Canada shot to the top of a lot of travel bucket lists last year with 2017 being the country’s 150th birthday (and who wouldn’t want a year long birthday bash?!) Unfortunately for Alberta, many travelers look past its Rocky Mountain scenery and cowboy hospitality for the better-trodden paths of Ontario, Québec and British Columbia.
Don’t be one of them.
There are so many incredible places to visit in Alberta and whether you canoe through fluorescent lakes in Banff National Park, discover dinosaur fossils in the Badlands or discover culture on the streets of Calgary, Alberta is in many ways Canada’s most rewarding province, and certainly its most underrated. Here are the top 10 things to do in Alberta.
A Guest Post by Robert Schrader from Leave Your Daily Hell
Spend some time in Calgary
You can literally see the Canadian Rocky mountains as your plane lands, so it’s tempting to skip Alberta’s largest city and head straight for the hills—it’s less than two hours from the airport by car. But I do recommend sleeping at least a night or two in Calgary. Whether you bike along the Bow River, go to the top of the Calgary Tower, shop at boutiques in Kensington, gawk at the impressive art collection of the Glenbow Museum or attend the Calgary zoo or the Calgary Stampede. Or if you time your visit right, grab yourself a ticket to the hottest (or should I say coldest) gig in town – an NHL match between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers. Let the battle commence!
Visit Lake Louise
Some tourist attractions are overhyped, but Lake Louise isn’t one of them. On of the most beautiful places to visit in Western Canadas Lake Louise is an impossibly blue lake just a short drive from Banff town, and a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. Whether you pass your time on a kayak, on foot or with a cocktail at the fancy Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel, there’s plenty to keep you busy and if you can’t get enough of that blue water head on over to nearby Moraine Lake for a second helping!
Drive the Icefields Parkway
Stop at Lake Louise—but don’t end there. Instead, continue driving northward on Canada’s Highway 93, nicknamed the “Icefields Parkway.” One of the major tourist attractions in Canada, the roadsides are home not only to more neon-colored glacial lakes (the beautiful Lake Peyto is a personal favorite), but endless forests, priceless panoramas and a glacier you can actually walk on (the Athabasca Glacier walk is an excursion which is offered on many Icefields Tours at the Columbia Icefields Discovery Center& Skywalk). The Parkway runs all the way up to Jasper National Park, which is at least as worth a visit as Banff, if you have the time.
Traipse through the Badlands
Canadians know of Alberta as the country’s Wild West, but you might find the fact that Alberta is where you find Canada’s Badlands a bit more surprising. In addition to the bizarre, rocky landscape and strange-looking “hoodoos” you find here, you can tour an abandoned coal mine as you explore the Canadian Badlands.
It’s tempting to think that Calgary’s the only Alberta city (or town) worth visiting, but this view is inaccurate, even if you cut provincial capital Edmonton out of the equation. Drumheller, the largest town in the Badlands, provides at least a full day of quirky fun, if only because it’s home to the world’s largest (fake) dinosaur. And if you want to see the fossils of real dinosaurs, don’t miss the Royal Tyrrell Museum just 4km north of the township.
Sleep amid the dinosaurs
Drumheller and the Badlands are also the gateway to real dinosaurs, or at least real dinosaur fossils. The best way to discover these is to visit Dinosaur Provincial Park during the morning or afternoon, then camp…er “glamp” in one of the park’s luxurious riverfront tents.
Take a boat across the border
Waterton Lakes, one the many national parks in Canada definitely plays second and third fiddle to Banff and Jasper, but this gorgeous piece of nature has one thing its more famous cousins can’t compete with: An international border, across which sits its sister park, Montana’s Glacier National Park. You can even take a boat over the border, although for obvious reasons you can’t disembark on the others side.
It’s also home to the amazing red rock canyon whose vivid red earth offers a delightful contrast to the aqua blue waters that surround it.
Step into First Nations history
Right now, the idea of visiting an attraction called “Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump” might seem strange, or even unimaginable. However, the moment you start to speak with the First Nations staff the museum at this national historic site, located about 90 minutes south of Calgary, you’ll understand just how important the very literal name of the monument is to the people who own this land. And that is why it’s one of the best places to visit in Alberta.
Don’t underestimate the food scene
Apart from poutine (and, maybe, donuts from Tim Hortons), there isn’t a lot to be said about “Canadian food.” On the other hand, Alberta (Calgary in particular) offers you the opportunity to taste the world, with cuisine from locations as disparate as China, Ethiopia India, the Middle East, Mexico and Nepal represented within its city limits.
Go as soon as possible
Alberta might be underrated for the moment, but it’s quickly gaining notoriety among travelers. Plus, it’s great in all four seasons, with skiing and other winter sports on offer throughout the Rockies, which means you can go any day of the year and enjoy yourself. If you’ve thought about visiting Alberta but haven’t bitten the bullet yet, why not change that today?
– And don’t forget these Alberta travel essentials before you go
So there you have it – hopefully this Alberta travel guide and travel tips has given you enough information to plan your trip – and given you a great list of places to visit in Alberta to make sure you get the most from your visit. Don’t forget to let me know your own highlights once you’re back!
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