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Alberta, Canada

Great Destination:

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know…?

  • Banff was Canada’s first national park (1885).
  • West Edmonton Mall is the site of the world’s first indoor bungee jump.
  • The world’s largest herd of free-roaming bison is in Wood Buffalo National Park.
  • St. Paul has the world’s only UFO landing pad.
  • Alberta is Canada’s sunniest province; it boasts 2,330 hours of sunshine annually.

The great outdoors

Alberta is one place where it is not an exaggeration to refer to a “great outdoors.” No question, there is an awfully lot of space; the province is roughly the size of Texas, but a lot of it is way north and not on the average traveler’s radar screen. So much the better, say the truly adventurous.

The province is better known to most for Its two key cities, which are the sites of its two international airports, Calgary and Edmonton. One is host to a humongous rodeo and the other, host to a humongous shopping mall.

This relatively young (1905) Canadian province lies north of Montana, between British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Here the adventurous traveler finds the northern version of the Wild West plus the mountain life of the Canadian Rockies, but less in the way of tradition or history.

The northern part of the province is largely wilderness, dotted with lakes and rivers. True adventurers love the spaciousness and the wildlife, but it’s considered somewhat inaccessible by most travelers.

Calgary and the area of Lake Louise and Banff National Park attract considerably more visitors. Calgary, host of the 1988 Winter Olympics, is also home to the Calgary Stampede, which brings more than 1.2 million people through its gates in 10 days. Lake Louise, site of Canada’s largest ski area, and Banff draw raves for beautiful lake and mountain vistas and excellent tourist facilities.

There are other parks, including Wood Buffalo National Park, which is Canada’s largest and the world’s second largest, and Jasper National Park, Canada’s largest mountainous national park. Also, Camrose in Alberta is the site of North America’s largest outdoor music festival, the Big Valley Jamboree.

However, Alberta’s No. 1 attraction is the West Edmonton Mall, home of the largest shopping mall in North America with a total area of 5.3 million square feet. It attracts some 22 million visitors annually. (A lot of things are large here.)

Alberta is a destination for the venturesome, but not well known to Americans. The huge rodeo and shopping mall aside, the province’s attractions draw active, outdoor-oriented travelers who appreciate the lack of crowds.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Go mountain climbing (alpine climbing, ice climbing, rock climbing) in the Banff, Jasper or Kananaskis Country and Waterton Lakes National Park. Train at indoor climbing sites.
  • Sleep in a teepee next to North America’s oldest (about 6,000 years), largest and best-preserved buffalo jump, colorfully named Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. See an interpretive center on site and attend events that include dancing and archaeological digs.
  • For whitewater rafting thrills, take the Bow River through Horseshoe Canyon in the Rockies.
  • Enter the Canadian Death Race in Grande Cache, called one of the toughest adventure races in the world, requiring, it is said, “the constitution of an ox.” Covering more than 75 miles, it includes three mountain summits, 17,000 feet in altitude change and crossing a major river.
  • Go on a dinosaur dig. The Albertosaurus was discovered at Drumheller. Now, the town is home to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology.
  • Book a Creative Western Adventures nine-day immersion program to learn the history and culture of the Blackfoot tribes. Live on reserves, participate in powwows, search for berries and bear tracks and paddle canoes.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Attend the Calgary Stampede for 10 July days jam-packed with rodeo and rodeo-related activities. The event site, Stampede Park, also offers horse racing, harness racing and a casino.
  • Take a multiday biking holiday, guided or independent, along Alberta’s classic bike routes, such as the 142-mile Icefields Parkway which takes you through Banff and Jasper national parks. Alternatively, rent a bicycle and try out the cycling loops and trails found in Alberta’s cities.
  • Drop in on some unusual races. Examples: chuck wagon races (four days in High River and often part of rodeos); the annual jetboat race at Peace River, or the annual dragon boat race at the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival.
  • If you are an experienced horseman or horsewoman, sign on for multiday horsepacking in Alberta’s backcountry. You’ll pitch a tent each night or take it easier in lodges on the route.  Or, stay at a guest ranch.
  • See theater in Calgary or Edmonton. Both have options running the gamut from Shakespeare to fringe theater. Edmonton’s Fringe Festival is North America’s largest theater festival.
  • Ski where Olympians have skied, at the sites of the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Enjoy wildlife viewing in Wood Buffalo National Park where you must scout out the world’s largest herd of bison. Also, visit other national parks to see beavers, bighorn sheep, black and grizzly bears, elk and moose.
  • Place your bets in any of several Alberta casinos or at any of its racetracks.
  • Go fishing. The province hooks the fishermen (and women) with 600 lakes, 245 rivers and 315 spring-fed creeks and ponds.
  • Work on your golf swing. Alberta has more than 280 courses including six on Canada’s list of top 10.
  • Drive one of a long list of scenic road trips of varying lengths and built around a range of themes. See www1.travelalberta.com/en-us/index.cfm?pageid=920 for the list.
  • Take a cruise tour on Lake Minnewanka in Banff or on Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Travel Alberta at www.travelalberta.com