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Top 11 places to visit in Alberta

Updated on May 11, 2013

Bucket List for Alberta

Alberta is my favorite Canadian province for its combination of beauty and interesting sites. There are tons of things to do in Albert, especially during a summer vacation. So I thought I would put together my Bucket List of the top 11 places to visit in Alberta.

But first some basic facts about Alberta.

Geographical Land Area - 661,185 sq km (255,303 sq mi)

Cities - Edmonton (which is the capital) Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Fort MacMurray, and Calgary

Population - 3.474 million

Provincial flower - Wild Rose

Origins of the name Alberta - Named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939). daughter of Queen Victoria.


There are 13 UNESCO World Heritage protected sites in Canada and five of those sites are in Alberta and four of them are on my list.

Calgary Stampede Poster for 1912
Calgary Stampede Poster for 1912

Calgary

The first European to see the Calgary area was David Thompson in 1797 CE. However the first settler did not settle in the area until 1873. Over 130 years later and Calgary is now a large prairie city with a thriving economy based mostly on OIL.

In 1988 Calgary was the host of the Winter Olympics. There are a number of exciting activities to do and attractions to see. The most well known are as follows - Fort Calgary, the Calgary Stampede and the Canada Olympic Park.

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Picture Source - Wikipedia Commons - The Calgary Stampede began in 1912 and in 2012 it will celebrate its centenary (100 years). It is a celebration held every summer of the cowboy and ranching way of life, with carnivals, a rodeo and various roping competitions as well as a parade. Visitors come from all over Canada and the world to see it.

Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Park Entrance Sign
Dinosaur Park Entrance Sign

This park is under UNESCO World Heritage protection despite only being a provincial park. I think that Dinosaur Provincial Park should be a NATIONAL park. Over 65 million years ago this was a lush place with rivers, trees, lush green grass, and lots of dinosaurs. Now the geology consists of weird outcroppings and shapes, called Hoodoos, and the grass has long since disappeared. This area is a paleontologists dream. There are dinosaur bones to be found all over the place.

Drumheller, Badlands and Dinosaurs

1 - Badlands and Drumheller, Alberta

2 - Royal Ontario Musem Research and Paleontology in the Badlands, Alberta

3 - Royal Tyrrell Musem, Drumheller, Alberta

4 - Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta

Wayne Gretsky played for the Edmonton Oilers Hockey team from 1979 to 1989
Wayne Gretsky played for the Edmonton Oilers Hockey team from 1979 to 1989

Edmonton

Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and the seat of the provincial government. The biggest attraction that Edmonton has to offer is the WEST EDMONTON MALL - one of the biggest shopping malls in the world.

Not only are there retail stores numbering the hundreds, there are also attractions such as a waterpark with 17 water slides, a full size rollercoaster, 2 mini-putt golf sites, a large marine acquarium, a shooting range, a haunted house, bumper boats, a cinema complex, a full size skating rink used both for hockey and for skating lessons, a skateboard park and a full size replica of the Santa Maria - the ship Christopher Columbus sailed on when he sailed across the Atlantic in 1492.

Picture Source - Wikipedia Commons

Wayne Gretzky statue that was erected after the 1988-89 season (when he left the Oilers) outside of Rexall Place (Edmonton Coliseum).

Fort McMurray - Wood Buffalo Region - Oilsands

oilsands
oilsands

Fort McMurray is the largest unincorporated municipality in Canada. It used to be a city from 1980 to 1995 when it joined with the Wood Buffalo region and lost its incorporated status. But Fort McMurray still acts as a city - even though it has a regional district council instead of a city council.

Fort McMurray was founded on oil - which was discovered around 1930. The oil of this region does not flow like liquid oil, but is combined in a mixture of sand, water and bitumen, which is now called OIL SANDS. This mixture must be heated to high temperatures before being processed to separate out the oil from the sand.

Visitors may also participate in skiing (Fort McMurray spends 8 months every year under snow). hiking, fishing, skidooing, boating, camping, watching the aurora borealis (northern lights which are frequently seen in this area) and other such winter and outdoor activities.

Grande Prairie
Grande Prairie

Grande Prairie

Peace River Country

Grande Prairie is a city in northern Alberta and the main town (or unofficial capital) of what is known as the Peace River Country or just Peace Country. The Peace Country area covers a huge flat plains area north and east of Grande Prairie (and also extends west into British Columbia).

This large natural wildland area is over 100,000 square kilometres in size and extends from the Peace River which flows north, to the towns of Fort St John and Dawson Creek in northern BC to the west and the Lesser Slave Lake in the east. Within this area one can find, many beautiful natural habitats, historic sites, walking trails and lots of camping grounds. There are plenty of activities to do - canoeing and kayaking, skiing, hiking, fishing, playing golf and there are numerous walking trails.

Picture - The Millenium Sun Dial was built in the year 2000 for the millenium celebrations. It is a working sundial and is located on Highway 43 right outside of the Visitor and Information Centre for Grande Prairie, Alberta.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump National Park
Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump National Park

This site is under UNESCO World Heritage Protection. If you don't already know, the early First Nations Indians of Canada used to round up the buffalo and force them into a stampede towards a cliff. Those buffalo that went over the cliff and either died or were injured, their bodies were butchered for meat, furs and tools. It seems a cruel method of obtaining meat for food, bone tools and furs for clothes.

Picture - Wikipedia Commons License

The Rockies - Banff - Jasper - Lake Louise

The View of Jasper Town from Whistlers Mountain
The View of Jasper Town from Whistlers Mountain

The Canadian Rockies are home to 7 protected parks. There are 4 national parks - Jasper and Banff national parks in Alberta, and Yoho and Kootenay national parks in British Columbia. There are also 3 provincial parks in the Rockies, all in British Columbia. All 7 of these parks together make up the Canadian Rockies UNESCO World Heritage Park.

