Alberta is a wonderful place, and with lists like these there are always more than 10 to consider. For starters, Jasper and Banff National Parks has some of the most stunning scenery I’ve witnessed, so also take time to read Jasper vs Banff: The Alberta National Park Showdown. That said, these are 10 things I wouldn’t visit Alberta without doing, so get a pen, make a note and book your flight! Please note: I visited in Summer, so this list reflects that, I plan to make a top 10 list in winter too so check back for that later.
1. Fort Edmonton Park
I’ve never seen anything like this, Fort Edmonton Park is a step back in Edmonton’s history. Split into four distinct era’s, you walk through a life-size replica of Edmonton, meet the locals, interact with them, play games and ask questions. It was an eye opening look at Alberta’a history, and a great day out.
2. Jasper Brewing Company
The craft beer scene is rapidly growing in Canada and in particular Alberta. Jasper Brewing Company was founded in 2005 by 3 ‘Jasperites’, and my tour around this small brewery explained the history and the work they do with the local community and charities. They were kind enough to give me a beer to bring home with a glass, to mark the re-opening of my own bar at home, following a house move, so watch this space, once the refurb is complete the beer will be open again!
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3. White Water Rafting
From Jasper you can White Water Raft on the Athabasca or Sunwapta rivers. I can recommend Jasper Rafting Adventures on the Sunwapta River. It was some of the best white water I’ve seen, and being formed from the glacier made it that extra bit more refreshing!
4. West Edmonton Mall
Wait what, a Mall? Yes that’s what I thought, but West Edmonton Mall is more than your average shopping centre. Start thinking water park, rollercoaster’s, pirate ship, cinema, ice-rink topped off with great bars and restaurants, and that’s probably only half of it covered. It’s a great day out but I must warn you it’s a little more suited to families and groups rather than the solo backpacker.
5. Boogie in a Jazz Club
I’m pretty sure you weren’t expecting this to be in my top 10 either. Jazz and Blues music in Canada, and in particular Alberta seems to be thriving. It felt like one of the most authentic things I did in my time here, you’re spoilt for choice as there seems to be a Jazz club around every corner. Just make sure you get up and throw some shapes, even if it does feel like everyone else on the dance floor has been dancing the Charleston all their life!
6. Elk Island National Park
Just 45 minutes drive from Edmonton you’ll find complete wilderness and calming peace at Elk Island National Park. It was originally founded in 1906 for the preservation of Elk herds, but its now arguably more famous for its conservation of Bison. I was fascinated to learn about how they monitor, breed and maintain the Bison, and how influential they have been in reintroducing Bison all over the world.
7. Canoe at Lake Louise
If there is one thing Alberta is known for, it’s the Lakes. Choosing just one is difficult, as I found in Round 4 or Jasper vs Banff! The reason canoeing at Lake Louise made this list, is that there was an amazing sense of enjoyment here, everyone was out to make the most of the lake on a summers day. It’s hard to explain the vibe, so just get there, hire a canoe and see for yourself.
8. Banff Upper Hot Springs
Soothing warm natural hot springs, a historic bath house and a brilliant backdrop of the spectacular Banff National Park mountains. Convinced yet? Well you should be! The Banff Upper Hot Springs are great place to relax and soak up the sun and scenery, I was here in summer but I would imagine this is a perfect end to a day skiing or snowboarding. If none of this is enough, check out the traditional spa suit you can hire, it’s quite a look!
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9. The Glacier Skywalk
The Glacier Skywalk really is an experience like no other, a glass floored observation deck 918 feet over the Sunwapta Valley. Its as interesting learning about the unique ecosystem and wildlife as it is seeing how they built the thing! I also found it fascinating to see the source or the Sunwapta River, where we battled huge rapids white water rafting just a couple of days before. Then just down the road you can marvel at the Columbia Icefield Glacier itself, and even take a tour onto the glacier.
10. Mountain Viewpoints
There are so many viewpoints to discover, but as far as I am concerned these two took my breath away. The Jasper Skytram, which takes you 2,227 metres up Whistler’s Mountain, and the Banff Gondola, 2,281 metres up Sulphur Mountain. The panoramic views are beautiful, and on a clear day you can see for miles.
I could have added countless lakes, trailheads, viewpoints, restaurants etc etc to this list. 10 was never going to be enough. You’ll find much more on Banff and Jasper National Parks in the Jasper vs Banff article. But please let me know if there is anything that you feel should make this list, in the comments section below, and I’ll be sure to check it out on my return to Alberta.
KLM UK flies to Alberta, to Edmonton or Calgary using Amsterdam as a hub. You can fly into one and out of the other, travelling over land via Jasper and Banff at your leisure. Going via Amsterdam allows you to fly from 17 UK based airports, rather than only travelling from Manchester or London. The changeover is smooth, KLM will inform you which gate (sometimes from the plane), and you won’t need to collect and check in your luggage again.
And then it comes to the seat… Business, Economy or Economy Comfort? Yeah yeah, I might have flown Business on the way out! And it was amazing. Brilliant food, drinks and service. But not everyone can afford that, so I’d suggest looking into Economy Comfort for the extra leg room, which makes a big difference on any flight over 3 hours. The food and service was still great and I found the flight very enjoyable, even if I was slightly envious of a friend in Business Class!
I flew to Alberta as a guest of KLM UK via their hub at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. My flights to Edmonton were complementary, but return flights from the UK start at £599, including taxes. All of the content, opinions and photography are my own, and I have not been paid for any part of this trip or article. Please take time to visit KLM UK and Travel Alberta‘s websites to support me on more adventures like this one!
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