Things to Do in Alberta - page 2
Visit the spot where Calgary was born at Fort Calgary, and explore the city’s formative years from 1875 to 1914.A wooden fort was built here by the North West Mounted Police in 1875, and today, the legacy of those times is re-created with interactive exhibits, replica barracks, guided tours and an interpretive center. It is a National Historic Site of Canada.
Dine in the former home of a Canadian Mountie, try on an authentic Mountie uniform and explore the fort’s extensive riverside grounds surrounding the meeting point of the Elbow and Bow rivers.
Sunwapta Falls are a set of Class 6 waterfalls that originate from the Athabasca Glacier and the Sunwapta River in Jasper National Park, Alberta. The falls are easily accessible by car during the summer months, located a short drive off the Icefields Parkway that connects Banff and Jasper National parks.
Sunwapta is a Stoney (Assiniboine) word meaning “turbulent water.” Over time as the Sunwapta River changed its course, a deep gorge was caused in the limestone rocks. Today, the two sets of falls that make up Sunwapta Falls are over 75 feet tall. They have a total drop of 60 feet (18 meters) and a width of 30 feet (9 meters). The upper waterfall flows through a narrow canyon and drops into three lower falls. The waterfalls are at their peak in late spring and early summer when glacial melt is at its highest, and in the winter, you can ice climb, snowshoe, and admire the ice formations created by the falls.
The jewel-blue water of Johnston Creek streams through the sheer-sided canyon, foaming white as it careens down waterfalls into pools below. A well-maintained trail—including a cliff-affixed walkway with incredible views—makes Johnston Canyon one of Banff National Park’s most accessible and beloved day hikes.
Bow Lake in the Canadian Rockies is one of the smaller lakes in Banff National Park. It is the source of the Bow River and lies along part of the Great Continental Divide, which creates the border between Alberta and British Columbia. As with all of the lakes lining the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, Bow Lake boasts spectacularly colored water and top-notch mountain scenery. One of the most interesting features of these Rocky Mountain Lakes is their differences in color. Some are green, some are bright blue, and sometimes (after a major rain) some of them are brownish. The lake’s colors might even change with the weather. As you continue north along the Icefields Parkway, you will have several different views of the bright-blue waters of Bow Lake, as it lies quite close to the highway. The lake is a great place for a picnic and a stroll, and is especially beautiful at sunrise when the sun shines off of the water and Crowfoot Mountain.
The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden is a tranquil piece of Japanese culture set in the Canadian city of Lethbridge. A unique treasure in Southern Alberta, the garden is an oasis where you can take part in cultural events, yoga, and tea ceremonies among flower gardens, lakes, and water features.
Possibly the city’s most popular attraction, the Calgary Zoo has been caring for animals and animal lovers since 1929. Surrounded by botanical gardens with a rain forest and butterfly enclosure, Canada’s second largest zoo is home to more than 1,000 critters representing dozens of species from all corners of the globe.
Kids big and small are fascinated by The Hangar Flight Museum, highlighting the history of Canadian aviation.
As well as displaying historic civilian and military aircraft, the museum hosts exhibits of visiting aircraft.
Go for a spin in a plane flight simulator, or take an educational tour to learn more about the museum’s prized collection of vintage aircraft.
Much more than a static collection of sports memorabilia, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame honors the country’s most remarkable athletes with an electric 40,000 square foot space that echoes with the roar of fans. Tucked into one of the buildings that hosted the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, interactive exhibits educate visitors about the rules and challenges of more obscure sports and offer the chance to throw pitches for clocked speed, shadow box with Lennox Lewis, attempt a wheelchair race or balance on skis on a virtual downhill slope.
There are sections dedicated to swimming and rowing, car racing, golfing and, of course, hockey, spread throughout 12 galleries. Over 1,000 culturally significant sports artifacts—including the shoe that amputee Terry Fox wore at the start of his epic cross-country cancer awareness run—are also on display. Each year new Hall of Fame honorees are inducted at a prestigious ceremony and featured, along with details of the more than 600 current members, in the Locker Room Gallery.
The Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff National Park is more than just a neat place to explore. The First Nations who discovered the cave consider the hot springs a sacred site. Today, interactive interpretive exhibits make the birthplace of Canada’s national parks system—known today as Parks Canada—a must-visit.
