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Things to Do in Alberta

Home to shimmering lakes, soaring peaks, dense pine forests, and some of Canada’s most impressive unspoiled wilderness, the western province of Alberta is an outdoor explorer’s paradise`with spots such as Banff and Jasper drawing nature lovers from across the globe. A helicopter sightseeing flight provides an unconventional look at the Rocky Mountains, as does a via ferrata mountain tour, in which fixed iron ropes assist climbers of all abilities. Paddle through the swirling currents of Kicking Horse River on a white-water rafting trip or, for something a little more sedate, spot native Canadian wildlife on a dusk safari in Banff National Park. Don't miss Alberta’s top sights, which include Columbia Icefield in both Banff National Park and Jasper National Parks and Banff’s UNESCO-listed Lake Louise, where the crystal-clear waters reflect the mighty Rockies. Edmonton, the capital, and Calgary have plenty to offer travelers looking for a more cosmopolitan experience, too. Urban explorers can spin through diverse Edmonton neighborhoods such as Glenora and Old Strathcona by Segway, and take in top landmarks such as Whitemud Park and 124th Street with ease on a tour led by a local. To get to know Calgary, take a culinary walking tour, a brewery tour, or use the city as a base for alfresco trips to Bow River, Fort Calgary, Inglewood, St. Patrick's Island, or the Trans Canada Trail—which put you right back into the nature that makes Alberta such a draw for outdoor explorers.
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Banff Gondola
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It’s true – the views from atop Sulphur Mountain really are spectacular, and riding the Banff Gondola is the most fun way to get there.

From the fully enclosed glass gondola, you’ll see six mountain ranges, the town of Banff and the immense river valley. At the summit, stand on top of the world at the Upper Terminal and follow the self-guided Banff Skywalk along the summit ridge.

Hike the South East Ridge Trail, or visit the summit’s historic buildings, including a meteorological station and interactive giant compass. Dinner at the summit is an amazing experience, with views of Banff’s twinkling lights and snow-capped peaks.

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Lake Minnewanka
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The glacier-fed Lake Minnewanka lies just minutes from the town of Banff, and the sight of the Canadian Rockies jutting straight up out of the 17-mile-long body of water proves breathtaking. Lake Minnewanka is the perfect location to begin exploring the wilderness protected by both Banff National Park and the larger Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage site.

Cruises operate around the lake during the summer, but there are plenty of other ways to get out on the water. Minnewanka is the only lake in the Banff area to allow privately operated motorboats, and there are 16-foot aluminum boats available for rental as well. For a more authentic adventure, canoe rentals provide the opportunity to explore for a day or more, as several backcountry campgrounds are located around the lake. Setting out on the area’s trails is definitely worth the effort, too, even if it’s only to complete the two-mile stroll to the Stewart Canyon Bridge that spans the Cascade River.

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Maligne Canyon
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A natural geological feature measuring more than 160 feet high (50 meters), Maligne Canyon is one of the deepest river canyons in the Canadian Rockies and a popular destination in Jasper National Park for both sightseeing and exploration. A striking geologic formation, Maligne Canyon is a classic example of karst topography, which occurs when water carves out bedrock, creating a deep canyon with smooth walls.

The parks service has created a self-guided trail, which describes the geological history of the area; several bridges span the gorge, allowing for spectacular views of the canyon. For a more interactive view of crystal pools, waterfalls, bubbles from underground lakes and more, take the short loop that tours the upper reaches of the canyon or the longer loop that follow the gorge and exits at a fifth and sixth bridge at a lower point. In the winter, join a tour company for a guided walk down into the canyon or try ice climbing.

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Jasper SkyTram
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The Jasper SkyTram (formerly Jasper Tramway) is the longest—and highest—aerial tramway in Canada. Built in 1964, the Tram begins at 4,279 ft (1,304 m) above sea level and transports guests to 7,472 ft (2,277 m) above sea level in an enclosed tram compartment in seven minutes. The SkyTram rises above Whistlers Mountain and provides expansive views of lakes, six mountain ranges, the town of Jasper and Alberta’s longest river, the Athabasca.

