7 reasons to visit Alberta, Canada

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Stuart Forster

Stuart Forster

The wilds of Alberta tempt with endless opportunities for exploration. This great expanse of diverse land and mountainscapes encompass the eastern Canadian Rockies, glaciers, waterfalls, vast grass-covered prairies, dense forests and the barren desert-like badlands, not to mention over 600 freshwater lakes and 245 rivers.

Top reasons to visit Alberta, Canada © Lucky Photo - Adobe Stock Image
Top reasons to visit Alberta, Canada © Lucky Photo - Adobe Stock Image

As such, outdoor enthusiasts, from mountain climbers and cyclists to white-water rafters and winter sports fans, find themselves right at home. However, while much of Canada's sixth-largest province gives way to nature and wildlife, cultural hotspots and innovative cities can also be found.

Here, we look at seven ways to get the very most out of a trip to Alberta with a dusting of activities for every interest.

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1. Drive the scenic Icefields Parkway

If you enjoy scenic drives don't miss the opportunity to take a trip along Icefields Parkway, a route that skirts more than a hundred glaciers on its way through the Canadian Rockies between Jasper and Lake Louise.

In optimal driving conditions, you can cover this 144-mile stretch of highway in under three hours, but you'd be wise to plan significantly more time. It's easy to take an entire day if you enjoy stopping to take in the views and photograph the landscape.

Heading north on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta © Reimar - Adobe Stock Image
Heading north on the Icefields Parkway, Alberta © Reimar - Adobe Stock Image

Viewing points dot the way, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to gaze out at waterfalls, woodlands and mountain vistas. Interpretative displays share information about the region's wildlife, which includes grizzly bears, bighorn sheep and marmots.

If you've got a head for heights step out onto the Glacier Skywalk, a walkway with a looping, glass-floored lookout that juts 280 metres above the ground far below.

2. Land in the Star Trek capital of Canada

Want to boldly go to a quirky, off-the-beaten-path destination in Alberta? The town of Vulcan has latched onto the fact it shares its name with the home planet of the character Spock from the television sci-fi series Star Trek.

It's approximately 90 minutes' drive southeast of downtown Calgary, at least until a warp drive is invented that facilitates journeys at speeds faster than light.

Landmarks include a giant model of the Starship Enterprise while inscriptions on the pedestal are written in Klingon. Each July, Vulcan hosts the Vul-Con conference that draws costume-wearing attendees and traders selling all sorts of Star Trek paraphernalia.

3. Walk among the dinosaurs

The Royal Tyrrell Museum is at Drumheller, the town that bills itself as the 'Dinosaur Capital of the World'.

Exhibits in Canada's only dedicated palaeontology museum include a dramatically arranged pack of predatory Albertosauruses (named after the province), which are similar in appearance to the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex. Dozens of mounted dinosaur skeletons are displayed in subtly illuminated halls.

The museum is named in honour of Joseph B Tyrrell, a geologist who was searching for coal in the region when he unearthed fossilised dinosaur remains. The stratified earth around Drumheller continues to prove a rich source of fossils.

Hoodoos in the badlands near Drumheller, Alberta © Tom - Adobe Stock Image
Hoodoos in the badlands near Drumheller, Alberta © Tom - Adobe Stock Image

Peer into the museum's workshop and you may see palaeontologists cleaning, analysing and categorising freshly excavated finds. It's easy to while away the hours at the Royal Tyrrell Museum before following the nearby Badlands Interpretive Trail, a one-mile walking and nature route close to the museum.

4. Get to know cosmopolitan Edmonton

With an evolved farm-to-fork dining culture that embraces local produce, the capital of Alberta, Edmonton, is a great place to experience the cosmopolitan side of the province.

To understand the Canadian passion for ice hockey, head to the 18,500-seat Rogers Centre to attend an Edmonton Oilers home game. Their regular season runs from October to April. If tickets prove hard to come by you could always head to a sports bar to watch a game.

Fancy splurging? The vast West Edmonton Mall is the largest shopping and leisure complex on the continent. Meanwhile, nearby Elk Island National Park, within Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, is the place to be if you like your stargazing.

5. Explore Calgary on two wheels

Calgary is crisscrossed with an extensive network of multi-use trails that make it easy to explore the city by bike. Need wheels? There are numerous companies that rent a variety of bikes including e-bikes to make the journey that little bit easier.

Cycle path on Prince's Island along the Bow River, Calgary © Jeff Whyte - Adobe Stock Image
Cycle path on Prince's Island along the Bow River, Calgary © Jeff Whyte - Adobe Stock Image

The RiverWalk skirts the Bow River. Following the trail from Prince's Island Park, close to the downtown district, will take you through Sien Lok Park, by Calgary's Chinatown.

The resurgent East Village is home to Studio Bell, Canada's National Music Centre, where you can play instruments, step into a soundproofed booth to sing, or simply listen to leading Canadian artistes.

Fort Calgary, by the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers, is the city's original place of settlement and a national historic site. Keep going further and you'll reach Inglewood, a district making a name as a place to dine and visit for its craft breweries.

6. Learn at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

It may not be the most appealing name but bison hunting was a means of survival for the First Nations' people who lived on the plains of North America prior to the arrival of migrants from Europe.

The visitor centre at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Fort MacLeod, conveys how the once plentiful bison provided food and raw materials that supported a way of life now long gone.

The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta © JFL Photography - Adobe Stock Image
The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta © JFL Photography - Adobe Stock Image

Interpretive guides explain the stories behind objects created from horn, sinew and skin. A short film shows how every member of the community would have participated in the autumn hunts, in which buffalo herds were stalked then stampeded off cliffs. Step outside onto the clifftop to see where the hunts took place.

7. Visit Canada's oldest national park

The accidental discovery of thermal springs on Sulphur Mountain resulted in the creation of Banff National Park in 1885.

Tours of Banff's Cave and Basin National Historic Site tell the story and share the significance of the springs to First Nations' people.

Winter dip at Banff Upper Hot Springs © Noel Hendrickson - courtesy of Banff & Lake Louise Tourism
Winter dip at Banff Upper Hot Springs © Noel Hendrickson - courtesy of Banff & Lake Louise Tourism

Fancy a dip? Slip into the water at Banff Upper Hot Springs and the Willow Stream Spa within the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a castle-like heritage property that overlooks the town.

If you're pressed for time, find out about the wildlife inhabiting the national park inside Banff Park Museum, a log cabin dating from 1903.

Weather in Alberta

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall

The above guide shows the weather in the provincial capital of Edmonton. You can find out more about conditions throughout the year in the likes of Banff and Lake Louise in our complete guide to the weather in Alberta and, of course, across all of Canada.

Ready to discover Alberta? Browser the latest deals on 2022/2023 tours and trips to Canada with Titan Travel today.

More about Alberta

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Stuart Forster

Stuart Forster
Posted on Wednesday 20th October 2021 in: Culture Excursions Nature North America

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