ALBERTA CAPTURES SPIRIT, ADVENTURE OF CANADA
Pleasant urban and wilderness surprises await
Alberta’s provincial flag reveals a lot of what sets it apart from the rest of Canada — golden prairies and primeval forest, snowcapped peaks and frontier history — all in the same province. There really isn’t anything else like it north or south of the border, a place that readily blends unspoiled wilderness and urban sophistication, Wild West and 21st-century, dinosaur digs and festival gigs.
Only three hours by air from Los Angeles, Calgary is the gateway to a province that boasts an average of 312 days of sunshine each year and summer temperatures just right for hiking or mountain biking, horseback riding or outdoor dining— especially in the summer months. And given the U.S. dollar’s steady rise against its Canadian cousin— roughly 25% more buying power than two years ago— there has never been a better time to plan an Alberta vacation.
The Rockies are themain attraction, a 500-mile chain of peaks, valleys, lakes and alpine meadows that defines Alberta’s western frontier. Tucked into the mountains are world renowned Banff and Jasper National Parks, drop-dead gorgeous Lake Louise and man made attractions like the new Glacier Sky walk that’s like something out of a sci-fi movie.
Alberta’s mountains also have their “castles” — historic resort hotels like The Fairmont Banff Springs and The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise that continue to pamper guests theway they did a century ago when theywere twin paragons of posh travel in the British Empire.
More surprises await on the vast prairies to the east of Calgary, a land of dude ranches and ghost towns, desert-like badlands, weird hoodoo rock formations and other prehistoric treasures.
The remains of more that 500 dinosaurs from40 different species have been discovered at Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of those specimens now reside at the region’s Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology.
The province’s Wild West heritage comes alive at living history hubs like Fort Calgary — established by the red-coated Mounties in 1875— and the aptly named Fort Whoop Up in Lethbridge, where reenactments recall its days as a frontier trading post renowned for illegal whiskey sales. Visitors can further immerse themselves in Alberta’s old west vibe on vintage steam trains, wagon train campouts or horseback rides through the Canadian Badlands.
Alberta’s northern extreme is the land of boreal forest and one of the best places on the planet to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). The townof Fort McMurray hosts aurora viewing tours in thewinter, but the spectacular light show often appears after dark in the late summer and autumn months.
The long rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton to be the province’s top city has spawned two surprisingly sophisticated urban areas less than 200miles apart. Fueled by the province’s ongoing energy boom, both cities are flush with cute boutique hotels, gourmet restaurants and eclectic cultural life that runs a broad gamut from philharmonic orchestras and art museums to rodeos and rock festivals.
Calgary’s biggest bash is the famous Calgary Stampede, a rowdy Western-themed extravaganza of bronco bucking, bull riding, chuck wagon races, barbecue spreads, country music and First Nations displays that plays out over 10days (July 3 to 12).
Summer brings several major festivals in Edmonton, too. Lucinda Williams and the Decemberists headline the city’s Folk Music Festival (Aug. 6to9) while the International Fringe Theatre Festival brings an array of comedy, circus, fairytales, music and dance to the provincial capital (Aug. 13to23). Sixty miles south of Edmonton, the town of Camrose hosts the Big Valley Jamboree, theworld’s largest country music festival (July 30 to Aug. 2).
Herbert Lake in Banff National Park
Canoeing on Lake Louise in Banff National Park
This supplement was produced by the Tribune Content Solutions group. It did not involve the editorial or reporting staffs of the Los Angeles Times.
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