Cowtown, as it’s often referred to, it’s absolutely jam-packed with things for kids and it’s no wonder so many families choose to visit the beautiful province of Alberta. From the epic mountains that offer exceptional glacier lakes and hiking to the incredible zoos and malls, this province offers something for every age. Discover the awesome dinosaur museum, the annual Calgary Stampede and more with these 7 awesome things to do with kids in Alberta.
7. Experience the Calgary Stampede
It is one giant party that takes place every summer and provides enough entertainment for kids to tire them out, both physically and mentally. The Calgary Stampede is for adults too but the big focus is on families here. There are endless rides, midway games, fried foods such as Oreo cookies and chocolate bars, livestock shows, a rodeo, pancake breakfasts and more.
The Stampede Parade is a favorite among little ones as the World Champion Calgary Stampede Showband leads the parade, followed by beautiful floats, marching bands, riders, celebrities and more. Visit the Indian Village, play a couple games of ring toss, get your picture taken under a giant cowboy hat and have fun until the cows come home.
6. Go Caving
Discover the secrets of underground caves when you head to Canmore to dive deep into the Rat’s Nest Cave; a wild undeveloped cave under Grotto Mountain. Discover a cave in its natural state where there are no handrails, no walkways, and no lighting installed. Discover breathtaking chambers of stalagmites and stalactites, lit by only the light on your helmet. There are a few different options depending on the age of your kids.
The Adventure Tour is one of the most popular, with a minimum age of 12 and runs a total of 6 hours long, with 4 hours spend underground. If your kids are younger than that you will want to book the Discovery Tour, a short 2-3 hour tour that includes a catch and release fossil hunting activity, wildlife tracking and a visit to the cave.
5. Travel to Drumheller
It is here where the famous Royal Tyrrell Museum is housed, a museum dedicated to the study of dinosaurs and where children can come face to race with real fossils. The museum features over 40 dinosaur skeletons, numerous kid’s programs and fun hands-on activities including fossil casting. This museum also happens to run a very cool 60-minute guided hike called “Seven Wonders of the Badlands” where the guide will take you through rocks that tell stories, ancient giants and those mysterious popcorn rocks that are seen everywhere.
After spending some time at the museum make sure to head to the Hoodoos- the unique rock formations that are over 70 million years old. They cannot be climbed but feel free to explore the surrounding areas and marvel at these crazy looking rock configurations.
4. Take a Jasper Raft Tour
A unique way to experience Jasper National Park is to take a scenic float trip down the Athabasca River, a designated Canadian Heritage River. Here all families need to do is sit back and enjoy the ride as a licensed guide provides commentary on the human and natural history of Jasper. Navigating the same route used by fur traders over two centuries ago, the guides will do all the rowing for you!
The trip is about 2.5 hours and covers 16km, passing through gentle rapids and calm stretches allowing you to take in the spectacular scenery around you. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as moose, wolves, mountain sheep and bears. This trip is truly designed for families, as anyone aged 2-99 years are welcome. Tours do operate rain or shine and a poncho will be provided if necessary. Enjoy Jasper from a different view and relax while someone else does the paddling and the talking.
3. Explore Lake Louise
Located within Banff National Park, Lake Louise is the perfect destination for families looking to get outdoors. This emerald green lake is absolutely breathtaking to look at and the region has a range of hikes for families. Whether you want an easy lakeside stroll or a steeper ascent, you can find it here. While you are here make sure to take a ride on the Lake Louise Gondola which takes visitors up Mt. Whitehorn offering spectacular panoramic views.
If you are lucky, the kids might just spot some grizzly bears or elk during the summer days. Ascend either on a ski lift, or a closed gondola, best for younger kids. If you have slightly older kids who are more interested in hitching a ride along the lake, make sure to book an awesome horseback tour that will give spectacular views of the colorful lake.
2. Visit the Calgary Zoo
The Calgary Zoo is a magical place, one where kids can come face to face with animals. A place that gets lit up with twinkling lights in the winter and that feature numerous outdoor exhibits in the summer. It is a zoo that took a huge hit during the flood and has rebuilt itself into a family-friendly attraction that is definitely worth checking out. What is nice about this zoo is there is a lot of things to see and do packed into a smaller space, meaning less walking for the little ones.
