The 5 Top Tourist Attractions in Alberta
In a country renowned for the wonders and wildness of its natural landscapes, Alberta is a contender for the most beautiful province of all. Located in Western Canada, Alberta’s borders encompass mighty mountain ranges, glaciers, desert badlands, expansive forests, its famous prairies, and hundreds of rolling rivers and pristine lakes. In the summer months, visitors can enjoy kayaking and canoeing, climbing in the hills, cycling the province’s extensive trails, and much more. While the winter months offer sports and activities such as ice skating, skiing and dog sledding. Alberta is also one of Canada’s best provinces for observing wildlife, its Rockies being a home to bears, moose, cougars and wolves among hundreds of other species; in Alberta, you may even catch sight of some of the country’s more elusive animals, such as lynx and wolverines. The Northern Lights are visible in the province and in national parks like Jasper and Wood Buffalo you’ll find some of the largest dark sky preserves in the world for stargazing. Alongside these natural treasures, the province is home to some of Canada’s most vibrant and welcoming cities. Join us today as we outline 5 of Alberta’s top tourist attractions. And if we leave you eager to get out and start exploring this magnificent land, check out our Alberta Experiences, Trips, and Tours.
Banff and Its Surrounds
Located between Calgary and Lake Louise, in Alberta’s Rockies region, the resort town of Banff makes an excellent base from which to explore the province. The transcontinental railway first brought a community to Banff when railway workers discovered natural springs in the area. Located at the foot of Sulphur Mountain, Banff has the second-highest elevation of any town in the province and it remains home to the spa facilities that made its name. Visit the Banff Upper Hot Springs to enjoy a relaxing dip in pools of mineral-rich, warm waters that flow from cracks in Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain. Take a forest hike up Sulphur Mountain for splendid views over the town below, or save energy and ride the scenic Sulphur Mountain Gondola to the summit. Explore the Banff National Park and the treasures it has to offer, including the serene Moraine Lake and the majestic Valley of the Ten Peaks. The most famous natural landmark in the area is Lake Louise, fed by glacial melt and known internationally for the bright, turquoise glow of its waters — a postcard perfect setting.
While Alberta may be most famous for its stunning lakes, mountain peaks, and wildlife, it is also home to vibrant cities and towns that boast a wealth of attractions for visitors. Edmonton, Alberta’s second-largest city (and the fifth-largest across Canada), is known as ‘festival city’ due to the range of art and music festivals hosted throughout the year. One of Canada’s greenest cities, Edmonton’s river valley region offers twenty two times more green space than that of New York’s Central Park. These expansive networks of trails, creeks, and tributaries give the city a charm uniquely its own; in Edmonton, you’re never far from the revitalizing calmness of nature. For history enthusiasts, Fort Edmonton Park is a must-see attraction. Here you can ride on historic trains and streetcars, and get a feel for what the city would have been like at various points throughout its storied past. Get to know the history of the province in the Royal Alberta Museum, which houses over 10 million objects and offers a fascinating insight into the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit cultures indigenous to the region. Younger visitors will delight at the TELUS World of Science, an interactive attraction as exciting as it is educational. Finally, for those wishing to buy gifts for their friends and family back home, time should be reserved for a visit to the West Edmonton Mall, North America’s largest shopping mall.
Often visited as travelers are journeying from Banff into British Columbia, Jasper is one the most unforgettable destinations in all of Canada. Jasper National Park is the largest in the country and is home to waterfalls, mountains, lakes, and the marvelous glaciers of the Columbia Icefield. Sports enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies can head to the Marmot Basin alpine ski resort, which extends across four mountain faces and offers some of the best ski slopes in the country. For those seeking serenity, the azure waters of Maligne Lake are not to be missed. Bordered by mountain peaks reaching to the heavens and offering views of three glaciers, the ambience of Maligne Lake is unlike anywhere else. The lake’s Spirit Island makes for magical pictures. The small town of Jasper itself is a charming place to stay for the duration of your trip, a perfect setting for a scenic evening stroll. But Jasper’s stand-out attraction has to be the Columbia Icefields. As the second-largest, non-polar icefield in the world, this glorious landscape possesses an awesome beauty. The region is undergoing significant change due to the effects of global warming, and many visitors are increasingly left with a sense of deep gratitude that they’ve been able to marvel at a natural wonder of such an immense scale. Be sure to reserve time to visit the Athabasca Glacier, where snow coaches can take travelers out onto the surface of the glacier for otherworldly views.
As the largest city in Alberta and recently voted as the ‘most liveable’ in Canada, Calgary plays host to a range of sites and activities sure to delight visitors of all ages and tastes. Located just east of the Canadian Rockies, Calgary is situated on the Bow River. Begin your trip by exploring the bustling downtown area. The Calgary Tower offers a viewing platform that sits at an elevation of 1228 metres above sea level, it makes for a terrific way to enjoy the cityscape and orientate yourself at the same time. Next on the itinerary should be the Heritage Park Historical Village, Canada’s largest living history museum. Across its enormous 127-acre grounds, guests can see vintage streetcars and locomotives, and re-creations of historically significant buildings. A highlight is the aboriginal encampment, presenting the history of First Nations peoples in 19th century Alberta. Sports fans can explore another aspect of Canadian history at Canada’s Sport Hall of Fame located in the Olympic Park. Finally, for those with a little more time in Calgary, we recommend getting out of the city to the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage site located a couple of hours outside the city. Here, for a mind-blowing 5,500 years, the aboriginal people of the Blackfoot tribe used this buffalo jump for hunting. This historical site and its associated visitor centre, provide guests with a fascinating insight into Canada’s rich aboriginal past.
Dinosaur Provincial Park and the Royal Tyrrell Museum
The Dinosaur Provincial Park is located in Red Deer River valley, an area of badlands that is cinematic to look at and stores a wealth of treasures below its surface — dinosaurs. This area of Alberta is one of the most fertile regions in the world for the discovery of fossils. Visitors may be amazed that they are still in Canada at all. The badlands carry a prehistoric feel that is so alien as to feel like you have stepped onto another planet. Within the Dinosaur Provincial Park you can enjoy scenic roads, fantastic trails, and a visitor centre that explains the rich history of dinosaur discovery in the region (58 new species of dinosaur have been found here). A couple of hours north of the park, you will find the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, a state of the art museum dedicated to dinosaurs. Housing over 160,000 fossils, the museum is a delight for children and adults alike. The experience is kept interactive with audio-visual exhibits and computers. Don’t miss Black Beauty, the museum’s astonishing tyrannosaurus specimen.
Alberta has so much to offer that we could write entire blogs on each of these highlights, and the same is true of countless other attractions and areas of natural beauty to be explored in the province. But we hope our choices have inspired you to begin planning your trip! Please reach out if you have any questions or suggestions.