If you’ve ever driven through the Highlands neighbourhood, then you probably picked up on the charming houses and grandeur of mature trees that shade the streets. The historic neighbourhood boasts a quaint-yet-quintessential feeling that will make you feel at home just by walking through the area.
The Highlands Historical Society offered walking tours frequently pre-pandemic, but stopped due to restrictions. But now, you can go on your own walking tour! Get lost in one of Edmonton’s oldest, most well-preserved neighbourhoods and enrich yourself in the history.
Highlands is bordered by 118th Avenue on the north, 50th Street on the west, 67th Street from the east, and the North Saskatchewan River on the south. A section of local shops and restaurants sits on 112th Avenue between 66th Stree and 64th Street.
The area dates back to 1910, when William Magrath and Bidwell Holgate announced development plans for the area. The area was annexed to the City of Edmonton in 1912 and Magrath convinced the City to add shops in the area. He also convinced the City to extend the streetcar line to the neighbourhood since it was three miles away at the time.
To make his mark on the neighbourhood, Magrath built a mansion after his namesake on a street he named after his wife overlooking the North Saskatchewan River. The century-old Magrath Mansion still stands today on Ada Boulevard and is arguably the gem of the neighbourhood. The boisterous red brick mansion was even featured in a 2013 Apple advertisement which won an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial.
The neighbourhood is also the former home of Marshall McLuhan, a renowned communications theorist most known for his “the medium is the message” theory. McLuhan was born in Edmonton and raised in Highlands. His childhood home was restored by Arts Habitat Edmonton and is dedicated to his life and research.
Many early prominent figures in Edmonton lived in Highlands and you can see their homes by walking through the neighbourhood. Owners of historic houses in Highlands more than 50 years old have the options to place heritage plaques on the exteriors that state the original owner, their job title and year of construction.
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Head over to 112th Avenue to visit the bounty of local shops. Majesty and Friends, Mandolin Books and Cafe, June’s Delicatessen and Bodega are just a few in the neighbourhood. Grab a cone or cup at Kind Ice Cream, then walk south towards Ada Boulevard where you’ll be met with some of the most stunning views of the River Valley and downtown Edmonton.
If you’re looking for more than a casual walk, take one of many staircases down into the river valley to discover a network of trails. Take the Highlands Hike down past the Highlands Golf Course where you’ll wind up walking right next to the river.