18 Reasons We Love Alberta

Wide open prairies and soaring Rocky Mountains, Alberta is defined by diversity. From the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site to the Great Plains, where both dinosaurs and buffalo roamed, the Alberta landscape invites nature-loving visitors to get outside and explore. In the cities, the booming Edmonton and Calgary both delivery their own unique cosmopolitan flare without ignoring the province’s ageless western culture. This is why we love Alberta.

AB-93, Alberta, Canada
The Icefield Parkway isn’t just a highway linking Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta. It’s a 230-km road trip through the Canadian Rockies, past a series of emerald-green alpine lakes fed by nearby glaciers. The entire route connects Jasper and Banff national parks and traverses the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage site. Heading south from Jasper, the first must-see landmark is Athabasca Falls. After that, the sights come one after the other, like the Endless Chain, Sunwapta Falls, the Athabasca Glacier, Waterfowl Lake, and Bow Summit. That’s just the tip of the Icefield, though, as there are hundreds of breathtaking sights. The drive can take as little as three hours; however, it can also last for days. Throughout the summer there are a number of resorts along the route, along with a half-dozen campgrounds. The road is open throughout the winter, but there are no open services.
Athabasca Glacier, Improvement District No. 12, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
Standing on the white-blue ancient ice of the Athabasca Glacier in Alberta, Canada, fulfilled a lifelong dream I never knew I had. The Athabasca Glacier, a tongue of ice 6 kilometers long and one kilometer wide, is part of the Columbia Icefields, located at the Continental Divide. While doing my second artist residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Banff National Park, I felt compelled to take an excursion up to the Icefields. Last year, I had come across the tour brochure and rejected it outright, but the idea had stayed with me: I could be an ice explorer. Me! I’ve been known to say, “I hate snow.” I don’t like to be cold; therefore, walking on infinite layers of ice didn’t seem like me. When my tour group arrived at the base of the Athabasca Glacier, we got into a massive bus that took us down a sheer incline and out onto the ice. It felt like we were on the surface of the moon. The crevices and craters revealed wild streaks of electric blue. I filled my water bottle with water from the gurgling stream. Crisp. It tasted like crispness. The ice on the glacier is said to be as deep as the Eiffel Tower is high, and I was on top of it all. I danced with joy; I danced with gratitude; I danced because I felt like dancing. This could be you. You can drive to the Columbia Icefields, where you can buy a ticket for admission. My tour was through Explore Rockies.
555 Jewell St, Rosedale, AB T0J 2V0, Canada
The Rosedeer Hotel is one of the first buildings you see in Wayne, sitting squat on a narrow piece of land between the railroad tracks and the hills behind. It looks like a movie set, and has been. Running Brave, Shanghai Noon, and In Cold Blood were shot here along with numerous commercials and music videos. A ten-gallon hat riddled with bullet holes wouldn’t look out of place. Don’t expect fancy cuisine—burgers are the norm, and if you want a steak, you’ll be delivered the meat and instructions on how to use the BBQ out back. But people don’t come for the food. Wayne is an authentic Western outpost, built before the road and at one time a thriving town, thanks to the nearby Rosedeer Coal Mine. People come in now for photo ops, for a chance to see one of the few remaining holdouts of the Wild West, and because the 100-year-old hotel and adjacent saloon are said to be haunted. But owner Fred Dayman, who was born and raised in the hotel, won’t talk about it. Book a room, if you dare, and find out for yourself.
405 Spray Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1J4, Canada
This hotel is on our list of The 10 Best Hotels in Canada.

Set in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Banff National Park, the year-round Fairmont Banff Springs was the brainchild of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. On arrival at Banff, the tourism visionary made the canny observation, “Since we can’t export the scenery, we’ll have to import the tourists;” thus, he set about building a string of great railway hotels across Canada. The original wooden hotel that opened here in 1888 burned down in 1926, but was replaced two years later with the grander castle-meets-baronial-Scottish-hall structure that exists today. The public lobby spaces are vast, and there are countless nooks to curl up in with a book where guests will remain undisturbed. With its signature stone walls, turrets, and winding staircases, Van Horne’s gambit paid off: The Fairmont Banff Springs feels for all the world like an elegant and ancient castle, albeit one with all the modern conveniences.

Rooms in the main building come with quirky period details such as chandeliers and crown moldings, while those in the Stanley Thompson Wing (the old staff quarters) are more spacious and a solid bet for families—who will also enjoy the kids’ club packed with activities such as campouts, science projects, and arts and crafts. The hotel also has 11 different restaurants, cafés, and bars, with the choices so diverse—from sushi, fondue, and Italian to Canadian steakhouse and southern U.S. barbecue—that guests are issued a food guide upon check-in to help them make the most of the hotel’s offerings. Of course, there are also a wide array of activities to help round out your time between meals, from skiing and rounds on the resort’s 27-hole championship golf course to downtime in the expansive Willow Stream Spa, which features indoor and outdoor whirlpools, a European-style mineral pool, and 23 rooms for therapeutic treatments.
1 Old Lodge Rd, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
Opened in 1915 as Tent City—a string of luxury canvas tents along Lac Beauvert, with vistas of Whistlers Peak and Pyramid Mountain—the iconic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge was possibly North America’s first “glamping” site. The destination proved wildly popular, and in 1922 a main lodge was opened, as well as a series of luxury log cabins spread across 700 acres in the heart of Jasper National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Bristling with Douglas firs and pine trees, the property sees herds of elk nibbling the grass, chipmunks scurrying through the trees, and even the occasional bear. The 442 rooming options—all of which were renovated between 2015 and 2017—include cozy spots in the main building, fireplace-equipped Junior Suites, and bring-the-whole-family Signature Cabins, all with views across the lake or the forest and mountains. The newly introduced Estate Cabins, located near the golf course, feature a private gated entrance for a more residential feel. Classic lodge-style interior design is the order of the day in the cabins, with wood beams and a combination of earthy and granite tones, while rooms and suites are clean-lined and decked out in fresh white bedding and light wood accents.
211 Bear Street # 213, Banff, Alberta, Canada
Best known by locals for its stunning views of the Canadian Rockies (nab a seat by the giant windows to make other diners jealous!), the Bison’s best-kept secret is its addictive dinner and Sunday brunch menus. Chefs Liz and Kirk are geniuses at creating special dishes that show off the region’s bounty, like bison carpaccio, venison striploin with maple parsnip purée, and a bison breakfast sandwich with bison sausage, fried egg, and foie gras butter. Ask the servers for help pairing the perfect regional beer or national wine with your order—they know their stuff.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Food + Drink
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East