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As the provincial capital of Alberta, it come as no surprise that there are some outstanding museums in Edmonton. These museums cover everything from local history, wildlife and culture to transportation, science, and art, making them some of the most fun yet educational things to do in Edmonton.
In the first section below, I’ll introduce the best Edmonton museums, while the second sections covers a handful of other museums just a short drive out of the city. Some free museums in Edmonton are also included!
Having been born and raised in Edmonton, I’ve been visiting several of these museums since I was a kid. Others I only visited for the first time recently, with my own kids, and I’ll share our honest impressions of each one below. You can see more of our favorite things to do in the city in my guide to enjoying Edmonton with kids.
Table of Contents
Best Museums in Edmonton
The following museums are all located within the Edmonton city limits. I’ve arranged them roughly in order of which ones are the most “must-visit”, but of course this is totally subjective.
Royal Alberta Museum
The Royal Alberta Museum is without a doubt the top museum in Edmonton and one of the best in Alberta. Once located in an older facility west of downtown (I used to work there!), RAM reopened its brand sparkling new facility downtown in 2018.
The new location is beautifully designed and now holds the title for largest museum in Western Canada. Upon entering the museum, you’re greeted by an Albertosaurus skeleton, mammoth, and antique aircraft hanging in the huge open lobby.
Next, your museum visit will include exhibits covering the natural and human history of Alberta (I’ve loved the realistic animal scenes and indigenous gallery ever since I was a kid), the Manitou Asinîy (a meteorite that is sacred to the indigenous people), a live bug gallery, an interactive children’s area, and rotating feature exhibits.
There is also an excellent café and gift shop on site, and additional children’s and school group programs on offer throughout the year. The museum is open year-round, making it one of the best things to do in winter in Edmonton.
Fort Edmonton Park
Another Edmonton facility to get a recent makeover is Fort Edmonton Park, Edmonton’s prime living history museum. After a period of closure, Fort Edmonton Park reopened in summer of 2021 with a brand new midway area featuring various rides, games, and a Ferris wheel, as well as an especially impressive new Indigenous People’s Experience Building.
Fort Edmonton Park contains the original 1846 Fort Edmonton fur trading post, moved there from the original site between Edmonton’s Legislative Grounds and the North Saskatchewan River. There are also three streets of shops, schools, and so on, set to look at they did in 1885, 1905, and 1920.
The park occupies a huge area, but luckily trains and streetcars operated by the Edmonton Radial Railway Society (who also do the High Level Bridge Street Car runs) ply the main route connecting everything. This allows you to hop on and off to cut down on walking time. Most people get on the train as soon as they enter, going all the way to the Fort at the end, then making their way back.
The best part of the experience is the costumed interpreters, who really stick to their roles as they do various demonstrations. The new Indigenous People’s Experience also really captivated me and my kids, especially the indigenous stories accompanies with shadow and light shows.
Fort Edmonton Park is usually open in summer only.
Telus World of Science
Another of the best museums in Edmonton is the Telus World of Science (which I still can’t help but call by its old name, “Space & Science Centre”, from my childhood).
Telus World of Science started out as primarily a space-themed museum, and that is still a big part of it. There’s even a separate observatory building on site with a huge Meade 16″ LX200 telescope that you can use to stargaze, open when whether permits.
Nowadays the museum has expanded to include all sciences, with live chemistry and physics demonstrations, a few animals and fossils, robotics, health and more. There are also films shown on the dome ceiling of the huge Margaret Zeidler Star Theatre (included in admission) and various documentaries showing daily in the IMAX Theatre (tickets sold separately).
Toddlers and young kids will especially enjoy Curious City (essentially an indoor playground, including water play area) and the Science Garage, which has more hands-on activities and guided crafts. As the parent of two young kids, all I can say is that we definitely make good use of our annual family pass!
Telus World of Science is open year-round, and is currently undergoing an expansion, so it’s best to double check and see what’s open. There’s also a café and really cool gift shop with lots of science-related games and toys on site.
Art Gallery of Alberta
The Art Gallery of Alberta is the largest art museum in Alberta, and one of the largest in all of Canada. The entire building, which sits on Churchill Square downtown, was rebuilt and reopened in 2010.
The AGA’s stunning new contemporary exterior features huge steel ribbons meant to replicate the flowing of the North Saskatchewan River and the aurora borealis (Northern Lights).
The gallery maintains a permanent collection of over 6000 artworks and 1500 photographs, mostly from the 1950s to the present. The exhibitions are constantly rotating, though, with an emphasis on local Alberta and Western Canadian art.
