It’s difficult to compete with the beauty of Alberta. Whether you visit in winter or summer there are so many things to do in Alberta you’ll want to keep going back again and again.
At least that is what happened to us, we’ve had the pleasure of visiting Alberta on several occasions in all seasons. Trust me, if you visit Alberta, you’ll be the envy of all your friends when you share photos of the Canadian Rockies on your Instagram feed.
Best Things to do in Alberta, Canada
Table of Contents
This guide shares the very best things to do in Alberta that we have done over the past 10 years of traveling to all corners of this great Canadian province.
Banff National Park
Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park and its most beautiful. There’s a reason this is one of the most popular places to visit in the country. This year round destination is an outdoor lovers playground. A visit to Alberta wouldn’t be complete without exploring Banff and Lake Louise, so let’s dive into all the outdoor activities in Banff Lake Louise.
Canoe Lake Louise
Lake Louise is the most famous of all attractions in Alberta. It took my breath away when I saw it for the first time. Victoria Glacier reflected in the still turquoise waters of Lake Louise surrouned by nature. It truly is one of the most beautiful places in Alberta.
The legendary Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise sits on its shores, and one could spend hours just taking in the beautiful views. A bucket list item for anyone visiting Lake Louise is to rent a canoe and experience a true Canadian tradition.
Play Hockey on the World’s Most Beautiful Skating Rink
There is absolutely nothing more Canadian than playing pond hockey on a frozen lake. And if you are going to visit Alberta in winter, you better skate on the world’s most beautiful skating rink!
Located directly in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the rink attracts visitors from around the world whether they can skate or not! You can rent hockey gear from the hotel or from Wilson Mountain Sports.
Banff Lake Louise can get really crowded in the summer months. We have visited every season, and winter is truly magical.
- Read more: Things to Do in the Winter in Banff Alberta
Hike or Ski into Backcountry Lodges
There are several backcountry lodges in Alberta that make for an amazing active adventure that ends with a luxurious stay in a remote lodge. We visited Sundance Lodge when exploring Banff and fell in love with the beauty of the area.
In the winter you can head out to lodges by cross country skiing or snowshoeing. In the summer you can hike or go by horse. Whichever season you visit Alberta in, a backcountry lodge is an experience you’ll never forget.
Walk through Johnston Canyon
Johnston Canyon is open winter and summer and is beautiful no matter what time of year you go. In fact, we think it truly comes to life in the winter!
Discover Banff Tours offers guided scenic winter walks and let me tell you, this is one of the most stunning walks we’ve ever taken. The steel catwalk runs 2.5 miles through a picture-perfect limestone canyon.
Go Up the Banff Gondola
The Banff Gondola gives you incredible views of the Rocky Mountains and the village of Banff.
If you don’t have the chance to ski or snowboard at Lake Louise or Sunshine Resort, this is a perfect way to get up into the mountains and take in the extraordinary views.
There’s a museum, and restaurant at the top and there are hiking trails to get outside.
High Tea at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
The Fairmont Banff Springs hotel is one of the most historic hotels in Canada. Even if you are not staying there, make sure to stop in for high tea.
Photograph Alberta’s Most Iconic Sites
Bring home your own memories on a photo tour with Rocky Mountain Adventures. Alberta is known for its picturesque landscape attracting top professional photographers from around the world.
Best Places to Photograph in Banff:
- Bow Lake
- Vermilion Lakes
- Lake Minnewanka
- Lake Louise
- Moraine Lake – Moraine Lake is on our 20 dollar bill!
Cruise Lake Minnewanka
Lake Minnewanka is a popular spot in Banff for hiking, night photography and for taking a scenic cruise.
The guides are fantastic and you learn all about the monster that drew visitors to this lake in the early 1900s.
Explore Cave n’ Basin
Discovered by railway workers back in 1883, Cave n Basin is where Canada’s National Park System began.
To attract visitors to Banff, Canada opened the first National Park and visitors flocked to swim and relax in the hot springs.
Today it is a national historic site and there is no swimming in the pool to protect the endangered snails that inhabit the pool.
Soak in the Banff Hot Springs
Banff Hot Springs is world-famous for its natural springs and outstanding view! Its no wonder it is one of the most popular attractions in Alberta.
The Hot Springs aren’t the most luxurious of destinations but they are a hoot to relax in the hot water looking at the landscape.
Plus, you can rent old-fashioned bathing suits and pretend you are an aristocrat visiting Alberta as they did back in the days when the great railway made its way through Canada.
Dogsled to British Columbia
Discover Sunshine Village
There is no going to Alberta in winter without going skiing or snowboarding. Banff National Park houses three different ski resorts alone!