But don’t kid yourself, there are still plenty of animals to marvel out including lions, giraffes, gorillas, tigers, monkeys and more. And then there is the magnificent Penguin Plunge display. One of the best in Canada, this display gets you so close you could reach out and touch the playful penguins (No touching is allowed though). Watch them as they dive, splash and interact with visitors in this awesome exhibit. Trust us, the line up is worth the experience here.
1. Play at the West Edmonton Mall
The West Edmonton Mall is literally a kid’s paradise, absolutely loaded with attractions that cater to any age of kid (we can’t promise the parents you will ever get your kid to leave here). To start off with, let’s talk about World Waterpark that houses the largest indoor wave pool and more than 17 unique waterslides and play features. Did we mention the simulated surfing attraction as well?
Then there is Galaxyland, the world’s largest indoor amusement park that features more than 24 rides and play areas for all ages. A challenging 18-hole mini-golf course, a professional sized ice rink, an underground aquarium and a bowling alley are just a few more of the exciting things that happen at this mall.
Alberta; a province teeming with mountains, valleys, prairies, and lakes is bursting with incredible small towns with big appeal. Escape the hustle and bustle of the capital city and get out and explore some of the smaller surrounding towns which offer friendly people, amazing recreation opportunities, and fascinating history. From a UNESCO Heritage Site to a bilingual community, there is something special and unique about all these towns. Whether you are there to visit or to live; these 7 Small Alberta towns have big appeal.
7. Canmore, AB
Boasting a population of just over 13,000 this small mountain town in Alberta features young, energetic, diverse and well-educated people. If you are looking for outdoor enjoyment this town is certainly for you as activities range from hiking to mountain biking to kayaking to skiing in the winter months. All in all the city is home to five different ski resorts and over 71km’s of hiking trails within the city limits.
Artists and photographers flock to this town for inspiration and recreation and tourism are the major economic drivers. Many residents who live here actually work in the neighboring community of Banff, which is a tourism hot spot all year round. Canmore, although popular with tourists offers a more laid-back lifestyle, with a strong sense of community, incredible mountain views and plenty of work available.
6. Legal, AB
This satellite community is located just 50km north of Edmonton and offers a clean and peaceful living environment for all of its residents, especially if you happen to speak French. Originally settled as a francophone settlement the town is still bilingual and the surrounding farms and landscape make this a beautiful place to live. It is known as the French Mural Capital of Canada, featuring 28 colorful murals around town and combined with extremely low crime and clean streets, it is easy to see the appeal here.
The center of town is where the community really gets together, Citadel Park, a 12-acre area features an indoor arena, curling rink, baseball diamonds, and playgrounds. Everywhere the community holds a festival called Fete Au Village, which brings the community together and celebrates its French culture.
5. Camrose, AB
This town began when one man brought a wagon load of lumber to the area and built the first store, in what is now downtown Camrose. From there more buildings and houses were erected, 40 of them which still stand in the historic downtown. With a population nearing 20,000 there is plenty of unique dining and shopping areas in this town. Residents here range from history buffs to artists to everything in between and although this city is home to almost 20,000 people it still retains its small-town feel.
That may be due largely in part to extensive park and trail system that the community has developed. One would be hard-pressed to find another small town that boasts as many parks as this one including a wonderful trail that leads you to the beautiful Mirror Lake. Playgrounds, arenas, skate parks, great schools and great people make this town appealing to everyone.
4. Lacombe, AB
With a population of just under 12,000 residents, Lacombe is a town located just 25km’s from Red Deer. The town is set in the rolling parklands of Alberta, with the Rocky Mountain foothills to the west and the prairies to the east. It also happens to be one of the most fertile valleys in the area which both locals and visitors can take advantage of. Expect to see an abundance of “pick your own” farms here that feature local fresh produce including berries, tomatoes, cucumbers and more.
Perhaps even more popular are the excellent farmer’s markets located throughout. This sleepy little town offers its share of modern amenities as well including a recreation center, aquatic center, and arena. If campgrounds, hiking trails, and parks are what you are after, Lacombe offers that too. A strong community, a beautiful landscape and a slow down pace of life are what you will find in the small Alberta town.
3. Slave Lake, AB
At the southeastern tip of Lesser Slave Lake lies a town of just under 8,000 residents. The Town of Slave Lake runs at a much slower pace than most towns in this province but offers lots of appeal for both residents and visitors. It is here where just steps away are the white sand beaches of Devonshire Beach, the lush boreal forests and Marten Mountain Viewpoint.
