22 BEST Places to Visit in Alberta, Canada that you’ll absolutely love!

22 BEST Places to Visit in Alberta, Canada that you’ll absolutely love!

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Alberta is the fourth largest province of Canada, and it’s just full of epic places to visit! Alberta’s landscape includes prairies, mountains, desert badlands, vast coniferous forests, and over 600 lakes.

There is so much to do in Alberta! Believe me, I lived there for over 15 years, and in that time, made sure to see and do as much as I possibly could. In fact, my family still lives in Alberta and I visit all the time (partially to see them and partially to explore more of the amazing places to visit in Alberta!)

If you’ve never been to Alberta then you’re probably wondering where to even start. I mean, Alberta is huge and seeing every corner of the province with limited time is nearly impossible.

If you’re not sure where to begin with deciding where to visit in Alberta, fret not. This post has the 22 most epic places to visit in Alberta, as well as what to do at each destination! My hope is that this blog will help you to narrow down the destinations that most interest you to plan your very own trip around the province that I hold so dear to my heart.

Where are the Best Places to Visit in Alberta

Like I said, Alberta is a big province! The best places to visit here are the ones full of the most interesting activities and scenic landscapes. The above map shows where the best places to visit in Alberta are located, that way, you can see how easily you can check out multiple destinations that are close together.

22 Best Places to Visit in Alberta

1. Banff Town

Banff town on a winter day
Banff town is beautiful in winter – and it’s a great place to base yourself for a ski holiday!

Banff is a very popular town in the Rockies, attracting thousands of visitors each year. And it’s no wonder why – it’s absolutely beautiful and there are tons of things to do in Banff in winter, spring, summer, or fall.

The downtown area is very quaint and there are many awesome options for places to eat, drink, and shop. With the mountains as the backdrop to Banff Ave, it’s a beautiful place to base yourself in Banff National Park.

Many visitors base themselves here for a ski holiday due to the fact that you have great access to Sunshine and Norquay ski resorts – both are within a 15-minute drive of town.

Plus, when you’re done on the slopes, you can enjoy all that Banff has to offer including some Apres Ski drinks at a couple of the breweries in Banff.

Banff is more than just a ski town though, and regardless of the season you visit, Banff town is an amazing place with plenty to do. Some of the best things to do in Banff include:

  • Relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs – Just a short 5-minute drive up Sulphur Mountain you’ll find the Banff Upper Hot Springs, a public hot spring with incredible mountain views! The hot springs are easy to get to and affordable. At $16.50 CAD per adult and $53 CAD for a family, even those on a budget can enjoy one of the best Banff attractions. (It’s even a great activity to do in Banff when it’s raining).
  • Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain The Banff Gondola is possibly the singular most popular thing to do in Banff – and for good reason! From the top of the Banff Gondola, the views of the mountains and Banff town are out of this world. The first time I rode the gondola was during my first Christmas in Banff and I loved it! At the top of the gondola, you’ll find a restaurant and cafe, a gift shop, lots of information on the area and wildlife, as well as my personal favorite, the boardwalk!
  • Check out the Bow Falls Lookout – The Bow River is a stunning river that runs through the heart of Banff. Turquoise in color, it is nothing short of picture-perfect. A short 1.5 km (0.93 mi) scenic walk from Banff town (or drive) you’ll come to the Bow Falls viewpoint on the river’s edge. Here, not only will you see the river, but also the Bow River Waterfall!
  • Cave and Basin National Historic Site – Another great place to visit in Banff is Cave and Basin Historic Site. Here you can see some historic hot springs that are home to a rare species of snail. The museum is the main attraction in my eyes and it is very interactive and fun, especially for kids. You’ll find lots of information about Banff and the surrounding area.
  • Fairmont Banff Food Tour – For foodies, an activity that isn’t quite as well known is this gourmet food tour that takes place inside the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Your experience will consist of tasting several specially curated dishes with drink pairings and learning some history about this famous Scottish castle. Expect to pay around $200 CAD for this well-rounded historical culinary experience.
  • Mt Norquay Gondola – I have to say, the views from Mt Norquay are hard to describe, you really have to see them for yourself. In the summer, ride the sightseeing gondola and visit the restaurant at the top for a beer with a view.

Where to Stay in Banff town:

There is plenty to do in Banff alone, so if you decide you want to stay here there are a few good options.

For the budget-conscious traveler, Banff Inn is a great option. It has all of the necessities, plus added perks like a hot tub and spacey rooms. It is one of the top-rated hotels in the Banff downtown area.

If you truly want an experience and a hotel all in one, then you MUST stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs. This luxurious hotel is actually an old Scottish Castle built in 1888 and declared a National Historic Site. The Fairmont is the most prestigious of all of the hotels in Banff National Park offering a range of restaurants on-site to choose from as well as tons of activities. Guests can go bowling, play tennis, or swim in the large lap pool.

2. Lake Louise

A lady stands at the Lake Louise forshore
The stunning Lake Louise!

Lake Louise is a small mountain village situated within the magnificent Rocky Mountains. It’s surrounded by untouched wilderness and stunning landscapes and has all the ingredients for a bucket-list place to visit. It’s no wonder that Lake Louise is one of my favorite places to visit in Alberta and top of the list on many Canadian Rockies tours.

