Located in Western Canada, between British Columbia and Saskatchewan Alberta is a province with incredible diversity. The snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, desert badlands, vast forests and stunning lakes – Alberta has it all!
Alberta is home to some of Canada’s most popular tourist attractions, including Banff National Park, Jasper National Park and the vibrant cities of Calgary and Edmonton. The province of Alberta is certainly one of the more popular places to visit in Canada.
This region is a haven for adventurers, with a number of outdoor experiences including skiing, mountain biking and hiking. No matter what kind of holiday you’re after, you’ll be able to find plenty of things to do in Alberta.
Having spent a few months adventuring through Alberta we can attest that this is a truly epic place to visit in Canada. Keep reading this guide to find out the best things to do in Alberta, Canada, no matter when you decide to visit.
Best time to visit Alberta
The weather can vary dramatically in Alberta, Canada, but it is a beautiful place to visit no matter the season. Ultimately, what you want to see and do in Alberta will determine what time of year you should go.
The hottest months of the year are summertime – June until August. Daytime temperatures in the summer months average around 23-25°C with nice cooler evenings. This is also when you’ll get longer daylight hours. So, it’s perfect for outdoor activities and all the best things to do in Alberta.
In Winter, from November until February, temperatures are cold, with average lows around -15°C. This is the best time of year for snow activities and for visiting the many ski resorts in the Canadian Rockies. There is a lot of charm in visiting Alberta over Christmas and NYE.
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, the shoulder seasons in Fall and Spring offer good options. The month of May can see some nice weather without the crowds of summer visitors.
In our opinion, early Fall is the best time to visit Alberta. The fall colours can be magnificent in Alberta. Also, you’ll be able to enjoy the golden larches from September to October. The weather is warm but not hot, so it’s perfect for hiking and on some days, even occasional swims in the lakes.
Getting around Alberta
The two major cities in Alberta are Edmonton, the capital of the province, and Calgary, a cosmopolitan and culturally rich city. Both are located on major highways and have a variety of transport links, including scheduled coaches and regional bus shuttles and a limited train network.
While you can certainly visit some of the popular areas, including Calgary, Banff National Park and Jasper National Park by public transport, it can be difficult to have complete freedom. Much like a USA road trip, the best mode of transport for sightseeing in Alberta is with your own vehicle on a self-drive tour.
The most common thing to do when visiting Alberta is to fly into Calgary or Edmonton and rent a car from the airport for the duration of your time in Alberta. You can also rent a campervan/RV which will allow you to explore Alberta’s National Parks and stay at campgrounds, bringing down the overall cost of your trip. It also allows for some incredible views and the opportunity to wild camp in Alberta’s wilderness!
No matter how you choose to explore, an Alberta road trip provides the ultimate freedom to enjoy the province and plan your own trip at your own pace.
Best Things to do in Alberta
Over the last few years, we’ve had the pleasure of spending. We traveled around the province with our campervan, Benji and got a chance to visit many of Alberta’s main sights and attractions as well as off-the-beaten path destinations.
To help you plan a vacation in Alberta, Canada, here are the best things to do and see around the province.
Banff National Park
Banff is a dream destination for many visitors to Canada. It’s easily the most visited tourist attraction in the whole province. As one of the most beautiful parts of the Canadian Rockies, the town and national park is a must-see on any Alberta vacation.
Known for its ski resorts, hot springs, incredible glacier-fed lakes, snow-capped mountains and outdoor activities, Banff offers a quintessential Alberta experience.
There’s so much to see and do in Banff National Park. You can easily spend a week or more just enjoying this beautiful region.
Best Things to do in Banff
- Stroll around the tourist town of Banff on the Bow River, enjoying the restaurants, coffee shops and shops
- Take a trip up the Banff Gondola for spectacular views of Banff National Park
- Spend an afternoon at the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Sitting below Sulphur Mountain, the springs are naturally heated to a constant temperature of 37°C and 40°C. It’s a particularly popular activity following a long hike.