The region offers numerous outdoor activities all year round including hiking, camping, fishing, boating, ice fishing and off-roading. This town is slowly growing in tourism, creating jobs for residents and superior dining and accommodation choices. With breathtaking scenery, plenty of job opportunities and just 2.5 hours away from Edmonton, this small town truly offers it all. The small town also happens to be a great place to view the aurora borealis (Northen Lights).
2. Pincher Creek, AB
Welcome to the town of Picher Creek, population just under 4,000 and full of incredible scenery including mountains, water, and valleys. This electric small town begs you to swap out your pumps for a pair of cowboy boots, trade in your small fuel efficient car for a pickup truck and makes you forget something called Starbucks even exists.
What it offers instead is a charming small town lifestyle, full of friendly people, great dining options, flower baskets scattered throughout town and endless fresh air. There is no shortage of recreational opportunities and taking advantage of the gusty winds you can find pleasure in kite flying, boating, hunting, water skiing and more. This is a town where everyone will soon know your name, wildlife will stroll down the streets, barn dances happen weekly and the community is strong and like-minded.
1. Fort Macleod
This town is certainly not your average small prairie town, although with a population under 4,000; it at first seems just like one. History is at the forefront of this town and walking down the main street you will find yourself surrounded by significant Western Canadian history that dates back to the 1880’s. It has actually been designated as one of Alberta’s historic sites and just nearby a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is one of the oldest and largest preserved buffalo jumps in North America.
Alberta’s oldest theatre is housed in the town, the River Valley Wilderness Park offers trails and playgrounds and the town is home to an awesome recreation center. Only an hour east of the Canadian Rockies, this small town hosts visitors from all over the province year round, yet still remains true to its small-town roots.
Canada’s festival culture is as diverse as its landscape, with a history dating back hundreds of years to when festivals were held to commemorate seasonal changes. Today, this culture has expanded to include over 200 major festivals, a hefty chunk of which are dedicated primarily to music and the celebration of folk, metal, country, EDM and everything in between. So, as the summer approaches the mid-way mark, and you find yourself geared up for your umpteenth festival experience, or, you’re just finally able to flee the office for some summer fun, EscapeHere breaks down the selection of music fests happening in Canada this August:
18. Sunfest Country Music Festival, Cowichan Valley BC
July 30 – August 2
15 years in the making, Sunfest started out as a 1 day rock concert which has since expanded into Vancouver Island’s biggest country music festival. Bringing in over 40,000 music lovers to the Cowichan Valley each year, the event not only showcases world-renowned talent and local artists, but strives to leave an economic impact by increasing the area’s exposure and donating proceeds to local organizations. This year’s festival is scheduled to have 12 main stage performers, including Lee Brice, Keith Urban and Jack Connolly.
17. Osheaga, Montreal QC
July 31 – August 2
With 2015 marking the 10th anniversary of this festival’s particular salute to music and the visual arts, festival-goers are undoubtedly in for the experience of a lifetime. The event, which annually attracts tens of thousands of music fans to Parc Jean Drapeau on Montreal’s Saint Helen’s Island, broke attendance records in 2013 when it brought in an astounding 135,00 people over the 3-day period. The diverse lineup of big-name acts mixed with emerging local and national talent is once again poised for success, with over 100 entertainers set to perform on numerous outdoor stages this August long weekend. The 2015 lineup includes FKA twigs, Florence and the Machine, Marina and the Diamonds, Weezer, Kendrick Lamar, Young the Giant, The Black Keys, Charli XCX and Tyler, the Creator.
16. Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Festival, Kaslo BC
July 31 – August 2
24 years strong, the Kazlo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival is held each year in picturesque Kaslo Bay Park, nestled in front of Kootenay Lake and the Purcell mountain range. The longest running music event in the area brings together approximately 5,000 people and over 20 jazz, blues and Latin performers, fostering a laid-back atmosphere of family fun. The 3-day festival features ticketless public access every day before 5 pm, tons of local food vendors, family workshops and children’s events and performances in the children’s entertainment tent. With this year’s lineup of established and up-and-coming talent, Kaslo Jazz Fest is truly a family beach party destination.
