September 11, 2012
My husband is from Alberta, and his sister was getting married in Edmonton. The time was right to bring the kids out west, and show them the province their dad grew up in. We wanted to pack as much into our trip as possible, but as road trip newbies, we were hoping to spend as little time in the car as we could. Fortunately for us, Alberta is perfect for such a trip – short drives between stops, plus a variety of landscapes, nature, and attractions that are beautiful, educational, and most importantly, fun!
We flew into Calgary, and after we picked up our rental car, were rarin’ to go. There are so many things to do in Calgary that it was tough to narrow down our activities. First stop? Heritage Park. This recreation of a frontier village is a lovely spot for little ones to explore and learn, with an authentic steam train traveling around the perimeter of the park. The Calgary Zoo is ten minutes from downtown, and brings you up close and personal with so many incredible animals. The Penguin Plunge experience is fantastic, and well worth the wait. We stayed at Nuvo Suites, and our large studio apartment with a full kitchen was located in a cool part of downtown. It’s across the street from a supermarket, and with a Starbucks AND a liquor store next door, Nuvo Suites is a great and affordable option for families to stay in Calgary.
Less than two hours east of Calgary is Drumheller, so of course a stop at the Royal Tyrell Museum was in order. The landscape of the Badlands was like nothing I’d ever seen before, and I’m sure you could be forgiven for mistaking it with Utah. The museum holds one of the world’s largest collections of dinosaur bones, and is a learning experience like no other. During the summer months there are daily hikes and dinosaur digs. About ten minutes down the road are Drumheller’s Hoodoos – unique rock formations created from years of erosion. Best hotel in town is the Ramada – fun pool and waterslide, free WiFi, and fantastic breakfast included.
Backtracking through Calgary to Banff – the drive took us under three hours and the landscape changes from Badlands to Prairie to the Rocky Mountains. The gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain is eight minutes of awesome, and the Skywalk to the historic Sanson’s Peak Meteorological Station is an easy walk via a walkway and stairs. The Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets not only provide families with the room and amenities they need, but also has a fantastic indoor playground and waterslides that make Banff fun if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Just 45 minutes away in Lake Louise, enjoy easy yet beautiful hikes and the most picturesque Moraine Lake is just perfect for rock throwing.
En route to Jasper, one of the the longer stretches of driving is also the most spectacular. The Icefields Parkway connects Banff and Jasper National Parks, and roughly two-thirds of the way there brings you to the incredible Columbia Icefields. Brewster Tours conducts tours out onto the surface of the Athabasca Glacier – formed from 400-year-old snow and ice. For safety’s sake, it’s important to explore the glacier with experienced guides and tours. When you arrive in Jasper, Best Western Jasper Inn & Suites is a roomy and affordable option for families to relax – with a great pool and wonderful buffet breakfast that is free for children five and under.
Now that you’ve got so many miles under your belt, the four hours it takes to get to Edmonton to Jasper is a walk in the park. The Muttart Conservatory with its four pyramids jutting out of the river valley, is a soothing and tranquil outing that allows you to connect with a different kind of Alberta’s nature. But a stop to West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping mall in North America, can reconnect you to the manmade world with an indoor amusement park and skating rink – to name but a few attractions inside. A stay in one of the Fantasyland Hotel’s themed rooms (ours was Western–themed) combines fun with convenience – no need to leave the mall to hit the indoor waterpark – and who wouldn’t want to sleep in the county jail?
Corinne McDermott is the founder of http://havebabywilltravel.com – an award-winning family travel website for families with babies and toddlers. Her trip was subsidized by Travel Alberta.
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