Located 460 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, Grande Prairie was little more than a fur trading post until homesteaders arrived in the early 1900s. When the railroad finally came to Grande Prairie in 1916, farms began to spring up in the region. Although winters are harsh, Grande Prairie continues to be the northernmost major farming region in North America. The natural gas and logging industries also play a key role in regional economy. The mostly flat landscape is dotted with heavily forested areas, full of towering aspen, spruce and pine trees. Bear Creek flows through Grande Prairie, and the city is surrounded by several pristine lakes.
Just 5 kilometres northeast of Downtown, Crystal Lake is one of Grande Prairie’s top attractions in summer and winter. A wetlands area with easy-to-navigate trails is ideal for bird watching. The trumpeter swan, also the city’s official symbol, nests here in the summer. In winter, the frozen lake becomes a major gathering place for cross-country skiers.
In the heart of Grande Prairie, Muskoseepi Park encompasses 445 hectares, including ponds for fishing and ice skating, a Thrill Hill for sliding, and trails for hiking and cross-country skiing. The park’s amphitheatre hosts community events and concerts. Grande Prairie Museum also lies within the park. Its permanent collection includes 55,000 pieces, ranging from prehistoric fossils to frontier-era survey equipment. On the northern border of the park, visitors can explore the region’s history further at the Heritage Discovery Centre. Adults will appreciate the comprehensive timeline on display, and kids will love the animatronic dinosaur.
For more kid-friendly fun, drive 5 kilometres south to the Eastlink Centre, a multifunction recreation facility. An indoor water park includes a surfing area, a dinosaur-themed splash park and a lazy river for tubers. Squash and racquetball courts are also available.
About 13 kilometres south of Eastlink Centre, Nitehawk Recreation Area has one of the few hills in the region tall enough for skiing. Another of Grand Prairie’s top attractions, the slope features nine runs for skiers and snowboarders. There’s also a luge track on site. After a mandatory safety lesson, thrill seekers can zip down a curvy 1 kilometre track. In addition, the park offers challenging trails for serious mountain bikers.
Before complete exhaustion sets in, head back to the city centre to unwind at one of Grande Prairie’s top restaurants. Taj Restaurant earns kudos from locals for its spicy Indian fare. Whenever possible, the restaurant uses in-season produce from area farmer’s markets. Vegetarians will appreciate the wide variety of meat-free dishes. Less than 3 kilometres to the northwest, Wok Box serves up affordable Asian dishes the whole family will like. This popular Canadian chain is known for generous portions and fresh, crispy vegetables.
To continue the Asian theme, head less than 1 kilometre north to Tokyo Ichiban Restaurant, one of Grande Prairie’s top restaurants. Tasty cucumber rolls and spicy sashimi have earned the restaurant a loyal following among residents. For a sweet treat, try the Japanese bubble tea for dessert.