Alberta has more than its fair share of attractions, so to help you fine-tune your wish-list, we’ve picked out our favourite attractions in our favourite locations.
Many of the Canadian Sky team have ascended this state-of-the-art gondola up Sulphur Mountain, in sunshine and in snow, at daytime and in the evening, and we all agree that it’s a wonderful experience. Its located just a few minutes drive from Banff town centre, and if you don’t have a car then we can book you a ticket which includes a transfer from the downtown hotels. The journey to the top takes just under 10 minutes but you’ll enjoy every one of those minutes as you see the townsite disappearing beneath you and the mountain ranges opening up in front of you.
Once you reach the top, you’ll find a boardwalk which you can stroll to the Cosmic Ray Station and Sanson's Peak. The whole complex at the top of the Gondola was built only a few years ago and today you can enjoy the impressive architecture and superb visitors centre and facilities. There is an interpretive exhibition with fascinating information on the history and geography of the area. You can recharge your batteries at Castle Mountain Coffee shop or take your time and enjoy a delicious meal at the award-winning Sky Bistro whilst taking in the stunning views. After sunset there is a multimedia experience which transforms the summit building after dark through interactive lights, projections and original soundscapes, and it’s a magical trip back down the gondola towards the twinkling lights of the town.
Suggested Holiday: Our Rockies Trail escorted tour offers an optional trip up the Banff Gondola in the midst of all the other western Canada must-sees. The ever popular Western Wonders self-drive tour also offers the opportunity to enjoy this trip.
Every July, this legendary ten-day event renowned as ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’ is a superlative extravaganza. The entire city is swept up in Stampede celebrations that include a lavish parade, agricultural displays, stage shows, concerts, calf roping, steer wrestling, bucking broncos, chuckwagon racing and, most importantly, one of the largest rodeos in the world. In this, cowboys complete for a share of the $1.52 million dollar prize fund and the revered championship title. This is followed by the Grandstand Show, a spectacular production which includes world-class performers, singing, dancing, acrobatics, daredevil stunts, comedy routines, drumming, magical special effects as well as the usual fireworks finale.
Suggested Holiday: Our holiday - Experience Calgary Stampede and The Rockies – can be tailormade to suit you.
Maligne Lake Jasper National Park
There is an abundance of lakes in Alberta, each with their own charm. The reason we’ve picked out Maligne Lake is that we have never seen such stunning coloured waters with the majestic surrounding peaks showing beautiful reflections in this glacier-fed lake. We would thoroughly recommend, and will be happy to book for you, a cruise on Maligne Lake. The colour of the water changes the further you float from Maligne Lake docks, because the southern end of the lake is closer to the glaciers with a higher concentration of rock flour making the water more emerald. A cruise will allow you to get close to magical Sprit Island - a spiritual place for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. The same mountain range surrounds the island on three sides and this rare phenomenon makes it particularly significant to the Stoney, who believe mountains are the physical representations of their ancestors.
Cruises don’t tend to begin until late May or sometimes even early June, as the thick winter ice on the lake must melt before the boats can operate.
Suggested Holidays: We offer several of escorted tours which include a cruise on Maligne Lake and the Iconic Rockies and Western Canada tour is one of the best. It’s worth stretching the budget for this tour as it includes so many great activities and comfortable hotels. You can also visit Maligne Lake if you take one of our tailormade flydrive holidays.
Jasper in the Winter
Keeping with the wintery theme, whilst you can’t cruise on Maligne Lake during the winter months, there are myriad other activities to enjoy and Jasper really is a magical place at this time of year. The mountain town of Jasper becomes even more charming covered in a blanket of snow, with the hotels, cafes and restaurants lovely cosy places to soak up the atmosphere.
An exhilarating walk is the Maligne Canyon Icewalk, through the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park. You will walk on the frozen floor of the canyon, stopping to admire and take photos of the Queen of Maligne and Angel Icefalls. You’ll be pleased to know that boots and ice-cleats are provided on the guided tour, which takes three hours.
Alternatively you can sit back and enjoy a guided tour to discover the wildlife of Jasper National Park in the winter. On the Wildlife Discovery Tour, you will be driven through the Athabasca Valley with a professional guide to spot elk, deer, coyotes, wolves and moose. Learn all about how they survive the mountain winters and how these animals contribute to the rich diversity of the national park.
A bucket-list activity for many is a dog-sled ride, and we can arrange a full day experience, including a campfire lunch, where you will have the opportunity to drive your own team of dogs or you can choose to snuggle up in a blanket as a passenger on the sled.
Suggested Holiday: Rockies Winter Wonderland Experience
Heritage Park Calgary
An afternoon spent at Heritage Park Calgary will give you a glimpse of how the early European settlers used to live in western Canada. Home to one of the largest collections of heritage buildings in Canada, you can step inside more than 100 historic homes and buildings from Alberta's past. Heritage Park features over 180 attractions and exhibits that reflect the challenges, lives and victories experienced by the generations responsible for the settlement of Western Canada, brought to life by costumed interpreters.
Set in 127 acres of parkland, there are four main areas to explore - 1860s Fur Trading Fort and First Nations Encampment, 1880s Pre-railway Settlement and the 1910 Prairie Railway Town. Finally in the Heritage Town Square you’ll find several eateries and gift shops, plus the fascinating Gasoline Alley Museum. This boasts one of the world's largest public collections of antique vehicles and oil and gas-related artifacts, and brings auto history from the turn of the 20th century to life.
Arguably saving the best until last, Lake Louise is firmly in the top locations of Alberta. It’s been one of the most visited places in Canada for over a century, the draw being the beautiful turquoise waters and backdrop of the majestic Victoria Glacier. To appreciate the brilliant blue colours of the lake, you’ll have to visit in the summer months as the lake is frozen through the winter and into the spring.
Lake Louise was first named Ho Run Num Nay, meaning Lake of Little Fishes, by the Stoney First Nation who settled in the area. The name then briefly changed to Emerald Lake and finally to Louise, after Alberta’s Governor General’s wife, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll.
One of the most iconic sights on the shores is the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. This was originally built at the end of the nineteenth century by the Canadian Pacific Railway, and whilst the original structure was destroyed by fire, the Painter Wing built in 1913 still survives. It’s a great place to stay but if you’re just passing through, then lunch in one of the dining options is well worth it.
If you get the chance in the summer months, then ride the gondola or chairlift up Mount Whitehorn, where you will see alpine meadows and fields of wildflowers and may even spot grizzly or black bears foraging in their protected habitat. It's worth taking one of the marked trails which lead up and along the ridgetop from the viewing platform at the top of the gondola, to be able to appreciate the stunning landscape from different viewpoints.
Whilst Lake Louise does get busy in the summer, we still think it's worth a place on your Canada wish-list as you’ll be blown away by its majestic beauty.
Suggested Holidays: Our popular escorted tours Rockies Trail and Western Journey include a visit to Lake Louise, or you can upgrade to the wonderful Spectacular Canadian Rockies and Glaciers of Alberta or you can tour independently on of our self-drive holidays Rocky Mountain Journey or Western Wonders