- Stay at Banff Springs Hotel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an incredibly historic place to stay in Banff, with 300 rooms across 11-storeys.
- Visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site to learn about the history of the area, which is considered the birthplace of Canada’s national parks.
- Enjoy a trip to Lake Minnewanka, especially in the summer. There’s plenty to do at the glacial lake, including canoeing, hiking, cycling, fishing and a Lake Minnewanka Cruise.
- Head off on one of the many hiking trails in Banff National Park. Some of our favorites include Tunnel Mountain, Johnston Canyon, Cascade Mountain and Arnica Lake. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the crisp mountain air.
- Go lake hopping. Visit Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks (which we think is even more picturesque than Lake Louise!), Peyto Lake, Lake Agnes, Bow Lake and Helen Lake. Moraine Lake is by far the most popular after Lake Louise, so you should plan for an early morning visit.
Visit Lake Louise
Lake Louise is one of the most famous lakes in the world and for good reason. The incredible glacier-fed lake boasts an unreal turquoise colour and is surrounded by the Canadian Rockies.
It’s by far one of the most popular tourist attractions in Alberta and along with the nearby Moraine Lake is always extremely busy. Plan to visit Lake Louise early in the day to avoid the crowds. Shuttles are available from Banff town if you want to avoid the hassle of parking.
Once you’re at the lake, there are plenty of things to see and do!
Best Things to do Around Lake Louise
- Canoeing on Lake Louise is one of the most picturesque ways to experience the lake. You can rent a canoe from the Fairmont Chateau Boathouse.
- In the summer, you can get an incredible view of Lake Louise from the Lake Louise Gondola. In the winter, enjoy skiing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
- You can stay for the night or enjoy afternoon tea at the stunning, historic Fairmont Chateau – the only hotel that overlooks Lake Louise.
- Avid hikers should tackle the trail to Agnes Tea House, a 3.5km hike from Lake Louise or enjoy a longer trail to Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse either on foot or on horseback. Hiking around Lake Louise is one of the best things to do in Alberta, Canada in summer.
Drive the Icefields Parkway
If you’re exploring Alberta tourist spots with your own vehicle, then a drive along the Icefields Parkway is a must. It’s often considered one of the most scenic road trips in Canada with some of the best views in Alberta, Canada.
The Icefields Parkway runs for 200km from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park. While some people drive the stretch in a day, there are plenty of things to see and do along the way, which make it worthwhile taking a couple of days to complete.
Some of the must-see stops on the Icefields Parkway include:
- Bow Lake is an incredible glacial lake on the Icefields Parkway that is easy to enjoy en route. The pullover is just off the highway.
- Peyto Lake is fed by the Peyto Glacier and is one of the most incredibly stunning lakes in Banff National Park. There is a short trail leading up to the lookout.
- Athabasca Glacier is an incredibly breathtaking stop on the Icefields Parkway. It is part of the Columbia Icefield and is best seen on the Columbia Icefields’ tour.
- Glacier Skywalk is a cool 1km glass-bottom observation deck, just south of Jasper. It offers incredible views of the Columbia Icefield.
Jasper National Park
After Banff, Jasper National Park is one of the most visited Alberta attractions. The largest national park in the dramatic Rocky Mountains, Jasper is home to some of the most beautiful places in Alberta.
Jasper National Park’s beauty lies in its incredible glaciers, waterfalls, lakes and wildlife that make it quite unlike anywhere else in the province.
Best Things to do in Jasper National Park
- Maligne Lake is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lakes in Jasper National Park. Kayaking around Maligne Lake is one of the most fun things to do in Alberta in the summer, and the best way to reach Spirit Island at the end of the lake.
- Maligne Canyon is considered the deepest canyon in the Rockies. You can traverse all six of the bridges built across Maligne Canyon to enjoy the incredible view along the way.
- A variety of wildlife, including red deer, marmots, black bears and grizzly bears.
- The national park is home to some incredible waterfalls, including Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls.
- Ride the SkyTram up to the Whistlers Mountain Summit, on the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada.