A guide answers questions and points out areas of interest, animal life and history of the area during the Jasper SkyTram tour. After reaching the top, guests can stroll boardwalks to view wildlife. Alpine inhabitants include the whistling hoary marmot, white-tailed ptarmigan, ground squirrels, pikas and the occasional bighorn sheep. There are also hiking trails to the summit of Whistlers Mountain for those wanting more of a challenge.

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Calgary Tower
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Calgary Tower is a city landmark, teetering over the city’s downtown skyscrapers since 1968.

Atop the tower’s shaft you’ll find ‘the pod’, home to an observation deck and revolving restaurant. From here you have stunning views over the city, all the way to the snow-capped mountains fringing the horizon.

Peer through the binoculars on the observation deck, walk out on the glass floor rimming the edge of the observation deck if you dare, and dine in the revolving restaurant, Sky 360.

During special events, the Winter Olympics cauldron on the tower’s summit is lit, re-creating the Games magic.

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Bow River
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What begins as a drip of water from the melting Bow Glacier turns into the stunningly beautiful Bow River, which flows slowly and steadily through the Rockies in Canada’s oldest national park. The river also flows through Banff, Canmore and Calgary, making it a constant presence on any journey through southern Alberta.

The best way to appreciate the beauty of Bow River is by heading out on the wheelchair-friendly walking and cycling path in downtown Banff to complete the short trip to Bow Falls. Countless picnic tables and park benches make Bow Falls an ideal lunch spot, and float trips, in giant inflatable rafts, begin right at the base of the falls, too. Both wildlife and wildflowers are often seen along the river, where canoe trips are popular. The river is divided into three half-day canoeing sections, all of which require intermediate experience: Lake Louise to Castle Junction, Castle Junction to Banff and Bow Falls to Canmore.

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Bow Falls
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Bow Falls are located on the Bow River in Alberta’s Banff National Park, within walking distance of the Banff Springs Hotel. The short, wide, cascading falls are a popular sightseeing stop, likely because of how accessible the natural destination is - the falls can be easily enjoyed by people of all abilities and all ages. Trails for pedestrians and for cyclists wind along the south shore of the Bow River and its rapids, and the pedestrian trail climbs up to the clifftop where the falls begin. (Bicycles aren’t allowed at the top.) The viewing areas at Bow Falls offer vistas of the river and the falls themselves. A cement promenade located at the base of the cascading falls has a few benches to sit on, though most people sit on the ledge of the promenade and enjoy the views from there. At the far end of the promenade is a small sandy beach where rafting and kayak tours often begin.

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More Things to Do in Alberta

Glenbow Museum

Glenbow Museum

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Glenbow is the largest cultural museum in western Canada, in particular highlighting the history and culture of indigenous Canadians. The museum combines artifacts, artworks, archives, documents and fun interactive exhibits.
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Cave and Basin National Historic Site

Cave and Basin National Historic Site

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Originally called Banff Hot Springs Reserve, Cave and Basin National Historic Site was the birthplace of both Banff National Park and the entire Canadian National Parks system. Today, 43 national parks, 167 historic sites, four marine parks and one national urban park (which make up the largest network of protected lands in the world), can trace their roots back to these warm mineral waters in Banff, Alberta. Reopened in 2013 after a three-year renovation project, Cave and Basin is now home to an interpretive museum and a boardwalk hike past countless thermal pools, but the short walk down a stone tunnel into the large hot spring cave remains the most spectacular attraction. A waterfall pours down from the ceiling, filling the jade-green hot spring. The setting is so beautiful that it isn’t hard to believe that when three Canadian Pacific Railway workers discovered the springs, they immediately laid claim to the land and saw its potential as a major tourism draw.

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Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre

Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre

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Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre, is a state-of-the-art cultural center in Calgary. Spanning 160,000 square feet (14,865 square meters), the architecturally notable center includes a museum, performance hall, live music venue, recording studios, radio station, classrooms, and media center.
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Fort Calgary

Fort Calgary

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Visit the spot where Calgary was born at Fort Calgary, and explore the city’s formative years from 1875 to 1914. A wooden fort was built here by the North West Mounted Police in 1875, and today, the legacy of those times is re-created with interactive exhibits, replica barracks, guided tours and an interpretive center. Dine in the former home of a Canadian Mountie, try on an authentic Mountie uniform and explore the fort’s extensive riverside grounds surrounding the meeting point of the Elbow and Bow rivers.