While the art gallery is not specifically kid-friendly (unless your kids are old enough to appreciate fine art), they do run some great art classes and programs for kids and school groups.
Heads up: there is a new and surprisingly excellent eatery on site called May Restaurant. The chef’s work emphasizes locally sourced ingredients, plus there are artisanal cocktails and local craft beers on offer.
Alberta Aviation Museum
I had driven past the Alberta Aviation Museum a thousand times (and you probably have too, if you live in Edmonton) before I finally took my son in one day.
The museum is located on the edge of the now retired Blatchford Airport, which is now being redeveloped as an eco-friendly neighbourhood. You can’t miss the three airplanes on display right beside Kingsway Avenue as you drive by.
My son and I were pleasantly surprised by this museum. There are dozens of aircraft on display, spanning the entire early history of aviation in Alberta. We learned all about how Edmonton was (and in many ways still is) the gateway to Canada’s far north.
The museum is kid-friendly, too. Sage enjoyed guiding us around with the map they provided to us of all the aircraft. There were also several interactive games and a fun flight simulator. If you come on certain days, kids can also sit in the cockpit of certain planes.
My only complaint would be that the entrance fee for this museum is a little steep. At nearly the same price as Royal Alberta Museum, we spent less than an hour here, while RAM easily occupies half a day.
Neon Sign Museum
Looking for a free Edmonton museum, and outdoors? Neon Sign Museum is a nostalgic collection of neon signs from retired companies and demolished buildings all over the city. I can actually remember seeing some of these signs around Edmonton as a kid.
Today, around 20 of these original signs are on display on a historic red brick building on 104 ave and 104 st, at the end of the 104 st Promenade and near the Ice District. The scene is especially atmospheric in the evening or at night, when the signs are all lit up. There are several excellent restaurants nearby, too, providing additional incentive for a visit.
There’s an informative plaque at street level, covering the history of neon signs in Edmonton, from the first one in 1928 to the decline of the neon sign trend in the 1950s and 60s.
University of Alberta Museums
The University of Alberta in Edmonton has 29 small museums and collections on campus. These have been carefully curated by the university’s experts, with select items on display from an inventory of over 10 million objects. Several of these museums are open to students and the public.
Just a few examples include the Meteorite Collection, Dentistry Museum Collection, Amphibian and Reptile Collection, and Vertebrate Palaeontology Museum (this is the closest we have to a dedicated dinosaur museum in Edmonton!) Besides these museums, you can also visit Rutherford House on campus, the historic home of Alberta’s first premier.
It’s important to note that all the U of A’s museums have been closed to the public due to COVID restrictions. Check in with the U of A Museums’ website for possible reopenings.
Strathcona Streetcar Barn & Museum
Another very small but significant museum in Edmonton is the Strathcona Streetcar Barn & Museum. The museum is located at the Strathcona (final) stop of the Edmonton High Level Bridge Street Car line. Strathcona is where the famous Whyte Avenue is located and is one of Edmonton’s coolest neighbourhoods.
These streetcars, which come from around the world and are maintained by the Edmonton Radial Railway Society, operate from downtown to Strathcona, traversing the top of the High Level Bridge. It’s an exhilarating ride providing fantastic views of downtown Edmonton and the River Valley.
At the Strathcona station, there is a small museum with images, videos, and objects pertaining to the history of streetcars, Edmonton’s old streetcar system, and the fleet of streetcars maintained by the organization.
The trains and museum run from May long weekend to Canadian Thanksgiving. Entrance to the museum is free/by donation, while tickets for a ride on the streetcar can be purchased from the conductor (cash only).
John Walter Museum
John Walter Museum a small living history museum, is located in the North Saskatchewan River Valley on the edge of Kinsmen Park, where you can also find one of the best playgrounds in Edmonton (it’s grizzly bear themed!)
John Walter was the son of a Scottish immigrant to Canada. From 1870 to 1875, he worked at Fort Edmonton building boats. After that, he built his own home across the river from the fort and continued building boats from there, residing there until he died in 1920 and organizing many community events.
The two houses Walter built are preserved as the small John Walter Museum. You can take a look from the outside and read about his life on the plaques any time or day of the year. The River Valley Trail passes right by the site, so it makes for a quick and easy stop.
Under normal times, in summer, a variety of children’s activities are also offered on site.
Museums Near Edmonton
The following museums are located within a short drive from Edmonton, mostly in Edmonton suburbs or rural areas just outside of the city. They are arranged roughly in terms of distance from the city.