15. Big Valley Jamboree, Camrose AB
July 30 – August 2
5-time winner of the Country Music Association’s Country Music Event of the Year is the primary reason country music fans from all over flock to Camrose during Canada’s August long weekend. Not only are big names performing on the main stage all day long, but the festival is packed with activities during all 4 days, including songwriter’s workshops, bull-riding, a karaoke contest and a marketplace trade-show. The 25,000 person daily attendance is easy to understand, particularly when you take in this year’s jaw-dropping lineup: Dallas Smith, The Band Perry, Reba and Brad Paisley, to name a few.
14. Veld Music Festival, Toronto ON
August 1 & 2
Established in 2012, Veld Music Festival has grown to become Canada’s largest electronic music fest, attracting upwards of 50,000 people every year to Downsview Park in Toronto. So much more than just a giant electro-dance party, Veld showcases the very best in EDM, with the 2015 lineup presenting over 30 internationally acclaimed performers including Deadmau5, Hardwell, The Chainsmokers, Kaskade and Nicky Romero.
13. Canmore Folk Music Festival, Canmore AB
August 1 – 3
With the inaugural event taking place in 1978, this is Alberta’s longest running folk music festival. Over the past 37 years, crowds have been drawn to Centennial Park in Canmore to chill out and enjoy the mesmerizing story-telling and musical artistry characteristic of folk entertainers. Today, the event has expanded to include over 30 acts across 3 stages, and expects to attract upwards of 15,000 people, all while providing alcohol-free family fun. Kids will be kept busy with a free children’s concert as well as a kids area that boasts crafts, a bouncy castle and a climbing wall, and festival goers of all ages will appreciate this year’s once-again all-star lineup; Juno award-winner Amelia Curran and Grammy winner Mike Farris are both slated to perform.
12. Manitoulin Country Fest, Little Current ON
August 6 – 9
In its 9th year running, this country music fest held annually in Canada’s cottage country has built a reputation as having one of the friendliest and most family-oriented festival atmospheres across Canada. The organizers work hard to create a sense of comfort and above-and-beyond care for both the entertainers and the attendees, fostering that sense of small-town love that makes the event so popular. The 2015 festival schedule consists of 14 musical acts featuring Tom Cochrane, Gord Bamford and the Canucky Bluegrass Boys, as well as a selection of vendors and a family fun zone.
11. Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival, Lunenburg NS
August 6 – 9
If you find yourself on the East Coast this August, this highly interactive folk festival is a must. Not only is it held primarily at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, but it creates an overwhelming sense of community involvement, with workshops and additional concerts held at various venues throughout the city. In previous years festival attendance has reached 3,000, with increasingly popular evening and Sunday morning main-stage performances.
10. Boots and Hearts, Oro-Medonte ON
August 6 – 9
This music and camping event at the Burl`s Creek Event Grounds in Oro-Medonte, Ontario is one of the largest and most anticipated country music festivals in the nation. The three-day event promises not only the best in Canadian and global country music, but various other events including a bull riding competition, late night dance party and emerging artists showcase. Alumni of the festival include Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, and Jason Aldean, with this year’s line-up set to impress with over 30 entertainers headlined by Brad Paisley, Eric Church and Florida Georgia Line. With attendance in previous years topping 30,000 people, this is one event country fans won’t want to miss.
9. Regina Folk Festival, Regina SK
August 7 – 9
This festival has been around for an astounding 46 years, beginning in 1969 at the Regina campus of the University of Saskatchewan and held annually at various indoor locations before moving to Victoria Park in 1985. Since then, the festival has drawn over 20,000 music lovers each year to its free daytime concerts and workshops, evening headliners and artists market, beer garden and children’s area. This year’s event is sure to be another one for the ages, featuring over 30 acts, 15 food vendors and main stage headliners Blue Rodeo and Sinead O’Connor.
8. Heavy Montreal, Montreal QC
August 7 – 9
Not only the largest heavy metal and hard rock music festival in Canada, Heavy Montreal is one of the largest events of its kind in the world, drawing over 70,000 people to Parc Jean-Drapeau each year. This festival is known not only for the big-name acts that grace the main festival venue, but also the smaller events that take place over the weekend at different venues across the city. 2015 marks the 7th edition of the festival and is sure to cause some sort of moshing frenzy with the mind-blowing lineup: over 70 acts including Korn, Alexisonfire, Faith No More, Iggy Pop, Billy Talent and Slipknot.
