This isn’t as polished as I would like, but I wanted to get it all out there while I remembered. Basically, remember to be a tourist at home too 🙂
You might have the travel bug, but maybe you can’t afford that European vacation right now. But I think it’s easy to forget that the place you live often has amazing things to do too, whether it’s your City, or a little bit further afield, and you should be able to find at least a little piece of what you’re looking for! No, you won’t quite get the Louvre, but you might be surprised. Calgary and Alberta are hugely diverse and multicultural, so you really should be able to find a bit of everything! Here are some ideas to help fill your wanderlust if you’re in Alberta. (I wrote this spur of the moment, and it is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to add suggestions of your favourite travel ideas in Alberta!)
Modern and Contemporary Art
You won’t get the Tate or the MOMA but you WILL get a huge array of possibilities from small independent galleries to larger regional museums. The focus will be on Canadian artists, but can come from much further afield, and occasionally even those blockbuster names everyone would recognize. Even commercial galleries will sometimes do exhibitions of famous artists.
Just a very small selection:
-Esker foundation, Calgary
– Contemporary Calgary, Calgary
– Webster galleries, Calgary
– Gainsborough galleries, Calgary
– Leighton Art Centre, near Millarville (also a historic site, and has some great views of the mountains)
– Glenbow Museum, Calgary – one of western canada’s largest museums, historical exhibits, hands on activities, plus historical and modern art. Huge range of rotating exhibitions from blockbuster modern art to Egyptian mummies to master sketches.
-Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton
-Newzones, Gibson Fine Art, Latitude, Calgary
-Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge
– Take an art walking tour: http://www.calgary.ca/CSPS/Recreation/Pages/Public-Art/Downtown-Public-Art-Circuit-tour.aspx
– Go find all the public art in your city!
There are so many I could not possibly list them all
Activities to get your adrenaline going
Besides all the amazing outdoor activities you can do in the mountains- hiking, biking, climbing, kayaking, horse back riding, ice walks, skiing, snowboarding, tubing- there are some less obvious ones.
Ziplining-There are tons of courses in the mountains, and places like COP will sometimes have them
White water rafting
Bob sleighing/ luge- Head to Canada Olympic Park in Calgary to try these out- summer or winter
West Edmonton mall water park- obviously depends which slide you pack. This park ranges from lunging on a beach chair, a children’s play pool, to tube rides, the wave pool, and slides you definitely need some courage for.
Go karts, racing, quading, biking
Looking for a beach?
Sylvan Lake, Sikome, Ghost Lake, Pigeon Lake.
We are blessed with tons of lakes! Some of them are glacial, so maybe not the warmest for swimming (but beautiful) but some are a bit more suited, and have nice beaches, and some have great facilities.
This is just one list you can find online of great lakes in Alberta
More traditional museums & historic sites
There are a huge array of museums and historic sites in Alberta, from tiny specialist museums, to large regional ones like the Glenbow, Heritage Park, and Fort Edmonton. Don’t forget Calgary and Edmonton’s amazing science centres- the Calgary one even hosts adults only night, and the Edmonton science centre has been hosting a range of popular exhibits over the last few years including Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Body Worlds.
Aviation, dinosaurs, historic buildings, pop culture, art, military history- there really is something for everyone.
Remember that most, if not all museums, also do special events- historic re enactments, movie nights, adult only nights, walking tours, hands on activities, and so much more.
Deer, elk, moose, bears, sheep, goats, cougars, wolves, coyotes, so many birds, fish, beaver, otters, bison, and so much more! Head into the wilderness and try and find some! (at a safe distance, please)
You can also visit the Calgary Zoo to look at a variety of other animals, and support wildlife conservation in the process
We have tons of nature parks, reserves, walking trails, and in such a variety of landscapes- mountains, fields, hoodoos, deserts, forests, lakes, tundra, glaciers, canyons.
The world’s largest… and other roadside attractions
Apparently Canada has more of the ‘world’s largest’ random objects… go check them out! & all the other quirky attractions too
Lots of Alberta restaurants have been featured on You Gotta Eat Here! Check them out! http://www.foodnetwork.ca/shows/you-gotta-eat-here/locations/?page=1&location=Alberta
Some of Canada’s best restaurants are in Alberta, including Charcut and Rouge restaurant in Calgary.
I don’t want to get more specific, because I’d be here forever. I really think a bit of a food revolution is happening in Calgary and there are some seriously amazing restaurants, of all cuisine types (seriously- I bet you could find basically any type of international cuisine), along with great cocktail bars and more craft breweries than you could possibly remember. Start by looking at the urbanspoon best restaurants, take a wander down Stephen Ave, Inglewood, 17th ave, or 4th street. You’ll have started in a good place.
Take advantage of local produce and farmer’s markets.
Eat some steak! You don’t know what you have till it’s gone. (Seriously, eating steak abroad is not the same…)
Go pick your own berries at one of many U pick farms
Local icecream- try Village, Fiasco Gelato, My Favourite Ice cream, or Mackays
Head-Smashed In Buffalo Jump
Dinosaur Provincial Park
Wood Buffalo National Park
Waterton Glacier International Peace Park
Wine Tasting/ Brewery tours, etc
Besides these wineries, many higher end liquor store will do wine tastings- you can find them by doing a quick google search.
(Big Rock also does brewing classes at Heritage Park)
‘European’ or other world adventures
If being in Alberta still somehow isn’t that appealing, try to theme your days around different European destinations (or other destinations). No- it won’t quite be the same, but you can get some of the flavours.
Here are a few suggestions
Amsterdam and the Netherlands:
Start your day eating dutch pancakes at the Pfanntastic Pannenkoek Haus, followed by a bike ride. Grab a cheeseboard at a local restaurant, perhaps FARM (don’t forget to grab some gouda or edam!), go to one of the city’s amazing local gardens, then end your day with some Bols cocktails or some Heineken.
Pull up a blanket at Sikome Lake or Sylvan and lay in the sun. After, head to Julio’s Barrios for some margaritas, then head to Anejo for some great Mexican food.
Head to the mountains to enjoy beautiful scenery and wildlife. Relax in a hot spring, go for a hike, find some wildlife, eat some fish, hunt for the northern lights, drink some glacier water, see amazing waterfalls (track your chances of seeing the northern lights: http://www.aurorawatch.ca/)
OR don’t try to pretend you’re anywhere else just have a totally Albertan experience! Which is basically what you make of it. You can do the cowboy type experience- ride a horse, eat a steak, drink a local beer, and end your night two stepping at ranchmans; spend your day in the mountains or the Badlands; or have a multicultural experience eating amazing food and finding great international art.
There are tons of other things I’m sure I’m missing… family friendly, ecological, ghost towns, walking tours, camping, spa days, sports, big fancy buildings (the Alberta leg? Lougheed house?), specifics on mountains, rivers, glacier parks, hiking trails, cute little town, ghost towns…
Don’t forget all of the amazing festivals and events! Stampede, Folk Fest, Taste, food festivals, concerts, international celebrations. In the summer there is usually more than one each weekend in Calgary and Edmonton!
Sites to help you plan even more!
What are your favourite Alberta attractions and vacations spots?