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Heritage Park

Heritage Park

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Heritage Park is a historical village in Calgary that showcases the history of Western Canada from 1860 to 1950. It is Canada’s largest living museum, divided into four areas that each represents a different period of time.

Some of the area historic buildings still stand, while others have been brought in and restored. Traditional schools, homes, and saloons of the past give a sense of what life was like in each era. The park’s staff stands dressed in period costume, while horse.and carriage or vintage automobiles roam the streets. Other historic working artifacts of make history come to life. Interactive areas demonstrate the evolution of Canada’s industries, including fur trading, the Prairie Railroad, and the era of the automobile. Available activities include riding an authentic steam train or making your own old-fashioned ice cream. Visitors experience the history of Canada as it comes to life in nearly 200 available exhibits.

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Calgary Stampede

Calgary Stampede

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Billing itself as the greatest outdoor show on earth, you can expect something special at the Calgary Stampede. And with everything you’ve come to love about rodeos, state fairs, grandstands, concerts and carousels, something special is what you get. Every year since 1923, this ten day event annually attracts more than a million people who come to see what happens when you offer the biggest payouts to rodeo contestants and marry it with chuckwagon races, blacksmithing competitions, midway, markets, dancing, singing, and a heavy native people’s participation. It’s an event of grand scale that kicks off with an opening parade featuring dozens of marching bands, over 150 floats, clowns, dancers, politicians and business leaders. It’s extravagant, beautiful, dusty, and it smells like funnel cake and horses – in short, it’s the defining event of Calgary, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

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WinSport

WinSport

Ski down true Olympics-standard ski runs and ride a bobsled on an actual Winter Games track at Canada Olympic Park, the main focus for events during the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Divided into winter and summer activities, choose from summertime mountain-biking and incredible winter snowboarding and cross-country skiing without having to drive to the mountains. Other adrenaline-fueled activities include wall climbing, bungy jumping, ziplines and zorbing. More sedate pursuits include mini golf, views from the Ski Jump Tower observation deck and tours of this activity-filled complex.

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Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

Much more than a static collection of sports memorabilia, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame honors the country’s most remarkable athletes with an electric 40,000 square foot space that echoes with the roar of fans. Tucked into one of the buildings that hosted the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, interactive exhibits educate visitors about the rules and challenges of more obscure sports and offer the chance to throw pitches for clocked speed, shadow box with Lennox Lewis, attempt a wheelchair race or balance on skis on a virtual downhill slope.
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Jasper Planetarium

Jasper Planetarium

Jasper National Park is home to stunning scenery, incredible wildlife and of course, breathtaking skies. Travelers can get a unique perspective on the heavens during a visit to the Jasper Planetarium, where constellations and evening stars are on display above comfortable seats. An informative guide leads travelers on a tour of the Milky Way and solar system, while describing the wonder of the Northern Lights. After taking in stunning projections on the planetarium ceiling, travelers can peek into the largest telescope in the Rockies for a real-life look at the stars. Staff are happy to provide photography tips to insure the best possible photos of evening skies are captured.

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The Hangar Flight Museum

The Hangar Flight Museum

Kids big and small are fascinated by The Hangar Flight Museum, highlighting the history of Canadian aviation. As well as displaying historic civilian and military aircraft, the museum hosts exhibits of visiting aircraft. Go for a spin in a plane flight simulator, or take an educational tour to learn more about the museum’s prized collection of vintage aircraft.
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Calaway Park

Calaway Park

For all the fun of the fair, with family-friendly rides and live entertainment, visit Calaway Park. The largest amusement park in Canada’s west, Calaway Park has 34 rides spread over 36 hectares (90 acres). From special rides for youngsters like the Aeromax crop duster to the whirling Adrenaline Test Zone and Bumper Boat splashdown, there are rides for all ages, from calm to thrilling. Height restrictions apply and some rides require adults to accompany youngsters.
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