I have been to Lake Louise numerous times throughout my years of living close to the Rockies. Each time ticking off all the best things to do in Lake Louise. From hikes to restaurants and all of the epic Lake Louise activities, I’ve pretty much done it all! Here are a few of my favorites to check out during your visit:

  • Relax at the Lake Louise foreshore – When it comes to enjoying Lake Louise, one of the easiest and most common ways is to enjoy the views are from the Lake Louise foreshore. Within minutes of arriving, you can have a coffee in hand and stare out at mountain peaks, glaciers, and the bluest lake you’ll ever see.
  • Hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House – My favorite hike in Lake Louise is the Lake Agnes Tea House trail. Starting right from the foreshore, the trail has you hiking high above Lake Louise where you can peer down and see parts of the lake from above. Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is a 7.3-kilometer (4.5 miles) return track that climbs 400 meters (1,312 feet) in elevation. The trail is moderately difficult but not technical at all!
  • Rent a canoe and explore Lake Louise – When I think of iconic Canadian activities a few come to mind. However, one of the most relaxing and breathtaking is paddling an alpine lake in a Canadian Canoe. You can do this throughout Canada, but there aren’t many places as beautiful as Lake Louise to enjoy this activity. You can only canoe in Lake Louise in the summer when the lake is melted.
  • Go ice skating on Lake Louise – Lake Louise is the color of the sky in summer and that color has made the lake famous. But in the winter, the cold temperatures completely freeze the lake over and it now becomes an ice-skating dream! This is one of the best things to do in Lake Louise in the winter, and it’s completely free if you bring your own skates!

Note: From May 13th until October 10th, you’ll be required to pay $21 CAD per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise Lakefront (2024 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 7 am until 7 pm daily.  

Where to Stay in Lake Louise:

If you decide you want to stay in Lake Louise, the Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center is the best budget option in Lake Louise Village. The location is right in town, they have a shared kitchen, basic but comfortable rooms, and friendly staff. We’ve enjoyed staying here in the past and like that you can book a room online with Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

For those with a bigger budget, you can’t look past the Fairmont Château Lake Louise. The hotel sits on the shoreline of Lake Louise with epic views in the most stunning of locations. I’ve added spending a night or two here to my personal bucket list!

3. Moraine Lake

Lake Moraine on a cold morning in Banff National Park
Lake Moraine on a cold morning in Banff National Park

Moraine Lake is known as one of the most picturesque lakes in Banff – maybe even the world! Chances are, you’ve seen photos of this iconic Alberta destination plastered across Instagram or even postcards.

I’ve been to Moraine Lake more times than I can count, and I’ve explored the area thoroughly. Nobody can deny that Moraine Lake is beautiful. But besides enjoying the view of the turquoise lake and the Ten Peaks in the background, what else is there to do at Moraine Lake?! Here are a few of my favorite things to do at Moraine Lake:

  • Walk the Lakeshore Trail The Lakeshore Trail is arguably the most popular hiking trail at Moraine Lake. I love this trail as you get to enjoy magnificent views of Moraine Lake from angles you simply don’t get from other viewpoints. The trail takes around an hour to walk and admire the views, and it’s suitable for all ages and skill levels.
  • Scramble up the Tower of Babel – This next hike isn’t actually a hike at all. In fact, it’s not even an “official” trail (if you ask Parks Canada.) However, it’s one of, if not the most popular scrambles in Banff National Park. The scramble to the top of the Tower of Babel is iconic. It’s those panoramic views of the mountains that have made the trail so famous and a must for any beginner scrambler.
  • Eiffel Lake Trail – Eiffel Lake is a remote alpine lake situated not far from the Larch Valley. The beginning of the trail to Eiffel is actually the Larch Valley Trail, however, after you conquer the ten switchbacks you hit a fork in the road with one path heading to Eiffel Lake. From Moraine Lake, it’s a 12-kilometer (7.5 mi) out-and-back hike to Eiffel Lake that takes around 4 hours to complete. 
  • Walk to Consolation Lakes – If you’re looking for an easy hike at Moraine Lake that’s a little more adventurous than the Lakeshore Trail, then Consolation Lakes Trail is a great option. This 2.9-kilometer one-way trail (1.8 mi) gets you far away from the crowds of Moraine Lake and out to two beautiful alpine lakes with epic mountain backdrops. The trail is relatively flat and rated as easy so it’s perfect for the whole family.

Note: The road to Moraine Lake is only open from the end of May until mid-September due to avalanche risk in the winter months.

Moraine Lake is also very popular, and getting here requires some pre-planning. The access road and parking lot are closed to personal vehicles (except those with a disability parking permit) so you’ll need to check out alternatives to parking at Moraine Lake.

One of the most popular methods is one of the shuttles such as the Park and Ride from Lake Louise Ski Resort. Or consider booking an organized tour of Moraine Lake such as this hop-on-hop-off tour from Banff.

Want to visit Moraine Lake for sunrise?

The only way to visit Moraine Lake at sunrise this year (since the road is closed to personal vehicles) is to either go on this organized tour or book this privately-operated shuttle (the Parks Canada shuttles don’t leave early enough to make it for sunrise.)

The tour begins at 4 am in Banff, and because they are a licensed tour operator, they can access Moraine Lake for sunrise. The tour costs $287 CAD and includes not only a visit to Moraine Lake with hot chocolate and coffee to enjoy, but also an early morning visit to Lake Louise. That means you can visit two of the busiest lakes in Canada without the crowds or the stress of parking/shuttles. You can book the tour here with free cancelation up to 24 hours before.

