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Edmonton is more than just a gateway to Jasper and the Rockies. The cowboy capital is also one of Canada's sunniest cities. Every summer it hosts a world-famous fringe festival, while the rest of the year you can hike or cycle on 160km of riverside trails. To get the best out of the city's creative side, explore the neighbourhoods south of the river, where the arts scene is thriving.
Hostels in Edmonton have communal kitchens so if you're trying to keep costs down you can team up and cook with your dorm friends. In the Strathcona neighbourhood you can chill on a leafy outdoor terrace or airy common room with exposed brick walls. Alternatively, stay in an Edmonton hostel close to the university in a room with themed décor such as angels and dragons. Downtown you can gather a few fellow travellers together for movie night round the TV in your room. Free Wi-Fi is available in all Edmonton hostels too.
Downtown is the official centre of the city. Winston Churchill Square is brimming with outdoor exercise classes and cafés where you can sit and watch the world go by. For a more artistic vibe and independent boutiques, cross the river to Garneau where the university is based. Whyte Avenue is one of the city's most popular places: think experimental theatres, street art and bustling nightlife. Slightly further west, historic Strathcona retains its heritage charm and is loved for its year-round farmer's market.
Buff up on art and architecture at Downtown's Art Gallery of Alberta or to see what life was like in an 1840s trading post, cross the river to Fort Edmonton Park. The North Saskatchewan River Valley that divides Edmonton makes it one of Canada's greenest urban spaces. You can spend days walking through parks and woodlands right in the city, although Elk Island National Park is just an hour's drive away if you're craving true wilderness. For an offbeat attraction, book a ride on the vintage streetcar that still crosses the high-level bridge each day.
Edmonton International Airport is a 45-minute journey from downtown on Bus 747 or the Sky Shuttle. Greyhound bus services run from the VIA Rail Station (a 20-minute bus from downtown), connecting to Jasper and Calgary. Once you're in the city you can reach any neighbourhood using the Light Rail Transit or CityBus until 1.30am. Travel between Churchill and Grandin stations (from Downtown to the Oliver neighbourhood) is free during the day.