AOL PICK from our Editors
Ask any Edmontonian traveling abroad where they’re from and they’ll probably give you an answer that has some mention of West Edmonton Mall. Back in the glory days of the 80s and 90s when WEM was the largest shopping mall on earth, shopping in Edmonton was something to be proud of. Today WEM is still a thriving shopping destination, but the glitz and glamour of yesteryear have been outdone by places like the Dubai Mall. Similar to most cities across North America, you can find massive power centres with major American box stores in all of Edmonton’s suburban quarters. But the best Edmonton shopping can be found in the independently-owned boutiques along Whyte Avenue or in up-and-coming revitalization zones along 124th Street and downtown’s 4th Street Promenade. Looking for something local to take back home with you? Check out the Alberta Craft Council (10186 106th St.) or the gift shop in the newly opened Art Gallery of Alberta—both feature creations by resident artists.
Mall rats of the world, take note. If you ever hold a convention, West Edmonton Mall is the place to come. Built in the early 80s by the wealthy Ghermezian family, the 5.3 million-square-foot shopping monstrosity is the size of a small city and hosts approximately 28.4 million visitors each year. The 800 shops and 100 dining establishments are spread out over four phases, which are clearly marked on maps throughout the mall. Along with most popular North American clothing stores, on-site attractions include the World Waterpark, Galaxyland amusement park, the Ice Palace skating oval, Ed’s Rec Room, Professor Wem's Adventure Golf, and an underground aquarium with a submarine and live sea lion shows. A hotel is even available in case you end up having a few too many après-shopping beers at the pubs lining Bourbon Street. If you don’t like crowds, arrive early or shop midweek as it can get really busy on weekends and holidays. There’s something for all ages. Plan to spend at least an entire day.
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4th Street Promenade
By far one of the coolest chunks of pavement in the city, the pedestrian-friendly street lined with converted warehouses and modern condo towers comes to life Saturdays between May and October as granola-chic urbanites (and their dogs) load up on goods at the downtown City Market—Edmonton's original farmers’ market. It’s worth the wait if you find yourself queuing for brekkie at the retro-inspired Blue Plate Diner. However, if patience is not your best virtue, kill some time at modern furniture bazaar 29 Armstrong or let loose your fashionista at Coup Boutique. Even the starving artists who pack the studios in the historic Saddlery Building can afford a coffee at Credo Coffee. Nightlife is fairly tame in this neck of the woods. Lit Italian Wine Bar and Tzin Wine & Tapas are your best options. Parking is a nightmare, so opt for a bicyclette or make use of the Bay LRT station close by.
Shopping is an all-day affair when you head to the shops and boutiques along 82nd Avenue. You will find 54 clothing and apparel stores, over 20 gift shops and as many as 25 health and wellness services. The Bamboo Ballroom, Avenue Clothing Company, Gravity Pope, My Filosophy and Etzio Womens Wear are independently owned and operated fashion boutiques, while stores like Chapters, Megatunes and the Wee Book Inn cater to music lovers and bibliophiles. Parking is available at meters along the street or for free on residential side streets. Saturday is market day at the Strathcona Farmers’ Market, open from 8AM to 3PM on the east side of 103rd Street and 83rd Avenue.
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If you like to shop and are looking for some god deals, chances are you’ll love South Edmonton Common located on the far south side of the city along Gateway Boulevard. More than 2 million square feet of retail space is spread across 320 acres, making it one of the largest open-air retail developments in North America. You’ll find brand names like Roots, Pier 1 Imports, H&M, Indigo Books and the Banana Republic Factory Store. Swedish furniture store IKEA attracts visitors from as far away as Saskatchewan and the Yukon who want to take advantage of the great deals (and $2.99 breakfasts). Just a warning for those with a tendency to break out the road rage: The roads were designed to keep people in, so getting in and out of the complex can be a nightmare.
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Got some Old Money to spend? Then get your heels on down to the 124 Street & Area shopping district. The tree-lined strip of boutiques and Greek restaurants is west of downtown on the north side of the river between Jasper Avenue and 111th Avenue. Join the Ladies who Lunch at the Parisian-inspired Duchess Bake Shop, where pastries are made with real butter imported from France, or peruse the kitschy collection of mid-century modern furniture available at Populuxe. European fashions are always in style at Thread Hill, located right next door to neighbourhood newbie Somerville Wine Room and across the way from the Roxy Theatre. Ample free parking is available, but if you’re up for a walk, be sure to explore the many fine art galleries located within the12-block radius; pick up a free brochure of the Gallery Walk self-guided walking tour.
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