- Go for a ski at the Marmot Basin Ski Resort, just outside of Jasper. Snowboarding and ski runs are suitable for all ages.
Located just south of Banff, Canmore is a town in the Rocky Mountains, known for its rugged peaks and plenty of outdoor activities. One of the biggest Alberta tourist attractions in Canmore is the large cave network through the mountains.
A Canmore cave tour is one of the best things to do in Alberta and a must when visiting the area. Tours usually consist of a 4-hour trip climbing, crawling and sliding through caves with an experienced guide.
It also includes a visit to the infamous Rat’s Nest Cave, which has been designated a Provincial Historic Resource. It’s definitely one of the cool places to go in Alberta for adventure seekers.
If you are wondering what to do in Alberta, Canada to get away from the crowds, Kananaskis Country offers some of the best of Alberta landscapes without the bustle. Located on the border with British Columbia, southwest of Calgary, the region is nestled at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
One of the highlights of the area is Rawson Lake. There is an incredible 7km loop hike there which offers beautiful views of the green lake. It is far less visited than more popular ones in Banff and Jasper. Kananaskis is a popular part of the Rockies to visit by locals from Calgary to escape the tourist crowds at Banff and Jasper.
The main city and hub of southern Alberta, Calgary is one of the best places to vacation in Alberta. While some people skip the city and head for the Canadian Rockies, it’s worth spending at least a couple of days checking out the urban metropolis and cultural heart of Alberta.
You can go biking along Bow River, climb to the top of Calgary Tower and go shopping in Downtown Calgary. Calgary Tower offers an incredible panoramic view of the city and is amongst the most fun stuff to do in Alberta. You’ll also find a great blend of restaurants in the city, with some of the best foodie experiences found in the entire province.
One of the Alberta points of interest in Calgary is the Heritage Park Historical Village, a huge parkland on the banks of the Glenmore Reservoir. The park offers a great way to learn about the history of the area and is one of the most visited attractions in the city.
Plan your visit for July if you want to experience the Calgary Stampede. Dubbed “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, the annual 10-day rodeo, exhibition and festival is held the 3rd week of July in Calgary, Alberta.
Despite being the second-most populous city in Alberta, Edmonton is often overlooked by those visiting the province. But, a couple of days in the state capital is one of the best things to do in Central Alberta, Canada.
One of the best things to do in Edmonton is to explore the expansive Edmonton River Valley. Known as Canada’s largest urban park, it’s a series of 20 major parks connected with 160kms of trails on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River.
Another one of the unique things to do in Edmonton, Alberta is a visit to the Fort Edmonton Park. The attraction is considered the largest living history museum in Canada, with historical structures and a wonderful park area.
Avid shoppers can check out the West Edmonton Mall – the largest shopping mall in North America. The West Edmonton Mall is just west of Downtown and not far from Fort Edmonton Park. You can easily combine a visit to both in a day.
Elk Island National Park
Located just a 45-minute drive from Edmonton, Elk Island offers a great day trip from the city. The stunning park area gives you access to unique wildlife, rugged peaks and sub-alpine landscapes.
The highlight of a visit is seeing bison herds which roam around the forest. The national park has become a protected sanctuary. Spotting them is definitely one of the best things to do in Alberta for animal lovers. It’s also one of the best places to visit in Alberta in spring. You’ll get to see the unique sight of the bison shedding their coats from winter fur to their lighter summer coat.
Elk Island National Park is also home to plenty of hiking trails ranging from short to longer hikes connecting the Elk Lakes. There is much less access during the wintertime. However, you’ll more likely see a frozen lake amongst an incredible winter wonderland.
The small town outside of Calgary is famous for its location in the middle of the Canadian Badlands and the surrounding dinosaur fossils. While it’s quite a difference from the landscapes you’ll find in Banff and Jasper, it’s still one of the best places to go in Alberta.
An Alberta point of interest you can’t miss in Drumheller is the Royal Tyrrell Museum located just 4km north of the town. The Royal Tyrrell Museum is an incredible exhibition dedicated to dinosaurs and their fossils. It’s an attraction for all ages!