You cannot visit Alberta without visiting Banff, Jasper, Whistler Mountain and Lake Louise. There is plenty to do. In the summer you can go bike riding, rock climbing for the majestic views, swimming, horse back riding, kayaking & canoeing, caving, fishing, golfing, rafting and go looking for wildlife such as birds, elk, bighorn sheep, caribou and grizzly bears. Winter activities include skiing, curling, snowshoeing, skating, snow mobiling and ice climbing.

Picture Source - Wikipedia Commons Licence - The Town of Jasper from Whistlers Mountain

The Starship of Vulcan

The Starship outside of Vulcan, Alberta
The Starship outside of Vulcan, Alberta

The Home of Star Trek in Canada. Leonard Nimoy who played the original Vulcan (Spock) on the first Star Trek TV series back in the 1960s, finally visited the town of Vulcan in Alberta in April 2010. Vulcan also its own annual Trek Convention - which is the opportunity for Trek fans from all over the world to visit Vulcan, dress up as a Trek character and have fun. It is completely normal to see a Klingon, a Borg, a Romulan, a Bolian and an Orion all walking down the street during the summer. In the Star Trek universe, some of them are enemies.

Many people like to make fun of Trekkies (Star Trek fans) and Star Trek in general. One of the reasons why it is so popular is because it shows a way of life that MIGHT be possible for humanity in our present time - provided that we don't blow this planet up first. Star Trek is set in the future and it is a life that some of us desire. We want to live in a universe where there is no poverty, no wars, no discrimination, no xenophobia and where the aliens are friendly. Many futuristic techo-gadgets have already become normal every day gadgets - such as communicators. We now have cell phones. .

Picture Source - StarTrek Daily Pic (Taken June 2008)

Wood Buffalo National Park

Buffalo
Buffalo

This is the largest National Park in Canada and it too is under UNESCO World Heritage protection. The Wood Buffalo National Park is also Canada's very first national park. It was created in 1922 to protect the last of the free roaming buffalo-bison herds. This action has meant that the bison have survived and are growing in numbers. The park is now over 44,000 square kilometres in size and it protects the Boreal Plains of Northern Canada. Within its borders are the last remaining nesting grounds of the whooping crane bird which is an endangered species, vast salt plains and the lush Peace river - Athabasca river Delta Estuary on Lake Athabasca.

Writing on Stone Provincial Park

Writing on Stone Park. Alberta - Petroglyphs
Writing on Stone Park. Alberta - Petroglyphs

The history of the ancient first nations peoples of the plains can be seen in this area through the extensive pictographs and petroglyphs (rock art) that were written on the sandstone rocks and cliffs. However, that same soft sandstone is slowly being worn away by the wind and rain and many petroglyphs are being lost before they can be photographed and recorded.

Interesting Alberta Resources and Sites

I have left out all Wikipedia links as this list is already too long.

Your turn to sound off about Alberta and this Alberta Tourism lens - Have you ever visited Alberta?

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    • profile image

      BarbaraCasey 5 years ago

      Wish I'd had a car the summer I was out in Alberta, working at the Banff Springs Hotel. We had to hitchhike everywhere.

    • profile image

      DentalTourism 5 years ago

      Jasper is awesome. It's just like Banff was maybe 30 years ago. Banff's downfall is that it's about an hour away from an international airport and a city of over a million people. This results in it being crowded and touristy. Jasper on the other hand is still a Canadian Rocky Mountain retreat. Good lens.

    • Zut Moon profile image

      Zut Moon 5 years ago

      "pinned" and featured in Great Places to visit in Canada

    • squid-janices7 profile image

      squid-janices7 6 years ago

      Can't wait to go back to Alberta some day.....you've given me lots of places to look forward to. LOVE the Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper areas as well as Calgary. Want to go to the Stampede someday there too:)

      P.S. Thanks for the blessing on my Paris lens. It is much appreciated!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love Alberta. Edmonton was one of the cities I first visited in Canada and I was amazed at how peaceful it is that I decided to come back and live in Canada.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 6 years ago

      As a Trekkie, I have to say, going to Vulcan is extremely inviting. The other places here are really beautiful, too. Thanks for sharing this lens! :)

    • TeacherSerenia profile image
      Author

      TeacherSerenia 6 years ago

      @TravelingRae: This lens covers all of Alberta. Wood Buffalo National Park and Fort McMurray are both in Northern Alberta. Wood Buffalo park is the large green area at the very top of the map.

    • profile image

      TravelingRae 6 years ago

      Great lens about southern Alberta.

    • BrianRS profile image

      Brian Stephens 6 years ago from France

      I love this region of Canada. I used to work in the oil industry and have visited both Edmonton and Calgary both for work and pleasure. One of my favourite holidays was when my wife and I went skiing in Banff, albeit the week we went was a tad chilly to say the least. Nice lens brought back some fond memories.

    • AuthorNormaBudden profile image

      AuthorNormaBudden 6 years ago

      I thought I'd pop over for a visit and was quite surprised to see that you had featured Edmonton Attractions. Thanks!

      Most of the places here I have visited over the years though there were a couple of new places. I had heard of the buffalo jump before and wondered where the name came from. I'll definitely have a few things to check out the next time I'm in Alberta. I've created a few lenses about Alberta and the Rocky Mountains myself.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 6 years ago

      I came, I saw, I read, I liked...I blessed. This lens will be featured on my Travel BucketList Angel lens. Good job.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      You did a beautiful job with thie quest lens.

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 6 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      I've never been to Alberta, but it is certainly on my list - some really interesting things to see.