AL­BERTA

ALPINE VIS­TAS, CITY SO­JOURNS AND RU­RAL RE­TREATS

2017 Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY SU­SAN MATE

Aside from the al­lure of the Rocky Moun­tains and the pre­his­toric bad­lands, Canada’s fourth largest prov­ince counts resilience as one of its many at­tributes. Bred from its Wild West her­itage mixed with the boom-and-bust drama of its oil-driven econ­omy, Al­berta has over­come its share of ad­ver­sity with a char­ac­ter­is­tic “Let’s get ’er done” at­ti­tude that en­sures the wel­come mat is al­ways un­furled.

Al­berta’s di­verse her­itage is a var­ied of­fer­ing of First Na­tions his­tory, pioneer spirit and rich im­mi­grant cul­ture that draws New Cana­di­ans from all parts of the globe. The an­nual 10-day whoop-up called the Cal­gary Stam­pede cel­e­brates all things cow­boy and rodeo early each July. Ed­mon­ton’s K-Days fol­lows up with a trib­ute to north­ern Al­berta’s Klondike her­itage, while dozens of other fes­ti­vals across the prov­ince cel­e­brate its unique pock­ets of re­gional pride—think per­o­gies in Ve­gre­ville, or beef jerky in Longview.

From the gran­ite spires of Waterton Lakes in Al­berta’s south to Wood Buf­falo Na­tional Park in the rugged north, the

Wild Rose prov­ince de­liv­ers hall-of-fame ex­pe­ri­ences in­clud­ing five sprawl­ing na­tional parks and 300 provin­cial recre­ational ar­eas such as Kananaskis Coun­try, Cy­press Hills, Writ­ing-On-Stone and Di­nosaur Provin­cial Park.

The two big­gest ur­ban cen­tres, Ed­mon­ton and Cal­gary, are cos­mopoli­tan cities, while smaller cities in­clud­ing Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Fort McMur­ray, Medicine Hat, Leth­bridge and Air­drie serve as im­por­tant re­gional hubs for shop­ping, gov­ern­ment, tourism and agri­cul­ture/in­dus­try.

Al­berta’s din­ing scene is in­no­va­tive and lo­cal, em­pha­siz­ing Rocky Moun­tain cui­sine such as game, fish and world-fa­mous grain-fed beef. From up­scale ho­tel din­ing rooms in the big city to eclec­tic alpine bistros in Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise, the restau­rants con­sis­tently win in­ter­na­tional awards. So, too, do Al­berta’s ma­jor at­trac­tions—like the re­tail city/theme park of West Ed­mon­ton Mall, or the Al­berta Sports Hall of Fame in Red Deer.

NA­TURE’S WON­DER­LAND

Provin­cial recre­ational ar­eas help keep Al­ber­tans and their vis­i­tors out­doors. Spread across 661,848 sq. km (255,541 sq. mi.) of pris­tine ter­rain, the five ma­jor snow re­sorts and sprawl­ing back­coun­try lure pow­der-hounds from Novem­ber to May. Try dogsled­ding through the un­touched Spray Lakes val­ley, or take a guided ice walk in frozen Maligne Canyon near Jasper. The lakes of Kananaskis Coun­try, west of Cal­gary, are a par­adise for ice fish­ing in win­ter, and boat­ing, hik­ing and cy­cling in the sum­mer. Elk Is­land Na­tional Park east of Ed­mon­ton of­fers a great op­por­tu­nity to pho­to­graph wildlife, in­clud­ing its res­i­dent buf­falo and, of course, elk.

Rent a moun­tain bike in West Bragg Creek, or en­joy a more se­date bike ride on the paved path be­tween the towns of Can­more and Lake Louise. Al­berta’s glacierfed wa­ter­ways—par­tic­u­larly the Bow and Red Deer rivers—lure an­glers with the prom­ise of top-notch trout fish­ing. In the same day, vis­i­tors can play the back nine of a world-class golf course, hop­scotch past cac­tus patches in search of an­cient rock carv­ings in the desert, and then re­tire to the ho­tel hot tub to watch the sun­set.

VEN­TUR­ING OUT

Float your boat down a river or head for calmer wa­ters along Lake Minnewanka or Mo­raine Lake in pic­turesque Banff Na­tional Park. Bonus: hear the crack of avalanches over­head, well out of your path but still pow­er­ful. Chase cham­pagne pow­der from the top of first-rate re­sorts such as Sun­shine Vil­lage, Lake Louise or Mar­mot Basin, or ex­plore them in sum­mer to un­veil a hiker’s par­adise of abun­dant wildlife and colour­ful car­pets of wild­flow­ers. Canada Olympic Park in north­west Cal­gary has a na­tional ath­lete train­ing cen­tre, a snow park and Olympic mu­seum, while Pe­ter Lougheed Provin­cial Park boasts un­par­al­leled op­por­tu­ni­ties for ad­ven­ture all year round.