Bubbling up from beneath the Canadian Rockies at a toasty temperature of around 102°F (39°C), Banff Upper Hot Springs have been drawing visitors to Western Canada since the late 19th century. For weary travelers, a soak in the warm mineral-rich waters of the pools, which overlook Mount Rundle, is the ultimate tonic for sore muscles.
More Things to Do in Alberta
For adults and kids alike, the TELUS Spark Science Center, is a highlight of a visit to Calgary. From ecology to forensics, human health to robotics, Spark knows no bounds.
The HD Digital Dome Theatre brings science to the huge screen, and year-round exhibits entertain and inform.
Explore the universe, discover the scientific innovations that have changed the world, put on your thinking cap in the inventor’s workshop at Open Studio and test your ideas in the Prototype Lab.
There is also a Creative Kids Museum within the center to appeal to the imaginations of even the smallest scientists in the making.
Glenbow is the largest cultural museum in western Canada, in particular highlighting the history and culture of indigenous Canadians.
The museum combines artifacts, artworks, archives, documents and fun interactive exhibits.
Tour the Blackfoot nations gallery, imagine riding in an Inuit kayak or pioneer wagon, and see photographic exhibits, sculptures, modernist and historical art.
Learn more about the past and present by taking an interactive tour of Alberta and hear the stories of Canada’s first inhabitants.
Part of the vast Columbia Icefield that straddles the border between Alberta’s Banff and Jasper National Parks, the Athabasca Glacier—a huge swath of moving ice—is one of the most accessible and awe-inspiring glaciers in North America. Like most glaciers, Athabasca is shrinking, though the slowly moving ice mass is still impressively large: It covers an area of about 2.3 square miles (six square kilometers) and measures up to 980 feet (300 meters) at its thickest point.
Named after Queen Victoria in 1897, Victoria Glacier created the iconic Lake Louise over 10,000 years ago and continues to feed the lake with the glacial waters that gives it its famous emerald hue.
Located in the heart of the hiking capital of Canada, the 3.4-mile Six Glaciers Trail is a great way to get up close to Victoria Glacier and make your way to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. From the Fairmont Chateau hotel, walk the shoreline trail, where the crowds will thin as you head up to the moraine trail left behind by Lower Victoria Glacier back in the 1850s and out along the high rocky banks of Louise Creek. The hike is quite challenge, taking about seven hours roundtrip, but knowing there’s a cup of hot tea and cake waiting at the tea house helps. Visitors can also take the trail even further past the end of Lake Louise along the Abbot Pass and down onto Mount Victoria itself.
You can also rent kayaks and canoes for a closer peek at Victoria Glacier, which is easily recognizable, nestled in the middle of the Mount Victoria area at the head of Lake Louise. Rock climbers can make their way up the glacier itself, though its deep crevasses and the risk of avalanche mean that it isn’t a climb for beginners.
In summer, popular activities around Lake Louise include horseback riding, rock climbing and taking a peek at the fairytale-like Fairmont Chateau hotel.
It might be the smallest of the 3 major ski resorts within the Banff National Park, but since opening in 1926, Mt. Norquay has fast become a favorite destination for in-the-know skiers, and has even served as an Olympic and World Cup training ground. Today, the Mt. Norquay Ski Resort offers 16.4 km of runs, with ample opportunities for all levels, from first-time skiers to professionals, including a terrain park with a range of boxes and rails.
With a fully equipped ski school on-site, this is a great spot for beginners, and along with skiing and snowboarding, there’s also a snow tube park, snowshoeing trails and the chance to enjoy a moonlight skiing excursion.
The fun doesn’t stop when the snow melts either – the Mt. Norquay Ski Resort is open all year-round and summer visitors can ride the 8,040-foot chairlift for a view of the surrounding mountains, dine at the mountaintop Cliffhouse or tackle the Via Ferrata climbing routes.
Banff’s Buffalo Street transforms into the picturesque Tunnel Mountain Drive at Surprise Corner. It provides a view most visitors know before they’ve even seen it, as the area looks out on Banff’s most famous landmark, the historic Banff Springs Hotel, which has been featured in countless photos. The rest of the driving loop is equally beautiful with panoramic views of Bow Valley as it winds through pristine fir and pine forests. Even though Tunnel Mountain Drive is on the edge of Banff’s town limits, it’s common to see both elk and deer along the route. It’s also possible (especially in the spring and fall) to spot a black or grizzly bear in the area.