The new Moraine Lake sunrise shuttle includes transport only from Lake Louise Village but comes at an affordable price of $59-69 CAD per person. They offer a few pick-up times depending on what you have planned at Moraine Lake, with the first shuttle leaving at 4 am and the second at 5 am. You must book your spot online in advance here to avoid missing out.

4. Canmore

A reflection shop of the Three Sisters Mountain Range in Canmore
The Three Sisters Mountains are an iconic landmark in Canmore!

Canmore is one of Alberta’s best mountainside tourist towns. But unlike Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise, Canmore isn’t actually located within one of Canada’s National Parks – making it cheaper and more accessible for everyone.

Sitting on the edge of Banff National Park, Canmore boasts some of Canada’s most impressive mountain peaks and is an outdoor playground for visitors.

We’ve been lucky enough to visit Canmore on several occasions. In fact, we also recently lived in Canmore for a couple of months (I know, lucky us!) So, we know all of the best things to do in Canmore, which include:

  • Go Skiing – Located about 55 km (34 mi) away from Canmore (a 45-minute drive), Nakiska is a popular ski resort known for its long seasons due to lots of snow. It has 64 trails with four chairlifts and costs $98 CAD for a day pass. Skiing is the most popular activity in the winter in Canmore.
  • Rafting down Bow River – Right from town you can hop in a raft and gently float down the Bow River for an hour. Your eyes will be glued to epic views of the Rocky Mountains, forests, and valleys while keeping watch for some native wildlife. Tours are a steal at only $45 CAD!
  • Caving – One of the coolest things you can do in Canmore is explore the caves! This Canmore caving adventure tour takes you through the beautiful yet mysteriously named Rat’s Nest Cave. You’ll rappel down 18 meters (59 feet) and spend several hours navigating challenging passageways and learning about how these caves were formed. It is pricier at $180 CAD but it is an experience you can’t replicate.
  • Hike to Grassi LakesGrassi Lakes is also one of the easiest hikes in Canmore at only 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) long (return) with only a 125-meter (410 feet) elevation gain. This means it’s family-friendly and suitable for most fitness levels. 
  • Visit the local breweries – Canmore is one of the best places to try amazing craft beer and there are lots of local breweries in Canmore to visit! One of my favorites is The Grizzly Paw. They have a bar on 8 St and their brewery is located on Old Canmore Road on the outskirts of town (called Tank 310). You can also join this e-bike and brew tour for even more fun! You get to bike 15 kilometers (9 miles) through the mountains and then be rewarded with a beer flight for $122 CAD.
  • Hit the trails at the Nordic CentreThe Canmore Nordic Centre offers a variety of trails for hiking, biking, or even cross-country skiing. The area was developed to host cross-country skiing events at the 1988 Olympic Games and is now an active training center as well as a recreational area.

Where to Stay in Canmore:

In case you want to join a tour from Canmore or spend a couple of nights in Canmore (and you should!) there are plenty of hotels to choose from.

For budget travelers, I love the Canmore Rocky Mountain Inn. If you don’t mind spending a little more you can certainly get a nice hotel closer to town. The Grande Rockies Resort-Bellstar Hotels & Resorts is still a short walk from town (but it only takes 5 minutes) and the hotel itself is beautiful complete with a pool, hot tub, fitness center, and restaurant and bar.

5. The Kananaskis

the frozen Troll Falls in the Kananaskis in the winter near Canmore
Trolls Falls is so cool in the winter!

The Kananaskis often gets overlooked as it sits directly next to the tourist hotspot of Banff National Park. However, the stunning valley offers all of the same outdoor activities with fewer crowds, plus, it’s closer to Calgary than Banff too!

The top things to do in the Kananaskis include:

  • Hike to Troll Falls – Troll Falls is an easy 90-minute hike that takes you to a waterfall. In the winter, the waterfall is frozen and looks just as amazing! If you are visiting the Kananaskis in the winter, this hike is slippery, so it’s recommended that you bring ice cleats or spikes.
  • Upper Kananaskis Lake – Upper Kananaskis Lake is a large, scenic lake surrounded by sweeping mountain views, woods, hiking trails, and ski routes. There is plenty to do and see at this lake regardless of the season you visit.
  • Nakiska Ski Area – Nakiska Ski Area is located in the Kananaskis Valley and is actually one of the cheaper resorts in the Rocky Mountains and best places to ski near Banff. It’s a full-size ski resort with a 735-meter (2,411-foot) verticle descent and its longest run is a whopping 3.3 kilometers (2 miles).
  • Kananaskis Nordic Spa – This is one of the most luxurious spas in the Rocky Mountains and access, which starts at $109 CAD, includes access to the Hydrotherapy cycle (Five Pools), the Eucalyptus Steam Room, Alchemist Steam Room, Finnish Sauna, Banyan & Barrel Saunas, and Exfoliation Cabin. 

Note: A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is now required to explore the Kananaskis region. These passes can be bought at the Kananaskis Visitor Center or online in advance and cost $15 CAD per vehicle per day or $90 CAD per year (for two vehicles.)

6. The Bow Valley Parkway

The Bow Valley Parkway is an absolutely stunning drive through Banff National Park. The Bow Valley Parkway is a 50-kilometer-long (31-mile) stretch of road that runs parallel to Highway 1 that connects Lake Louise with Banff. Instead of driving on Highway 1, take the Bow Valley Parkway for a more scenic and relaxing drive.