If you want to see more real dinosaur fossils, you should follow the Dinosaur Trail, a 48km tourist route that starts in Drumheller and takes you through the Badlands, running parallel to the Red Deer River.
Dinosaur Provincial Park
The Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist spot in Alberta, especially for families. It’s one of the Alberta landmarks that you need to stop and see while driving around the Badlands.
The huge park area is known for its extensive abundance of dinosaur fossils. The park has 58 different species having been identified in the area. There are a number of trails in the park showcasing the stunning geological diversity of the region. The Scenic Loop drive inside the park, features a number of fossil displays with real dinosaur bones and fascinating information about the species.
Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Centre is one of the most unique places to go to in Alberta with kids. The Visitor Centre offers information on trails and activities and can help organize Interpretive Tour Programs lead by Alberta Parks staff. Camping is available inside the park, but there is no other accommodation options, so plan ahead!
Located just outside of Drumheller, Horseshoe Canyon is one of the most incredible landmarks of the Badlands. The canyon has been carved out into a U shape. The walls eroded over time showcases the incredible geology of the area.
There are numerous hiking trails into the canyon as well as lookouts and viewpoints which offer an impressive panorama of the natural land formations. You can also camp in the park, which means you can take in the incredible night sky without light pollution. It’s one of the best things to do in Alberta for keen photographers.
Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park is located right on the border with the USA and is one of the best things to do in southern Alberta. The Canadian side of the park features the gorgeous azure waters of Waterton Lake as well as a National Historic Site of Canada called the Prince of Wales Hotel. The landmark 1920s lodge sits right on the bank of the lake. It is one of the most magical Alberta destinations.
The heritage park is also an incredible place for outdoor activities, with mountain biking, hiking and water sports, all with a dramatic backdrop of mountains. While it may not be as popular as other destinations in the province, Waterton Lakes is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Alberta, Canada for outdoor lovers.
Turtle Mountain and Castle Provincial Park
There are couple of places that you could easily consider to be hidden gems in Alberta. This includes Turtle Mountain and Castle Provincial Park. These hiking destinations are especially cool places to visit in Alberta in summer. Turtle Mountain offers an iconic hike up a craggy mountain peak just outside of the town of Frank.
Castle Provincial Park is an incredible wilderness area for hiking, fishing and swimming. It’s definitely one of the best cheap things to do in Alberta, Canada during the summer for those wanting to avoid the crowds and prices in the popular Alberta parks.
Definitely one of the most unique things to do in Alberta is to see the Northern Lights. Fort McMurray one of the few destinations in Canada within the auroral band. It’s located in remote northeast Alberta in Canada.
Plan your visit for October through March and you can try your luck at spotting the Aurora Borealis dance. The lights are most prevalent on cold and clear nights and can usually be seen from 9pm to 3am. Be prepared to go a bit outside of town to get the brightest show.
Heading out into the darkness to catch the Northern Lights has to be one of the most romantic things to do in Alberta. So, don’t miss it if you’re traveling with your partner. It’s definitely an experience that is a must-see in Alberta, Canada.
Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada
Wood Buffalo National Park is the largest national park in Canada. The incredibly large wilderness area takes up most of northern Alberta. It’s dedicated to preserving Canada’s last wood bison and is an incredible conservation story.
The best way to explore the wilderness area is by camping and waiting for nightfall to catch the Northern Lights. The dark sky here is one of the most unique attractions of Alberta, Canada.
More activities in the park area include hiking, swimming and paddling around Pine Lake, where there are cabins to stay as well. While not many visitors make it to the park, it’s definitely one of the most incredible things to do in Alberta for those wanting to see the vast wilderness.
As you can see, the province of Alberta is home to some unique destinations and experiences in Canada. Whether you are looking for outdoor activities or urban experiences, looking to visit in the summer or enjoy the snow-capped region in the winter, there are plenty of things to do in Alberta for every traveler!