Bar U Ranch Na­tional His­toric Site, south of Cal­gary, chron­i­cles pioneer life from 1882-1950; this pris­tine set­ting in the shadow of the south­ern Rock­ies is fea­tured on many post­cards. Trav­ellers with time on their hands head north to Wood Buf­falo Na­tional Park, a UNESCO World Her­itage Site with 44,807 sq. km (17,300 sq. mi.) of pro­tected wilder­ness where the en­dan­gered whoop­ing crane and the world’s largest herd of free-roam­ing wood bi­son can be found.

WHAT’S NEW?

The highly touted Na­tional Mu­sic Cen­tre de­picts Canada’s mu­si­cal her­itage. Built to sprawl over­top of a street run­ning through Cal­gary’s East Vil­lage, the five-storey build­ing, which opened last sum­mer, fea­tures high-tech mu­sic stu­dio space, live pro­grams, nu­mer­ous stages and the­atres, and more than 2,000 in­stru­ments and arte­facts span­ning sev­eral cen­turies (www.nmc.ca).

The re­lo­cated Royal Al­berta Mu­seum is sched­uled to re­open later this year. The new fa­cil­ity, in­clud­ing ex­hibit space de­voted to hu­man his­tory, a chil­dren’s gallery, bug room and Man­i­tou Stone Gallery, will be the largest mu­seum in west­ern Canada (www.roy­alal­ber­ta­mu­seum.ca).

Ren­o­va­tions have made the pop­u­lar Banff Gon­dola ter­mi­nal more ac­ces­si­ble and also more in­for­ma­tive. It now fea­tures a sparkling new moun­tain­top in­door in­ter­pre­tive cen­tre to ac­com­pany the ex­ist­ing ex­te­rior board­walk and hik­ing trails. Open year­round, it af­fords spec­tac­u­lar views of nearby peaks as well as the town of Banff (www.brewster.ca/at­trac­tions-sight­see­ing).

CITY LIGHTS

Al­berta’s two ma­jor cities of­fer quite dif­fer­ent in­sights into the prov­ince, though they share a love of green space, sprawl­ing river path­ways and tidy, bustling down­towns.

The provin­cial cap­i­tal of Ed­mon­ton is a gov­ern­ment city with a grand leg­is­la­ture build­ing, a thriv­ing arts com­mu­nity and nu­mer­ous gal­leries, craft stores and art shops. Most can be found along trendy Whyte Av­enue or in the down­town arts

SPE­CIAL EVENTS JAN­UARY

• ICE MAGIC FES­TI­VAL, LAKE LOUISE JAN­UARY – FE­BRU­ARY

• ICE ON WHYTE ICE CARV­ING FES­TI­VAL,

ED­MON­TON

JUNE

• SLED IS­LAND MU­SIC AND ARTS FES­TI­VAL,

CAL­GARY

• WATERTON WILD­FLOWER FES­TI­VAL

JULY

• CAL­GARY STAM­PEDE

• CANA­DIAN BAD­LANDS PAS­SION PLAY,

DRUMHELLER

• ED­MON­TON IN­TER­NA­TIONAL STREET

PER­FORM­ERS FES­TI­VAL

• K-DAYS, ED­MON­TON

• VUL-CON, VUL­CAN

AU­GUST

• BIG VAL­LEY JAM­BOREE, CAMROSE • CAN­MORE FOLK MU­SIC FES­TI­VAL • ED­MON­TON IN­TER­NA­TIONAL FRINGE

THEATRE FES­TI­VAL

NOVEM­BER

• AGRI-TRADE EX­PO­SI­TION, RED DEER • CANA­DIAN FI­NALS RODEO, ED­MON­TON

www.trav­e­lal­berta.com/ca/ things-to-do/events-fes­ti­vals

MT. NORQUAY, BANFF NA­TIONAL PARK • BANFF & LAKE LOUISE TOURISM/PAUL ZIZKA

Prairie to tour the newly-minted Philip J. Cur­rie Di­nosaur Mu­seum, which chron­i­cles the work done to pre­serve the world’s largest horn­bill di­nosaur bonebed.