There are lots of amazing places to check out on the Bow Valley Parkway on the drive between Lake Louise and Banff. Some of my personal favorites include:

  • Morant’s Curve – This iconic viewpoint is located just on the side of the road and showcases train tracks weaving through the mountains. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a train here!
  • Castle Mountain Lookout – Castle Mountain is, you guessed it, a mountain that looked exactly like a castle! You can stop at a viewpoint, or choose to hike one of the many trails around here.

Note: There will be some closures to vehicle traffic on sections of the Bow Valley Parkway this year (2023). From May 1-June 30 and then again from Sept 1-Sept 30 vehicles will NOT be able to drive the 17 km/11 mi stretch of road from the TransCanada-Highway junction to Johnston Canyon, it will be restricted to cyclists’ use only. This is the eastern part of the road that is affected if you’re traveling to Johnston Canyon from Banff. You will still be able to access Johnston Canyon and the Bow Valley Parkway via the intersection near Castle Mountain Chalets.

7. Jasper Town

The famous view of Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, Jasper
Spirit Island

With endless hiking trails, dozens of turquoise lakes, and one of Canada’s top-rated ski fields, Jasper is an ideal destination for any outdoor enthusiast. While it’s a tourist destination, it somehow still keeps its “small-town vibe” and is very peaceful.

There is much more to Jasper than what meets the eye. Dan and I have visited several times, including an epic road trip we did from Jasper to Banff! While Jasper is a great place for hiking in the summer and skiing and winter tours in the cold, there is a ton of other fun and exciting things to do in Jasper – activities that many visitors, unfortunately, miss out on! Here are some you won’t want to miss:

  • Take a Flight on the SkyTram – Certainly one of the most popular things to do in Jasper is the SkyTram! Riding the Jasper SkyTram has gained popularity simply because it’s just that awesome – the views you get from the peak of Whistlers Mountain are unmatched by any other view. At the end of your ride, you’ll reach a viewing platform complete with an indoor area, gift shop, and restaurant.
  • Walk the Pyramid Lake Boardwalk – Pyramid Lake is one of the many amazing lakes near Jasper. Located only a 10-minute drive from Jasper town, Pyramid Lake is a calm lake that sits at the base of Pyramid Mountain creating a picture-perfect setting. My favorite thing to do at Pyramid Lake is to walk the boardwalk out to the island. From here, you get 360-degree views of the mountains!
  • Visit Spirit Island Spirit Island is likely the most photographed spot in all of Jasper National Park. You can’t walk onto spirit island as it is a place of significance to the indigenous people. You can, however, walk on the mainland across from it where there is a viewing platform and trail. I recommend taking the Maligne Lake Cruise as it’s the fastest and easiest way to get to Spirit Island.
  • Go skiingMarmot Basin is located just outside of Jasper town and is an exciting winter activity. Marmot features 1,720 skiable acres (696 hectares), 7 lifts, and 91 different runs for all levels. With over 400 centimeters of snow on average and cold temperates, the skiing conditions are ideal!

Where to Stay in Jasper:

There are plenty of great places to stay in Jasper. Budget travelers will absolutely love Jasper Downtown Hostel. Dan and I often stay there and it is clean and comfortable with a huge communal kitchen that has everything you need and more. They have private rooms, family rooms, and dorm rooms. 

For something a little nicer, check out The Crimson Jasper. It is a great mid-range hotel with a central location, pool and hot tub, and of course, excellent reviews.

If you want to splurge a little, or if you’re having your anniversary or honeymoon in Jasper, the only option is the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. This place is a luxurious getaway in the wilderness. I can’t say we’ve ever stayed here (a little pricey for us if I’m being honest) but I’ve heard amazing things! 

Related Read: Jasper is a popular place to stop on a road trip from Vancouver to Edmonton (or Edmonton to Vancouver.)

8. Maligne Lake

Spirit Island fro the viewpoint visited on the Maligne Lake Cruise in Jasper
Spirit Island on Maligne Lake is gorgeous!

While we’re talking about the best things to do in Jasper, few compare to a memorizing visit to Maligne Lake. There’s so much to do here, it deserved its own section. Surrounded by stunning mountain peaks, Canadian pine trees, and glaciers, Maligne Lake is truly one of nature’s finest creations.

Maligne is also home to the famous Spirit Island (if you don’t know what that is then you just have to do this cruise to see it for yourself!)

I’ve personally visited Maligne Lake three times now and try to do something different every time. And what I’ve come to realize is visiting once isn’t even enough. The reason? There are SO MANY awesome things to do at Maligne Lake, and to do them all you’re going to need more time! Here are my top 4:

  • Mary Shaffer Loop – The best free way to enjoy the views of Maligne Lake is to take a relaxing walk along the Mary Shaffer Loop. The full Mary Shaffer Loop is just over 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) and takes around 45 minutes to complete. Along the way, you can see deer and even moose if you’re lucky!
  • Spirit Island Cruise – On this scenic boat cruise you will enjoy all of the views around Maligne Lake from the water before arriving at your final destination, Spirit Island. Book this tour for just $75 CAD which includes a guided drive out to Maligne Lake as well as the cruise to Spirit Island.
  • Moose Lake Loop – As the name suggests, Moose Lake Loop is both a great place to spot moose and enjoy a stunning hike. The trail is short at only 2.7 kilometers return (1.7 miles) and starts from the end of Maligne Lake Road. Overall, the trail is super easy and with the chance to see a moose, it’s worth checking out!
  • Canoe on Maligne Lake – Throughout the Canadian Rockies, you’ll find canoes paddling the breathtaking alpine lakes. It’s one of the most popular activities in Canada and a great way to enjoy any lake all while leaving as little of an environmental footprint behind as possible. If you don’t have your own canoe or kayak you can rent one from Maligne Lake Boat House.
  • Bald Hills Trail – If you want to enjoy one of the best views of Maligne Lake then Bald Hills Trail is a must. This 12-kilometer return trail (7.3 mi) takes you high above the valley only to stare down at Maligne Lake and the mountains around you. The trail is very popular and is considered one of the best in the area.

