The Top Ten Places to Visit in Alberta
Places to See in Alberta
Perhaps one of the most overlooked places to visit in Canada is Alberta. While most international travelers come to enjoy the night life of Toronto and Montreal or the beaches of B.C.'s West coast, Alberta has remained a relatively quiet province.
Alberta is named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848–1939), who was the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Louise was also the wife of the Marquess of Lorne, Governor General of Canada from 1878 to 1883. Lake Louise and Mount Alberta were also named in honour of the late Princess.
Below in this article, learn about the top ten places to visit in Alberta, this often overlooked but worthwhile province of Canada.
10. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Near Fort Macleod is an obscure museum called Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this place is a must-see for anyone wanting to learn more about or explore Native American culture.
The museum is built into the side of a cliff that was used by the plains' Indians for thousands of years as a buffalo trap. Large herds of buffalo would be lured and stampeded to jump over the side of the cliff every season. The meat was so plentiful for the tribes that they were able to support large communities year-round.
After seeing the exhibits, you will leave with a newfound or renewed respect for the first North Americans.
9. Writing-on-Stone National Park
Near the Alberta/Montana border and just 44 km east of the small town of Milk River is the Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. Canada recently nominated the park to UNESCO for World Heritage status.
This park boasts having over 50 petroglyphs (stone-carved images) created by the Blackfoot Native Americans, which date as far back as 7000 B.C. Some of the petroglyphs have been damaged, so it is hard to discern many of the images.
8. Jasper Provincial Park
Jasper Provincial Park is another one of Alberta's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The town lies deep in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and is easily accessible by train, bus, or car. The town is full of wildlife and outdoorsy things to do. Also, you can check out the ice field tours which is right near town, where you can take a specialized bus tour of the thousand-year-old glaciers.
7. Dinosaur Provincial Park
Dinosaur Provincial Park is another UNESCO World Heritage site in Alberta. The park is heaven for paleontologists, as it boasts one of the largest dinosaur finds in the world. Because it's a distance away from civilization, it is easy to feel isolated and by oneself in the park. Albertans love to visit for the great campgrounds and outdoor life.
6. Lethbridge Japanese Gardens
Lethbridge might seem like an odd place to have the world famous Japanese Garden, but it does and the garden attracts visitors from all over the world. During World War II, Canada gathered thousands of Japanese Canadians into concentration camps near Lethbridge. When the war ended, many decided to stay in the surrounding area. To make the vast prairie land feel more like home, they built the Japanese Garden near the center of the town. It has been a highlight for many tourists since.
The garden is not open year round, so make sure to plan your trip to Lethbridge during the garden's open seasons.
Edmonton is the capital city of Alberta, and houses some of the province's best museums, universities, cultural centers and entertainment sectors. Though it's second to Calgary in population, Edmonton takes up an area larger than the city of Chicago. This makes Edmonton one of the least dense city in North America. So if you plan on getting around to visit the sights you may want to consider renting a car. However, in my own personal experience, Edmonton is not a place to be touring around if you are not a confident driver.
Because Edmonton is so spread out, they have several large parks and recreation areas. One of the biggest known sites for fun and a number one destination spot for tourists is the West Edmonton Mall. When the mall was built in 1981 (and until 2004), it was the largest mall in the world! After larger malls were built in the Middle East, West Ed. still retains the title of largest in North America and fifth in the world.
About an hour's drive northeast of Calgary is the town of Drumheller, located in the Alberta Badlands. Thousands of years of glacier erosion caused the river valleys to open up into these Canadian Grand Canyons. Interestingly enough, the depletion of the surface soil allowed paleontologists to discover million year old dinosaur bones littering the entire are. These valleys hold so many bones—most yet to be discovered.
Calgary is Alberta's largest city and gateway to the Rockies. It was originally a fort for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and was an important location in helping to secure the sovereignty of the Canadian west. After the Trans-Canadian Railway was built, Calgary, with its vast prairie ranches, became the bread basket and cattle trade capital for the rest of Canada.
- The Calgary Stampede. Ranching is still an important part of Calgary life. The whole city even breaks out their western attire during the two weeks of Stampede. The world famous Calgary Stampede takes place during the first two weeks of July. During this time, the Stampede Park opens its doors to visitors from all around the world who come to see the various exhibits, art, and shows. During the day, you can enjoy chuck-wagon races, rodeos, and more. Then, at night, the stage opens up for Canada's most famous musicians, singers, and bands of all genres.
- The Calgary Tower. You can also visit the Calgary Tower, which stands at 627 feet. The tower was built in 1968 as part of a downtown revitalizing program. Built to be the tallest structure in the world at the time, it was designed to be an observation deck for tourists to see and enjoy the view of the nearby Rocky Mountains. During the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, it was retrofitted with a torch on the top. During the games (and now only for special occasions) a large flame can be seen bursting from the tower.
- Canada Olympic Park. The highest point of Calgary is the top of the ski jump at Canada Olympic Park (COP). The two large jumps can be seen from far away in the N.W. area. The park is a great place for year-round recreation. In the winter, you can enjoy skiing, ski-jumping, luge, bobsled, and so forth. Then, in the summer they open the hill for mountain bikers who can take the ski lift to the top of the hill and just bike down to the bottom. They also have a zip-line at the top of the ski jump for the truly adventurous.
2. Banff Springs
The Fairmont Banff Springs is a five-star hotel nestled in the Canadian Rocky Mountains near natural hot springs. The hotel is open year-round, and has 770 rooms. Guest can stay in rooms as small as 184sq ft to the Presidential Suite that is 1000sq ft. The hotel caters to many different events including world summits, golf tournaments, conferences, and weddings.
1. Lake Louise
This picture of Lake Louise says it all. Deep in the Canadian Rockies, a large turquoise lake trickles from the multi-thousand-year-old glacier in the distance. The Fairmont Hotel that houses visitors to the lake is world class and books visitors months in advance. But don't let this deter you from visiting—there are many campgrounds that make visiting fun and affordable for any budget.
Other Noteworthy Places
- Cypress Hills
- Big Horn Country
- Kananaskis Country