Alberta is the heart of western Canada, a place filled with natural wonders and enough adventures to last a lifetime. The unforgettable scene as the first flush of light hits Lake Louise. The thrill of uncovering dinosaur bones. The excitement of a small-town rodeo. Soaking up big-city culture. Watching the northern lights sparkle across the winter sky. These and hundreds of other reasons make a vacation in the prosperous province of Alberta one to remember.
The best-known features are the mountains of the Canadian Rockies, which are filled with photogenic lakes and natural wonders made accessible by a well-maintained highway network. Along the east side of the mountains are the foothills, where the mountains and prairies meet and seemingly endless pasture is home to some of North America’s finest ranchland.
While the beauty of Alberta’s defined landscapes is undeniable, so is the value of what lies beneath them — a supply of oil and gas that shapes the economy and has created a boomtown mentality not dissimilar to gold rushes of days gone by. Calgary, Canada’s fastest-growing city, is best known as home to the world-famous Calgary Stampede — a Western wingding of epic proportions. Edmonton, meanwhile, is a modern metropolis boasting some of Canada’s finest cultural facilities and West Edmonton Mall, the world’s largest shopping and amusement complex.
But for most visitors to Alberta, the great outdoors, not the big cities, are the main draw. The mountain playgrounds of Banff and Jasper National Parks show off the Canadian Rockies at their best, with pristine glaciers, rushing rivers, and snowcapped peaks reflected in hundreds of high-country lakes. Alberta’s abundance and variety of wildlife will amaze you. And ancient wildlife thrived here, too; one of the world’s greatest concentrations of dinosaur bones continues to be unearthed in the Red Deer River Valley outside Drumheller. Dinosaur Valley attracts tourist tyros and professional paleontologists alike to learn more about earth’s once-dominant former tenants.
Throughout the province, outdoor adventures, wide-open spaces, and accessible wilderness beckon, and big-city culture awaits when you come down from the hills. So whether your interests lean toward high peaks or high tea, you’re sure to find plenty to suit you in Alberta.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition