Meet Me Downtown

#MeetMeDowntown at the Art Gallery of Alberta

Dim sum in Chinatown. Drinks at Uccellino. Festivals in Sir Winston Churchill Square. 

These are a few of Catherine Crowston’s favourite things to do in downtown Edmonton. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter. She’s also the executive director and chief curator of the Art Gallery of Alberta, which overlooks Churchill Square. 

The AGA, now in its 99th year, opened its modern new home in 2010. It’s part of the Arts District, which includes the Citadel Theatre and Winspear Centre. 

Catherine Crowston speaks at the launch of the City of Edmonton’s Meet Me Downtown campaign at the Art Gallery of Alberta on May 10, 2023, with Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

“Downtown’s really exciting,” says Catherine. “I think a lot of things have happened over the last 10, 20 years—the proliferation of new restaurants, new cultural venues [including the Royal Alberta Museum and Stanley Milner Library], the arena and Ice District.”

We asked Catherine to curate some downtown destinations for moms and families: 

Art in the heart

The Art Gallery of Alberta (2 Churchill Square) showcases the best in visual art, offers creative activities for children and families, and boasts one of downtown’s finest patios. 

This summer, check out works by The Group of Seven’s Tom Thomson and Lawren Harris, Indigenous artists Kent Monkman and Lana Whiskeyjack, and modern icons Andy Warhol and Banksy. 

“Because we’re a public gallery, we try to appeal to a lot of different audiences,” says Catherine. “Downtown represents the diversity of our city.”

This work by street artist Banksy is part of the “From Warhol to Banksy” exhibition at the Art Gallery of Alberta, from June 10 to October 15, 2023. Image credit: Banksy, Grannies, 2006.

Family fun

There’s more to enjoy steps away from the AGA. “The Royal Alberta Museum (9810 103A Ave) has a wonderful Children’s Gallery,” says Crowston. “The Stanley Milner Library (7 Sir Winston Churchill Square) is a great family resource.” 

She also recommends Churchill Square’s summer festivals, including the Edmonton International Street Performers Festival (July 6-17) and Taste of Edmonton (July 20-30). 

Visitors check out the light table in the Children’s Gallery at the Royal Alberta Museum. Photo credit: Royal Alberta Museum.

Unique shops 

The Artworks, a funky gift store  (#100, 10150 100 Street), features flowers, home decor, cards, and jewelry.  “Shopping is great downtown,” she says. “Places like The Artworks or our own shop at the AGA are unique shopping experiences.” 

A selection of flowers at The Artworks.

Explore nature

Hop on the 100 Street Funicular (10065 100 Street). “It’ll take you down into the river valley, where you can walk and explore,” she says. After your stroll, head back downtown for brunch or drinks at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald or Rosewood Foods. 

The 100 Street funicular, left, is next to the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald. Photo credit: DIALOG.

Delicious treats

Rosewood Foods, a small café (#101, 10150 100 Street), specializes in sandwiches, greens, baked goods and coffee. “They do this wonderful salad with chicken katsu [cutlet],” says Catherine.

A map of some of Catherine’s favourite downtown destinations.

Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows Catherine Crowston in front of the Art Gallery of Alberta on Tuesday, May 2, 2023.