As Alberta’s capital city, Edmonton has a lot to offer. From North America’s largest mall to the largest urban park in Canada, there are lots of things to do in Edmonton. But aside from shopping, festivals, and an incredible waterpark, you’ll also find some unique and wonderful Edmonton museums.
Whether you’re looking to learn about Edmonton’s or Alberta’s history or perhaps going even deeper into the prehistoric days and our natural history, there are all sorts of incredible Edmonton museums to suit all tastes.
So without further ado…
The Best Edmonton Museums To Visit
Fort Edmonton Park
Like many of Edmonton’s top attractions, Fort Edmonton Park can be found within the River Valley, not too far from downtown. This place is truly incredible. It’s the largest living history museum in Canada, and the fact that it’s a “living museum” makes the visit more entertaining and enjoyable. Everyone from young kids to teenagers and adults will love this place and it’s easily one of the most famous Edmonton museums.
Due to its sheer size, we highly recommend spending a full day here to truly take it all in. You’ll find the brand new Indigenous Peoples Experience, which gives an outstanding explanation on the First Nations that have called this land home for thousands of years. Then you’ll get to step back in time and visit what was once Fort Edmonton, as well as walk the streets of 1885, 1905, and 1920, which include heritage buildings, farms, a working streetcar, and even a steam train. There’s also a historic hotel you can spend the night in, a variety of restaurants, and even a bar that has what was once the longest bar in Canada! Plus, there’s an old mid-way where you can try your hand at some games or jump on a ride, such as the ever-popular Ferriss Wheel. Needless to say, this isn’t your typical museum.
Royal Alberta Museum
As the largest museum in Canada, not to mention new and architecturally beautiful, you definitely shouldn’t miss spending a day at the Royal Alberta Museum (RAM). We say a day because the museum is huge and is full of information. You’ll learn about the First Nations and how they survived these harsh lands, how everything changed with the arrival of the traders, and everything that has shaped Alberta since. But it doesn’t stop there, you’ll also be able to learn about natural history, dinosaurs, and so much more. There’s even a gallery dedicated to bugs, and yes, you’ll actually see bugs such as black widow spiders and tarantulas. Don’t worry, they’re behind glass.
In addition to the four permanent galleries, there’s also a temporary gallery for moving exhibits. All in all, this 419,000 square foot museum can easily take up an entire day and there’s even a Children’s Gallery where they can get a hands-on education.
Once you’re done, or perhaps before you start, you can also visit the cafe or the gift shop, which offers everything from puzzles and t-shirts to locally made goods.
Art Gallery of Alberta
When it comes to Edmonton museums and art, the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA) is the place to be. This art museum occupies 86,000 square feet in what is know was of the most beautiful modern pieces of architecture in the city. Its collection includes over 6,000 works, with a focus on art produced in Alberta, and other parts of western Canada. In addition to exhibiting its permanent collection, the museum also hosts travelling exhibitions as well as public education programs.
One of the museum’s strengths is the contemporary collection, which includes Canadian abstract paintings and sculptures, but you’ll also find an impressive collection of contemporary and historical photography, prints by the renowned 18th-century British printmaker Thomas Bewick, and a strong representation of historical Canadian paintings from the late 1800s to the 1950s.
Neon Sign Museum
Located outdoor and free for all to see, this is perhaps the smallest and most unique of the top Edmonton museums. It’s a really fun place to stop, especially at night. Home to 20 historic neon signs collected by the City of Edmonton, the side of this building has become one of the most photographed spots on Instagram. Below each sign, you’ll find plaques detailing where the sign once hung.
The Neon Sign Museum can be found at 104 Street and 104 Avenue, not far from major attractions such as Rogers Arena and the Royal Alberta Museum.
Alberta Railway Museum
If you’re the kind of person that loves trains, the Alberta Railway Museum should be on your list of Edmonton museums. Located north of the city, this volunteer-run museum is a hands-on experience that also has a variety of old trains to admire. Check out the old cabooses, marvel at the engines, and climb aboard historic cars while taking in the history and heritage of Alberta’s trains and railways. After all, trains are a big part of what made Canada what it is today.
John Walter Museum
As one of the city’s most notable entrepreneurs, John Walter immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1870. He ended up acquiring land and building ferry operations, a general store, a lumber mill, and even a coal mine. Consisting of three homes that John Walter lived in, this is one of the Edmonton Museums that will educate you about his numerous business ventures and why he was such a prominent figure in the city. You’ll also find beautiful gardens, which are worth the visit alone.
Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village
The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is an open-air museum showcasing the history of Ukrainian settlements in and around Edmonton and Alberta, specifically from the years 1899-1930. Alberta has a pretty big Ukrainian community and costumed interpreters will show you exactly what life would have been like back in those times.
With over 40 refurbished buildings, kids and adults alike will love the hands-on exhibits that highlight everything from common tools to cooking methods as well as the chance to explore typical shops, churches, and a grain elevator.