9. Miette Hot Springs

woman stands in the miette hot springs with mountains behind her
Such a beautiful location! Photo Credit: Travel Alberta / Roth and Ramberg

If you want to visit some hot springs in Alberta, then you can’t miss Miette. It is the hottest hot spring in the Canadian Rockies and for only $16.50 CAD you can relax in this natural mineral water with mountain views. This is easily one of the best places to visit in Alberta and well worth adding to your Alberta bucket list.

Miette Hot Springs are located about an hour-long drive from Jasper town (on the way towards Edmonton), which tends to deter some people from visiting. With that being said, the drive out there is gorgeous, and in comparison to the Banff Upper Hot Springs, Miette tends to be much less busy!

Miette Hot Springs are generally open every day from the beginning of May until early September. You can check their website for updated times and details.

10. Athabasca Glacier

The Skywalk at the Athabasca Glacier near Banff, Canada
The Skywalk at the Athabasca Glacier near Banff, Canada

Located in Jasper National Park along the Icefields Parkway, the Athabasca Glacier is one of Alberta’s most popular attractions. The Athabasca Glacier is huge and the best part is that you can experience it in a couple of different ways:

  • Glacier tour – You can book a glacier tour where you’ll depart from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center (across the road from the Athabasca Glacier) and actually drive up and onto the glacier itself! Here, you’ll be able to get out and actually walk around on the Athabasca Glacier. Daniel and I did this last year for around $100 CAD each and although very touristy, it was a pretty cool experience to walk around on the glacier ice. You must book your glacier tour in advance as it is very popular and sells out!
  • Athabasca Glacier Trail – If a tour isn’t your thing, then you can still get up close to the glacier. Jump on the Athabasca Glacier trail and hike right up almost to the edge of the glacier. It’s only a short 1-kilometer (0.6-mile) hike, but from here you’ll have a better view of the glacier than from the road.  If you want to hike onto the glacier you’ll need to book a tour with a guide. You might even get the chance to hang over a 23 m (75 ft) crevasse!
  • The Skywalk – Just down the road from the Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center is the Skywalk. The Skywalk is a structure with a glass floor that hangs off the edge of a mountain almost like a weightless bridge. If you want to walk on the Skywalk you can buy a ticket for $37.80 CAD. They will actually put you on a bus from the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre and take you to the Skywalk (because there is no public parking available at the Skywalk) where you’ll be given headphones for an included audio tour.

To save some money I recommend booking your Skywalk and Glacier tour together for a discounted rate!

Note: The Skywalk and Glacier tours are closed in the winter. However, you can still see the glacier from the Athabasca Glacier Trail.

11. Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake from the Peyto Lake viewpoint
Arguably the best view on the Icefields Parkway

Peyto Lake is probably one of the most popular stops along the Icefields Parkway, and as such, likely the most photographed. It’s definitely well-deserving of its popularity though! From the upper viewpoint, you will look down onto this bright turquoise-colored lake.

The walk to the Peyto Lake Viewpoint from the parking lot takes most people about 10 minutes. It’s a well-marked track and easy enough for all fitness levels and children. Once you arrive at the viewpoint, you’ll want to allow some time for taking photos – it’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in Alberta!

If you have extra time, you can actually hike from Bow Lake to Peyto Lake. Although this is a nice trail, I don’t recommend it if you are planning to complete the icefields parkway drive in just one day.  

12. Abraham Lake

Ice bubbles at Abraham Lake
The ice bubbles at Abraham Lake are really cool to see in the winter months.

Abraham Lake is located just a short drive from the famous Icefields Parkway, so if you’re already hitting some of the spots mentioned previously this is a pretty convenient place to visit in Alberta.

Abraham Lake is known for its ice bubbles. The famous ice bubbles are visible under the frozen water of Abraham Lake.

The lake is a reservoir used to generate power and bubbles get caught and frozen under the surface. The lake usually freezes in December, but the best time to view the bubbles is from mid-January to early February. These stunning bubbles create a magical landscape, and with the mountains in the background, this is THE photo you’ll be showing off.

Because water levels can change throughout the winter, make sure you only go where the ice is thick and stay close to shore.

While you’re in the area, you can also experience the beauty of two frozen waterfalls. Crescent Falls has two waterfalls on the Bighorn River. It’s about 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles) round-trip hike to see them. Once there, you can see the falls from the lookout at the top or make your way down the hill to the plateau between the falls for a spectacular view.

13. The Calgary Zoo

King Penguins at the Calgary Zoo

You can do some pretty neat animal watching at the Calgary Zoo, it is one of the top-rated attractions in Alberta.

My favorite activity at the Calgary Zoo is the penguin walk that happens every day, weather dependent, at 10:00 a.m. The penguin walk is a short 15-minute walk where you get to follow the king penguins through the park as they get their daily exercise. It’s a great photo opportunity!

Some of the other animals at the zoo include Amur Tigers, African Lions, Grey Wolves, Bison, and many more.

