If you long for the open road with lots of room to roam, then Alberta, Canada is definitely for you. This large province is home to two major cities, Calgary and Edmonton, both that offer some amazing options for tourists. While those two cities might get all the attention, there are plenty of smaller places in Alberta that deserve a visit as well! Nothing can compare to the beautiful Canadian landscape as you drive north from Calgary to Edmonton, but we thought we’d include a couple of stops along the way where you can take a break from the road. This is the best way to really get to know Alberta, by going out there experiencing it. So get your bags packed because here are the top places to stop on your Canadian road trip!
1300 Zoo Rd. NE | Calgary, AB | www.calgaryzoo.com
The Calgary Zoo is one of the most popular places to visit in the city, and there always seems to be something fun going on! Before you head out on the road, this is an interesting and informative place to visit in Calgary. Visitors have been flocking to see the giant pandas since their arrival, and it is one of the most popular exhibits at the zoo! Whether you want to stay the whole day, or just want to spend a couple of hours, the zoo always seems to be a good choice. The zoo is very committed to their mission of conservancy and works diligently to protect the habitats of animals in the wild.
In addition to their animal exhibits, the Calgary Zoo also features a prehistoric park, where you just might see a dinosaur! There are dinosaur models throughout this portion of the zoo which is designed to look just as Alberta did in the Cretaceous period.
1900 Heritage Dr. SW | Calgary, AB | heritagepark.ca
If you’re interested in learning a little bit about how Alberta was settled, then this is the place for you! There is a lot to do and see in this park, so make sure you have a couple of hours to fully explore the park. Most of the buildings and stores in this park are original, which contributes even more to their charm and appeal. Here you can see a fur trading fort from the 1860s, explore what a prairie railway town might have looked like at the turn of the century, or even spend some time in the much-loved Gasoline Alley. Here you’ll get to see authentic, vintage cars through the years. This is a great place to spend some time in the past and learn all about how Calgary was put on the map.
Also, make sure to stop off at the candy store for some sweets that are sure to make you feel like a kid again.
Sylvan Lake, AB | sylvanlake.ca
As you continue to make your way north, no trip to Edmonton would be complete without a visit to the beautiful town of Sylvan Lake. Situated right on the shores of the lake, this is a very popular place for visitors to spend a couple of hours exploring. Depending on what time of year you’re traveling, you might want to try your hand at waterskiing or canoeing, or opt for a quick fishing session instead. There are even outdoor waterslides that locals and tourists alike just can’t seem to get enough of!
If your trip is taking place in the winter months, you can decide to explore all the wonderful shops and dining in the area or try ice skating on the lake! A visit here is always a fun one, and sure make your experience in western Canada that much nicer.
114 Creamery Way | Markerville, AB | historicmarkerville.com
In the late 1880s, many Icelandic immigrants were arriving in the United States as well as Canada. One group laid down roots in what is now Markerville, and worked hard to make their town thrive. What really put Markerville on the map was their creamery, and it caught the attention of the Department of Agriculture, who went on to buy and operate these lucrative creameries. The original creamery was in operation until 1972, and now you can tour the building and learn a little bit about the creamery process as well as have a nice lunch, complete with homemade ice cream!
This is a nice town to explore, and make sure to visit the museum’s gift shop where you can find all kinds of interesting items. While you’re in town, also consider visiting the Buttermaker’s House, Fensalla Hall, or the Tindastoll Cemetery.
Spruce View, AB | stephanssonhouse.ca
Not far from the Markerville Creamery Museum is the house of homesteader and poet Stephan Stephansson. Here he farmed and lived with his family, and also wrote a very large amount of poetry! The wonderful, natural beauty of of Alberta inspired much of Stephansson’s poems, and once you see the view of the Rockies from his house, you’ll begin to understand why this place was so special to him.
You can explore how the early Icelandic immigrants lived, what they wore, and how they spent their time. The house is now a museum that you can tour, complete with costumed guides! People love how engaging the guides and interpreters are, they seem to make the stories of Stephansson and his family come alive. It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours of your trip, and make sure to take a walk around the town as well!
