Skip to Content

27 Incredible Things to Do in Alberta That are Bucket List Worthy

27 Incredible Things to Do in Alberta That are Bucket List Worthy

Share with your friends!

Alberta is my home. And the more I travel around the world, it makes me appreciate my stunning province more and more. You start to see things differently and realize your own backyard is stunning.

My home province has so much to offer – this is exactly why I got into tourism in the first place. Alberta is so much more than its mountains.

While these jagged formations still take my breath away every time I visit, there are so many more bucket list experiences and things to do in Alberta that get missed on posts like this one.

From a born and raised Albertan, here is my Alberta travel guide for stunning places to see, signature experiences to enjoy and the best places to go to soak up the beauty of this province.

What is Alberta Known For?

On the world stage, Alberta is probably best known for being rich in natural resources, and more specifically its oil and gas industry.

Tourism in Alberta is a growing industry (almost $10 billion) and it should be. We have world-class natural landscapes, but often get overlooked by international visitors who think Toronto and Vancouver are the only worthwhile places to visit in Canada.

With overtourism becoming a growing global concern, I want to share the importance of the tourism industry in my province and give you all the best reasons to visit!

You see, our geography is vast and spreads far and wide. Half of our province is covered in boreal forest with very few inhabitants.

We have huge portions of fertile flat farmland which rewards us with incredible prairie views (and food).

Of course, we can’t forget our majestic rocky mountain ranges that provide us with freshwater and world class skiing and viewpoints.

Photo Credit: Paul Zizka via Banff Lake Louise Tourism

Our major cities are becoming urban tech and startup hubs with incredible diversity. We have deserts and Mars-like landscapes.

And above all, we have all four seasons that produce different weather patterns beautiful in their own way. 

So, if you’re visiting Alberta anytime soon, here are my recommendations about what you should see and do. I bet you’ll be blown away by some of these bucket list experiences, and things you didn’t know you could do in Alberta!

And, contrary to what you might have heard, Alberta (and Canada) offers so much more than cold snowy days (although we do winter pretty epic here).

Everything on this list would make for the perfect Alberta road trip, so pick and choose what interests you. Almost anywhere you go in the province, there are tons of attractions all within a few hours’ drive.

Be sure to keep reading to the end of the post, where I provide information and tips about how to navigate around the province over the course of your Alberta vacation.

This post contains some affiliate links, including hotels and Airbnb. Meaning I may make a small commission if you make a purchase through them, but at no extra cost to you. I only share products and services that I know, love and trust.

Marvel at the Famous Alberta Skies

Catch a Spectacular Sunset

From cotton candy to glowing orange, the evening sunset colors are incredible, making Alberta one of the most colorful places on earth.

Because we are so far north, in the middle of summer, it’s light out until at least 11:00 pm.

After a day spent outdoors hiking, boating or fishing, a relaxing evening watching the sun go down is the way us locals do it!

Find views like this by renting a lakefront cottage on any northern Alberta lake!

Star Gaze

Did you know Alberta is home to the two largest dark sky preserves in the world? And a third one that is very accessible and just outside of the capital city, Edmonton.

Whether you’re a star fanatic or not, our night skies offer some of the most incredible views in the world.

Pitch your tent at one of the many campgrounds located within designated dark sky preserves in southern Alberta and near Edmonton.

Or head to Jasper National Park to immerse yourself in the world’s largest accessible dark sky preserve

Watch the Northern Lights

In addition to the sunsets and stars, the northern lights shine bright here, too! This one is tough because you can’t really plan for when they’ll show up, but there are certain times during the year when they’re most likely to occur.

On a clear, dark night (usually between the months of September to April), there is no better feeling than being surprised by the swirling ribbons of green, purple and pink dancing in the sky above. 

Since Alberta is home to two major cities (making the north easily accessible) many people travel hear specifically to photograph the aurora.

Travel Tip: if you do happen to spot them, here’s a super Canadian way to do it. Grab a friend whose got a pickup truck, throw on your touque, stop at a Tim Horton’s (national coffee shop chain) pick up some hot chocolate and head out of the city on an empty backroad.

