Alberta Travel Guide
Superlatives are added by the truckload to promotional descriptions of any of Canada’s provinces. However, if there’s any destination in Canada to which hyperbolic references are genuinely unnecessary, it’s Alberta. Sandwiched between British Columbia and Saskatchewan in the west of the country, this is a province that genuinely wins a wad of medals for having ‘the biggest’ and ‘the largest’ of many things.
The provincial capital, Edmonton, is also the cultural capital of the province, with numerous museums, art galleries, parks and gardens to its credit. A number of lively festivals also pack in the cultural themes and give Edmonton the nickname ‘Festival City of Canada’. The annual Fringe Festival, the biggest event of its kind in North America, is the highlight of the calendar.
Edmonton is also home to the West Edmonton Mall, a shopping centre of truly epic proportions, featuring restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, museums, mini golf, an ice rink, a swimming pool and an amusement park. Oh, and there’s the odd shop or two here as well. Continuing with the superlatives, Fantasyland in Edmonton is the world’s largest indoor amusement park and a great place to dump the kids for the day.
Calgary, another of the province’s major cities, is considered the eastern gateway to the Rocky mountains and is a vibrant metropolis bursting at the seams with attractions. A glut of visitors arrive here in July for the Calgary Stampede, a major rodeo event that gets everyone donning their ten gallon hats and giving their heartiest ‘yee-haas’.
The Chinook Centre is the biggest attention grabber in Calgary’s city centre, with its 200 retail outlets, restaurants and movie screens. The Calgary Zoo and Prehistoric Park, suitable for children, gives kids and young-at-heart adults alike the chance to enjoy creatures of the wild—both living and extinct. A botanical garden at the same facility caters to those with horticultural leanings.
Don’t overdo the urban thing in Alberta, as you run the risk of missing out on the Rockies, which are arguably the province’s greatest attraction. There are numerous locations at which to appreciate the beauty of this awesome mountain range, with the various national parks providing some of the best vantage points.
There are five national parks within the mountain range, two of which have been designated as World Heritage sites by UNESCO. The Banff National Park is the primary tourist hub for the Rocky mountains and the best location to use as a base from which to explore the area. Jasper National Park is the other main park encompassing the Canadian Rockies. With a whopping 300,000 square kilometers of wilderness within the park’s boundaries, you could only hope to see a fraction of the park during your stay.
Thoughin northern Alberta is not a part of the Rockies, it hardly needs to be when it covers an area bigger than Switzerland and leaves other contenders looking like mere blips in the battle for the title of Canada’s biggest national park. The park is renowned for its vast range of animal inhabitants, which includes the largest herd of free-roaming bison on the planet.