Anyone who’s ever planned a summer vacation knows that the age-old “urban versus natural beauty” dilemma is no joke. Especially now! Everything is back more vibrant than ever, making it that much harder for us to choose between an upbeat city and a calming destination fueled by nature. So this year we decided to combine them both. There you have it, the ultimate City to Summit, aka Edmonton to Jasper, travel guide.
Vacations begin in Alberta’s capital, which is literally the hub of summer adventures, with local shopping, festivals, delights and more. And after all the urban delights, there’s joy and rejuvenation in nature in the largest national park in the Rockies.
The best of Edmonton
Enjoy a heritage stay (or shop)
When it comes to accommodations, Edmonton has something for everyone. Romantic getaway? The 100-year-old Fairmont Macdonald Hotel Castle has all the luxuries for you. Need a modern and trendy vibe? The JW Marriot skyscraper in the middle of the ICE District is the answer. On vacation with the fam? The Westin Edmonton is within walking distance of attractions such as the Royal Alberta Museum and the Art Gallery of Alberta.
Shop in trendy Edmonton
Shopaholic, you’ll want to head straight to the West Edmonton Mall (the largest in North America, by the way) to satisfy your shopping cravings. But the local shops on Old Strathcona and Whyte Ave are nothing short of a delight, either. From cutting-edge outlets to one-of-a-kind art galleries to inspirational music stores, there’s plenty to do here.
Take the tour of the festivals
Edmonton is not called “Festival City” for no reason. And thanks to the wonderful weather and the long sunny days, summer is very special. From lively music festivals to inspiring arts festivals to festivals celebrating Edmonton’s many cultures, you’re spoiled for choice. Frankly, you can spend a whole holiday festival skipping, but we suggest at least a day (or 3).
Embark on a culinary adventure
With a city so rich in culture, it would be wrong not to expect a gastronomic landscape to die for. Creative restaurants serve reinvented classics. Cozy cafes serve freshly brewed coffee and delicious pastries. Patios and taprooms serve up some of the best craft beer you’ve ever had. Plus, you can take advantage of great deals with these Explore Edmonton discount passes
Discover Indigenous Edmonton
The city is home to many nations, including the Cree, Saulteaux, Blackfoot, Sioux, and Métis. It is also home to great indigenous talent – artists, musicians, performers and chefs. And you can witness their cultural grandeur through Indigenous-led tours, museums, the Métis Crossing Cultural Centre, the Indigenous Peoples Experience at Fort Edmonton Park and more.
Trip to Jasper
Now that we’ve soaked up the beauty and heritage of Edmonton, it’s time to head east. The 4-hour drive along the Yellowhead Highway to Jasper happens to be a scenic appetizer to the stunning beauty of the park. And if you’d rather just enjoy the ride instead of driving, SunDog Tours offers a shuttle from the West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton International Airport, and downtown Edmonton to Jasper.
Best of the Rockies
Rent a cute cabin
One of the many stereotypes that we Canadians proudly embrace is our love of nature and the wilderness. No wonder we love cabins so much. After all, what better way to enjoy nature than to live in the midst of it. Then rent one of Jasper’s beautifully appointed cabins.
Take in every inch of the park’s beauty
There are so many ways to celebrate Jasper National Park. You can take an adventurous motorbike tour, hike scenic trails, go horseback riding in the mountains, cook and eat your meals outdoors, spot the many furry inhabitants of the park. And you can do all of this while enjoying the most breathtaking views of verdant forests, majestic mountains, and sparkling blue waters.
Swim, paddle, raft in turquoise waters
While traversing mountains and greens is one way to explore the park, the other is to float above the many glacier-fed lakes and rivers here. The best thing is that your water exploration can be as soothing or as exciting as you want it to be. Go canoeing, paddle boarding or rafting on the crystal clear waters for an unforgettable experience.
SkyTram your way to the top
Everything is more amazing at 2,277 meters above sea level. The views are more amazing, the food tastes better, and the selfies turn out awesome. Of course, the iconic peak of Whistler’s Mountain is on the list. And because getting there is no small feat, there’s the SkyTram that can transport you to this elevated heaven on earth without breaking a sweat.
Alright, that was our list. Now, if you’re already packing your bags, you’ll be happy to know that getting to Edmonton is also super easy. There are several non-stop flights: Air Canada, Flair Airlines, Lynx Air (from July 28), Swoop and WestJet.
Just FYI, Edmonton International Airport itself is a great start (and end) to your vacation with great shopping, dining, and a luxury hotel attached to the terminal. Plus, as part of the Airport City Sustainability Campus, you can shop at over 100 brand-name outlet stores, a second Marriott hotel, casino, racetrack, and golf.