If you visit around the holidays you can also expect to see a wonderful display of Christmas lights throughout the park called Zoolights – an attraction in Calgary not to be missed in the month of December

Adult tickets to the zoo cost $29.95 CAD, seniors $27.95 CAD, Children (3-15) $19.95 CAD, and kids under 3 are free. There is also a daily parking fee of $13 CAD. The zoo is open all year round too!

14. Downtown Calgary

view of Calgary in the wintery month of December
Calgary is beautiful in every season!

As Alberta’s largest city, Calgary is a bustling metropolis filled with exciting things to do in see. Not only does Calgary sit on the doorstep of the Rocky Mountains but it’s also home to a large international airport. This makes Calgary a popular port of entry in Alberta that’s surrounded by beauty!

I’ve been lucky enough to explore Calgary during many different times of the year, and there’s definitely plenty to keep you busy. Here are some of my top activities and areas to check out:

  • Go on a city tour – the best way to familiarize yourself with Calgary is on a city tour where a guide will take you around to the most popular landmarks. One of the most affordable and efficient options in this 2-hour scooter tour for $55 CAD. If the weather is nice, cruising around Calgary on a scooter will be much more fun than a standard walking or bus tour!
  • 17th Ave South – Also known as the Red Mile, this is your best destination if you want to hit the nightlife in Calgary. It is home to many restaurants and clubs and the go-to destination for young party-goers after a Flames hockey game if you’re visiting Calgary in the winter.
  • Stephen Avenue – Also known as 8 Ave SW, is a pedestrian-only walkway in Calgary that boasts some of the city’s best shopping and dining. If you visit in the wintertime, Stephen Ave gets dressed up in its holiday finest with thousands of Christmas lights.
  • Calgary Tower This is one of the best indoor activities in Calgary, which allows you to see the city from a new perspective. At the Calgary Tower, a glass floor suspended 200 m (656 ft) above the ground will give you a bird’s eye view of Calgary as well as the Canadian Rocky Mountains. A visit to the Calgary Tower costs $19.95 CAD for adults and children are only $9.45 CAD.

Where to Stay in Downtown Calgary:

Calgary is a large city so there are plenty of places to stay within the city. The trick is to pick a hotel with a great location depending on the activities you plan on doing.

Wicked Hostels is a good choice for budget travelers. The hostel is clean, comfortable, and located in a good area. Plus you have the flexibility to book on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com to snag a great deal.

If you can spend a bit more, the Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and Suites is perfect. The rooms are beautiful, breakfast is included, and the location is ideal.

For luxury travelers, check out the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire. This hotel overlooks the river valley, and comes with an indoor pool (with waterslide), hot tub, fitness center, hair salon, and gift shop.

Related Read: For another amazing Canadian city, check out all the fun things to do in Toronto, Ontario including tours to Niagara Falls!

15. Royal Tyrell Museum

A dinosaur fossil at the Royal Tyrrell Museum
The bones are so well preserved and seeing them in full scale is memorizing!

The Alberta Badlands are one unique destination that’s not to be missed. This area is famous for its dinosaur bones and vast landscapes that are unlike anywhere else you’ve ever been.

The number one thing to do on a trip to the Badlands is to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller. In fact, about 375,000 tourists visit the Museum every year making it the most visited provincial museum in Alberta! Surely, 375,000 people can’t be wrong and the Royal Tyrell Museum is easily one of the best things to do in Drumheller – if not, all of Alberta!

Be sure to take your time going through the Museum as there is a lot to learn! A self-guided tour of the Museum takes you through the five phases of mass extinction. A lovely halfway break is visiting the Learning Lounge full of hands-on activities enjoyed just as much by the adults as the children. Put your head in a T-Rex simulator and look for prey or race different species of dinosaurs around a track to see which is fastest. 

You can also do special tours and activities within the Royal Tyrrell Museum. These include hiking tours and checking out a real dinosaur dig. The last time we were there, we decided to do the 45-minute fossil activity for $10 CAD per person. We were able to cast a Megalodon and Mastodon tooth, which made a great souvenir of our trip. As our fossils dried, a paleontologist showed us many other fossils – and we even got to hold fossilized dinosaur poop!

Timed tickets can be purchased online for your desired entry time months in advance. During peak season, tickets do sell out, so be sure to buy them early to avoid disappointment. Adults are $21 CAD, and children under six are free. A day pass for a family costs $50 CAD and is automatically applied to your cart once you account for everyone in your group. 

The Royal Tyrrell Museum Museum is open all year round, but hours do vary depending on the season. From September 1st to May 14th from 10 am to 5 pm every day except Mondays. However, the museum is open on public holiday Mondays.

16. The Hoodoos in the Badlands

The Drumheller Hoodoos
Pretty unique right?!

The hoodoos are synonymous with the Badlands, and there are some located only 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) from Drumheller!

For those who don’t know, hoodoos are a distinct rock formation created when softer sedimentary rock is eroded by the wind, forming large columns that stick out of the earth up five to seven meters tall (23 feet). They take millions of years to form and always have a hard rock on top of them.

The Hoodoos in Drumheller are impressive and they’re the best ones I have seen in Canada, especially with their unique shapes. There is a short boardwalk around the hoodoos which gives you a really close look at them.

There is a $2 CAD parking fee to use the parking lot, but the natural outdoor attraction is technically free. Hoodoos are delicate, and several of the hoodoos are roped off for preservation. 

You can easily explore all of the Hoodoos in under 30 minutes.