We love Sunshine Village because it has the Sunshine Mountain Lodge located right at the side of the hill offering the only ski in ski out adventures in Banff.
It also has Banff’s largest hotel hot tub where after a day on the boards, you can soothe your aching muscles in the tub.
Ski Lake Louise
With 4200 skiable areas in one of the largest ski destinations in North America and one of Canada’s top ski destinations. There are trails for all levels of Skiing and Snowboarding.
Lake Louise is on the World Cup Circuit with a Terrain Park and a Snowcross Course. It was also home to the Calgary Olympics, and you can be sure to carve actual Olympic runs!
- It’s Epic. Check out more on Snow Boarding Lake Louise
Snowtubing at Norquay
Norquay is the closest ski hill to Banff and is great for a day trip or for families. If you want to try something different, head over to do some snow tubing. It’s the ultimate couch potato thrill ride. You ride the magic carpet to the top, let them put you on the tube and push you down the hill. All you have to do is hoot and hollwer all the way down!
Drive the Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world and with good reason!
Surrounded by the Rockies, this drive takes you from Banff to Jasper with lookouts at every turn!
These are a few of the must stop places along the highway.
Dare to Walk the Glacier Skywalk
This is one of Alberta’s newest attractions and it is definitely the most eye catching.
Walk along a glass floor that drops 280 m (918-foot) over the Sunwapta Valley if you dare.
Catch the Reflections of Bow Lake
Our favourite lookout along the Parkway is Bow Lake with the most extraordinary reflections you’ll ever see.
Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefield
The Columbia Icefield is North America’s largest sheet of ice and on it you can discover the Athabasca Glacier located directly on the highway.
Take a tour to see this massive glacier up close. You can even drive on a glacier vehicle to go out and witness the giant crevasses up close!
Jasper National Park
When you come to the end of the Icefields Parkway drive, you arrive at the incredible Jasper National Park. Famous for its dark sky festival and gorgeous rocky mountain views, this is a place to spend a few days when planning a trip to Alberta. The town of Jasper is a pleasant small town with plenty of eateries and coffee shops. The Rocky Mountaineer train ride also leaves from here.
Hike Maligne Canyon
Maligne Canyon is my top recommendation for things to do in Jasper. It is a stunning hike through a canyon dropping 50 metres (154 feet).
With waterfalls and bridges, walking trails and scenic views, this is not to be missed!
Marvel at Maligne Lake
Just a little farther along the road is Malign Lake. It is the longest lake in the Canadian Rockies. Take a boat cruise to Sprit Island and witness this beautiful view surrounded by emerald water of the glacier lake.
Sunrise at Pyramid Lake
Maligne Lake is the top lake for visitors to see in Jasper, but our favourite was certainly Pyramid Lake.
With beautiful reflections of a pyramid shaped mountain twinkling in the still waters, it’s easy to understand how it got its name.
Go in the morning at sunrise to see for yourself.
Stay at the Fairmont Jasper
Staying at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is an attraction unto itself. The rustic setting of luxurious and chic log cabins is set on the shores Lac Beauvert. The Queen of England has graced these grounds. If it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for us!
Northern Lights at Lake Annette
Alberta has many places to see dark skies, night stars and the Aurora Borealis. Jasper is known for its dark sky festival, and when staying at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, we went to Lake Annette to photograph the night sky. That was when we were treated to the beautiful auroas.
Ride a Side Car Motorcycle
Our favourite excursion in Jasper is hands down the side car motorcycle tour. This is the coolest ways to explore the roads of Jasper National Park.
Hop in a Harley Davidson Motorcycle and take off to the high viewpoints of the Rocky Mountains from Downtown Jasper. It’s one of the coolest and most unique things to do in Alberta that is for sure.
Part 4: Canmore
Canmore is located just outside Banff National Park and has turned into a destination unto itself. It can be used as a base to explore Banff National Park and Kananaskas. But there are so many things to do in Canmore as well.
Visit a Wolfdog Sanctuary in Canmore
The Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary is a rescue centre for wolfdogs to rehabilitate abandoned and neglected wolf dogs.
Wolfdogs are part wolf and part dog and often end up being too much for dog owners who don’t realize what is involved in owning a wild animal. The sanctuary rehabilitates the dogs and finds them new homes.
Visitors can sit with the wolfdogs and watch them interact and behave in their natural habitat.
The wolfdog sanctuary is a magical experience visit their website for more details. Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
Rock Climbing in Canmore
Alberta is home to some of the best rock climbing and mountaineering experiences on earth. When in Canmore, be sure to get out on a wall for some great sport climbing routes.
Yamnuska Mountain Adventures in Canmore offers guided ice climbing and rock climbing excursions with professional Rock Climbers.
