Edmonton: From Canada’s punchline to top global summer destination

Kita no Taiko performance at Edmonton's Heritage Days festival (Flickr/Kurt Bauschardt)
Kita no Taiko performance at Edmonton's Heritage Days festival (Flickr/Kurt Bauschardt)

The people of Edmonton can hold their heads a little higher this summer, knowing that their city has been picked by a world-renowned publication as one of the top places to visit this year.

National Geographic released a list of Best Summer Trips 2015, including several well-known international travel hotspots: Machu Picchu in Peru, Jeju Island in South Korea, and Athens in Greece all make the list of 11 recommendations. And right along with them? Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.

“Edmonton is welcoming the world this summer,” writes National Geographic travel writer Maryellen Kennedy Duckett. “The Festival City is hosting a series of international events, including the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 (June 6-July 4) and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival (August 6-9). Multicultural artworks, crafts, performances, and foods representing more than 85 nations will be featured at the Edmonton Heritage Festival (August 1-3).”

In addition to the festivals, Duckett highlights the locally-focused restaurant North 43, the Metterra Hotel that runs entirely on pollution-free electricity, and the bounty of sunshine you can enjoy, as Edmonton is one of Canada’s sunniest cities through the year.

While magazine lists invariably include one or two surprising picks, to avoid seeming predictable, NatGeo's praise will be warmly received in Edmonton, especially after the abuse the city has recently endured. Earlier this month, the Alberta capital was called out by the Globe and Mail for being a ‘boring’ choice to kick of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, insisting it should have been Toronto instead. (Writer Cathal Kelly memorably suggested the city should "crouch down behind Halifax and we’ll hope everyone thinks you’re Ottawa") In response, Brad Ferguson, president and CEO of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, told Yahoo Canada at the time that it was more of an embarrassment for the Globe and Mail than for the city.

“What I love about it is Edmontonians’ reactions,” Ferguson said of how locals responded to the criticism. “Five years ago they would have been up in arms. Today they deal with it with humour. We’re able to measure our self-esteem change on it.”

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The Edmonton Jounral’s David Staples shares Ferguson’s love of the city, and writes that he’s pleased to see Edmonton be recognized for what it has become.

“Edmonton is digging its way out of such negativity by revitalizing its downtown, but also through our remarkable festivals, which owe much to community and volunteer spirit. And that’s what National Geographic has recognized,” Staples wrote.

He goes on to explain how Duckett, who selected Edmonton from a list of 40 to 50 suggestions as narrowed down by about a dozen National Geographic editors, was swayed by all the festivals being held in Edmonton this summer.

Of course, you could argue that there are plenty of good festival cities across Canada: Montreal hosts the Just for Laughs comedy festival in July, while Vancouver will be holding the Celebration of Light fireworks festival at the end of July. Even the Writers at Woody Point Literary Festival in Gros Morne, Newfoundland is an unmissable affair.

But it’s Edmonton that wins out this time, and Edmonton that can look forward to showing visitors from around the world this summer exactly what it has to offer.

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