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  • Overview

    Tourism in Alberta is centred on the famous Rocky Mountains which flank its western border with British Columbia, offering a host of alpine attractions. The north is a sparsely inhabited wilderness of forests, lakes, and rivers; the provincial capital of Edmonton is central; while on the border with Saskatchewan in the east, the atmosphere takes on a Wild West feel in the prairies and Badlands.

    Even in the cities and towns, visitors to Alberta can be sure that nature is never far away. Albertans love the outdoors, and urban environments are interspersed with plenty of lush river parks and greenbelts. In fact, Edmonton has more parkland per capita than any other North American city.

    An important aspect of Alberta's heritage is its aboriginal culture. Home to 43 First Nations, this heritage has been preserved in 14 reserves and educational attractions, ranging from the world's largest tepee to native interpretive trails and exquisite handmade crafts.

    The natural beauty of this Canadian province is world-renowned, so it's no surprise to discover that it is home to five of Canada's 14 World Heritage Sites: Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Banff-Jasper National Parks, the enormous Wood Buffalo National Park, and Dinosaur Provincial Park.

    Alberta is a treasure trove for outdoors enthusiasts, sports fanatics, and nature lovers, as well as a fascinating destination for those wanting to learn more about Native American culture. The cities of Calgary and Edmonton are modern, picturesque, and conveniently located for exploration of many of the stunning national parks which are Alberta's prime attractions.

    Top Alberta attractions are the UNESCO-listed Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a buffalo trap used by the Blackfoot people for thousands of years; Writing-on-Stone National Park, home to remarkable ancient rock art; and Lake Louise which is situated within Banff National Park, one of the most photogenic spots in Canada.

    Favourites also include the town of Drumheller, northeast of Calgary, which is set in the evocative Alberta Badlands, and Dinosaur Provincial Park, also UNESCO-listed, that boasts a wealth of dinosaur fossils certain to excite adults and children alike.

    For even more historical sites and natural beauty, the giant glaciers of the Columbia Icefields in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Jasper Provincial Park are a must. With so much to see and do in Alberta, visitors will not leave disappointed and will definitely want to return for more.

    Glenbow Museum

    Located in the heart of Calgary opposite the tower, the Glenbow Museum is Canada's largest museum, with more than 93,000 square feet (8,640 sq metres) of exhibition space, spread over three floors. It houses more than a million objects that fill up its 20 galleries and showcase the colourful history of Canada's West.

    Explore the exhibits to discover the people, stories, and events that shaped the region, from its First Nations to the arrival of the European settlers. There is a family-friendly Discovery Room, which is an open studio full of educational activities and crafts that bring the museum to life. A special feature is the Blackfoot Gallery, which tells the story of the Nitsitapi people through interactive displays, artefacts, a film, and circular narrative path.

    There are also some 28,000 artworks dating from the 19th century to the present on display in the museum. Glenbow's library is a treasure trove of reference materials on western Canada, with the Glenbow Archives serving as a major research centre for historians, writers, students, and the media.

    Address: 130 9th Avenue SE
    Opening time: Tuesday to Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 12pm-5pm. Closed Monday.
    Website: www.glenbow.org
    Camera, Glenbow Museum Camera, Glenbow Museum Rick Goldman
    Calgary Zoo

    Canada's second largest zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals from all over the world, as well as a variety of fish and insects in natural habitat enclosures. It also features a prehistoric park with 19 life-size animatronic dinosaurs on display.

    The botanic gardens include a 20,000 square foot (1,858 sq m) conservatory, butterfly garden, and a special Rocky Mountains exhibit featuring many indigenous Alberta animals, including the endangered Whooping Crane. The zoo is situated close to the downtown area, on St George's Island, and is a wonderful treat for the whole family.

    Address: 210 St. George's Drive North East
    Opening time: Daily 9am-5pm
    Tiger at Calgary Zoo Tiger at Calgary Zoo Tony Hisgett
    Fort Calgary

    This historical site chronicles Calgary's history between 1875 and the 1940s, allowing visitors to step back in time and explore the early days of the city through interactive exhibits, costumed interpreters, hands on activities, guided tours, and an entertaining audio-visual presentation.