Whether jumping out of the car to explore Banff’s hoodoos (impressive geological formations) or to climb to the summit of Tunnel Mountain, the immense beauty of the Canadian Rockies is never far away. It’s even possible to spend the night in the mountain wilderness while remaining within walking distance of downtown. Hotels, cabin rentals, a youth hostel and several campgrounds lie along Tunnel Mountain Drive and most are only a little over a mile from town.
An outstanding feat of engineering, the Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park were the ingenious early–20th-century solution to climbing or descending the impossibly steep 4.5-percent grade to cross Kicking Horse Pass by rail. Watch long freight trains cross themselves as they travel the tunnels in different directions at the same time.
At almost 11,000 feet (3,300 meters) above sea level, Mt. Edith Cavell is one of Canada’s most impressive mountains — and the province of Alberta’s most notable peak. The mountain was named after a British nurse who was executed in WWI for helping Allied prisoners escape from occupied Brussels. The bright turquoise glacial meltwater of Cavell Pond below the rugged summit of Mt. Edith Cavell is one of the most beautiful vistas in Jasper National Park. It is one of the few places in the world where a short walk can bring you up close and personal with a glacier. Vegetation grows slowly at such high elevation, and Mt. Edith Cavell experiences heavy visitor use. It is considered a fragile ecological area (where even a footprint can last for decades), so please do stay on the marked trails. In the spring, you may see and/or hear avalanches thundering down Mt. Edith Cavell’s stark north face.
From the parking lot, a well-groomed trail leads uphill to an excellent view of the mountain and Angel Glacier. The Path of the Glacier Loop meanders through the geological debris left behind by the retreat of the local glaciers. The trail ends at a small meltwater pond full of icebergs, and offers a fantastic view of both the Angel and Cavell Glaciers. Flower lovers may be especially interested in the Cavell Meadows Trail, which leads above the glacial debris to a subalpine meadow that explodes with wildflower life during the month of July.
Takakkaw Falls—whose name means “it’s magnificent” in the indigenous Cree language—tumble 1,260 feet (384 meters) down a rocky mountain, making it one of the highest waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies. Located outside Field, British Columbia, the glacier-fed falls are the gateway to some of the best hiking trails in Yoho National Park.
Step onto the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefield and imagine what it was like during the last ice age. Located midway along the scenic Icefields Parkway connecting Canada’s Banff and Jasper national parks, the Columbia Icefield gives visitors a chance to experience how the landscape may have looked when glaciers covered the land.
As one of Canada’s most significant historic coal mines, the Atlas Coal Mine is a National Historic Landmark and the site of the country's last standing wooden coal tipple (a sorting and loading machine.) It is a chance to dive deep into the country’s history of coal mining, as well as the time period during which mining was more prominent. Original mine buildings, hundreds of artifacts, roving characters, and unique machinery all bring history to life. There’s also a narrow gauge train tour and a coal car that takes visitors around the property, and an underground mining tunnel tour that recreates the experience of the miners.
Outside of the mine itself, visitors can see well-preserved plant buildings and miner houses, including a lamp house, wash house, supply house, and blacksmith. The site of many historic structures, the mine is popular with photographers and well as history enthusiasts.
Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park are a gorgeous spot to soak your bones after a hike in the Rocky Mountains. Known as the hottest springs in the Canadian Rockies, the mineral-rich water gushes out of the mountainside at a steamy 129°F (54°C) before being cooled to 104°F (40°C) for a comfortable dip in the pool.
With some of Canada’s wildest white water, the Kicking Horse River boasts numerous Class III and IV+ rapids that thrill even the most experienced paddlers. Originating high in the Wapta Icefields of the Canadian Rockies, the river winds through picturesque valleys, gorges, and steep canyons, offering fantastic views as well as adventure.
The longest river in British Columbia and the 10th longest river in Canada, the Fraser River rises at Fraser Pass near Mount Robson in the Rocky Mountains and flows for 854 miles (1,375 km) into the Strait of Georgia at the city of Vancouver. Known for white sturgeon and the most productive salmon fishery in the world, Fraser River has supported agricultural and community life for hundreds of years.
More recently, Fraser River has become a host to a wide variety of recreational activities as well. Fishing, boating, whitewater rafting and other activities are common throughout the course of the river. In the basin as a whole, visitors can enjoy other backcountry activities such as hiking, camping, backpacking, cycling, birdwatching, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. As a scenic attraction, the Fraser River commands attention along many public byways including the Trans Canada and Yellowhead highways.
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