Here are six extraordinary places you should see while in Alberta:
Banff provides the stunning backdrop Pinterest always promised it would. There really is #nofilter needed. Canoe your way to serenity by morning, and then hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House for some afternoon refreshments. From an altitude of more than 2,100 meters, you’ll experience once-in-a-lifetime views. Finish your day in the bejeweled city with a stop at the Bison Restaurant & Terrace, where the executive chef fuses local ingredients with creative flair. If you’re not ready to say goodbye just yet, we understand. Spend the night at a Banff hotel and the next day you can ride up the Icefields Parkway. If you happen to make a detour from Banff to Jasper for a spontaneous camping adventure, so be it.
Next Leg: 181km (1h 55m)
Once you wave goodbye to Lake Louise, it’s just a few hours until you hit Calgary. Even with a nickname like Cowtown, Calgary manages to be cosmopolitan. Take your shoes off and stay a few days. Calgary hotels are plenty hospitable, and you won’t run out of things to do. Visit Heritage Park, where seasonal displays include a Historical Village by summer and vintage car collections by winter.
Thursday through Sunday, you can add some produce to your road trip snack collection at the Calgary Farmers’ Market, or get a table at Caesar’s Steak House. If you’re a carnivore, leaving Calgary without tasting its famous beef is practically a crime. Stop by the Westin Hotel—formerly the Calgary Inn—et tu can have a drink where the Bloody Caesar was invented. You can trust Brutus the bartender, really.
If you visit during July, you must check out the famous rodeo. However, the Calgary Stampede grounds host concerts all year-round. And let’s be honest, watching a pack of Bieber fans stomp their way through the gates is just as entertaining as the other famous stampede. Finish your trip with a drink at the Last Best Brewing & Distilling and a good night’s sleep.
Next Leg: 184 km (1 h 45m)
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
You lived it up in Calgary. You carb-loaded to your bread-loving heart’s content and wore your finest duds for a night out on the town. Now it’s time to take in a bit of history. Make a stop at the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, where for thousands of years the native people hunted by stampeding bison over a cliff. Just 22 km away in Fort MacLeod, walk through the historic downtown and see buildings dating back to 1878. Grab a quick bite at the Igloo Drive-In, and you’re ready to venture onward!
Next Leg: 71 km (45 min)
Fort Whoop-Up—there it is. Can you dig it? We can dig it. The former whiskey trading post has seen some pretty naughty behaviour in its heyday, but now it offers less shenanigans and more historical artefacts. Take a walk through the museum and tiptoe through portions of the preserved fort. Can you smell the faint aroma of illegal whiskey? No, that’s just your imagination. Before you leave the Lethbridge area, take a relaxing walk through the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. The gardens are so serene you might just be lulled into a near-sleep state, so stop by The Penny Coffee House for a caffeine boost before you hit the road again.
Next Leg: 195 km (2h)
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Yabba dabba do you know where you can find the most dinosaur bones in the world? Pebbles may have snagged her hair accessory from the Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks, but we don’t recommend that you do the same. While you can’t take any fossils home from this UNESCO site, you can go prospecting or take a sunset tour. If you spend but a morning at the park, stop by Lake Newell for a kayaking jaunt before you continue on to your final Alberta pit stop.
Next Leg: 123 km (1h 20m)
Medicine Hat has the world’s largest…you guessed it…nope, you’re wrong. It’s the world’s largest chess set. Even though this hyperbolic attraction has nothing to do with the town’s name, it’s still pretty cool. The board is almost 6 meters on each side, and the king piece is 119 cm tall. Medicine Hat is also home to the Saamis Teepee, which is the largest teepee in the world. Yes, it’s even big enough to fit the chess pieces, as it measures in at over 65 meters tall. Once you’ve stopped by these two photogenic landmarks, be sure to dedicate some time at the Esplanade, where art and theatre abound. Need something to munch on as you hop back in the car and continue onward? Grab something sweet from the Wannawafel waffle cart and hit the road!
Total trip: 754 km (7h 45m)
Lay down your head in Medicine Hat and take a nice long rest. You deserve it—you made it through the AB leg of the ultimate Canadian road trip! In the morning, you’ll head off for Swift Current, which is where we’ll meet you in our next post!