Alberta, which is home to six UNESCO World Heritage Sites offers travelers plenty of outdoor experiences and cultural immersion opportunities including 75 provincial parks, and five national parks. Guests visiting this region can also spot plenty of wildlife with 587 species in the area, but your clients should keep a look out for the big seven of the region—elk, moose, bighorn sheep, grizzly bear, bison, cougar, and wolf. Alberta also has a growing selection of indigenous experiences for those travelers who want a better understanding of the local culture and history.
Here, is what you can expect when visiting Alberta throughout four of its major provinces.
The capital city of Alberta, Edmonton is the fifth largest city in Canada, located 3.5 hours east of Jasper National Park and 2.5 hours north of Calgary. As a 4-season city, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in the city all year long.
The North Saskatchewan River Valley runs through the middle of the city from east to west—22 times larger than Central Park in New York— and offers guests plenty of outdoor activities either on the river or around its walkways. There’s a Finicular, one of three in Canada, which takes you down to the river valley and the lookout point. The pathway offers over 90 miles of paved trails, and the largest urban parkway in North America, which connects to 22 different parks. Guests can take part in tours that teaches them about the history of the river and fur trade. In the summer, guests can paddleboard and kayak down the river, and in the winter go fat biking on the winter trails.
Travelers can also take a day trip to Elk Island National Park, located 35 minutes east of Edmonton and enjoy a Bison Backstage tour, where travelers follow bison with a guide and learn how it was brought back from near extinction—there are over 600 bison roaming the park at any time. Overnight stays are also available at Elk Island National Park in new geodomes at the Elk Island Retreat, which just launched last summer. The domes are bookable March to November and are heated and equipped with a bed, mini fridge, Nespresso coffee maker—“this is glamping at it’s finest,” says spokesperson for Edmonton. You’ll also be able to add a charcuterie package with a bottle of wine that your guests can enjoy in their room. This is also a dark site preserve, it’s free from light pollution and a designated UNESCO bio-sphere that showcases the aurora lights all year round.
Indigenous experiences are also available where your clients can learn more about the Metis, where guests can explore their land and cultural experiences. During the summer months they can enjoy the Paddle from the Past experience and in the winter, Talks from the Trapline. There’s also a 40-guestroom boutique lodge in the works that will open mid- November. And, onsite at the Metis Café, guests can savor traditional Metis dishes.
For a more immersive experience, Fort Edmonton Park, located in Edmonton’s River Valley, which showcases Edmonton’s early history through a living museum from 1846 to 1920. This attraction just opened after completing a $165 million enhancement—the newest experience is the Indigenous People’s Experience, which features conversations with more than 50 elders, and is led by members of the indigenous community
New experiences in the area is a private VIP helicopter tour with a picnic lunch in the woods at Perry Gardens Adventure Farms, where guests enjoy a farm-to-picnic meal.
And, for those visiting in the winter, Edmonton is most known as a winter city with a large patio culture, two ice way trails, and over six major winter festivals taking place from December to February.
The city of Jasper offers the largest dark sky preserve in the world, and plenty of wildlife viewing with 53 species of animals in the area. And, in October, guests can take part in the Annual Dark Sky Festival.
Another popular experience is Spirit Island, known as the most iconic landmark in the Rockies. Also popular in Jasper is its cabin culture, offering guests over 500 individual cabins to rent from cozy to luxurious log chalets to choose from.
And, with many travelers opting for road trips this year, Icefield Parkway is one of the best road trips and has been named as the most scenic road, noted Sabrina Doyle, Tourism Jasper. During the drive travelers can take in the waterfalls, glaciers, and mountain views. For those travelers doing a full road trip, Columbia Icefield is a great stop, or also an ideal destination on its own, noted Doyle. Columbia Icefield offers the most accessible glaciers in the world right off the highway. However, you can’t explore without a trained guide for safety reasons. Guests can also stay in Columbia Icefield at the Glacier View Lodge.
For guests visiting in the winter, take note that the Maligne Canyon, drains out the water that fills the it in the wintertime, so guests can enter during this time and explore the frozen waterfalls.