    Fort Calgary is situated on the site of an original North West Mounted Police Fort and is designed to preserve the history of the founding, development, and growth of the city. The 40-acre riverside park includes the reconstructed 1875 fort, 1888 barracks, the interpretive centre, and Deane House Historic Site and Restaurant.

    Address: 750 - 9th Avenue SE
    Opening time: Daily 9am-5pm
    Fort Calgary Fort Calgary davebloggs007
    Columbia Icefields

    Made up of eight major glaciers, this massive field of ancient ice is situated near the town of Jasper in the middle of Jasper National Park. The icefield covers 125 square miles (325 sq km) and in places is estimated to be 1,270ft (385m) deep.

    The icefield feeds four of North America's major river systems: the Columbia, Fraser, Mackenzie, and Saskatchewan Rivers. Its meltwaters flow into three different oceans: the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic.

    Tours of the glacier are offered on snowcoaches between April and October each year. Ice-walk tours are also offered by the Jasper Adventure Centre. The icefields are one of Alberta's natural marvels and a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts in the region. Of course, the Jasper National Park also has many other attractions and activities on offer.

    Address: Jasper National Park
    Columbia Icefield Columbia Icefield Rufus Hawthorne
    Jasper

    Affectionately known as 'the little town in the big park', Jasper lies in the middle of Canada's largest mountain park, the Jasper National Park, and makes a delightful base from which to explore the lakes and mountains.

    The town of just over 4,000 people is 233 miles (373km) from Edmonton and lies among pristine wilderness, surrounded by a necklace of green lakes and majestic waterfalls. There are one or two attractions in the town itself, including the Jasper-Yellowhead Historical Society Museum, which features displays of early Canadian explorers; the 165 foot (55m) deep Maligne River Canyon; the longest and highest reversible tramway in Canada that transports passengers up Whistlers Mountain; and the Den Wildlife Museum that houses more than 100 animal specimens displayed in their natural habitat.

    Driving to Jasper is relatively simple. However, harsh winter weather can sometimes make the roads impassable so check the weather reports before you go. In the surrounding areas, there are many natural wonders to explore.

    Using Jasper as a base gives you the opportunity to try dog sledding, snowmobiling, cat-skiing, cross-country skiing, and ice climbing in the winter. Summer activities include white water rafting, hiking, horseback riding, camping, rock climbing, mountain biking, and wildlife spotting.

    Pyramid Lake Pyramid Lake Norton Ip
    Banff

    The small resort town of Banff is a holiday destination situated inside the spectacular and unspoilt Banff National Park, Canada's first national park and most popular tourist attraction. About an hour and a half's drive west of Calgary, the surrounding national park offers 2,564 square miles (6,641 sq km) of unparalleled mountain scenery in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, including glaciers, ice fields, jagged peaks, crystal clear lakes, and raging rivers.

    Holiday attractions in the town itself include the Banff Park Museum on Buffalo Street, which is the oldest natural history museum in western Canada and features a fantastic assortment of wildlife specimens, minerals, and other artefacts. Not far away is the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, dedicated to the rich cultural history of the area with four art galleries, a heritage gallery, and a research library.

    The Cave and Basin National Historic Site, in Cave Avenue, tells the story of the discovery of the hot springs that led to the establishment of Canada's first national reserve in 1885. Visitors on holiday here can also take a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain to enjoy the spectacular views from the observation deck at the top, or soak in hot mineral waters at the Upper Hot Springs in Mountain Avenue.

    Winter is low season in Banff National Park, but skiers and snowboarders who brave the low temperatures are delighted with what they find. From steep couloirs to gentle cruising, the slopes have something for everyone, and the snow is some of the coldest, driest and most reliable anywhere in the world. And there's a lot of it, particularly in the Sunshine Village ski area.

    The staggering scenery and mountain wildlife impresses visitors, as well as the welcoming Banff locals and excellent value. Lake Louise is the most extensive and popular ski resort in the Banff region. See our separate Lake Louise ski resort guide.