Musée Héritage Museum
The small Musée Héritage Museum is located in St. Albert, a city just northwest of Edmonton. St. Albert was originally a Métis settlement, hence the museum’s French name. The museum is inside St. Albert Place, the city hall of St. Albert. Entrance is free/by donation.
The museum has rotating exhibits; take a peek at their site to see what’s on now or coming soon. There’s also a replica of St. Albert’s old wooden bridge, the first permanent bridge in Canada west of the Great Lakes. To be honest, the museum is very small, so I don’t quite recommend going out of your way, but if you happen to live in St. Albert or be in the area, it’s worth checking out.
The museum’s parent organization, Arts & Heritage St. Albert, also manages the Art Gallery of St. Albert and a handful of historic sights in St. Albert, including the St. Albert Grain Elevator, Little White School, and some original French-Canadian and Métis log houses in the area.
Alberta Railway Museum
Train lovers can’t miss the Alberta Railway Museum, which is located in a rural area a short drive northeast of the city.
The outdoor museum features several locomotives, the original 1909 St. Albert Railway Station (moved to the museum grounds in 1973), a WWI fire hall, and more. And yes, you get to take a ride on one of the trains!
The museum is run mainly by passionate volunteers from the Alberta Pioneer Railway Association. It is only open on weekends in summer, so get there when you can!
Spruce Grove Grain Elevator Museum
Grain elevators are one of the most iconic sights on the Alberta prairies. The Spruce Grove Grain Elevator Museum, 20 km west of the city, is an excellent example. Dating to 1958, it remained in operation until 1995, and is the last remaining wooden CN Rail grain elevator west of Edmonton.
A small museum, mostly volunteer-run, is operated at the grain elevator from May to September. A visit includes a tour of the elevator by a passionate tour guide. There is also some farming equipment and a cute small-scale model of the elevator on display.
Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Museum
The Ukrainian Culture Heritage Museum, or “Ukrainian Village”, is one of the best living history museums in Alberta. The grounds replicate a Ukrainian pioneer settlement on the prairies from 1899 to 1930.
Walking through the expansive grounds, you’ll explore farmsteads, general stores, town halls, shops, a school, grain elevator, train station, church, and more. Costumed interpreters stick to their roles and provide info and demonstrations.
At the end, don’t miss the chance to try authentic Ukrainian food, plus some modern innovations like perogy poutine. The museum is located just past Elk Island National Park when driving directly east from Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway.
For another cool Ukrainian experience in Alberta, don’t miss the giant Ukrainian Easter Egg in Vegreville!
Reynolds-Alberta Museum is a hidden gem located in Wetaskiwin. The museum houses what was once the private collection of Stanley George Reynolds, a Wetaskiwin businessman. The museum has been operated by the province since 1992, and Reynolds continued to donate items to it until his death in 2012.
The impressive collection includes more than 500 vehicles, 130 aircraft, 5000 pieces of agricultural equipment, and 70,000 pieces of trade literature. The vehicles and items are displayed indoors and out.
Red Deer Museum & Alberta Sports Hall of Fame
The furthest we are going to get from Edmonton is Red Deer, which is 150 km south of Edmonton and is a popular stopping point halfway between Edmonton and Calgary.
While most people simply stop to load up on gas and treats on Gasoline Alley, there are enough fun things to do in Red Deer to warrant a full day-trip, or at the very least, a longer rest stop. This includes two excellent museums.
Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery is the city’s main general museum and art gallery. Its main exhibits cover the area’s natural and human history, while rotating exhibits span a wide range of topics. The museum is in the city centre, a short drive in off the highway.
While there, also take a stroll to Norwegian Laft Hus nearby in the same park grounds, a cool sod-covered historic building, where you’ll also find the oldest schoolhouse in Central Alberta.
The second museum worth visiting in Red Deer is the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. As the name suggests, the museum covers the history of sports in Alberta. The main hall of fame room features images of hundreds of sportsmen and women from Alberta, while other exhibits cover extreme sports, winter sports, sporting history, and much more.
The museum is surprisingly kid-friendly, with lots of hands-on exhibits. It’s perfect for letting kids get some energy out on long road trips. What’s more, its convenient located right on the highway, in the same building as Red Deer Tourism.
Right behind it is Heritage Ranch, another of Red Deer’s top attractions. There’s a great restaurant on site, various activities, or you can just say hello to the horses without actually going in.
Well, that sums up my list of the best museums in and around Edmonton. You can find even more excellent museums further afield in my guides to Hinton, Jasper, Banff, Fort McMurray, Drumheller, Lethbridge, Calgary, Waterton, and Medicine Hat!