My Big Fat List of Edmonton Summer Activities

The Bear paddling at the Alberta Legislature.

Two summer months with the kids not in school can be daunting. While many people go on vacation or put the children into camps, we are always on the look-out for free and minimally organized activities for the Bear and Banana. Here are my top 10 [nearly] free summer activities:

1. The Library. Oh, how I LOVE the Edmonton Public Library. Did you know that EPL puts on over 6800 events each year? All the programming is FREE and is run by excellent staff. Many of the programs are drop-in so you don’t even have to worry about registering. Their summer reading program is already in full swing. And they have activities for every age group at all their branches. It would be a shame to let the kids go through the summer without checking out the library.

2. The City of Edmonton Green Shack/Playground Program. This is a drop-in, free playground program for the kids. You can find City of Edmonton summer staff at all the City of Edmonton playgrounds to entertain your kids with games, crafts, music and sports. Best of all, you can likely find the program right in your neighbourhood – no car necessary.

3. Festival City. Edmonton didn’t get the name Festival City for nothing. There is always something going on during the summer. While some of the festivals are ticketed and therefore cost money, there are usually street performers or side activities that you can go to with the kids. Just be sure to pack your own snacks and water or the ‘free’ afternoon will cost you $20 in lemonade! The Edmonton Street Performer’s Festival starts this weekend in Churchill Square which is such a fun way to spend the afternoon with the kids.

4. Find Some Water. Nothing says summer like getting wet outside! And you don’t need to spend the money to go the pool. Check out all the free spray parks, the pool in front of City Hall and at the Legislature grounds.

5. Experience Nature. Take the kids for a picnic in the river valley. Find a new trail or re-acquaint yourself with ones that you love. Or drive a little outside of the city to Elk Island Park National Park. Note that July 16 is Parks Day across Canada. Most national and provincial parks have free admission and activities for the kids.

6. Go to the beach. Yup, you’ll have to drive, but the kids will love the adventure. And aside from putting gas in the car, this can be a free activity. Pack the sand toys, your swimsuits and a cooler with a picnic lunch. Our favourite beaches close to Edmonton include Alberta Beach, Pembina River (excellent for the older kids who are good swimmers as they can float down the river), or Miquelon Lake Provincial Park.

7. Check out the Winspear Centre. The Winspear Centre has several free tours/events this summer: Winspear Centre free tours on July 18 and August 8 and August 17; or attend a free ESO concert on August 16; or listen to the amazing Davis Concert Organ for free on August 23.

8. U-picks. Okay, this isn’t a ‘free’ activity, but it is certainly a fit with slow food. And you get to bring home fresh fruit and/or veggies! There are many U-picks in the Edmonton area that also include picnic areas and playgrounds. Next week we will be visiting ELKS to pick strawberries.

9. Outdoor Farmer’s Markets. In the same vein as the U-picks, this isn’t exactly a ‘free’ activity because you will undoubtedly be compelled to buy something, but it certainly supports our slow food philosophy. There are so many great outdoor markets and lots of things for the kids to look at. It’s a great way to spend a morning. Check out the St. Albert market or the downtown market.

10. Find a free tour. Okay, this may be super geeky, but there are many free tours of Edmonton landmarks. The Alberta Legislature offers free tours through the summer. Or learn about downtown Edmonton courtesy of the Downtown Business Association and go on a free walking tour.

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  7. 7 Michelle July 7, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Not free, but Tuesdays are 1/2 price admission (reg. $13) at the Devonian Botanic Gardens…and kids 6 and under are free! They have a beautiful Japanese Garden and Butterfly House, as well as lots of space to run and climb.

  8. 9 Jocelyn July 5, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Love all the ideas. It reminds me of what I did in the summer when I was young!

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