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The Canadian cities of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver seem to get all of the attention, but the other provinces here have lots to offer tourists a sense of adventure as well. Alberta is located in western Canada and known for its diverse landscape of mountains, prairies, forests, and lakes. This is an outdoor lovers’ paradise, with access to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the Columbia Icefields, Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, and more.
So if you’re interested in seeing the less-traveled side of Canada, consider a vacation to this province for adventure, relaxation, or a little of both. These are the top things to see and do in Alberta.
Hike Waterton Lakes National Park
What Is It? Waterton Lakes National Park is a national park worth visiting in Alberta, especially if you plan to visit Red Rock Canyon.
Why Do It? Located in Southwest Alberta about three hours south of Calgary, this park typically enjoys fewer crowds than some of the other parks in the providence and is full of wildlife. Red Rock Canyon is known for its colorful red, green, and white layers of rock, and you can learn about the canyon’s history from interpretative plaques along the hike.
Good to Know: At certain times of the year and in certain conditions, you can even hike along the bottom of the canyon. For more hiking and exploration, you can even cross over into Glacier National Park in Montana if you’ve packed your passport to get into the U.S.
Hit the Slopes at Lake Louise Ski Resort
What Is It? Not surprisingly, skiing is a big deal in Alberta, and the most epic place to hit the slopes is the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
Why Do It? This resort is huge and beautiful, with 4,200 acres of terrain to suit all skill levels and abilities. Even if you’re not into skiing, you can take in the lovely views from the lake and the Victoria Glacier here. The Lake Louise Village is fun to walk around and visit shops, restaurants, and cafes, and you can also camp in this area during the warm months.
Good to Know: Also near Lake Louise is Moraine Lake and the Larch Valley, which offers some of the most stunning landscapes in the province. This is an ideal spot for photo ops and to stop along a road trip for a scenic picnic.
Explore Banff National Park
What Is It? Outdoor enthusiasts are probably already familiar with the annual Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival, and Banff National Park is the most visited area in all of Alberta.
Why Do It? There are lots of native wildlife species that call this park home, including grizzly and black bears, wolves, elk, and caribou. Depending on your hiking ability and adventurous spirit, you can hike on designated trails and in the backcountry here, or just drive around to see the sites from your car.
Good to Know: While you’re here, make a point to take a dip in the Banff Upper Hot Springs with natural mineral water and stunning views of the high-altitude scenery.
Hike in the Columbia Icefields
What Is It? There aren’t too many places in the world where you can hike on top of a glacier, but Albert is one of them.
Why Do It? See the glaciers of Icefields Parkway up-close on a hike, or take a specialized motor coach across them to see the area in comfort and warmth. This is a truly unique area that’s about an hour from Jasper, where blue-green ice permeates the landscape in an other-worldly way.
Good to Know: A highlight here is the Athabasca Glacier, which you can see from the large visitor center. There’s also the Glacier Skywalk observation platform here, which gives you wonderful views of the valley 280 meters down below.
Dig for Fossils in the Badlands
What Is It? Most people think of mountains and snow when they consider a trip to Alberta, but another fascinating area is known as the Canadian Badlands.
Why Do It? Hike the Seven Wonders of the Badlands, which takes about an hour and allows visitors to learn about fossils, archeology, and geology. For fun hands-on learning, the Royal Tyrell’s Dig Experience is an excavation at a simulated dig site. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is in Midland Provincial Park and about an hour and a half east of Calgary.
Good to Know: This is a must-see for dinosaur lovers because the museum has one of the best life-sized displays of dinosaurs in the world. The town of Drumheller actually calls itself the “Town of Dinosaurs” because many species of dinosaurs lived here around 75 million years ago.
Take a Boat Cruise in Jasper National Park
What Is It? Banff isn’t the only wilderness area worth visiting in Alberta. Jasper National Park is a wonderful place to visit between May and October to hop aboard a boat tour of the area.
Why Do It? Maligne Lake is known for its bright blue waters and towering mountain peaks up above. You can see a few glaciers from the lake, and boat tours are run by local guide companies.
Good to Know: Summer is the peak season to visit, but is more remote and less touristy than Banff. If you visit in winter, you can hit the slopes at the Marmot Basin Ski Resort.
Watch a Rodeo at Calgary Stampede
What Is It? One of the largest annual festivals in all of Canada is the Calgary Stampede, which is a huge rodeo that takes place in July.
Why Do It? Calgary is a modern city that embraces its cowboy roots. Experience the Wild West, Canadian-style, when you join thousands of other people for the festivities. Big-name musical acts perform here, and the daily rodeos feature some of the world’s top competitors in events like tie-down roping, barrel racing, bareback, bull riding, steer wrestling, and saddle bronc.
Good to Know: Another western rodeo event worth checking out is the Grande Prairie Stompede, which is about 7.5 hours from Calgary and features events like chuckwagon racing and pancake breakfasts and typically takes place in late May.
Watch a Local Hockey Matchup
What Is It? Hockey is the favorite national sport of Canada and a really big deal to the locals in Alberta.
Why Do It? The teams to watch here are the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, and these teams typically go head-to-head a couple of times per year.
Good to Know: Attending the matchup, locally known as the Battle of Alberta, is really an exciting experience to have. Both teams have die-hard fans, and tickets can be hard to come by unless you book seats well in advance.
Attend Klondike Days in Edmonton
What Is It? One of the best ways to learn about Alberta culture is to attend a local festival.
Why Do It? Plan your Alberta trip for July to attend the 10-day festival known as Klondike Days in Edmonton. This festival has a long history in Alberta dating back to 1879 and celebrates the Klondike Gold Rush. Edmonton was a stopping point for gold prospectors traveling through the area in search of fortune. There’s a costume parade, amusement park rides, musical concerts, beach volleyball, beer gardens, a food court, and shopping at the Northlands Expo center.
Good to Know: Other festivals in Edmonton include the Edmonton Folk Music Festival and the International Fringe Theater Festival, both of which draw large crowds each year.