Also new to Jasper is an array of wellness activities, or as they refer to it, “nature as wellness” experiences. These include: Fireside Chats and Plant Walks with Warrior Woman; foodie tours with Peak Nic where guests learn gourmet cooking techniques; Train Tours and Open Air Tours with sonDog; remote heli tours, and bike tours with Journey Bike Guides. There’s also a new 88-room hotel opening up by Pursuit, which has not yet been named, and is expected to open June 2022.
The Gateway to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Rocky Mountains and Alberta Badlands and can serve as the base for guests who want to explore all five sites. These sites include: the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains National Park, Waterton Glacier International Peace Parks, Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump, Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, and Dinosaur Provincial Park—the land where dinosaurs roamed. Calgary is also home to the world’s richest collection of dinosaur fossils, and the Cowboy Trail—a 363-mile highway.
New experiences in Calgary, include the Alberta Food Finder, a mobile-based food tour app and game that aids guests in experiencing the history, culture, art and food in Calgary’s neighborhood of Kensington. This self-guided food tour allows guests to set out on a mobile quest to discover clues, solve puzzles, and complete challenges along the way.
For culture lovers, Heritage Park in Prospect Ridge brings Western Canada’s energy and natural resource stories to life through immersive experiences including The Prospectors Cabin, which depicts the gold rush, The Coal Mine Tunnel, where guests wear a head lamp and discover its depths, and a First Nations interpretive trail that physically and thematically connects these exhibits together.
And, the Calgary Zoo features an immersive journey through the Pre-Historic Park in the Dinosaurs Awakened Exhibition with 26 new realistic animatronic dinosaurs on display.
Urban Indigenous Experiences in Calgary include a Chief Walking Tour, where a chief shares the city’s indigenous culture through guided ecotourism experiences; and the Drift Out West Fly Fishing experience where a Plains Cree native fly-fishing guide shares his expertise.
For year round fun, guests can visit Calgary during any of its over 150 festivals including Zoolights, Mid-Winter Blues, Sled Island, Calgary Folk Music Festival, the Calgary Stampede, and the new Chinook Blask Winter Festival.
Banff & Lake Louise
As a result of Covid and the lockdown, a section of Banff Ave was closed to vehicle traffic in Summer 2020 and 2021 to allow for physical distancing and morphed into a thriving patio scene where visitors dined outdoors and enjoyed the views. Though it has not been confirmed, there are hopes this will continue for summers to come due to its great success.
Another new development is Bear Street, which went through a $10 million transformation during the lockdown and unveiled this summer. It transformed Bear Street to Banff’s first shared street where pedestrians, cyclists and slow- moving vehicle traffic can enjoy the street and outdoor plaza-like area.
Other new experiences include informative and interactive tours on a vintage-inspired automobile for an Open Top Tour, which takes guests on a 90-minute drive to key viewpoints in and around Banff from June to October. New cycling experiences are available from May to October with guided e-bike tours via White Mountain Adventures, guided mountain biking tours with BikeScape—the first company in Banff to offer this, and cycling the Bow Valley Parkway. In addition, Banff Graze Co. offers luxury picnics and graze boxes that guests can enjoy outdoors. And, Lake Louise Ski Resort opened 420 acres of new terrain, and a new 4-minute ride on a quad chairlift.
Seven new restaurants also opened during the pandemic including Farm & Fire set within the Elk + Avenue hotel; 360° Dome—a new private, outdoor dining venue at the Fairmont Banff Springs, which is open year round and can sit two to six guests; and The Radiant, a restaurant, parlor, lounge, and performance venue offering entertainment and family-style comfort food; Three Bears Brewery & Restaurant, Banff’s second craft brewery, which is located in a forest and features a retractable roof for stargazing; Hello Sunshine, which offers sushi, Japanese BBQ, and Karaoke; Rundle Bar, which reopened June 2020 after a $5 million renovation and located at the Fairmont Banff Springs, and finally Shoku Izakaya, Bannf’s first Japanese pub serving grilled meats and fish, skewers, and other Asian-inspired dishes.
In addition, two new hotels have also recently opened including the Dorothy Hotel, Banff’s first boutique motel offering 42 guestrooms adjacent to the woods at the start of Banff Avenue. And, Peaks Hotel & Suites, a mountain-inspired property offering 71 guestrooms.
For more information, visit travelalberta.com.