The provincial Royal Alberta Museum (12845 102nd Ave., 780/453-9100, daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., adult $10, senior $8, child $5) overlooks the river valley west of downtown in the historic neighborhood of Glenora. Exhibits catalog one billion years of natural and human history.
The highlight is most definitely the Wild Alberta Gallery, where a water setting and the province’s four natural regions—mountain, prairie, parkland, and boreal forest—are re-created with incredible accuracy. Lifelike dioramas are only part of the appeal. Much of the exhibit encourages visitor interaction to solve the mystery of what is Alberta ’s most dangerous mammal, to touch the teeth of a grizzly bear, or soak up the sound of a bull moose calling the female members of his species.
Elsewhere in the museum, the Natural History Gallery explains the forces that have shaped Alberta’s land, describes the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period and mammals of the Ice Age (such as the woolly mammoth), and displays a large collection of rocks and gems. Another section, the Syncrude Gallery of Aboriginal Culture, details Alberta’s indigenous peoples—from their arrival 11,000 years ago to the way in which their traditions live on today—through thousands of artifacts, Aboriginal interpreters, and audiovisual presentations.
In front of the Royal Alberta Museum is Government House (780/427-2281, tours Sun. 11 a.m.–4:30 p.m. in summer, free), an impressive three-story sandstone structure built in 1913 for Alberta’s lieutenant governor, who would entertain guests in the lavish reception rooms or in the surrounding gardens. The building was later used as a hospital, and then restored to its former glory in the 1970s.