    Banff Banff Sesivany
    Heritage Park Historical Village

    Heritage Park is a village of living history, comprising more than 180 exhibitions that attempt to show what life was like in Alberta in the 19th and 20th centuries. Set on 127 beautiful acres of parkland and located just 15 minutes from Calgary's central business district, Heritage Park makes for a worthwhile daytrip, especially if you have kids in tow.

    Highlights include steam train rides and an impressive collection of vintage automobiles. Thousands of genuine historical artefacts have been used in the creation of the park, while other buildings and scenes have been faithfully recreated. Costumed interpreters educate and entertain visitors, bringing history to life.

    Address: 1900 Heritage Drive Southwest
    Opening time: Monday to Friday 10am-5pm, Closed Saturday and Sunday.
    Heritage Park Historical Village Heritage Park Historical Village Phil Whitehouse
    Canada Olympic Park

    Canada Olympic Park was a major venue during the 1988 Winter Olympic Games and now hosts skiing and snowboarding programmes every winter. It also houses the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and Museum, and is frequently used as a venue for festivals and events in Calgary.

    Known to locals as COP, it remains a chief tourist attraction for casual visitors and winter sports enthusiasts alike. The park is operated by WinSport Canada and is used year-round. In summer, it is used for sports like mountain biking and there are obstacle courses and zip lines to conquer.

    Address: 88 Canada Olypmic Road Southwest
    Canada Olympic Park Canada Olympic Park Tyson2k
    Calgary Tower

    The city's most recognisable structure, Calgary Tower is a must-visit landmark which looms 626 feet (191m) above the city. The glass-floored observation deck offers spectacular 360 degree views of the city below, while there's a revolving restaurant on offer.

    Tours of the city are offered by guides on the Observation Deck, allowing visitors to take in many of the city's major attractions from their vantage point in the sky. Calgary's Tourist Information Centre is located at the base of the tower, a useful stop for all visitors, and there are also gift shops selling Calgary souvenirs and the like.

    Address: 101 9th Avenue Southwest
    Opening time: Daily 9am-9pm
    Calgary Tower Calgary Tower Calgary Reviews

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    Alberta has a dry continental climate, with four distinct seasons including hot summers and very cold, snowy winters. Summer runs between June and August, when days are warm and evenings are cool.

    Winters, between December and February, are cold with heavy snowfalls, particularly in the Rockies. The province is large and extends over multiple terrains, making the climate highly variable from area to area.

    Joey Crowfoot

    Joey's offers a uniquely Calgary take on Italian/Asian fusion, with a selection of pizzas, pastas, steaks, and burgers. Its location is superb and makes for easy access. The atmosphere is always bustling, with both indoor seating and an outdoor patio. Joey's is open Sunday to Thursday from 11am to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 11am to 1am.

    Address: 50 Crowfoot Way NW, Calgary
    1886 Buffalo Café

    Calgary's 1886 Buffalo Cafe specialises in one thing: breakfast. Locals know it as the place to go for hearty meals to start the day, including the hashbrowns, vegetarian chilli omelette, and breakfast burrito. It's housed in the former site of the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Company's offices, built in 1911, overlooking the trendy Eau Claire downtown district. 1886 is open weekdays from 6am to 3pm, and weekends from 7am to 3pm.

    Address: 187 Barclay Parade SW
    Vin Room

    The elegant and upmarket Vin Room is a restaurant where everything is designed to complement the wine, from the decor to the menu. The food is predominantly tapas, with fusion options ranging from meat and cheese platters to bison short ribs, fish tacos, and oysters.

    Lunch entrees include choices like salads, pasta and steak. They have a number of interesting wines available, with small tasting options before you commit to a glass or bottle. The tables are close together and it gets crowded, so it's always a good idea to call ahead.

    Vin Room is located in the chic Mission District. It is open Sunday through Wednesday from 3pm to 10pm, Thursday from 3pm to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 3pm to 1am.

    Address: 2310 4th Street SW
    Website: www.vinroom.com
    Calgary International Airport
    Location: The airport is 12 miles (20km) northeast of downtown Calgary.
    Time: GMT -7 (GMT -6 from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November).
    Getting to the city: There are a number of bus services running between the airport, the city centre and other Alberta destinations. Calgary Transit provides a public bus service to and from the airport. There is also an Airport Shuttle Express, which services most hotels in the Calgary area, and several hotels offer a courtesy shuttle service. Airport taxis are available outside Arrivals.
    Car Rental: Alamo, Budget, Avis, Hertz, National, Alamo, and Thrifty are all represented at the airport and can be found in the Rental Car Centre opposite the main terminal building. There are also offsite car rental companies.
    Airport Taxis: Airport taxis are available outside Arrivals.
    Facilities: There are shops and duty-free shopping, restaurants and bars, ATMs, a foreign exchange, and an information booth within the terminal. There are also business centres. Disabled passengers are well catered for and there are plenty of children's entertainment facilities.
    Parking All parking lots are within walking distance of the terminal. Short-term parking starts at C$8.50 for the first hour with a daily limit of C$54.95. Long-term parking is available for around C$27 per day, with discounts for Economy Lots.
    Website: www.yyc.com
    Edmonton International Airport
    Location: The airport is located 19 miles (30km) from Edmonton city centre.
    Time: GMT -7 (GMT-6 from the first Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November).
    Getting to the city: Edmonton Skyshuttle provides convenient connections to major hotels and other destinations across the city. Edmonton Transit Service's Route 747 bus service connects passengers to the city's bus and LRT network. Numerous taxi and limousine service companies serve the airport. Other taxi companies may drop-off or pick-up passengers in the commercial taxi area if prior arrangements have been made.
    Car Rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National.
    Airport Taxis: Numerous taxi and limousine service companies serve the airport. Other taxi companies may drop-off or pick-up passengers in the commercial taxi area if prior arrangements have been made. Ride-share apps such as Uber are also available.
    Facilities: Airport facilities include ATMs, currency exchange, a bank, shopping (including a duty-free shop), an information booth, child entertainment facilities, baggage storage, a chapel, wifi, workstations, a bar, cafes, and restaurants.
    Parking Parking is available at the airport. There are free pick-up and drop-off zones. Parking options include valet parking, executive parking, easy parkade, and value parking.
    Website: www.flyeia.com
    Alberta
    Moraine Lake

    Located within Banff National Park and close to the popular resort towns of Lake Louise and Banff, Moraine is a spectacular glacially-fed lake. Its waters are a vivid turquoise colour due to rock flour, which are tiny particles of suspended sediment. On a clear day, the lake reflects the surrounding mountains in its mirror-smooth surface.

    There's plenty to see and do in the snow-capped and pine-strewn Valley of the Ten Peaks, including an assortment of scenic hiking trails, kayaking facilities at the Lodge, and an onsite café serving wonderful food and refreshments.

    Although not impossible, getting to Moraine can be difficult if you are without a car. Take a bus to Banff station, and from there you can either walk the nine miles (14km) to the lake; rent a bicycle; take a taxi; or make use of the Park-run Vista shuttle service, which departs every 30 minutes from the Lake Louise campsite.

    Address: 9 miles (about 14km) from Lake Louise, located within Banff National Park
    Moraine Lake Moraine Lake Tobias Alt
    Calaway Park

    The kids won't let you get away with not visiting Calaway Park, western Canada's largest outdoor amusement park. Calaway Park is the ideal destination for a fun-filled family outing, with thrilling rides and entertainment. The park has been in operation for more than three decades and is greatly enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

    Open seven days a week during the warmer months, this outdoor park closes during the frosty Alberta winters. Check the calendar on the official website listed below for exact opening times and dates.

    Address: 245033 Range Road 33
    Calaway Park Calaway Park trec_lit
    Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

    A buffalo jump is a ledge or cliff traditionally used to lure stampeding buffalo to their deaths. Head-Smashed-In is one of the oldest, largest, and best preserved in the world and was used by the native people for about 6,000 years.

    Head-Smashed-In not only has a wonderfully descriptive name, but also boasts its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It proudly displays exhibitions detailing the life and history of the Blackfoot people, the original inhabitants of the Great Plains region of southern Alberta. It is now a remarkable archaeological site and well worth a visit for any traveller interested in Canadian history.

    Address: 92 Township Road, Willow Creek
    Opening time: Daily 10am-5pm
    Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Kim Siever