Places to Visit in Alberta
- Medicine Hat
Unique Things to See and Do in Alberta
- Hike in Banff National Park
- Get dusty at the Calgary Stampede
- Shop West Edmonton Mall
- Visit Peyto Lake
- Enjoy Athabasca Falls
- Splash around at World Waterpark
An Outdoor Playground
Calgary, home of the Calgary Stampede. A city nestled in between prairie lands to the east and the Rocky Mountains to west. Calgary is a fast growing city that has managed to embrace the great outdoors while also boasting great restaurants and entertaining nightlife. The most striking feature of driving through Calgary is the surrounding areas of newly constructed houses all neatly lined up. It sums up the song of “Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds quite nicely. With oil production booming in Alberta (up north around Fort McMurray), Calgary needed to accommodate all the new arrivals. But don’t let that discourage you, Calgary is a lively city with plenty of arts, exhibitions, clubs, cafes, and of course shopping!
One of the striking features of Alberta is how quickly the landscape can change. A 45 minute drive outside of Calgary’s city life is Kananaskis Country which has over 50 provincial parks with lush green fauna and a gorgeous backdrop of the Canadian Rockies. This area is known for golfing, hiking, biking, fishing, climbing, and more. Just a few more minutes west you can explore the town of Canmore, an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Tons of trails to walk, hike and just when you’re too hot there’s a lake right around the corner to cool off in. Visit Quarry Lake for a dip or hike the Grassi Lakes Trail with the family and see two spectacular turquoise blue lakes.
Travelling out from Calgary, there are the Canadian Badlands to the east which are known for their bizarre rock formations and Dinosaur Provincial Park- a UNESCO World Heritage Site. About 100km up from here is the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, the world’s largest collection of fossils. If dinosaurs pique your curiosity, they even have a horned dinosaur display, and you can take a very cool coal mining tour there too.
Exploring north from Calgary you’ll venture into the central area of the province with Edmonton and Red Deer being the two most populous cities. In central Alberta you’ll start to experience the “big skies,” with rolling hills, little lakes, cattle ranches, and don’t forget the bugs in the summer! Pooka Stampede is a 7 day rodeo held every year at the end of June. People from around the world come to watch the Cowboys steer wrestle, barrel race, and even chuckwagon race!
Further up north around Fort McMurray and higher is known for the Boreal Forest and the most stunning light show ever – the northern lights – or more officially known as the Aurora Borealis. This is one of those spectacular environmental wonders that if you can manage to see once in your life, you won’t be disappointed.
Did you know…?
The Banff Springs Hotel was constructed in 1888, and there is a rumour that it is haunted! A woman in a wedding dress, who apparently died falling down one of the staircases has reportedly been seen wandering the hallways.
Did you ALSO know…?
The best time to see the Aurora Borealis Lights is between September and April.
Getting Around Alberta
Hands down, the best way to get around Alberta is by renting a car. Depending on where you are travelling to, the cities have great public transportation routes, but travelling between towns requires a vehicle. If you are planning a trip between the major cities, flights are quick and easy, for example it is only a 35 minute flight between Edmonton and Calgary, whereas driving is 3 hours (300kms). If you are combining flights you can look at AirCanada’s Fight passes, which offer cheaper rates between cities. And if you choose not to fly there are bus and train options too. Greyhound Bus service offers the most flexibility between major cities and smaller towns. Travelling by train, Via Rail offers service across Canada with trips into the Rockies. If you are planning on vacationing in Vancouver, BC - you could take a train all the way through Jasper and Banff and up to Edmonton. It is a gorgeous way to view Western Canada’s countryside.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Alberta
Nothing is better than summer in Alberta. For those not accustomed to the hot weather it can be quite a shock because the air feels really dry, but it is actually quite humid. The temperatures in the summer range between 20 to 30 C, but it can go higher than that and feel hotter especially in the direct sunlight. One thing to note is that Alberta has lots of grasses and with that comes mosquitos and plenty of them. Bring bug spray especially if you plan on hiking or trail walking. In June, the daylight hours can range between 16 to 18 hours, which makes for perfect evening patio time!
Winter months can be cold and snowy in Alberta, and the further north you go the colder it gets. The coldest months are January and February with daytime temperatures of -5 to -15 C and nighttime temperatures of -15 to -25 C. During this time the Rockies are simply stunning and the skiing is pristine in Mt Norquay and at Sunshine Village.
Ready to plan your visit to Alberta? Check out these popular guides and trips.