17. Dinosaur Provincial Park

A dinosaur at the visitor center in Dinosaur Provincial Park
One of the fossils in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Dinosaur Provincial Park was one of my favorite parts of our trip in the Badlands and Drumheller.

Dinosaur Provincial Park is located around a 1.5 hours drive from Drumheller and can be visited for the day or by staying in the campground. I myself spent 3 nights in the campground and loved exploring the area as well as the museum at the visitor center.

For those who don’t know, Dinosaur Provincial Park is where excavators found lots of dinosaur remains that were transported all over the world. In fact, it was home to some of the most important discoveries in history. Visitors can walk the many trails around the park and view real fossils as well as find their own.

On top of that, the visitor center is home to a large museum with real bones, interactive displays, and tons of cool facts and information. Although in one day you could explore some o the trails and see the museum, staying a night is recommended. The stars out here are gorgeous and there’s plenty to see and do!

18. Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lakes National Park on a sunny summer day
Simply stunning!

In Waterton Lakes National Park, you get the product of the prairies of Alberta meeting the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. You can experience clear lakes, thundering waterfalls, rainbow-colored streams, colorful rocks, and beautiful mountain vistas.

The great thing about Waterton Lakes National Park is it’s much quieter than the other parks in Alberta such as Banff. Here you can experience a great amount of nature and wildlife in a (relatively) small and accessible area.

A few things you won’t want to miss checking out:

  • Lakeside Waterton Village – You can easily explore this tiny village by foot in a short amount of time. It’s full of adorable shops, restaurants, and galleries. The village is notably charming and welcoming and you’ll easily understand why this is on the list when you go.
  • Hiking trails – Arguably the best way to explore the park is by trail. There are over 200 kilometers (125 miles) of hiking trails, some ranked in the top 10 in Canada. One of the most popular and well-known trails is the Crypt Lake Trail. On this hike, you get to experience a boat ride, waterfalls, cliff scale, and a tunnel crawl! You can also experience the trails via mountain bike or horseback riding if you prefer.
  • The biodiverse ecology – You can find half of Alberta’s plant varieties in the park including a great number of rare species. If you visit in the summer months, there are beautiful wildflowers everywhere. And of course, you have the opportunity to spot wildlife such as black bears, bighorn sheep, elk, whitetail deer, bison, and more.

19. Emerald Lake

People canoe on Emerald Lake
This place is so gorgeous!

Yoho National Park is technically in British Columbia, but it’s right on the border. I feel like I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t bring it up though as its crown jewel, Emerald Lake is a stop that should not be missed.

Emerald Lake is located around 35 minutes from Lake Louise is largely considered one of the top attractions in Canada. In winter, you can visit the lake and see the famous Emerald Lake Lodge which appears to sit on an island in the lake. In the summer, you can canoe, kayak, or paddleboard on the lake.

Although the small patch of land is actually connected to the mainland, the hotel still has 360-degree views of the lake and the President Range.

If you can, visit at sunrise or sunset for the best views (spending a night at the lodge will make this easy.) This place is so beautiful and very popular among photographers!

20. Sylvan Lake

Renting a boat or sea-doo is a great way to spend a few hours at Sylvan Lake. Photo Credit: Sun Sport Recreation

Sylvan Lake is one of Alberta’s best-kept secrets! This small lakeside community is located on the edge of Sylvan Lake, which is about 25 km (15 miles) from Red Deer, Alberta. It’s in between the larger cities of Calgary and Edmonton (approximately 150 km (93 miles) away from either).

Having lived in Edmonton for most of my life, Sylvan Lake was a regular vacation spot for my family. I’ve been there countless times, and have therefore discovered plenty of fun things to see and do in Sylvan Lake. Be sure to check out these activities:

  • Get out on the water with a boat or sea-doo – If you’re going to be hanging out at Sylvan Lake, you absolutely must get out boating or sea-doing – this lake is made for it! You can rent boats at a number of places in town, but we recommend Sun Sport Recreation which offers a variety of boats and sea-doos to choose from. Boats will typically cost about $150+ CAD/hour, so it’s definitely worth grabbing a few people to go in on it with you.
  • Walk the marina – It’s so fun seeing all the boats docked there and just generally taking in the sites. It’s busy in the summer, so there will be a lot of activity with boats coming and going and people just enjoying being out on the lake. If you’re in the mood for a little romance, this is also the best place in town to catch a gorgeous sunset!
  • Mini golf and go-karts – If you’re looking for a little fun with the family, Lakeside Go-Karts & Mini Golf is the place to go! They’re located just beside the lake, a quick walk from downtown Sylvan Lake. You’ll have so much fun ripping around the track in your go-kart or bumper car – it’s just like being a kid again! Their mini golf course has 18 holes for you to perfect that swing!
  • Visit the local brewery – What would a trip to a lakeside town be without tasting the local brews? Snake Lake Brewing Company in Sylvan Lake has a whole bunch of award-winning craft beers for you to try! Their tasting room is open seven days a week to try out a pint or flight, or you can fill up a growler and take it back home with you!

Where to Stay in Sylvan Lake:

There are tons of great places to stay in Sylvan Lake. For a budget-friendly room for a couple or small family check out Edgewater Inn. It is as central as it gets and the prices are great!

For something a little more luxurious, you can’t pass on the Best Western Plus Chateau Inn. It is located just outside of the downtown area but within walking distance. The reviews are also outstanding – it’s the perfect option for anybody looking for a nicer hotel stay (to be honest, there aren’t a lot of these in Sylvan Lake.)

