Head east of Edmonton for farm-fresh eats, fun festivals, and pretty parks.
Written by Karen Ung
Enjoy farm-to-fork dining and nature in Strathcona County and Vegreville. With Sherwood Park as your base camp, explore Strathcona County’s many parks, meet the makers at the farmer’s market, and fill up on local-grown goodness at eateries around town. In Vegreville, take a self-guided mural tour of historic downtown and do some shopping, paddle under the World’s Largest Ukrainian Easter Egg (Pyskanka), and attend a festival or country fair.
Here are 10 fun things to do on your next road trip to Strathcona County (1-5) and Vegreville (6-10)
1. Find local produce, baking, and unique gift items at the Sherwood Park Farmers’ Market (Wednesdays from 3 pm – 7 pm, year round) whose philosophy is “You Make It, You Bake It, You Grow It, You Sell It.” This large market has been operating since 1945 and features 85+ amazing vendors including Riverbend Gardens, Fallentimber Meadery, and Two Baba’s and a Stove (Ukrainian Food). Get everything you need for a delicious meal, or grab dinner from the food trucks! Keep an eye out for buskers too.
2. Dine at Branches Fresh Food Experience in Greenland Garden Centre. Their famous wood-fired pizza lives up to its reputation and the garden setting (indoor and outdoor dining available) is pretty and peaceful. After, take a stroll through the lovely Botanic Garden.
3. At Strathcona Wilderness Centre, walk the forested trails, have a picnic, or play a round of disc golf. No equipment? No problem – Strathcona Wilderness Centre rents discs! Kids will love slacklining, orienteering, and learning wilderness survival skills at the Summer Day Camps or overnight camps (register online). See Strathcona Wilderness Centre Outdoor Programs for more information. Note: pets are not permitted at Strathcona Wilderness Centre and trails. If you’d like to stay a while in the wilderness, book a private walk-in tent site or bunkhouse.
4. More natural areas to explore include the Riverside Nature Trail (5.5 km) along the North Saskatchewan River, North Cooking Lake Natural Area, Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, and Elk Island National Park, where hundreds of elk and bison roam. For a unique photo opp in Sherwood Park, visit the historic Woodbridge Farms Covered Bridge then take a short walk around the pond.
5. Looking for a good dinner spot? Head to Yoshi Japanese Restaurant for fresh sushi, Chop Steakhouse & Bar for awesome Alberta beef, or La Patrona for authentic Mexican food, then get a sweet treat at Confetti Sweets. Using “real butter, real sugar, and only the best chocolate,” Confetti’s promises “totally awesome” baking. They also carry locally-sourced foods and gifts like perogies, pickles, and handmade jewelry and candles. Pick up something special for a friend and yourself!
6. Pick up the pysanka (Ukrainian Easter Egg) in Vegreville. Walk, bike, or paddle under the World’s Largest Pysanka and post a fun #pickupthepysanka photo to score a free bumper sticker from the Vegreville Visitor Information Centre. Free bike and pedal boat rentals are available (first come, first served; photo ID required) so you can find the perfect photo spot.Did you know the World’s Largest Pysanka is a giant jigsaw puzzle that weighs 5,000 pounds, is 25.7 feet long, and took 12,000 hours to design and construct? It’s not only an impressive piece of art, but a mathematical, architectural, and engineering marvel!
7. Play at Elks/Kinsmen Park aka Pysanka Park. A large, accessible playground; skateboard park; outdoor fitness stations; stocked fishing pond; walking trails; and picnic area await! And on Thursday nights, there’s a market at the park! Before you go, get a souvenir or snack at the Visitor Information Centre, and pick up your Go East of Edmonton Road Trip Adventure Game sticker. Have lunch at Vito’s Steak & Pizza House and watch the game. If you can’t decide what to order (hint: the steak, pizza, burgers, and nachos are most popular), go with Mark’s daily special.
8. Explore historic downtown Vegreville and see if you can find all 11 murals from the Paint The Town Mural Initiative. We recommend starting at the Vegreville Rotary Rendezvous Park and heading towards the old Vegreville Train Station. At the corner of 50th Street and 50th Avenue, is a 1,200 square foot Ukrainian-inspired mural by Edmonton artist, Carly Gordon. Look for the fiery prairie sunset and Ukrainian embroidery patterns.
- Vegreville’s newest mural, by artist Josh Harnack, can be found above the doors to The Ceramic Cottage, a Ukrainian ceramics and gift shop. Harnack explains that it is “a motanka doll guiding an elk through the prairies” and the doll “is a protector of the land and its inhabitants.”
- Other murals of note include the Canada Mosaic Mural; the founders of Vegreville (at Rotary Rendezvous Park); and The Move, which explains how the town moved when the railway arrived.
- If you missed market day, get fresh produce from Skyline Greenhouse Store; then fill your cooler with premium made-in-house sausage, steaks, deer pepperoni, and more at Prime Cuts Meat & Deli.
9. Cool off at Lion’s Club Community Spray Park, then get tacos and margaritas at family-owned and operated Loco Burro Fresh Mexican Grill.
10. Special Events in Vegreville: Mark your calendars! These amazing events only happen once a year:
- Vegreville Pysanka Festival (first weekend in July): Experience Ukrainian Culture through folk art displays and demonstrations, Grandstand Shows, the Pioneer Village, market, workshops, dance competitions, and evening zavabas (Ukrainian dance parties with live music). Celebrate the festival’s 50th Anniversary in 2023!
- Deerland Vegreville Country Fair (first Wednesday to Sunday in August): This multi-day, fun for all ages event, kicks off with an opening day parade, and features midway rides and games; chariot and chuckwagon races; a petting zoo, market, and exhibit hall; bouncy houses, live entertainment, tractor pulls, beer gardens, and all the mini donuts you can eat!
- Vegreville Corn Maze (September and October weekends until October 16, 2022) is your place for fall fun with a petting zoo, pony rides, bouncy castle, story stroll, bale maze rock hunt, and concession.
Where to Stay
Ramada by Wyndham Sherwood Park, conveniently located near Anthony Henday Drive, is your home away from home with amenities including a great free breakfast with hot and gluten-free options, a fitness centre, business centre, laundry, and mini convenience store (perfect if you need a late night snack!).
Elk Island Retreat, near Elk Island National Park, has beautifully-decorated yurts, geodomes, cabins, tipis, and RV camping in a wilderness setting.
Vegreville Suites boasts spacious, modern rooms, a pool and waterslide, generous free breakfast, fitness centre, business centre, and Pantry (store). Suites have fully-equippedl kitchens!
Vegreville Municipal Campground, beside Pysanka Park, has power and non-power sites near the Vermilion River, and showers.
Sherwood Park is located only 20 minutes east of downtown Edmonton, and Vegreville is one hour east of Edmonton. Save time for Elk Island National Park and the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Park on the way to Vegreville!