Ice Climbing in Canmore
If you are looking for an adventure that gives you the ultimate adventure travel bragging rights, ice climbing in Alberta is a must.
Canmore is the ice climbing mecca of the world drawing top athletes to its routes each year to train and explore.
We’ve done both Rock Climbing and Ice Climbing in Canmore and they are both a thrill of a lifetime.
- Read more about ice climbing at: Ice Climbing Adventure in Canmore
What on earth is skijoring you ask?
It’s a mix between cross country skiing and dog sledding. Skijoring was invented in Norway, but Alberta has embraced it.
We met Russell Donald of Mad Dog and Englishman Sled Dog Expeditions at Spray Lake outside of Canmore.
Skijoring was a thrill of a lifetime as two sled dogs pull you across the lake at breakneck speeds.
Looking for more things to do in Alberta that involve dogs? See the Best Place to go Dogsledding in Banff
Take a Helicopter Flight over the Rockies
Located just an hour from Calgary and a short drive from Canmore or Banff, Rockies Heli is one of the premier helicopter tour companies in Alberta.
Our helicopter tour took over Banff National Park to witness the famous peaks like Mt. Assiniboine, The Three Sister,s and Mount Lougheed.
This adventure offers the added bonus of landing on a peak just outside the park to go snowshoeing where nobody else dares to go.
When landing a helicopter on the top of a mountain, you can be sure you won’t see crowds of people during your hike!
Book your Alberta Helicopter tour with Rockies Heli located in two locations for your convenience
Canmore became popular as the population grew in Banff National Park.
It’s now a town filled with outdoor lovers and very healthy people.
You can do a lot of activities directly from town and we went snowshoeing from Canmore.
It wasn’t long before we were surrounded by mountains and treated to spectacular views of the Three Sisters.
If you are new to snowshoeing, hire a guide to take you out to the backcountry safely.
Southern Alberta will suprise and delight. It is completely different from the more popular Banff and Jasper National Park stops, but no less breathtaking or exciting. A road trip through Southern Alberta should be put at the top of every Alberta bucket list.
Bar U Ranch National Historic Site
The Bar U Ranch is a National Historic Site and a very cool place to learn about Alberta’s Cowboy Heritage. This was once the largest ranch in North America spanning 160,000 acres and had 30,000 heads of cattle.
The Sundance Kid worked on the Bar U Ranch and the Prince of Wales loved the setting so much, he bought a ranch right next door!
Have a cowboy coffee, try your hand at the lassoo and learn everything about Ranch Life.
- Cool Fact: Deb lived on the Bar U Ranch when she was born. Her dad was the head ranch hand!
- Read about it here: Back to my Roots at the Bar U Ranch in Alberta Canada
Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park is a unique nation park in the fact that it shares a border with Glacier National Park in the United States
Together, the two parks create the only UNESCO World Heritage Site, International Peace Park, and a Biosphere Reserve rolled all in one.
It is here that you can see herds of buffalo roam and go for extraordinary hikes into the foothills of the mountains.
Red Rock Canyon
Make sure to visit Red Rock Canyon, the
- Read more: Things to do in Waterton Lakes National Park
Take a High Mountain Trail Ride
Sure, you’ve taken a trail ride in other places, but in Black Diamond Alberta, a high mountain trail ride takes you into the Rocky Mountains.
Hop on a sure-footed horse and bushwhack your way up a mountain trail pass to the backcountry of Alberta. If there is one time in your life to go horseback riding, this is it!
- Read about it here A High Mountain Trail Ride, Black Diamond Alberta
Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump
Although it isn’t the most exciting thing to see in Alberta, it is a very historic place to visit. Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump Interpretive Centre, It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and interesting stop in Southern Alberta.
6000 years of history happened on this site where prehistoric plains people lured herds of buffalo to the edge of a cliff where they met their fate.
Writing on Stone Provincial Park
Writing on Stone Provincial Park is sacred to the First Nations of Alberta as it is a nature preserve containing many First Nations carvings. Located in the Milk River Valley, these carvings how evidence of life dating back 9000 years. It is a beautiful park with hoodoos and towering cliffs. There is a recreation of an RCMP outpost in the park commemorating the mounted police who patrolled the border in the late 1800s to prevent whisky smuggling
Drive Crows Nest Pass
Crows Nest pass is a mountain pass along the continental divide where Alberta meets British Columbia. It is an interesting drive along this route with some cool sites to see!
- Read more: Things to do in Pincher Creek, Alberta
Witness Frank Slide
When stopping at the home of one of Canada’s most deadly natural disasters, you really see the power of Mother Nature.
In 1903 the town of Frank was buried under 110 tons of rocks that broke off from tunnel mountain. Looking out from the interpretive centre shows just how far the rock slide travelled and how the town never stood a chance. 90 people lost their lives that fateful day.
