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26 November 2021

10 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Alberta

Jasper National Park, Alberta

Jasper National Park, Alberta

Alberta is huge and it is packed full of unique and impressive things to do. We highlighted the top 5 attractions in Alberta back in June, but thought we’d follow up with some more unusual things to do in Alberta. No two people plan their trips the exact same way, so it’s our hope here at Landsby that we can offer enough insight and inspiration to help as many different people who are eager to explore the best of Canada. If anything we say here inspires a few questions, or you’d like to know more about our ever-growing range of Alberta Experiences, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

10) The Incredible Lacombe Corn Maze

A young child walks into a cornmaze

Although Alberta’s stunning mountain ranges get lots of attention, the province’s landscape is actually predominantly prairie. And if you head Alberta’s way in the fall, you’ve got to check out some of the impressive hedge and corn mazes that pop up throughout the province. There are several worth visiting — especially if you have kids — but one of the most popular is the Lacombe Corn Maze. Constructed in a different theme every year on the Kraay Family Farm, the maze can be explored day and night (by flashlight).

As you might expect, you’ll find this maze close to Lacombe (between Calgary and Edmonton). This epic maze sprawls over 15 acres and stands over nine feet tall.

9) The Banff Merman

Banff Avenue during the winter. Photo by Erik McRitchie @erikmcr

Taking a detour off ‘cool’ and straight into ‘unusual’ is a visit to see the Banff Merman. This oddity may not be for everyone but if you want to see something truly unique and you don’t mind the creep factor, then this bizarre creature should absolutely make it into your Alberta itinerary.

Acquired by shop owner Norman Luxton in 1915, the Banff Merman is a bizarre half-man-half-fish taxidermy model that has achieved a small amount of internet fame. Its origins are fuzzy but you could choose to believe it’s a real merman and that ancient Alberta was the historic swimming/flopping grounds for the merpeople…Whatever you believe, there’s no substitute for seeing this strange thing in person, which you can if you visit the Banff Trading Post, located next to the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum.

8) The Largest Dark Sky Preserve in the World

Wood Buffalo National Park / Photo by Nick Fitzhardinge @nick_fitzhardinge

Wood Buffalo National Park, located on the border between Alberta and the Northwest Territories, is the world’s largest dark sky preserve. If you’re looking for a quiet, remote place to stargaze or see the Aurora Borealis, there is nowhere better!

Although it is the biggest national park in Canada, Wood Buffalo National Park is far enough outside city limits to make it completely off the beaten path. Those who make the trek though will be rewarded with kilometres of unspoiled wilderness, home to dozens of nocturnal animals as well as iconic Canadian wildlife such as moose, bison, wolves, and bears.

In fact, Wood Buffalo National Park is a little larger than the entire country of Switzerland and the park’s animal and plant life are completely protected. With the largest sections of undisturbed grass and meadows in North America, these areas, in turn, support the largest number of remaining bison in the world.

7) The Vault – Kananaskis Country

Driving through Kananaskis Country. Photo by Sean Thonson for Travel Alberta

Kananaskis Country, located just outside of Canmore in the Rocky Mountains, is home to The Vault — an enigmatic tunnel and chambers cut into Mt. McGillivray. The Vault was tunneled and built between 1966 and 1969, during the Cold War. The initial intention was for it to serve as protection for important official documents for the Canadian government and potentially the Royal Bank of Canada.

The Vault was intended to be built to withstand a nuclear bomb, but it was never finished. Some believe that the humidity inside the Vault made document storage impossible and the project was abandoned. What’s left is a unique yet failed attempt to make the most secure bunker on Earth. Sometimes called the Bow Valley Bunker or the Heart Creek Bunker, it is easily accessible via a short hike. You can walk through the tunnels and down to the dark chambers within, just be sure to bring a flashlight.