Grab a seat on the edge of the tailgate and look up and try and keep your jaw closed as you marvel at the natural light show.

Enjoy Room to Breathe in the Wide Open Spaces

Our prairies, fields and plains provide space and breathing room like no where else in the world. Hop in a car and cruise the backroads to find peace, quiet and tranquility.

Between the farmers’ fields with oddly beautiful derelict barns and the golden yellow canola crops in July, Alberta is a photographer’s dream.

Summer storm clouds provide added texture for some amazing shots. Take a moment to bask in the endless horizons. 

Visit Rural Alberta

In contrast to Vancouver and Toronto, Alberta is sometimes known as cowboy country and for good reason.

We have tons of ranches in Alberta and many of them are located in the southwest portion of the province.

You can find agritourism experiences in every corner, and would make for a great weekend getaway.

Check out Highway 22, known as the Cowboy Trail for a scenic western style Alberta road trip. 

The Calgary Stampede is the world-famous rodeo festival that takes over the entire city for 11 days. They call it the greatest outdoor show on earth! Visit Calgary in early-July if you want to be a part of it!

You can experience even more of Alberta’s western rural culture by visiting a local farm. From grain crops, dairy farms, livestock and fruit and vegetables, Alberta offers incredible agritourism opportunities.

From milking a cow to tasting fresh honey to learning how to put a horseshoe on a Clydesdale, visiting an Alberta farm is an experience not to be missed when you visit! 

Stay at this off-grid wilderness cabin in the foothills near Sundre for an awesome rural Alberta experience.

Image courtesy Airbnb

And if you visit the foothills area just west of Sundre (about an hour and a half north of Calgary), you might have the opportunity to spot the wild horses that roam free.

Another great spot is near Horsethief Canyon in the Canadian Badlands.

Recent Travel Alberta commercials have shown the beauty of a herd of feral horses galloping in the wild at the edge of the rocky mountains.

You can even pay a visit to the Wild Horses of Alberta Society, a nonprofit organization that rescues and rehabilitates injured wild horses. 

Wild horses in the Canadian Badlands. Image: Travel Alberta/Sean Thonson

On a similar note, the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary near Canmore welcomes visitors to their centre to learn about their rehabilitation efforts on neglected and abandoned wolfdogs.

This is a great side activity if you’re planning to visit Banff National Park and have a soft spot for animals who get a second chance at life. 

Unique Craft Breweries

Canadians are well-known for our love of beer, and Alberta is no exception! If you love beer tasting, the local craft brew industry is booming here.

No matter what region of the province you are exploring, visiting a nearby craft brewery should always be on your list of things to do in Alberta.

There are so many that offer interactive and hands-on tours that showcase their unique brews and techniques.

Many of them have adorable patios to test your favorites after the tour – another favorite local Albertan activity you should partake in on your trip to Alberta! 

Troubled Monk Brewery Patio
Folding Mountain Brewery outside of Hinton – a perfect place to stop on a trip to Jasper

Learn About Alberta’s Amazing History

Even though Canada is still a very young country, we do have some incredible history. 

The Town that Got Buried

The Frank Slide was known as one of Alberta’s most catastrophic disasters. In the early 1900s, a section of a mountain let go and created a massive rock slide that buried the entire mining town below.

Image courtesy of Frank Slide Interpretive Centre

It’s now designated as a provincial historic site and when you drive passed it along the highway you can still see all of the rocks and boulders that haven’t moved since that fateful day.

Stay at this cozy red cabin nearby to visit all the sites in the Crowsnest Pass area.

Dinosaur Capital of the World

If you’re a dinosaur enthusiast, Alberta has tons of options for you to explore.

Alberta is home to the richest source of dinosaur fossils in the world. They can be found all over the province but are predominantly in the southeast portion of the province.

Drumheller is best known for the many dinosaur bones and fossils that have been dug up here.

And the Royal Tyrrell Museum is a world class destination for paleontology and holds the world’s largest display of full dinosaur skeletons.

