7 Awesome Things to do with Kids in Alberta

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.

7 Places to Camp This Fall in Canada

Although the lazy days of summer are behind us, the opportunity for outdoor vacationing is still very present. Camping in the fall is awesome. The crowds are smaller, the searing heat of summer is gone, but warm days and cool nights arrive (perfect for sleeping). It’s also the perfect point of view to absorb the changing of the leaves as nature weaves one of her most spectacular seasonal sights. If you are planning on camping in Canada this fall, here are a few campgrounds you’ll want to check out.

7. La Mauricie National Park, Quebec

The tree-lined landscapes in La Mauricie National Park, located mid-way between Montreal and Quebec City, are a sight to behold in the autumn. It’s a tapestry of contrasts with the reds and golds of the changing leaves, against the vast forests of coniferous trees, maintaining their green as the year marches on. This park is popular with canoe campers and car campers alike, with the opportunities for outdoor leisure as vast as the open spaces that surround them. Looking for some panoramic views? Drive around the Ile-de-Pins, and stop along at the lookout points; hike the Solitaire Lake Trail or around the Gabet Lake Trail and pause for some serious scenery.

La Mauricie National Park

6. Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, British Columbia

If hiking the arduous West Coast Trail is on your bucket list, you only have until the end of September annually to do it. The mild September temperatures and drier weather make it a more pleasant experience, although the sense of the accomplishment, along with the once-in-a-lifetime scenery along the way is compelling enough in terms of motivation. The West Coast Trail is not the only scenic jewel in the Pacific Rim National Park though. Visit the Rainforest (yes, there’s one in Canada). There is the incredible Long Beach, where you can participate in 9.5 km Long Beach Challenge run every autumn. There is lots of opportunity to camp here, with many serviced campsites open through October. Camping in the Broken Islands group is particularly good in September, in part because you still have summer-like weather without the summer crowds.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

5. Jasper National Park, Alberta

Jasper National Park has lots of camping opportunity for those wishing to extend their camping season through the fall. Most of Jasper’s campgrounds are summer only, but a couple of them remain open and fully operational through the middle of October. Jasper National Park does offer Otentiks like many of the other National Parks, which are generally available through to the middle of October as well. Now that you’ve determined where to sleep, how to spend your waking hours?  Tackle the surrounding mountains for a hike or a mountain bike, during a season where the temperatures are downright comfortable. Visit the Miette Hot Springs, located within the park, which are the hottest mineral spring waters in the Rockies.

Jasper Park

4. Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

As far as unique scenery goes, witnessing the highest tides in the world pull in and out of the shore is hard to beat. The Yurts and the OTentiks (A-frame tents) that are available for rent in Fundy National Park overlook the shores of the iconic Bay of Fundy. Talk about a room with a view! Imagine waking up to the sites of the rolling Bay at your doorstep and then going for a walk on the ocean floor (when the tide is receding, of course!). Fundy National Park has a “Red Chair Program,” which means that there are giant red Adirondack chairs placed at various vantage points around the park, intended for you to pause, relax and absorb the view.

Fundy National Park

3. Sandbanks Provincial Park, Ontario

Located just outside Picton, On, Sandbanks Provincial Park is immensely popular with day-trippers and campers through the summer months. This is due in part to it’s amazing, long, shallow, sandy beaches that make it hard to believe you’re in Ontario (and not in some seaside tropical locale). While the water may be a little chilly for camping through the fall, this lengthy beach is a walker’s (or runner’s) delight. After your walk on the beach, you can enjoy some of the best food and wine in the region or go antiquing while touring around in nearby Prince Edward County. Another fall highlight: this park’s location makes it a hotspot for bird migration, so there is lots of natural wildlife to observe. At Sandbanks, there are 500 campsites, as well as a handful of cottages available. The cottages are available year round, but for those looking to embrace the great outdoors and camp proper, sites are open through mid-October.