If you’re traveling with a larger group, this holiday home sleeps up to 9 people. It is only a 10-minute walk to the beach and features 3 beds as well as a BBQ and patio!

21. The West Edmonton Mall

the inside of west edmonton mall, view of the brudge and ship
There are lots of things to do in West Edmonton Mall, more than just shopping!

The West Edmonton Mall (WEM) is the largest mall in the country, so it should come as no surprise that it’s one of the best places to visit in Alberta. But it isn’t just a place to shop until you drop (although there are more than 800 stores for you to do just that!). The mall is a destination all on its own with attractions, entertainment, and exciting activities for the whole family.

I mean, how many malls can boast they have an indoor skating rink, roller coasters, and waterpark? 

It’s easy to see why the West Edmonton Mall is considered one of Alberta’s top attractions, and it’s one of my favorite places to visit in Edmonton. In fact, in my late teens, I actually worked in West Edmonton Mall for about four years. I’ve spent so much time there over the years, and still enjoy visiting whenever I’m back in Edmonton.

There are tons of things to do in West Edmonton Mall, be sure not to miss:

  • The West Edmonton Mall Waterpark – Get ready to ride the waves at the World Waterpark in West Edmonton Mall. This waterpark has 20 different waterslides and other features including the world’s largest indoor wave pool. The waterpark is kept at a balmy 31°C (88°F), so it feels like a tropical getaway in the middle of the city. You can even keep the vacation atmosphere going and rent a cabana to spend the day.
  • Explore Galaxyland – There’s nothing quite like an amusement park, and with one right inside the West Edmonton Mall, you don’t need to worry about bad weather putting a damper on the day. Even on the coldest days in Edmonton in winter, you can enjoy Galaxyland.
  • Experience DRIVE (WEM’s newest attraction) – The track features a New York streetscape, and these cars are an upgrade from the old-school go-carts many of us grew up with. Each race will have 10-12 racers on the track, so it feels like a real competition! Each race is about seven minutes long and involves 14 laps around the track. All racers have to be 14 years of age or older to drive.
  • Attend a comedy show – The West Edmonton Mall is also the perfect place to catch live entertainment. The Comic Strip is a great little comedy club located on Bourbon Street.  You might see comics who’ve been on The Daily Show, America’s Got Talent, the Just for Laughs Festival, or The Tonight Show. They also feature upcoming stars in comedy, so you’ll be sure to have a few laughs no matter who you see.

22. Whyte Ave

two women walking along Whyte Ave in Edmonton
Whyte Ave is a trendy place to explore in Edmonton.

Whyte Avenue (also known as 82 Ave) is one of Edmonton’s trendiest neighborhoods. It has a rich arts and culture feel and tons of unique stores, bars, and restaurants.  

I recommend dropping into The Next Act for lunch. It’s a casual pub with great food, including their amazing burgers with fun names like The Critic and The Drama Queen. For drinks, stop into The Pint and try one of their signature frozen cocktails. 

Shopping is also great along Whyte Avenue, and one of my favorite spots is Bamboo Ballroom. It is a small boutique store that carries stylish women’s clothes. There are plenty of other unique shops along Whyte Ave – perfect for souvenir shopping too!

The Cat Café on Whyte Ave is also a perfect spot to grab a coffee and some snuggles with cute critters. It’s Alberta’s first cat café and features cat-themed drinks and furry friends up for adoption. You can visit for an hour at a time for one price that includes admission to the cat lounge and unlimited drinks. Depending on the day you go, admission averages around $16-$18 CAD for adults and $6-$13 CAD for kids. 

Where to Stay in Edmonton:

If you’re checking out Whyte Ave you’re going to want to stay in Edmonton. There are tons of different hotels to choose from spread across Edmonton. The Varscona Hotel on Whyte is a great budget option with a solid location and excellent reviews.

If you’re wanting more of a luxury stay, you can do a Metterra Hotel on Whyte. It includes a gym, rooms with a spa bath, and a library lounge with a fireplace along with the prime location.

You can also opt for the West Edmonton Mall Inn that’s located just across the street from the West Edmonton Mall if you plan on doing that as well. The rooms here are comfortable and the location couldn’t be better for enjoying the mall with ease.

Related Read: You can start a road trip to the Rockies in Edmonton! I love the drive from Edmonton to Banff or Edmonton to Jasper – the scenery is second to none!

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass”Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Renting a Car in Alberta

The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park
The Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!

We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.

They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!

Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)

Canada Travel Essentials

Bailey stands on a mountain in essential gear for the Canadian Rockies
A windproof jacket and Buff will save you in the mountains!

Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.

Crampons: In winter, crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $37 CAD and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!

Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part, though? It comes in pink!

Bear bells: These are a must, and for the price, you shouldn’t hike without them. The bear bells I use are only $3.99 CAD and they come with a silencer (a must) so you can easily travel with them.

Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.

Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.

Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment, so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.

Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in handy so many times, especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $28 CAD and they serve my basic needs without any issues!

Thanks for reading!

A couple take a selfie at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park
Thanks for reading!

There are so many amazing places to visit in Alberta! I feel very lucky to have gotten to explore so much of them, and I hope that you get the opportunity to do the same. Each place really does offer something totally unique to be experienced.

Let me know your favorite place you’ve visited in Alberta in the comments! Be sure to check out our other Alberta blogs as well as some other popular posts:

BEST tours on the Icefields Parkway

Things to do in Stanley Park, Vancouver

Things to do in Golden in winter