There's lots to see and do if you're staycationing in Alberta this summer. After months of hanging around the house it's time to head outdoors, where health officials say there is a lower risk for contacting COVID-19.
Visit travelalberta.com to plan your trips and for any COVID-19 health and safety protocol updates. Here are some old and new destinations to consider:
Ride the rails at Iron Horse Park. The miniature trains, track and landscape represent the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) from the prairies to the west coast. One of the diesel or steam locomotives, 1/8th the size of the real things, takes you on a 1.6 km interpretive journey over hills, across trestles and through tunnels giving you a taste of what it was like for pioneers to travel by train in Western Canada. Trains normally run Sundays from the May long weekend until the Thanksgiving weekend, but because of COVID-19 the operating season is starting late this year on Aug. 2.
Fitzsimmons Brewing Company, Airdrie's first microbrewery, that is kid and dog friendly. It's a casual experience served with a western flair and features craft beer, light snacks, a tour of the fcility and beer tastings.
Muskeg Creek Park, located west of downtown is home to a variety of wildlife including deer, moose, coyotes, hares and the occasional bear. Birdlife includes blue jays, luebirds, ruffled grouse and hawks. Recreation and outdoor enthusiasts can hike, jog, mountain bike, bird watch or count butterflies. A chalet located adjacent to the park is a great place to sit on the deck and simply enjoy nature.
Stop at the Klondike Trail Viewpoint, directly north of town, on what was the shortest route to the Yukon during the Gold Rush. Continue on to take a ride on the Klondike (Vega) Ferry on the Athabasca River, 40 kms outside town, one of only seven remaining ferries in Alberta. Stretch your legs by hiking, biking or horseback riding through the Vega Sand Hills with its unique dune formations.
A backcountry experience for those who don't like to rough it awaits at the Canadian Bighorn Resort in the boreal forest of the northeastern Lakeland Region. Guests escaping the stresses of everyday life are provided with a customized wilderness experience on a bighorn sheep ranch. Accommodations include rustic cabins, luxury glamping domes and an RV park.
Get a bird's-eye view of Cowtown from the Calgary Tower, a 190.8-meter (626-foot) free-standing observation tower downtown. It was built in 1967 as part of an urban renewal plan and to celebrate Canada's centennial.
The Great YYC Staycation could be the ultimate Alberta vacation in your own backyard adventure this summer. The city's iconic treasures are rediscovered and hidden gems explored in the biggest ever, city-wide scavenger hunt. Participants complete a series of local outdoor and virtual challenges earning points for the chance to win thousands of dollars in prizes whiler supporting local businesses.The hunt began July 24th and runs until August 30th. Download the Let's Roam app and start searching. It's free.
The Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park, minutes west of the town centre, offers world class cross-country skiing in the winter and over 100 km of trails to mountain bike and run at this time of year. Take it slow for a scenic workout or experience the highest level of mountain biking. The centre is home to Canada's National Cross-Country and Biathlon teams.
Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary provides visitors with a unique opportunity to learn about and to interact with wolfdogs and to educate the public about the importance of wolf conservation. The sanctuary located on 160 acres of land 10 minutes west of the town. It currently has 25 permanent wolfdogs, 10 ambassador wolfdogs and a number of wolfdogs available for adoption. Tours vary from an interpretive walk through the sanctuary that requires no reservation to an up-close and intimate look at wolves and wolfdogs that requires an advance booking.
Free. That's right. There's no charge to play the Cochrane Disc Golf Course, the town's first, down by Riverfront Park. The nine-hole course features manicured fairways and homemade wooden baskets.
The North Saskatchewan River Valley, the city's crown jewel, is waiting to be explored. There are over 150 km of trails to walk, jog, and cycle. Or hit the water in a canoe for a different view of the beautiful skyline.
Pair passion with a picnic a short drive southwest of the city at the University of Alberta Botanic Garden, the largest botanical garden in Alberta. Guests can order a gourmet charcuterie-style picnic box created by local food and beverage makers for a romantic Twilight Picnic Experience a deux. The boxes are adorned with edible flowers and herbs grown at the Garden. Before or after dining stroll through the Kurimoto Japanese Garden or the Aga Khan Garden. Picnics must be preordered.
Two hours northeast of Edmonton brings you to the town of Elk Point on the North Saskatchewan River which was a fur trade route. To mark 80 years of settlement in 1987, the town began a mural project to paint an historical scene on a wall of one of the downtown businesses. One and a half years later the project had expanded to 25 1.2 metre by 2.4 metre (four-foot by eight-foot) murals covered with historical images spanning 100 years. The 30-metre (100-foot) long mural sits in Mural Park, a must see for history buff.
Lac La Biche
There are 152 lakes within Lac La Biche County where you can boat, fish, or answer the call of the wild on Alberta's only backcountry canoe circuit at Lakeland Provincial Park & Provincial Recreation Area. The area is also a Dark Sky Preserve offering remarkable views of the stars and Northern Lights.
Things to see in the town starts with a visit to an out of this world UFO Landing Pad, the first in the world, built in 1967 to mark Canada's centennial. During the pad's grand opening St. Paul was declared the Centennial Capital of Canada. The UFO tourist information centre located below the pad, includes an exhibit of actual photographs of UFOs, crop circles and cattle mutilations.
The perfect family outing awaits at the St. Albert Grain Elevator Park (stalbert.ca). Its 1906 and 1929 Alberta Wheat Pool Elevators are among the last visual symbols of Western Canada still standing, built in the golden age of Canada's grain trade. Interpreters take visitors on a guided tour which can be followed up with a visit to a 1920's replica Train Station where you can try your hand at Morse Code and see how station agents lived.
A visit to the Westlock Pioneer Museum has something for the entire family. Its unique collections include Aladdin lamps, vintage firearms and gramophones. For a look back at Alberta's farming history and the evolution of the farm tractor and implements there's the Canadian Tractor Museum.
Chris Zdeb is a freelance writer and regular contributor to AlbertaPrimeTimes.com. This story was funded by the Facebook Journalism Project Supporting Local News Coverage of COVID-19 Program via the Local Media Foundation.