6) Visit the Saumer Time Alpaca Ranch

Close-up of an alpaca face

While you probably associate alpacas with South America, they are incredibly dynamic, hardy animals, capable of surviving (and thriving) all around the world. Here enters the Saumer Time Alpaca Ranch!

This brilliant place lets people meet alpacas, learning about South America’s most charming camelid. If you have kids (or big kids) with you, this is guaranteed to be both cool and unusual! This isn’t the first time we’ve written about these lovely animals; we recently discussed South Eastern Ontario’s alpaca therapy.

5) Taste the Real Calgary on a Food Tour

Inglewood (a Calgary neighbourhood). Photo by Chris Amat for Travel Alberta

There is no experience quite as authentic as tasting a destination’s cuisine. Food bonds us, but it also illustrates our local differences. This is where our Alberta’s Edible Enticements food tour comes in!

Spend three hours sampling your way through the Inglewood neighbourhood while learning about the area’s culture, history, and high-end cuisine. Learn about the food of the city’s Indigenous people and pioneer settlers, dining in some of the city’s best restaurants. This tour is great for foodies or just anyone with a heart full of curiosity (and an empty belly).

4) Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta

Found within Banff National Park, this incredibly iconic hotel is about as cool as they get. The vast hotel sits at 1,414 metres (4,639 ft) and overlooks a valley in the direction of Mount Rundle. The overall effect is breathtaking, whether you’re looking out at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel or looking out at the incredible scenery from the hotel.

The hotel was built in 1888, but it has been refurbished and developed at several points over the years and today is a classic symbol of Banff. Explore the coolest parts of the hotel through food with our dining experience. You’ll get to savour delicious cuisine in different locations throughout the hotel while a guide tells you about the hotel’s fascinating history, art and architecture. Come hungry!

3) Red Rock Coulee

Photo by Jeff Bartlett @photojbartlett

Along the prairie hills of southern Alberta, you’ll find one of the strangest natural features in the entire country: a scattering of large spherical rocks called Red Rock Coulee.

It’s a little tricky to reach this area as it is out of the way of any major destinations, but if you love geology, or you just fancy seeing what it might be like to visit Mars, then this area should feature on your great Alberta road trip itinerary.

The rocks at Red Rock Coulee are unlike anything anywhere else on Earth: they are large red balls of sandstone that look as though they have been carved by some strange alien civilization. Unusual? Yes. Cool? Absolutely!

2) The Columbia Icefield

A rocky cliff above Peyto Lake near the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park. Photo by Stevin Tuchiwsky © @stevint

The Columbia Icefield is incredibly impressive, and it’s the perfect adventure for anyone who loves getting outdoors. Located in the Rockies, this icefield stretches from Banff to Jasper National Park and is made accessible to visitors via the Icefields Parkway. Often listed among the most scenic drives in the world, the Parkway stretches for 232 kilometres and is dotted with ancient glaciers, thundering waterfalls, emerald lakes and valleys of lush forests.

Drivers can stop along the way to take in some of the Icefields incredible views, including a visit to the Athabasca Glacier. While the Columbia Icefield is definitely worth visiting, it can get crowded. This is where Landsby comes in, with our Tour of the Canadian Rockies by Bike. This is slow travel that lets you take in the beauty of the area at your own pace. If you’d like to take the road less travelled, we’ve got you covered!

1) Our Canada’s Western Discovery Tour

East end of Rundle Hike, Canmore. Photo by Jess Dale @ jess.wandering

Lastly, we’d like to suggest not one distinct experience, but a wonderful collection of places and activities included in our Canada’s Western Discovery Tour. This is a 9-day self-drive tour packed with unforgettable experiences. If you’d like to see the best of Alberta and British Columbia within a relatively small timeframe, this is the perfect trip for you.

We hope you’re already planning your next trip to Alberta, and that you’ll add at least one item from this list! As we said at the beginning, please contact us if you have any questions about Alberta and the experiences we’ve discussed here. Your great Alberta adventure has begun today, in your imagination!

Category: Alberta