Do you ever get the urge to drive straight out of town until the mega malls disappear in your rearview and the traffic thins out? I do. Lately I’ve been poking around in the suburbs and small towns near Edmonton for my shopping fix, which has lead to some pretty fruitful mini-road trips. These half day or day-long forays into Edmonton’s neighbouring towns are my lazy version of a weekend getaway. They don’t require booking a hotel or packing a toothbrush – they are easy, fun and a fab opportunity to go shopping at local shops and tasting at local restaurants.
Coming from a small town, I am a huge fan of a quaint downtown and family-owned stores. If you’re like me and love to poke little shops across Alberta, from the historic downtown stores of Fort Saskatchewan to the hip and charming boutiques of Leduc’s Main Street then this is your local-loving shopping primer. And, as a wee bonus, I’m also going to share a tiny handful of my fave Edmonton indie shops that specialize in Canadian and Albertan goods.
Now it’s an agricultural bedroom community for Edmonton. If your small humans are a bit rangy after the drive out, make your first stop Jouer Cafe, for some serious play time in their indoor playgrounds and climbing wall. After the kids are tuckered out and your properly caffeinated shop Canadian fashion houses Adria Mode, Carreli Denim or C’est Moi Bamboo for mom at Virtu Boutique.
Just west of Edmonton, St. Albert was recently voted Canada’s #1 Best Place to Live according to MoneySense in 2014: #NBD. I love St. Albert’s Perron district mainly because of it’s mix of yummo restaurants (Privada and Cerdo Tacos & Tequila) and fun stores (Crimson Quill Gifts or The Bookstore on Perron). Pro-tip: if you want to make your derrière look like a million dollars then you HAVE TO visit Monjeloco, the designed-in-Canada made in Colombia booty jeans shop of Dragon’s Den fame. My second favourite thing about St. Albert is the Enjoy Centre, where you can attend a craft fair, have lunch, stock up on gardening supplies, health food, take a yoga class and nab some craft beer. Phew! What a day.
If I was child free, I’d head to Fort Saskatchewan for a steak and eggs breakfast at the Brant Hotel followed by a wander through downtown and Legacy Park, an old train station. Blu Poppie gifts carries all kinds of lovely tchotchkes like candles, linens and this time of year, Christmas decorations. If you love ceramics, then definitely head to Fort Saskatchewan for their annual Pottery Guild Sale. For the cowpokes in your life – kids included, stop by Lammle’s on your way back to Edmonton for a hug selection of western wear.
For the men on your shopping list (or women for that matter) love snowboarding and skateboarding then a session at Rumor Skate & Snow is a must. With a selection of boarding and skate gear from Canada including: Sitka, RDS, Niche, and Lifetime Collective, Rumor keeps it real by supporting locals jibbers and skate fiends alike. If you need to fuel up for your next stop try The Sushi Factory. I dare you to resist the temptation of their list of 26 specialty rolls. Lastly, if your kids are with you, reward their good behaviour (fingers crossed) with some toys and educational gear from Playing for Keeps.
Baby mamas unite! Baby & Beyond by Millennium Centre is a great one stop shop for everything from onesies to organic bum salve to breast pumps. For sugary stocking stuffers, head to Confetti Sweets. My favourites are the coconut or chocolate chunk cookies. If you need Christmas gear – from trees, to decorations to garlands to cards – then visit Greenland Garden Centre. There’s enough glitter at Greenland to give the Edmonton Pride Parade a run for it’s money. After your day of poking around Sherwood Park, grab a late mini fondue lunch paired with an Alleykat Scona Gold from Greenlands in-greenhouse bistro Branches. It’s like dining on a patio in the tropics, without the expensive airfare.
Did you know that the Art Gallery of Alberta has one of the city’s best little gift shops packed with all kinds of made-in-YEG goodness? You can grab house goods from Oliver Apt, Veekee Workshop textiles and Jason Blower art prints (or a Edmonton colouring book for the littles). Habitat Etc downtown carries a menagerie of artisan wares from Canada and the USA – from bar tending bitters to stationary to beard oil. Deep in south Edmonton is The Refinery , a women’s and children’s specializes in on-trend fashion and bambino goodies like House of Hale kid’s teepee forts. If you like your shopping paired with strong coffee and addictive snacks, then you’ll love the general store at Little Brick in Riverdale. I’m currently coveting the Forest & Waves blankets, Keep Cups and Fiasco Gelato artisanal marshmallows. My secret Santa has his work cut out for him.
Make a plan this holiday season to ditch the mall scene and explore the indie shops neighbouring communities and Edmonton. Trust me, you’ll find some unforgettable gifts and have an adventure while getting there.
Pssst, it’s also the Grey Cup season of craft fairs right now. Crowd favourites like the Royal Bison, St. Albert Indoor Christmas Market, Silverbells Winter Market and Culture Collective are all happening over the next month. If you want some Edmonton-area craft fair intel head over to my write up on Family Fun Edmonton.
Looking for small town shopping inspiration in Southern Alberta? Check our my travel writer comrade Jody Robbins‘ picks in places like Drumheller and Black Diamond HERE.
Thanks to Travel Alberta for sponsoring this post. All opinions above are my own and this text wasn’t reviewed by anyone but me.
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