Alberta, Canada is often portrayed as a backward, oil guzzling, wild west kind of place. While it still retains much of its country and mountain charm, the larger towns and cities are host to amazing restaurants and vibrant nightlife. Coupled with a great road network linking buzzing cities, quaint farming towns and mountain villages, it makes for the perfect road trip getaway.
Buckin’ Broncos at the Calgary Stampede
Cowboys, snakeskin boots and daisy dukes, welcome to the Calgary Stampede. Overlooked by the glimmering Calgary skyline, the Stampede is a 100 year old Wild West Festival in the heart of the city.
For 12 days the city of Calgary goes cowboy crazy, with daily rodeos, hundreds of concerts from top acts, haystack bars around town and thousands of daily visitors decked out in their finest western attire. Businesses downtown host Stampede breakfasts, with Caesars being served from 7.30AM…needless to say a long rest is needed after the Stampede.
It’s a truly unmissable experience, and the Stampede is as popular as ever. From riding back in time at the traditional chuckwagon races to line dancing the night away at Nashville North, the Calgary Stampede is a great welcome to Canada. Giant acts such as Katy Perry, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks and KISS have performed at the festival in recent years, alongside daredevils and circus acts (many who perform for free). The best bars to check around town during the Stampede are the Palomino Smokehouse, Knoxville Tavern and of course the iconic Ranchmans.
July 3 – 12 2015 / July 8 – 17 2016. Full listings and tickets @ Official Website
Dinosaurs in the Alberta Badlands
Jurassic Park fan growing up? Well then a trip to the Badlands of Alberta will be thoroughly rewarding. With over 4,400 square metres of exhibition space, the brilliant Royal Tyrrell Museum in the heart of Alberta’s Badlands has over 40 dinosaur skeletons including the stegosaurus and the terrifying T-Rex. Fossils are still being found in the region, recently a boy playing on rough ground picked up his baseball – only to discover the horn of a gigantic triceratops poking out of the dry earth!
As well as this, the Badlands are home to the Hoodoos, bizarre rock features that began to take shape over 70 million years ago. The hoodoo trail takes you through areas akin to the Grand Canyon, dry and dusty – certainly not something you’d be expecting just over 2 hours from the lush forests of the Bow Valley Trail to the west of Calgary.
Royal Tyrrell Museum open year round (Adult $15 / Child $7.50 / Kids under 6 go free)
Ok, honest disclosure here,there may be some personal bias here, as I had the pleasure of working at Moraine Lake Lodge for 4 months. However, this is one of the most magical views in the world, and deservedly features on almost every Canadian postcard and promotional videos. Many people skip Moraine lake on their way to Lake Louise – but our opinion it is unmissable!
Read up on our previous post about Moraine Lake here!
Moraine Lake accessible from May – October only. No charge + free parking
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Excuse me? What now? For 5,500 years, the Native people of Alberta hunted Bison, killing them by herding them over a cliff and then carving them up and cooking them at camps at the bottom of the canyon. Easiest way is the best I guess!
Today the area is a UNESCO world heritage site and is now known as the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump – such a fantastically obvious name! At the award winning museum, native tour guides offer a superb insight into how the First Nations hunted and lived in the region. The effects of European settlement also feature, and shows how these new settlers destroyed a tradition going back millennia.
After some time in the museum, enjoy the clear air and the magnificent views from the top of the ridge over the Alberta Prairies. There are plenty of well marked trails around the site also, and the long grass is incredibly inviting for anyone with a picnic.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre open year round ($11 Adult / $5 Child)
Sunshine Village Snowboarding
Alright, enough of all those lazy summer days, winter is coming and it’s time to get the adrenaline pumping at Sunshine Mountain. Snowboarding is King in Sunshine, and with the resort being just 25 minutes from Banff you’ve got no excuse to chicken out of snowboarding lessons!
Surrounded by stunning peaks, Sunshine has some of the best trails in the region and is very popular with locals. Accessed by a high speed gondola, there are over 100 trails for every ability – yes, lessons are available every hour for novices. When you’re exhausted from a day on the pistes, at the base you can find plenty of good company from around the world in the ski bars and restaurants. I reckon you deserve a beer or three.
Snow season Nov – May. Open for hiking in summer time. Adult Ski Lift Passes from $59.99 / Kids from $34.99. One day Snowboard + kit hire from $40.