra – If you are lucky to be in Edmonton on a ESO night, book it. You are in for a treat.
- Alberta Art Gallery – Always something going on other than an exhibition
ICE district – Hockey/Concerts/Casinos/Bars & nightlife
If you are staying downtown there are many options for your night to get a bit crazy. Starting at Rice Howard Way at the Craft Beer Market and stretching on toward the Ice District the streets come alive at night time. Obviously we love our hockey but if you aren’t in town to catch an Oilers game…
Mercer Tavern, Chvrch of John & Denizen Hall are hot spots on a Saturday night.
Whyte Avenue – Another place to visit if you are here is just south of the river. Whyte Avenue (82nd ave) in the evening gives you a variety of nightlife options from laid back pints at Black Dog, to underground dance halls and tequila bars at El Cortez. What’s your poison?
I hate getting caught up in a city and not knowing what souvenir to get that really speaks to the city I am in. Shot glasses, and key chains don’t really tend to remind you of an experience and seem more obligatory and last minute. Want a truly Edmonton souvenir? Why not get something that was made in Edmonton? What is most unique about Edmonton are the people. The makers, and the stories coming out of Edmonton are incredible. Check out Habitat Etc for some local made products, or Makers Keep boutique for more local fun finds that will remind you of Edmonton for years to come. Meet some people who will bring you back here.