Top 11 Places to Visit in Alberta
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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 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 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
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
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.