Edmonton is the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta. Edmonton is on the North Saskatchewan River and is the centre of the Edmonton Capital Region, which is surrounded by Alberta’s central region.
The city had a population of 812,201 in the 2011 census, making it Alberta’s second-largest city and Canada’s fifth-largest municipality. This population represents 70 percent of the total 2011 population of 1,159,869 within the Edmonton census metropolitan area (CMA), Canada’s sixth-largest CMA by population. Edmonton is the northernmost North American city with a metropolitan population over one million. A resident of Edmonton is known as an Edmontonian.
Edmonton’s historic growth has been facilitated through the absorption of five adjacent urban municipalities, including Strathcona, North Edmonton, West Edmonton (Calder), Beverly and Jasper Place, and a series of annexations of surrounding rural lands until 1982. Edmonton serves as the northern anchor of the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor and is a staging point for large-scale oil sands projects occurring in northern Alberta and large-scale diamond mining operations in the Northwest Territories.
Edmonton is a cultural, governmental and educational centre. It hosts a year-round slate of festivals, reflected in the nickname “The Festival City.” It is home to North America’s largest mall, West Edmonton Mall (the world’s largest mall from 1981 until 2004), and Fort Edmonton Park, Canada’s largest living history museum. In 2004, Edmonton celebrated the centennial of its incorporation as a city. In 2013, Edmonton was declared a Fair Trade Town by Fairtrade Canada.
Edmonton plays host to several large festivals each year, contributing to its local nickname, “The Festival City.” Downtown Edmonton’s Churchill Square host numerous festivals each summer. The Works Art & Design Festival, which takes place from late June to early July, showcases Canadian and international art and design from well-known award-winning artists as well as emerging and student artists. The Edmonton International Street Performer’s Festival takes place in mid-July and showcases street performance artists from around the world.
Edmonton’s main summer festival is K-Days, formerly Klondike Days, Capital Ex and originally the Edmonton Exhibition. Founded in 1879, the Edmonton Exhibition was originally an annual fair and exhibition that eventually adopted a gold rush theme, becoming Klondike Days in the 1960s. Northlands, the operators, renamed the festival to “Edmonton’s Capital Ex” or “Capital Ex” in 2006. In 2012, Edmonton Northlands conducted a poll to rename the festival that resulted in changing the name to “K-Days”. Activities include carnival rides and fairways, music, trade shows, and daily fireworks.
Since 1960, the Sourdough Raft Races have also been a popular event. Later in November, Edmonton plays host to the Canadian Finals Rodeo and Farmfair; this is a significant event in Canada’s rodeo circuit and second only to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in prestige.
The Edmonton International Fringe Festival, held in mid-August, is the largest fringe theatre festival in North America and second only to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival worldwide. In August, Edmonton is also host to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, one of the most successful and popular folk music festivals in North America. Another major summer festival is the Edmonton Heritage Festival, which is an ethnocultural festival that takes place in Hawrelak Park on the Heritage Day long weekend. Many other festivals exist, such as Interstellar Rodeo, the Free Will Shakespeare Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Whyte Avenue Art Walk, and the Edmonton International Film Festival.
There are many museums in Edmonton of various sizes. The largest is the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM), which was formerly known as the Provincial Museum of Alberta until it was renamed in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s 2005 Alberta centennial visit. The RAM houses over 10 million objects in its collection and showcases the culture and practices of the diverse aboriginal tribes of the region. The main building, overlooking the river valley west of the city centre in the Glenora neighbourhood, was opened in 1967 and is now in the early stages of large-scale redevelopment.
The Telus World of Science is located in the Woodcroft neighbourhood northwest of the city centre. It opened in 1984 and has since been expanded several times. It contains five permanent galleries, one additional gallery for temporary exhibits, an IMAX theatre, a planetarium, an observatory, and an amateur radio station. The Edmonton Valley Zoo is in the river valley to the southwest of the city centre.
The Alberta Aviation Museum, located in a hangar at the City Centre Airport, was built for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Its collection includes both civilian and military aircraft, the largest of which are a Boeing 737 and two CF-101 Voodoos. It also has one of only 3 BOMARC missiles in Canada.
The Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre is also home to the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum. The museum is dedicated to preserving the military heritage and the sacrifices made by the people of Edmonton and Alberta in general. The museum features two galleries and several smaller exhibits. The collection includes historic firearms, uniforms, souvenirs, memorabilia, military accoutrements, as well as a large photographic and archival collection spanning the pre-World War One period to the present. The museum features an exhibit on the role of the 49th Battalion, CEF in Canada’s Hundred Days Offensive. The Telephone Historical Centre is a telephone museum also located in the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre in central Edmonton. In addition to a collection of artifacts tracing the history of the telephone, the museum has its own theatre featuring a brief film led by the robot Xeldon.
The Alberta Railway Museum is located in the rural northeast portion of the city. It contains a variety of locomotives and railroad cars from different periods, and includes a working steam locomotive. Since most of its exhibits are outdoors, it is only open between Victoria Day and Labour Day.
Fort Edmonton Park, Canada’s largest living history museum, is located in the river valley southwest of the city centre. Edmonton’s heritage is displayed through historical buildings (many of which are originals moved to the park), costumed historical interpreters, and authentic artifacts. In total, it covers the region’s history from approximately 1795 to 1929 (represented by Fort Edmonton), followed chronologically by 1885, 1905, and 1920 streets, and a recreation of a 1920s midway. A steam train, streetcars, automobiles and horse drawn vehicles may be seen in operation (and utilized by the public) around the park. The John Walter Museum and Historical Area (c. 1875 to 1901) is on the Canadian Register of Historic Places. The University of Alberta operates its own internal Museums and Collections service.
The Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) is the city’s largest single gallery. Formerly housed in an inconspicuous 1970s building downtown, the AGA collection had over 5,000 pieces of art. The former AGA building was demolished in July 2007 to make way for construction of a new facility designed by Randall Stout. It was estimated to cost over $88-million and the amount that Edmonton City Council donated towards its construction was met with some controversy. The AGA officially opened the weekend of January 30/31, 2010. Independent galleries can be found throughout the city, especially along the 124 Street/Jasper Avenue corridor, known as the “gallery walk”.