AL­BERTA CAP­TURES SPIRIT, AD­VEN­TURE OF CANADA

Pleas­ant ur­ban and wilder­ness sur­prises await

Los Angeles Times - - TRAVEL - —JOE YOGERST Tri­bune Con­tent So­lu­tions Writer

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.

Con­tact us with com­ments or ques­tions at brand­pub­lish­ing@latimes.com. For advertising in­quiries, con­tact Kasey Cham­pion at 213.237.3112 or email her at kasey.cham­pion@latimes.com.

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