MUST SEE, MUST DO

The re­source town of Grande Cache, north­west of Ed­mon­ton, is a rugged for­mer forestry and coal-min­ing com­mu­nity ringed by a dozen mas­sive peaks. Largely un­de­vel­oped, the town is a fan­tas­tic jump­ing-off spot to ex­plore nearby Will­more Wilder­ness Park. This 4,600 sq. km. (1,840 sq. mi.) park af­fords a rugged back­coun­try ex­pe­ri­ence that is pop­u­lar with ATV en­thu­si­asts, trav­ellers on horse­back and ex­treme ath­letes.

Nes­tled into the lush coulees of the

Rose­bud River Val­ley, the aban­doned rail­way town of Rose­bud was over­taken by a group of faith-based artists three decades ago. They cre­ated a thriv­ing pro­fes­sional theatre school and arts cen­tre that of­fers high-cal­i­bre, fam­ily-friendly theatre and mu­sic to more than 35,000 vis­i­tors a year. Many vis­i­tors stroll the ham­let’s two streets, which are spat­tered with funky art shops and gal­leries (www.rose­budthe­atre.com).

His­toric Fort Macleod in south­ern Al­berta is the birth­place of the North-West Mounted Po­lice—now the RCMP. The first mu­si­cal ride in Canada was held in the town in 1876. Mod­elled af­ter Bri­tish Army cav­alry drills, the mu­si­cal ride fea­tures 36 rid­ers per­form­ing in­tri­cate moves. The 30-minute shows are held four times daily from July to Septem­ber (www.nwmp­mu­seum.com).

SCENIC DRIVES

Icefields Park­way: Ranked one of the most scenic drives in Canada, Hwy 93 from

Jasper to Lake Louise, is a 237-km (147-mi.) stretch that zips past dozens of water­falls, glaciers, emer­ald lakes and rocky gorges. A gateway to the Alaska High­way, the town of Jasper is a por­tal to nearby des­ti­na­tions such as Athabasca and Sun­wapta falls, Mi­ette Hot Springs and Maligne Lake (www. ice­field­spark­way.com).

UNESCO Trail: It’s no day trip, but this clas­sic trek is worth the sev­eral weeks it takes to prop­erly travel the 1,900-km (1,181-mi.) north-south cor­ri­dor. From the south­ern tip of Al­berta at stun­ning Waterton Lakes to Wood Buf­falo Na­tional Park in the re­mote north, road trip­pers pass through a di­verse range of ter­rain in­clud­ing alpine, park­land, bo­real forests and sec­tions of the bad­lands.

Cow­boy Trail: West­ern Her­itage takes the spot­light along this scenic Hwy 22 drive through the foothills of the Rock­ies be­tween Pincher Creek and May­erthorpe. High­lights of the 700-km (435-mi.) route in­clude Bar U Ranch Na­tional His­toric Site and his­toric Cochrane Ranch (www. the­cow­boy­trail.com).

FAM­ILY FUN

Fam­i­lies shouldn’t miss the World Water­park at West Ed­mon­ton Mall, the Cal­gary Zoo’s Pen­guin Plunge or The Braina­sium out­door cen­tre/slide at the TELUS Spark Cen­tre. Kids flock to the Trop­i­cal Pyra­mid at the Mut­tart Con­ser­va­tory. The Great Cana­dian Barn Dance at Hill­spring fea­tures camp­fires, mu­sic and food (www.gcbd.ca), while the In­n­is­fail Dis­cov­ery Wildlife Park is a 90-acre zoo hous­ing more than 40 species of or­phaned an­i­mals in­clud­ing bears, wolves and lions (www.dis­cov­ery­wild lifepark.com). The Royal Tyrrell Mu­seum of­fers a Juras­sic joyride; also the chance to climb into the belly of the World’s Largest Di­nosaur in Drumheller in the Cana­dian Bad­lands. Star Trek buffs should stop at the town of Vul­can for its oth­er­worldly vis­i­tor cen­tre and an­nual Vul-Con fes­ti­val, a liv­ing trib­ute to the pop­u­lar Star Trek TV se­ries.

BOW RIVER, CAL­GARY • TRAVEL AB/GE­ORGE SIMHONI

4,252,900

Ed­mon­ton

www.trav­e­lal­berta.com

Cal­gary In­ter­na­tional Air­port, 23 km (14 mi.) from down­town

Ed­mon­ton In­ter­na­tional Air­port, 26 km (16 mi.) from down­town

ICEFIELDS PARK­WAY • KRISTINA CAJIPE

STEPHEN AV­ENUE, CAL­GARY • TRAVEL AB/GER­ARD YUNKER

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