Site 15 Box 8 RR 3 | Innisfail, AB | discoverywildlifepark.com
This wildlife park is not your typical zoo-- the animals that call this place home are orphans who cannot be released back into the wild, or were an illegal pet. This sanctuary prevents these animals from being euthanized, and works every day to expand their capacity as well as educate the public about this problem. Each day there are a variety of animal presentations featuring lions, bears, and cougars so visitors have a chance to get safely up close and personal with them.
In addition to the zoo, you can also decide to try an even more immersive animal feature, such as walking with wolves, learning about tigers, or even visiting a den made by Kodiak bears! You’ll leave this fun and informative place with new knowledge and a new appreciation for all the hard work this organization does to help animals. Visitors just love how many amazing opportunities there are for unforgettable pictures!
4200 Queen Elizabeth II Hwy | Red Deer, AB | ashfm.ca
Whether you’re interested in learning more about the history of sports in Alberta, want to see some amazing art, or would like to see some historic artefacts up close, then this museum is for you. The museum is dedicated to preserving the sports memorabilia of the past, and educating visitors on how much Alberta has contributed to sports. Hockey is Canada’s favorite sport, and there is a special section at this museum that is dedicated to those who helped make the game great. You can also check out the ice and snow gallery, where you’ll see athletes who represent Alberta in skiing, ice skating, and bobsledding. If there’s time, you can even check out the interactive portion of the museum, and try your hand at virtual hockey, baseball, and soccer.
This is a popular attraction in Red Deer, and people say they can spend hours here just wandering around and learning about all the exhibits. Their memorabilia is second to none, so stop by while you’re on your way north!
4707 Fountain Dr. | Red Deer, AB | rdchs.com
Before you say goodbye to Red Deer, swing on over the the Cronquist House for some high tea! This is one of the last remaining buildings in Red Deer that dates back to the early 1900s and it definitely worth a visit. The house originally belonged to a Swedish immigrant, who was a very successful Alberta businessman and made his money in livestock and farming. After the Red Deer Cultural Society stepped in to save the house from being torn down in the 1970s, it was relocated to its present location and fully restored.
Visitors can now tour the beautiful home, whose interiors reflect the turn of the century furniture, linens, and crystal. The house offers tea and lunch on certain occasions, as well as holiday events, and patrons are always raving about how fresh and unique the cuisine is. After seeing the house, take a stroll around the beautiful property to admire the plants and landscaping.
9626 96a St. NW | Edmonton, AB | edmonton.ca
Once you make it into Edmonton, one of your first stops should be to the beautiful Muttart Conservatory. This striking building stands out in the Edmonton skyline due to the giant glass pyramids that mark its entrance. Each pyramid hosts a particular climate ranging from arid, temperate, and tropical, and houses a wide variety of plants in each. Visitors like to stroll through to admire the plants, and the conservatory sometimes also has art displayed among the plant exhibits. The conservatory is home to more than 700 species of plants, with new additions being made all the time.
The conservatory is also home to a delicious cafe that is worth a visit, as well as a fantastic gift shop. Here you’ll be able to pick up a nice souvenir from Canada’s City of Champions!
7000 143 St. | Edmonton, AB | fortedmontonpark.ca
If you’d like to learn about the history of Edmonton, then you’re going to have to check out Fort Edmonton Park. Here you can learn about what was happening in Edmonton in 1846, 1885, 1905, and 1920. Edmonton started out as a small trading post in the mid 1800s, and it has since grown into the fun and vibrant city it is today. There’s no shortage of things to do at the park, and there are plenty of historical places to tour. You can stop at the Indian House/trade store or see what an aboriginal camp would look like. Then, check out a real covered wagon that helped to move the first settlers to the area out west. In this portion of the park you can also check out the Jasper House Hotel and the Ottewell Homestead. Next check out the streetcar and make sure to visit the former house of the first Premier of Alberta, Alexander Cameron Rutherford. In the final historical area you can tour the Blatchford Air Hangar or the Mellon Farm.
As you walk around the park you’ll be greeted by helpful historical guides, who really make the past come alive. This is the largest living history park in Canada, so make sure you have a good amount of time to see everything. Not only will you spend the day immersed in the past, but you can also get an up close and personal with the past with a ride a steam engine, a street car, or even a horse and wagon!
There are lots of interesting spots to visit along the way from Calgary to Edmonton. We’ve only outlined a few here, but there are sure to be many more you could add to this list! Where are your favorite places to visit in between Calgary and Edmonton? Let us know in the comments!