Alberta is a land rich with natural phenomena (and views that will literally make your jaw drop), history that stretches from prehistory to the present (attention all dino lovers), and buzzing metropolises that stand up to their more-well-known counterparts in other provinces with poise and panache.
This breathtaking terrain is best taken in by car, from the badlands of the south to the northern lights dancing in the night sky, so gear up for a majestic journey.
Waterton Lakes National Park
In stark contrast to the bevies of locals and tourists flocking to Banff and Jasper to its north, Waterton emanates a delightful calm that is only appropriate to its zen surroundings. Awash with wildflowers this time of year, Waterton offers elk and grizzly sightings, a huge lake that extends into Montana’s Glacier National Park, and more outdoor excursions than you can count.
Fort MacLeod — Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
Unique naming aside, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a shining example of First Nation ingenuity, not to mention a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Blackfoot people cleverly used the rock formation to herd buffalo off a cliff, where they would — you guessed it — smash their heads in, thereby providing them with food, clothing, and tools for over 5,000 years.
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
Young and old alike love the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Not only does the collection boast more than 130,000 fossils and many still-intact dino skeletons, but you can even venture off into the badlands to get your archeological dig on.
Calgary — The Calgary Stampede
Shopped as the “greatest outdoor show on earth”, the annual Calgary Stampede takes place in July and is one of the biggest and most impressive rodeos in the world. Any cowboy worth his or her salt joins this fabled city-wide event.
Canmore — Three Sisters
Canmore is an up-and-coming — though far chiller — neighbor to glitzy Banff, with a rich past as a coal mining town. Close by, the Three Sisters mountains (Faith, Hope, and Charity) offer a wealth of hiking trails, which you can monitor via their webcam.
Lake Louise is a true national treasure. Not only does it grace more postcards and Instagram post than your average lake, but also it boasts a town rich with charm and history. From tea houses to a romantically grand hotel, Lake Louise is equal parts genteel Canadian culture and panoramic Canadian wilderness.
Described by Lonely Planet as a “larger, less-trammeled, more wildlife-rich version” of nearby Banff, Jasper is just as epic as its Rocky Mountain counterparts but just that much chiller.
Edmonton — Art Gallery of Alberta
While at face value a skyscrapered government metropolis, Edmonton, Alberta’s provincial capital, is way more than just politics. Check out the Edmonton International Fringe Festival in August, and don’t miss the hyper-modern Art Gallery of Alberta in Churchill Square, with architecture is reminiscent of Paris’ Centre Pompidou.
Fort McMurray — Northern Lights
Wind your way up to Fort McMurray, one of Canada’s major oil production hubs. While that may not seem like the sexiest of destinations, just wait till nightfall, when the northern lights come out to play in full force. There’s also canoeing and kayaking in the summer time, snowmobiling in the winter, and hunting and fishing no matter the time of year.