Take a tour to learn all about the history and uncover real fossils (just don’t take any fossil out from the ground as it is illegal). 

Where to Stay in Drumheller

The Purple Door is an adorable 2 bedroom house if you prefer your own place.

The Heartwood Inn and Spa is a quaint cottage style boutique hotel and the owners have put a lot of heart into making this place cozy.

Heartwood Inn – image courtesy

Or try riverfront glamping in the hoodoos!

If you’re near Edmonton you can visit the Jurassic Forest which has several walking trails with large scale animatronic dinosaurs hidden throughout the forest.

Whether you’re a family with young kids or a kid at heart, it’s a pretty neat spot. 

Or if you’re in northern Alberta, the Philip J. Currie Museum is only a couple of years old and offers tons of interactive and experiential displays about the dinosaurs that once roamed our province. This museum is located near Grande Prairie.

And you might even find dinosaurs lurking around at the Calgary Zoo…

Indigenous Culture

About 60 miles (100 kms) south of Lethbridge is a very important Indigenous site. It’s called Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park because of the petroglyphs carved into the rocks and stone.

Image: Travel Alberta / Davey Lieske

They tell the story of what life was like for the Blackfoot people going back almost 10,000 years ago. In 2019 the park was finally designated as a UNESCO world heritage site to preserve the important history for many years to come.

You can do all kinds of trail hikes and camping is pretty epic here as well. 

Another interesting Alberta attraction is a place called Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, and yes, it’s exactly what is sounds like. It’s a massive cliff where the Indigenous hunters would herd the buffalo over the edge.

Image: Travel Alberta / Roth & Ramberg

It sounds a little graphic but the buffalo were their livelihood. They harvested the meat for food, made clothing and shelter out of the hides and weapons out of their bones. 

Canada’s First National Park

Founded in the late 1800s, Banff National Park is now Alberta’s most visited destination. But did you know it was Canada’s first national park, and among one of the first in the world?

As the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was building a railway across Canada, they had to blast their way through the Rocky Mountains and quickly discovered the natural beauty of the area.

This also led to the discovery of geothermal mineral waters which were later developed into the Banff Upper Hot Springs that we know today. 

Tour Trains and Locomotives

Speaking of railways, train enthusiasts will love Alberta. Just north of Edmonton is the Alberta Railway Museum which is an open air museum with incredible displays of old locomotives.

On weekends in the summer they usually have the old steam engines running for a demonstration as well. 

Incredibly Unique Landscapes

Some of the best things to do in Alberta is to explore the surreal landscapes we have here.

One of my favorite areas is in southeastern Alberta, in and around Drumheller.

This area is referred to as the Canadian Badlands and it makes you feel like you’re either in the wild west or on Mars!

Here you can check out all kinds of trails through the Hoodoo formations and explore the landscape up close and personal. 

Check out Horsethief Canyon and the Hoodoo trail for breathtaking viewpoints. Then stop for a stretch break at the Rosedale Suspension Bridge (if your nerves can handle it)!

And for a fun beverage stop, travel down Highway 10x to Wayne, Alberta at the Last Chance Saloon, where bullet holes from the wild west days are still in the walls!

Image courtesy Travel Alberta

Travel tip: most people visit Drumheller, but you should actually head a little further south to Dinosaur Provincial Park which has a way bigger area to explore and the scenery is so much more breathtaking.

And for a real cowboy experience, head to the tiny village of Patricia, where you will find the hotel restaurant in which you get to cook your own Alberta beef steak.

Epic Waterfalls

Alberta is full of some of some pretty epic flowing water, and while there are some bangers that can be found in the Rockies, you don’t always have to travel to the mountain national parks to find them.

In the David Thompson area of Highway 11 near Nordegg, you can find Crescent Falls along the Big Horn River(easier access) and Ram Falls (a little harder to get to).

Crescent Falls – Image courtesy of Travel Alberta

This whole area is one of the best places to go camping in Alberta right now, and is nearby the milky-turquoise colored Abraham Lake.

