Be a part of the lively western heritage and pioneering spirit of central Alberta. Get ready to play in Edmonton, Alberta’s capital city and the festival capital of Canada. Red Deer, the hub of central Alberta, has its festivals too. Join in the celebrations of local history, the Wild West and a famous country music jamboree.
Alberta’s heartland is a montage of landscapes, from the foothills of the Canadian Rockies in the west to an endless expanse of golden plains and aspen parkland stretching east to Lloydminster at the Saskatchewan border. The land is sprinkled with lakes and ponds left by retreating glaciers. The winding Red Deer River plays a leading role in the region's agricultural bounty, not to mention the best place in the province for a paddle on a lazy afternoon.
Long summer days are filled with hiking, biking, riding, fishing, boating and beaches. Get out on the prairie and into 360 degree views of plains and big sky. Embrace winter with the locals in a game of pond hockey. Snowshoe, cross-country ski, snowmobile, and ice fish. Take a picture of snow covered hay bales that look like frosted wheat cereal.
Plains. Trains. Festivals. Fur traders. Here’s your insider central Alberta checklist!
Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park
Southeast of Red Deer is one of our best kept secrets: Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park, the site of choice for Cree ancestors to drive bison herds over the flat topped mesa that gives the park its name. At the apex of the Canadian Badlands, the park is home to almost as many dinosaur fossils as found further south. The biggest find is our very own Albertosaurus – think of him as a cousin to T-rex and just as fierce.
Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions
Climb on board a real steam or diesel powered train for a day-long adventure you won’t soon forget. Witness a shootout with robbers on horseback, meet a Mountie, solve a murder mystery and maybe even spy a coyote trotting across a farmer’s field. Board the Alberta Prairie Railway in Stettler and settle in for a five to six hour round trip, with a stop in Big Valley for a perfect prairie prime rib buffet.
Canada’s largest seven-day rodeo is held every year at the end of June. The rodeo attracts the best two and four-legged rodeo athletes in the world. You’ll get to see all the stuff you’d see at the Calgary Stampede – bareback, saddle bronc, tie down roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and bull riding – on the same stock that’s earning a ticket to the Big Show. Pro chuckwagon racing, midway attractions and high profile entertainment round out the Ponoka Stampede. Just 45 minutes north of Red Deer in the picturesque Battle River valley.
Wild Rapids Waterslide Park
During the hot summers of central Alberta, Wild Rapids is a good time just waiting to happen. Work up to the zero gravity Sidewinder by starting with the speed slides, whitewater rides and tower slides. Picnic on the lawns or grab a snack inside. Outside the park, head to the beach for the latest craze: flyboarding! Sylvan Lake is half an hour west of Red Deer.
Lakes, wilderness and three rivers make Brazeau Country the place to be for year round outdoor thrills. Hit the water in summer for swimming, fishing and paddling. Hike, ATV or ride the trails. Golf one of four courses or unload your clip at the shooting range. Winter is prime time for skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing. An hour west of Edmonton.
Experience Alberta’s Wild West firsthand. Drive the Cowboy Trail through cattle country from Mayerthorpe at the top of Hwy 22 all the way down to Cardston in the deep south. Connect with the people and places that keep the ranching legacy alive and kicking.
Head west from Stettler on the David Thompson Highway (Hwy 11), a pleasant alternative to the Trans-Canada Hwy. Follow in the footsteps of the highway’s namesake – the fur trader and surveyor credited with mapping most of the continent’s northwest. Rocky Mountain House was his home base. Investigate the ruins of four trading posts at this National Historic Site and make like a voyageur in a canoe on the North Saskatchewan River.
Check out the original buildings of the Old West along the Boomtown Trail on Hwy 21, an alternative route from Edmonton south to Calgary. In August, unwind at the four-day Big Valley Jamboree country music festival in Camrose.