The fur trade brought the first Europeans to the area. Later the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon, fertile soils, relatively mild winters, and then oil and gas discoveries brought settlers here. Recently a strong technology sector has also developed. The North Saskatchewan River created Edmonton's river valley. At 22 times the size of New York's Central Park, this is the longest stretch of connected urban parkland in North America, full of natural beauty, with lakes, ravines, bike and walking trails. The city has the highest per capita area of parkland of any Canadian city.
A cultural, governmental and educational center, Edmonton plays host to a year-round slate of world-class festivals. The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra performs classical masterworks, pops, and children's concerts. The Citadel Theatre has a five-hall complex of theaters with a variety of stage productions, both mainstream and alternative. The Jubilee Auditorium, on the University of Alberta campus, features performances of the Alberta Ballet, the Edmonton Opera, Broadway shows, stand-up comedians, theatre productions, popular bands, orchestras, and dance. For a look at some area museums and galleries, see our events & experiences page.
Often called the "Festival City" Edmonton has numerous events, especially during the long summer days, but also throughout the year. In August the popular Fringe Theatre Festival takes place, but there are associated events all year long. The International Street Performers Festival features an featuring our international cast of jugglers, acrobats, hip hop dancers, sword-swallowers, musicians and more at Sir Winston Churchill Square each July. The biggie each year is Capital EX, in July, with ten days of concerts, fireworks, wine, food, a chuck wagon derby, horse racing, carnival rides and midway - and more.
Old Strathcona, in the historic district south-central Edmonton district, is the main arts and entertainment district, home to a vibrant independent theatre scene. Nine companies are at work at the Varscona Theatre, the Transalta Arts Barns, the Walterdale Playhouse and the Catalyst Theatre at C-103. The Rapid Fire Theatre, an improv comedy group, presents Improvaganza each June, with the best comedy acts around.
The Princess and the Metro Cinema at the Garneau Theatre are area art-house cinema/ theaters. The Edmonton International Film Festival takes place each year at the end of September. The closest queer film festival, Fairy Tales, screens in Calgary in late May/ early June. Dreamspeakers has an Edmonton June film festival by and about the world's Aboriginal Peoples, and Global Visions features the work of documentary filmmakers each November.
Edmonton Pride, nine days of celebrations each June, include a parade, a festival with stage entertainment and vendors, and dance parties - a total of 33 events in 2011. The gay scene is not large but it is lively with several gay and lesbian clubs, the Pride Center with drop-in social services, resources and library, and many organizations offering a diverse variety of social activities.
The West Edmonton Mall is the largest shopping center of it's kind in North America, with over 800 stores on three indoor levels.
The Edmonton International Airport with connections to the US, Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean, and the Edmonton City Centre Airport are the two airports serving the city. Skyshuttle provides transportation to and from Edmonton International.
Inter-city rail passenger rail service is provided by Via Rail to points all across Canada. From the Edmonton railway station Toronto is a trip of 63.5 hours, and Vancover is 27 hours by train.
Edmonton Transit System is the main public transit agency, operating the Light Rail Transit line with service every 5-15 minutes at 15 stations along a 21 km route between Clareview and Century Park. They also have a large fleet of buses. Service ends by approximately 1:30am on weekdays and at around midnight on weekends, so taxis or a car are a necessary part of a night on the town.
For general listings and reviews of arts, film, music, restaurants and nightlife see VueWeekly.
The Pride Centre of Edmonton (10608-105 Ave) offers community programs and events throughout the year, and an extensive GLBTQ Library Collection.
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