Don’t feel like camping? Rent this adorable log cabin in the woods (view on Airbnb) and unplug in the wilderness.

image courtesy Airbnb

Or if you keep heading toward Jasper National Park, especially along the Icefields Parkway, you can visit Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls and Tangle Creek Falls.

For easy access to these falls (including walking distance to Sunwapta), stay at the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge.

Sunwapta Falls
Athabasca Falls

There are even waterfalls that can be found in the middle of rural Alberta – like Hard Luck Canyon. It’s geologically fascinating.

The Canadian Rocky Mountains

Obviously this is the number one attraction and likely the reason you’re visiting Alberta.

Located just over an hours’ drive from Calgary, Banff National Park has plenty of things to do – my guide has dozens of things to do in Banff for a more specific list.

From the adorable mountain town nestled in the mountains, to hot springs, turquoise lakes and incredible hiking, you can easily spend 3 or 4 days here.

Whether you want to experience it as a magical winter snow globe or hike some world class trails in the summer, Banff is a beautiful place to visit any time of year.

Stunning Lake Louise

If you’re looking for the best places to see in Alberta in the mountains, the iconic Lake Louise is about 40 minutes away from the town of Banff and is my number one favorite spot.

As it lies perfectly turquoise and tranquil between the mountain peaks, its beauty is like no other. For a closer look, rent a canoe for a or take a simple stroll around the lake.

If you’ve got a couple hours, I highly recommend the Lake Agnes Tea House hike.

Photo Credit: Paul Zizka

Lake Louise Travel Tips:

To avoid disappointment, arrive at Lake Louise as early as possible to avoid the crowds.

Or better yet, stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise which overlooks the lake.

You can also head up to the Lake Louise Ski Resort (10 minute drive) and take the gondola up the mountain for views of the lake, too!

Canoe rentals at Lake Louise can run upwards of $100 per hour and long wait/queue times. For a similar experience with fewer crowds, head to Lake Minnewanka!

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is another spot frequented by tourists because of its incredible turquoise color. But if you’ve got a car, go a little further and search for Peyto Lake, which is just as stunning and a little less busy. 

Take a Road Trip On the World’s Most Beautiful Highway

Image: Scott Bakken @scottcbakken

If you love winding mountain roads with legendary and breathtaking views, travel Highway 93 from Banff to Jasper (or visa versa). It’s arguably one of the most scenic drives in the world, and you can experience it on your trip to Alberta.

On this trip you can visit the Athabasca Glacier and experience the Columbia Icefield Skywalk – a glass floor observation deck that pokes out over the massive gorge below.

Read More: Banff vs. Jasper – how to choose which national park to visit

Jasper National Park

On the northern tip of the Icefields Parkway is Jasper National Park. It is equally as stunning, more spread out, less busy and offers breathtaking things to do.

Some of the signature attractions here are Maligne Lake, gorgeous hikes and the Miette hot springs. 

The Jasper SkyTram is also a must-do experience, and better than the Banff Gondola in my opinion! It’s one of of the many dog-friendly activities in Jasper.

Spirit Island at Maligne Lake

Travel tip: June is my favorite month to visit Jasper. The weather is perfectly pleasant and the summer crowds aren’t quite in full swing.

However, mid-July is when all the alpine wildflowers are in full bloom.

Check out the Mount Edith Cavell trail for some gorgeous wildflower meadows among the mountains.

Plus there are many other hikes in Jasper that offer huge reward payoffs for minimal effort.

Edith Cavell

You Might Also Like: Best Places to Stay in Jasper for a Cozy Mountain Getaway (all budgets!)

Magical Winter Experiences

As I mentioned earlier, we have all 4 seasons here, and that includes winter! Sure it gets cold, but fresh white snow and pure blue sky days are beautiful. And we get a lot of days like this. 

Outdoor Ice Skating

Ice skating on any frozen lake or pond is a must do signature experience in Alberta in the winter.

Travel Tip: if you’re lucky and traveling to the mountains in early-December, you might be able to hit some frozen lakes before the snow covers them. 