Photograph the Burmis Tree
One of the most unique things to see in Alberta is the lone Burmis Tree standing at the entrance to Crowsnest Pass. This tree is a symbol of endurance for the people of the region.
At years old, it is hanging on by a thread. Or I should say wire. The tree died years ago, but residents loved it so much, they saved it by wiring it together with stainless steel brackets to stabilize the roots. See it before it is too late!
Often overshadowed by Banff and Jasper when planning things to do in Alberta, the Alberta Badlands are one of the most beautiful places to visiting the province.
There are so many attractions to see, and these are the best!
Glamping at Dinosaur Provincial Park
Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site housing one of the largest dinosaur excavations sites on the planet. You can take a guided hiking tour to an excavation site to see dinosaur fossils.
Be sure to stay in the park in one of the glamour camping tents. Its an amazing experience.
- Read about it here: Dinosaur Provincial Park – Glamping Tour in the Alberta Badlands
One of the best drives in the province is the drive from Dorothy to Drumheller. Drumheller is a small town located just 90 minutes from Calgary and there is so much to do there. Spend a day or two in town to explore all of the sights like Horsetheif Canyon, the Atlas Coal Mine and the last chance saloon. This is where you’ll really feel like you’ve stepped into the wild west.
Hoodoos of Drumheller
One of the most amazing sites in Alberta are the Hoodoos of Drumheller. There are hoodoos throughout the badlands, but these are the most distinct and perfect hoodoos you’ll ever see in yoru life.
Located directly on the side of the road, these fragile formations are formed over hundreds of years through erosion. This tiny cluster is a wonderful display of the beauty of Mother Nature.
Royal Tyrrell Museum
One of the best museums we’ve ever been to is the Royal Tyrell Museum. We’ve seen a lot of dinosaur bone recreations in museums around the world, but this one has the real deal on display!
Here you’ll see one of the best-preserved authentic T-Rex skulls in the world and there are archeologists working in a lab on sight.
Calgary is the biggest city in Alberta and there are a ton of things to do downtown Calgary. It warrants its own article which for some reason, we haven’t written yet! But we’re going to change that soon. For now, here are a few of our favourite things to do in Calgary.
Bobsleigh at Canada’s Olympic Park – Calgary
Who thought they’d ever get the chance to hop in a bobsleigh and barrel down the pipe with an Olympic athlete at steering the sled?
Bobsledders from around the world train at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park and to make some money on the side, they take tourists down their home track!
Feel the G-force push you down as you reach speeds of 125km per hour while banking the icy turns as you plunge down the World Cup track.
See our experience at Whipping Through the Olympic Village in Calgary
World’s Fastest Zipline
This Zipline is so fast you need to pull a parachute out when you land!
Taking off from the top of the big Olympic ski jump, this zip line is a thrilling experience!
I can only imagine the courage ski jumpers have flying off this ramp. A Zipline was enough for me!
We also took the luge down to the parking lot once we finished our extreme sports.
Go Up the Calgary Tower
Like all world cities, Calgary has its own tower that makes for a superb lookout over the city.
We never tire of seeing the wire art installation known as Wonderland.
Located in front of the Bow Building, the Face, attracts visitors for that perfect Instagram shot to inside the 12 metre high structure.
Cycle Across the Calgary Peace Bridge
The Calgary Peace Bridge spans the Bow River from Downtown to communities across the river. It’s become a popular path for cycling and an iconic symbol of the city.
If you are in the city in June, check out the greatest outdoor show on earth. The world’s largest rodeo has been running since 1912 and is the biggest ticket in town.
Nordik Spa at Kananaskas
A great day trip from Calgary or Banff is a visit to Kananaskis Country. Its views rival Banff National Park. You can stay overnight at the luxurious Kananaskis Mountain Lodge and use the spa, hike its trails and enjoy the luxury accommodation. It was one of our favourite places in Alberta.
The spa is a year round outdoor Scandinavian Spa with hot pools, saunas and cold plunge pools. It’s the perfect places to sooth travel weary muscels.
I’m not going to lie, Dave and I have been to Edmonton twice and we seem to rush our way through the city, but there are many things to do in Edmonton and we admit, we really need to go back.
West Edmonton Mall
It is North America’s largest mall and probably what first put Edmonton on the map. With an amusement park, water park, and an indoor skating rink, it is the original super mall!
Ride the Rocky Mountaineer
We took the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Calgary, but you can hop aboard in either Banff Town or Jasper. The one way luxury train journey takes you through the Canadian Rockies and it is a rip roaring good time. Note, you’ll be eating and drinking a lot so get ready!
Read all about it here.
Have you done an adventures or activity in Alberta that we’ve missed?