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Edmonton making Forbes list of top travel destinations a sign of what's to come, say local business owners

Forbes disagrees with Toronto Life: Edmonton does have good food and a fun vibe. That's the review of Alberta's capital city in a recent Forbes list of the best places in the world to visit in 2023.

Fresh high-quality cuisine, Indigenous culture, and a variety of ways to enjoy the Alberta outdoors is what earned Edmonton a spot, Kelsey Marie from Travel Noire told CTV News Edmonton on Wednesday.

"I thought that Edmonton was going to be, like, maybe a small city with a few cool places to visit," she recalled.

Instead, she left thinking, "Wow, this is a really dope, vibrant city with a lot to offer."

Edmonton and Victoria, B.C., were the only North American cities to make the list.

Marie, who lives between New York City and Atlanta, had not heard of Alberta's capital before she was invited by the province.

In early March, she went on a two-day food and art tour of Edmonton, staying at the JW Marriott in ICE District. She snowshoed and watched bison – two firsts – in Elk Island National Park, before ending the trip in Alberta's mountain parks.

In Forbes, she encouraged others visiting Edmonton to learn about Indigenous culture and history by visiting Whiskeyjack Art House, Bearclaw Gallery and Fort Edmonton Park's Indigenous Peoples Experience.

"[Visiting Whiskeyjack Art House] was a unique experience because I'm not really used to going to art galleries and seeing work by Indigenous artists," Marie explained.

"These artists weren't there physically, but I felt them and their love and respect and honour for their people and their heritage and their culture through their work."

"I love that she felt that. Very grateful that it's not only seen, but felt," co-owner Lana Whiskeyjack told CTV News Edmonton, calling her family's name appearing in Forbes "pretty amazing."

She had been surprised to hear Marie had visited the art house – which some community neighbours have yet to find, she joked – but acknowledged it has a role in drawing visitors.

"I'm an artist, as well. And I teach art. And so art is this universal language of being able to, again, bridge those stories and connect people who never hear these stories.

"Indigenous art and Indigenous stories are such an important root to the landscape here in Treaty 6 – well, across our nation – and so being able to share our stories to a global audience is so important to our collective identities."


In her Forbes piece, Marie also specifically mentions Fu's Repair Shop's Chinese fusion menu and RGE RD's "Road Trip" blind-tasting adventure.

She described the city's culinary scene as full of surprises and the craft beer scene as "exploding" after samping the menus at The Monolith and Biera, noting, like RGE RD, they centred on fresh and local ingredients.

"I thought that was really impressive and you can really taste it in the food," Marie commented.

The Monolith and Biera both fall under the Blind Enthusiasm Brewing umbrella. Owner Greg Zeschuk acknowledged his business, like many others in the city, have capitalized on being located in an agricultural hub.

"We literally know the names of most farmers that provide us products. And a lot of Edmonton restaurants do that," Zeschuk said.

"Everything that Chef Winnie [Chen] and I like to put on our menus has to be something that's clean, fresh, locally sourced is preferable," echoed Fu's Repair Shop general manager and cocktail creator Nicole Williams.

Both coloured Edmonton's culinary landscape as underrated.

"You'll see in a big city like Los Angeles, if I want to get really great Vietnamese food, I have to travel really far. If I want to get African food, I need to travel. Within Edmonton, you have amazing examples of food from all over the world within 15, 20 minutes," Zeschuk said.

"That's 100 per cent accurate. I think walking around our city and going to the different neighbourhoods, you see the diversity, you see all these amazing little restaurants and stores that you can go into… Growing up, that's what I did," Williams told CTV News Edmonton.

"I think a lot more people are coming through the city because a lot more development's happening – and once they're starting to realize what we have to offer, I think it's just going to push us even further into this new world of cuisine and cocktails."

Zeschuk added: "We're usually a jump point to other type of touring, but I think when people realize they stop in Edmonton for a couple days, they'll discover there's incredible stuff here."

Marie's final assessment was that, "Edmonton, to me, has this really cool energy where I can feel that the young people there are working to make Edmonton a top destination."

Williams noted that was part of the inspiration behind Fu's.

"Everybody always talks about leaving Edmonton because there's so much cooler places to go, but let's just put in the work and make Edmonton the place to go," she said. "And that's what's working so far."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Evan Kenny Top Stories


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