Magic Ice Bubbles

My number one recommendation for places to see in Alberta in the winter is Abraham Lake. This is where the little ice bubbles get trapped in the water when it freezes and it makes for some beautiful scenery.

What happens is that organic matter at the bottom of the lake starts to break down and produces methane gas.

But in November/December, the water freezes faster than the gas can escape, and this is what causes the bubbles to freeze.

Travel Tip: any Google or Instagram search will show you dreamy turquoise images of this place. While it’s absolutely stunning, this place gets frigid cold because of the wind that travels through here.

If you want to spend some time and enjoy it, bundle up because it will be much colder than you think! 

Complete your Alberta vacation by staying in this log cabin near Abraham Lake. Or choose from a selection of cottages near Nordegg.

Cozy Cabins

Another favorite thing to do in Alberta is to rent a cozy cabin in the mountains, and this is especially fun in the winter.

What’s more magical than sitting near a wood burning fire place  in your log cabin sipping tea or hot chocolate as you look out the window at the snowflakes covering the mountain tops? 

Winter Festivals

There are lots of ice carving festivals to check out as well. Lake Louise is probably the most famous, where they host the Ice Magic Festival.

Edmonton also puts on fun ice activities, like the Ice on Whyte Festival, the giant Ice Castle and the Silver Skate Festival each February. 

World Class Skiing and Snowboarding

Alberta has several world class mountain ski resorts that rival those found in Europe. Sunshine Village is the most popular resort close to Banff and many celebrities visit here, too.

Photo credit: Tourism Jasper

Lake Louise Ski Resort is about 45 minutes further and hosts many world cup ski races and events throughout the season.

Or you could go skiing in Jasper at Marmot Basin, which was ranked the best North American ski resort in 2018 by USA today.

Attend an NHL Game

Us Canadians love our hockey, and especially in Alberta. We’ve got two NHL teams in Alberta, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.

Even if you don’t know much about hockey, the atmosphere is a blast. You can usually find last minute tickets on Ticketmaster and StubHub.

Thriving Urban Cities

Edmonton is the capital city of Alberta but Calgary is more well-known. Both cities have a very young population and have really started to become urban artsy hubs.

From adorable plant-based cafes like the Moth Cafe in Edmonton to basement brewpubs like the Last Best in Calgary, there are tons of fun things to check out.

Calgary has an epic zoo and some fantastic bridges and scenic pedestrian areas.

Edmonton has a thriving farmers market scene and its river valley is the largest stretch of urban parkland in North America. Yes, it’s more than Central Park in New York City if you can believe it! 

Where to Stay in Calgary

Hotel Arts is in downtown and offers pool parties in the summer.

The Hotel Fairmont Palliser is also downtown and half a block from Stephen Avenue which the pedestrian area with great shops and restuarants.

The Palliser Hotel in Calgary

Where to Stay in Edmonton

The Matrix is a popular choice and great boutique hotel in the heart of downtown. There’s a great restaurant and Starbucks on site, too.

Read Next: Swoop Airlines Review – Everything You Need to Know Before Flying on Canada’s No-Frills Airline

Tips About Planning Your Trip to Alberta

There are two international airports, one in Edmonton and one in Calgary. If you can swing it, I would recommend flying into either one, then renting a car and flying out of the other airport.

For example, fly into Edmonton, rent a car and tour around and then fly out of Calgary.

I mentioned we get all 4 seasons here, so make sure you know what season you will be traveling in.

Summer is the most popular time to visit, which is June to August. The days are warm and receive lots of sunshine. It’s also the busiest and most expensive.

Either way, whenever you visit Alberta, the weather always provides you with something to do!

Ready to Explore More Alberta?

Check out 6 Iconic and Unique Road Trips Through Alberta

16 Romantic Getaways in Alberta (unique & affordable ideas)

7 Day Trips from Edmonton Within 2 Hours That You’ll Love

Love Alberta as much as I do? Feel free to share it with your friends on Facebook! Don’t forget to save a pin to your travel boards!