What are the most extraordinary places in your part of the world? Western Canada is a four season destination, a plunge pool of natural beauty and wildlife, adventure and clean, fresh air! Dive in to experience the adventure! With Canada’s dollar positioned favourably for incoming travelers, it is a wonderful excuse for me to invite everyone to explore my backyard.
I’ve lived and traveled all across this great land and currently call the clear blue skies of the Alberta foothills my home. Stand on any hill in Calgary and the encroaching Rocky Mountains are in your sights calling your name.
Alberta is my stomping grounds: Full of natural beauty and wildlife and adventure. From a journey along the legendary Alberta Cowboy Trail, the Calgary Stampede, Festival City Edmonton, and the incredible Rocky Mountains.
Edmonton, City of Festivals
If you are heading to Edmonton, be sure to check ahead to find out what’s going on because there is always something going on! From the annual Taste of Edmonton, White Avenue’s Pride Parade, Busking and Art Walk, downtown Churchill Square’s Street Performing Festival, concerts at the acoustically perfect Winspear Centre for Music, to the new Rogers Place arena, home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team.
Whether Edmontonians like it or not, their city is best known for its famous West Edmonton Mall. This massive mall is 5.3 million square feet, the size of a small city. With more than 800 stores and services including a full scale World Waterpark, Galaxyland Amusement Park, Ed’s Rec Room and ice rink. Deposit the kids at one of the attractions (and there are many), put on your walking shoes and shop, eat and play until you drop. I’ve done it and you will! If you were planning a family vacation, I could easily recommend a 2-day holiday to this mall. Seriously!
City of St Albert
St Albert is so close to the west side of Edmonton it is next to impossible to determine where one begins and the other ends. I called St Albert home for a few years when my children were school age. St Albert has a world class outdoor Farmers Market (and I’m a market buff) and I’m told it continues to grow and snake its way through the quaint streets of downtown St Albert.
After loading up on produce and gifts, you might want to make a quick stop at the impressive St Albert Catholic Parish Church sitting atop Mission Hill. The church is located on the same site that Oblate Father Albert Lacombe and Bishop Alexandre Taché chose to establish a mission in 1861.
Calgary, the Stampede City
Every July, Calgary hosts the 10-day world famous Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. If thinking of attending, be aware that bookings for this world class event starts immediately after the previous year’s Stampede. TIP: I know it is tempting to wear your brand new cowboy boots down to the Stampede grounds but you might want to leave them at home – your feet will thank you.
If the Stampede sounds too daunting, you can explore the 120 acre Calgary Zoo and massive Prehistoric Park. TIP: Buy your tickets in advance; ticketholders will be escorted to the front of the line, avoiding a very long wait.
Or perhaps you would like to test your skills on the summer bobsleigh or skyline luge at Canada Olympic Park, where Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Take the elevator to the top of the Calgary Tower where you can enjoy a wonderful meal in the revolving dining room or step out onto the glass floor extension – if you dare!
And if you really want to immerse yourself in the history of the old west, the Glenbow Museum features one of my favourite permanent exhibits: Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta.
More Alberta Highlights
Alberta Badlands and the World Renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller – Centre of palaeontological research noted for its collection of more than 130,000 fossils.
Frank Slide – Have you ever been told that you must check out a particular site only to discover it is nothing more than a road sign directing you to a tourist stop? Not so with the Frank Slide. I was in awe and profoundly moved at the sight of this devastating slide of 82 million tonnes of mountain that came down literally burying the tiny mining town of Frank and its citizens on April 29, 1903. It really is something to behold.
Banff National Park and the Town of Canmore
I don’t think I’ve run into too many travelers who haven’t heard of Banff. This park is one of the world’s most famous, drop-dead gorgeous destinations. It is a masterpiece of nature featuring Lake Louise, Two Jack Lake (great place to camp), Kananaskis Country and Emerald Lake. But be forewarned. Buses and more buses are continually unloading tourists from around the world into the townsite.
Picturesque Canmore is located 5 minutes east of the Banff National Park gates and 15 minutes from the town of Banff. Eclectic shopping, restaurants, tours and championship golf courses await your arrival.
Jasper National Park and the Icefield Parkway
This is where nature is king. Although tourist-friendly, the area resists development and tries to remain rustic without being primitive or touristy. There is a wide range of lovely lodges to choose from but even the 5-star Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge maintains an air of mountain lodge luxury. I took this photo of my mother during the summer. Note how crowded it is.
I highly recommend bus tours that will pick you up at your hotels and whisk you on your journey through the Athabasca Icefields, Maligne Lake and much more.
Waterton Lakes National Park
I’ve merely scratched the surface. One of the best features of Canada is our citizens. We are a friendly, helpful and downright polite bunch. Come visit us!