The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is not in Edmonton but isn’t too far away. You’ll find it in Lamont, a small town that’s about 50 km east of Edmonton. You’re welcome to bring your own food but you might be better off enjoying some truly authentic Ukrainian food there instead. Perogies and sausage? Yum!
University of Alberta Botanic Garden
The University of Alberta Botanic Garden is a stunning 240-acre property located in Parkland County, 15 minutes southwest of Edmonton, with cultivated gardens and plant collections, indoor showhouses, and extensive natural areas.
We hesitated about classifying this as one of Edmonton’s Museums but in reality, it’s a museum of plants and flowers. In fact, because it’s a botanic garden, you’ll actually find the names of all the flowers you look at, which can make it a great place to choose some flowers for your next garden. Either way, this is a must-visit when in Edmonton.
We loved exploring this garden and wish we had more time. Highlights include the award-winning Aga Khan Garden, a 4.8-hectare Mughal-inspired garden, which features secluded forest paths, granite and limestone terraces, pools that reflect the prairie sky, waterfalls, and streams as well as the Kurimoto Japanese Garden, a sprawling tranquil oasis with Japanese bridges, ponds, and pavilions. You’ll also find a Tropical Showhouse with exotic butterflies, Temperate and Arid showhouses, the Indigenous Peoples’ Garden, and an extensive alpine garden with an emphasis on plants suitable for a cold northern climate, including ornamentals, fruits, vegetables, trees, and shrubs.
Aside from exploring the garden, you can also pre-book a picnic or join in one of the many adult-themed evenings happening each night.
University of Alberta Paleontology Museum
If dinosaurs are your thing, you won’t want to miss the University of Alberta Paleontology Museum, which features hundreds of fossils, meteorites, and specimens. The permanent collections of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences consist of five formal divisions: the Drill Core Collection, which has about 7000 metres of sedimentary core and 900 metres of kimberlite; the Invertebrate Paleontology Collection that includes over 10,000 type specimens; the Meteorite Collection, which is the 3rd largest in Canada; the Mineralogy and Petrology Collection; and the Trace Fossil Collection that supports research and education in Ichnology.
Alberta is actually a treasure trove for dinosaur fossils, especially in the Alberta Badlands where you’ll find the world-renowned Royal Tyrell Museum in the Dinosaur Capital of the World just two hours from the big city of Edmonton. This museum is actually free to visit and isn’t very big, so you won’t need an entire day to explore. However, it is closed currently due to covid.
Alberta Aviation Museum
The Alberta Aviation Museum is one of Canada’s great aviation museums. Located in the last remaining double-long, double-wide hangar from the World War II era, the museum tells the story of Edmonton and Northern Alberta’s rich aviation history, which includes everything from biplanes to bush planes, bombers to jets. It’s both rich in information with its newly designed exhibits as well as its extensive collection and hands-on experiences, such as flight simulators.
This is definitely the best of the Edmonton museums for flight enthusiasts and is popular with adults and kids alike.
Musée Héritage Museum
Not far from Edmonton in the charming little town of St. Albert, the Musée Héritage Museum is on the small side of the Edmonton museums list but is still quite popular due to its focus on local exhibits that have shaped Alberta’s history. The exhibits are also frequently changing to keep it fresh and may include anything from the gold rush back in the 1850s to the Banff internment camps. Right now, it’s a great place to learn about the horrible atrocities of residential schools.
We left the Reynolds-Alberta Museum last because it’s located further away in the city of Wetaskiwin, which is approximately 70kms south. However, it’s an incredible place and is considered one of Alberta’s hidden gems. You’ll find one of Canada’s biggest collections of machinery, including vintage cars, tractors, and planes. There’s even a make-shift drive-in theatre playing old movies, and an exhibit dedicated to motorcycles. Plus, they actually restore the vehicles right there in the museum! You can watch the mechanics hard at work and see how incredible of a transformation they do on the cars they receive. It’s truly astonishing. Then, if you want to actually fly a plane, you can head next door to Absolute Aviation and fly a Cessna over Wetaskiwin!
Looking for Hotels in Edmonton?
If you’re visiting Edmonton, you’re going to need a place to stay. Luckily, Edmonton has no shortage of hotels, ranging from great value to luxury. There’s a number of hotels we can recommend, including the Matrix in downtown Edmonton, Hotel Metterra on Whyte Avenue, and the Fairmont’s Hotel McDonald. Your best bet though is to find a hotel through our partner EdmontonsBestHotels.com, which not only offers the best rates but often offers perks and promotions as well. We do not get a commission from your bookings.
Edmonton is much more than museums so be sure to check out our full travel guide to the best things to do in Edmonton before you travel there. Plus, we have guides to all sorts of destinations across Alberta and Canada. Maybe you’ll like these ones below: