After a record-breaking winter rife with alarmist terms like “polar vortex” and “cold like a witch’s hand clasping the base of your spine” it’s time to reap the benefits of climate change and enjoy the unrelenting punishment of 17 hours of sunlight. Give any Edmontonian half a chance and we will clutch both your shoulders with an iron grip and start foaming at the mouth, insisting that Edmonton is the best place to be in the summertime. Whether you’re new to the city, or could use a refresher, here is a smattering of possibilities for the hot hazy days that are to follow.
To make the most of your day, make sure you dress for the weather. Start by cutting all your jeans into shorts. Depending on length these are known as japris, jorts, or short jorts. If you don’t cut any off they are simply known as jants. To be on the cutting edge of fashion, make sure your shorn jorts are short enough so that the bottom of your ass cheeks poke out. The symmetrical yellowish sweat stain you leave on your seat will ensure nobody ever steals your spot at a patio, bus stop, or church.
Begin by heading to any number of the artisanal coffee houses that dot pedestrian thoroughfares to get that much-needed caffeine jolt. Edmonton’s burgeoning bean scene has more than hit its stride, so head to Transcend, Credo, or local favourite Sept/Onze to get your fix. No need to waste time, the coffee is served in convenient paper cups so you can grab and go. Once you finish, or if its temperature has erred ever so slightly from 198 degrees Fahrenheit, all you need to do is conveniently huck it into the garbage. Later, under the shame-obscuring mist of early morn, the cup will conveniently get picked up by a truck and conveniently driven 80 kilometres out of town where it will conveniently be buried in a giant hole.
Now that you’re suitably wired you can enjoy an afternoon in Alberta’s second most populous city.
The River Valley
Nature nuts will find their fix in the Edmonton River Valley. It is the longest stretch of urban parkland in North America, boasting over seventy trillion kilometres of trails and a few different types of tree in its 18,000 acres. To put that in perspective, it is roughly 22 times the size of Central Park, and 1/180th of the area burned by wildfires in British Columbia last year alone. Plus, it has a beach!
It’s true. Much like “unfriendly,” — or, at the barest minimum, not an accommodating place for neo-Nazis — “beach” is not a term generally paired with Edmonton. But lo and behold, located in the River Valley, Accidental Beach is a longish mound of construction debris that resembles a beach in the same way the Oilers resemble a hockey team. It’s not much, but we’ll take it. And don’t worry about that beach bod, your waterborne-fecal-matter-induced diarrhea will keep you supermodel thin.
Food and drink
If, like me, the rank freshness of unmolested flora, vivid like Monet, makes you want to puke, there are plenty of other options. Thanks to recently generous bylaws the patio ratio in Edmonton has grown considerably in the past few years. It is now 25 per cent easier to slowly cook yourself in the hot sun while spending $15 on a Corona shoved into a fishbowl margarita. Take a seat, watch the people go by, and listen to street preachers with bullhorns, motorcycles, and suped-up muscle cars compete for the apparently coveted prize of Loudest Jerk. If you’re restricted to the budget of a student or teenager, a mickey of vodka in a Slurpee and your friend Evan’s stoop is a perfectly viable alternative.
On Saturdays, check out the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market to graze on the free-range, organic, hippie-grown staples of Edmonton and area. Shamelessly eat samples with no intention of making a purchase and you can easily get a free lunch out of the deal, provided you consider microdosing on apples, baba ganoush, salsa, kombucha, kimchi, sausage, pesto, chocolate, toffee, and baklava a lunch.
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled and ear to the ground. Edmonton is, after all, the Festival City. Practically every weekend July through August there is something going on. All manner of world class artists and musicians flock here in the summer months to ply their trade. The prize jewel of it all is the Edmonton Fringe Handbill Festival.
After Edinburgh, it is the second largest Handbill Festival in the world. Approximately 200,000 handbills are produced and distributed annually to anyone foolish enough make eye contact with the glassy-eyed actor with a big sign sticking out of their backpack. Don’t worry though, once the run of their tepid one-man show has completed, those handbills will conveniently be driven 80 kilometres out of town to be buried in a big hole. Or, they might even get recycled, and shipped across the Pacific Ocean where they can be pulped and find new life as disposable coffee cups.
In recent years peak wildfire season has basted the entire city in the mesquite aroma of a country smokehouse. A grainy orange pall paints the entire city, and crowds thin noticeably given that the air quality is actively hostile to children, the elderly, the pregnant, and the infirm. If you’re able, catch a ride on the old-timey trolley atop the High Level Bridge in an off-kilter sepia sunset and watch the world burn.
So what are you waiting for, friend? The New York of the Prairies awaits. Dig your fingers into the Calgary of Northern Alberta and get lost, it’s been a long winter and you’ve earned it. As of this writing it is eight degrees Celsius and raining, but believe me, this balmy weather will not last. So get out there and reacquaint yourself with summertime in the Spruce Grove of Sherwood Park. See you out there!
Tim Mikula is a comedian, writer and artist based out of Edmonton. He can be found weekly at Rapidfire Theatre and is uncle to the world but father of none.