With amazing ski and mountain-bike trails, Insta-worthy alpine lakes, waterfalls you can climb in winter and one of the most picturesque driving routes in the country, adventurers will quickly feel at home in Alberta.
The province’s biggest claim to fame – and one of Canada’s – is the beautiful Rockies, a 4,800-km spine of jagged peaks that stretch from British Columbia, through Alberta and down to New Mexico, in the United States.
Start your journey by catching VIA Rail’s Snow Train from Vancouver to the small mountain town of Jasper, where you’ll find Marmot Basin ski resort and the family friendly Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Once you’ve stayed a few days, hire a car and point it south toward Banff – Whistler’s ski-hub rival.
Banff is the epicentre of the Canadian portion of the Rockies, and rightly so. Here you’ll find country saloons where you can kick up your heels, a ridiculous number of log cabins to make any lumberjack (or Jill) green with envy, and restaurants with seriously drool-worthy dishes. Bison burger, anyone?
In winter, Banff makes a great base for skiing Lake Louise, Sunshine Village and the smaller locals’ hill of Norquay. If you want to splurge, book a few nights at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, or at least spend an afternoon at the impressive day spa. And don’t forget to hire some ice skates for a twirl on the frozen lake (or go canoeing in summer).
If Banff is too busy, check out the nearby town of Canmore. This is where you’ll be able to mingle with locals and, when the snow season’s over, it’s one of the best places in Canada to set off on a mountain-biking or hiking adventure.
No matter the season, the Icefields Parkway is a truly impressive highway stretching 232 kilometres from Jasper to Lake Louise. You can stop off along the way at the many great campgrounds and picnic spots, as well as stunning glacier-fed Peyto Lake and the impressive Columbia Icefield. Travel onto the glacier in a snow coach and, if you dare, try your hand at mountaineering.
Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the way and be sure to keep your distance – bears, moose and elk aren’t to be messed with.
The Calgary Stampede is the biggest event on the city calendar and worth timing your itinerary around. The annual 10-day rodeo and festival is held in July and is all about celebrating the province’s country heart.
Alberta is major cattle country and this is reflected at the Stampede, where you can expect bucking broncos, carnival rides, live music, and hands-on animal encounters (fancy milking a cow?).
If you want to grab some souvenirs, there’s no better place to head than Alberta’s capital, Edmonton, home to West Edmonton Mall, the largest of its kind in North America. Not only will you be able to update your entire wardrobe, there’s also a waterpark, ice palace, an indoor amusement park (also North America’s largest), and an underground aquarium.
Not into shopping, the city is also home to the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, a down-to-Earth event for professional and amateur performing artists, as well as the Ice on Whyte festival, a family fun attraction held in January and February.