7. Squamish Valley Music Festival, Squamish BC
August 7 – 9
First started in 2010, the Squamish Valley Music Festival in British Columbia is one of Canada’s most successful outdoor music events. Taking place on Centennial Field, Logger Sports Grounds and Hendrickson Field in beautiful Squamish Valley, the festival offers up an unparalleled assortment of entertainers from all music genres for 3 days of performances, backstage tours and artist meet and greets. The festival also boasts 4 campsites ranging in options from family-friendly with noise curfews, to, shall we say, not-so-family friendly, all within walking distance of the festival. With over 60 acts on 4 stages, it’s easy to see how the event draws crowds upwards of 100,000. This year’s lineup features headliners Sam Smith, Drake and Mumford and Sons.
6. Shambhala, Salmo River Valley, BC
August 7 – 10
During this August weekend, the Salmo River Ranch turns into a temporary city of over 10,000 and is well worth the 655 km trek from Vancouver. Started in 1998, with around 500 attendees, the festival has grown into a highly anticipated event for the west coast electronic music scene. It sports almost an underground vibe, and prides itself on existing without corporate sponsorship and providing festival goers with amazing locally sourced art and organic food. The festival also features 6 unique stages, with themes created by their individual stage directors and aims to showcase the best in local and international EDM artists. This event is truly 4 days of “fun on the farm” with over 300 entertainers and free parking and camping options.
5. MEME, Winnipeg MB
August 13 – 16
A truly unique festival experience, Manitoba Electronic Music Exhibition (MEME), is an annual event that celebrates international electronic music as well as digital arts and learning. The 4 day festival features free daytime concerts at Manitoba’s open air performance venue known as “The Cube” where the 100,000+ event attendees can enjoy a sample of house, techno, deep dub, psychedelic, world, nu-jazz, ambient and experimental sounds. The free concert series is followed nightly by world-class “After Cube” events (tickets required) that are promoted as “electronic music and multimedia extravaganzas” and are held at various venues across the city including the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Pantages Playhouse.
4. IleSoniq, Montreal QC
August 14 & 15
Once again gracing the festival-famous event grounds of Parc Jean-Drapeau in Montreal, the 2nd annual IleSoniq is an electronic dance music fest that also offers up performances in hip hop, baile funk, house and most other electronic sub-genres. The electrifying 2-day event boasts over 50 acts set to perform on 3 stages, with an audience of around 17,500 per day. The 2015 lineup is one that you won’t want to miss, featuring Deadmau5, Azealia Banks, and Kiesza.
3. Interstellar Rodeo, Winnipeg MB
August 14 – 16
In its inaugural year, the Interstellar Rodeo is being held at The Forks in Winnipeg, and promises to deliver a one-of-a-kind “sophisticated” festival experience of unique music paired with fine wines and local food. The 1-stage event aims to keep things sweet, simple, and completely unforgettable, with a wine list curated specifically for each of the 25 performers. Headliners include Sinead O’Connor (Charles Smith 2012 Eve Chardonnay), Dwight Yoakam (Cameron Hughes Lot 456 2012 Tempranillo/Malbec/Grenache) and Blue Rodeo (Southbrook 2013 Transitions Chardonnay).
2. Riverfest, Elora ON
August 14 – 16
The 10,000+ attendance of this festival in Bissell Park on the banks of the Grand River is a far cry from the 900 patrons that graced the grounds for its inaugural run 7 years ago. Since then, the event held annually on the 3rd weekend in August has expanded to host over 30 world-renowned entertainers, with Tokyo Police Club, the New Pornographers and Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea all scheduled to perform this year. The festival is about much more than just music, featuring a wide selection of food trucks, arts and crafts vendors and a bustling farmer’s market.
1. Time Festival, Toronto ON
This 1 day all-ages event at Garrison Commons in historic Fort York is a must if you’re in and around the Toronto area mid-August. The festival attracts lovers of all genres, presenting 11 acts that range from urban, alternative rock, dance and pop. The 2015 edition will feature Die Antwoord, Mac Demarco, Ariel Pink and Alison Wonderland.
Honorable Mentions: The Edmonton Folk Festival (Aug. 6-9) and Music in the Fields (Aug. 28-29) are also must-attend music events in Canada, but unfortunately, due to the overwhelming popularity of the festivals, 2015 tickets for both were completely sold out at the time of writing this article.