ValeStock / Shutterstock.com
ValeStock / Shutterstock.com

2. Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario

Bon Echo Provincial Park is located in Cloyne, ON and has some of the most unique and beautiful scenery in Eastern Ontario. It is set upon Lake Mazinaw, featuring Mazinaw Rock, which juts 100 metres up from the shoreline. Boat tours of the lake are available seasonally and offer an up close and personal view of the pictographs. The jagged rock face has over 200 Aboriginal pictographs upon it (which is one of the largest such collections in Canada). This place is a hiker’s paradise, with several trails of varying difficulty and length around the park. (Abes and Essens Lake Trail) are particularly vibrant in the fall when the leaves turn, and the panoramic views can’t be beat. There are campsites available along some of the trails. In addition to the car camping sites, Bon Echo is fitted with a number of heated Yurts which can increase the comfort level on those chilly fall mornings.

Bon Echo Provincial Park

1. Algonquin Park, Ontario

When you think of sweeping, regally coloured vistas that characterize the colours of fall, it is hard not to picture the rolling countryside and forested terrain of Algonquin Park. Very popular with outdoor enthusiasts year-round, the fall offers a special combination of seasonal activity, made awe-inspiring when it takes place against the colourful backdrop that the season provides. Sugar and Red Maples are at their fiery best from mid-September through mid-October. Other tree types will follow suit, with the canopy of colour remaining pretty vibrant through November. Several of Algonquin Park’s developed campgrounds are available for use through until Canadian Thanksgiving. If you are looking to camp a little deeper into the fall, check out Mew Lake Campground, which has full hookups and service year-round. There is also a collection of hiking trails that connect through the campground, which gives you easy access and a bird’s eye view of the fall foliage.

Algonquin Park Canada

The 10 Coolest Train Rides in the World

In the 21st century, train travel has been displaced by other modes of transport, like air travel and automobiles. But many travelers laud the experience of train travel; it’s often faster than a car and, unlike air travel, it allows you to see the landscape as you roll along toward your destination. Reflecting this, many train operations now offer luxury tours for travelers who want to ride in style without missing an opportunity for exploration. Combining amazing scenery, national treasures and elegance, here are 10 of the coolest train rides around the world.

10. Maharajas Express -India

Travel through India on this amazing train journey. Five different routes are offered, departing from either Mumbai or Delhi. Choose from a four day journey or an eight day grand tour of some of the most famous and majestic places on the Indian subcontinent. Partake in Hindu rituals at the ghats of the Ganges or witness a polo match played not on horses, but on the backs of elephants. From ancient civilizations to the Taj Mahal, you’ll see palaces and museums, national parks and beaches on the Heritage of India tour. On the Indian Splendor tour, you’ll have a chance to explore an abandoned kingdom and a dinosaur fossil park. Departures are limited, usually once per month between October and April, so if you want to travel on the Maharajas Express, you’ll want to plan in advance.

Photo by: Maharajas' Express
Photo by: Maharajas’ Express

9. Grand Canyon -USA

Train travel is almost synonymous with the American West; train service was the glue that held the nation together until the mid-20th century. The Grand Canyon Railway captures the Old West feel with its stops at historic train depots and the El Tovar hotel, which was built in 1905. The railway has a number of unique passenger cars, including the dome cars that are peculiar to American railways. Two of the luxury parlor cars feature open-air platforms for observation. Trains depart the Williams depot daily and arrive at the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park two hours and 15 minutes later. The trains return to Williams around 3:30 in the afternoon. Along the 65-mile journey, the train passes through diverse terrain of the high Sonoran desert and mountainous areas, and passengers might sight any number of animals, including pronghorns, and a variety of plants.

Grand Canyon Railway

8. The Ghan -Australia

Connecting Darwin at the northern tip of the Australian continent and Adelaide on the southern coast, The Ghan makes one of the most fascinating trips in the world. The Great Southern Rail-operated train travels almost 3,000 kilometers over the span of 54 hours, with a four hour stop over in Alice Springs. The train originally ran between Adelaide and Alice Springs, beginning operations in the late 1890s; it wasn’t until 2004 that Darwin was connected. The reasons are obvious: the route runs through vast swaths of the rugged Australian Outback. With the new train in operation, getting to Darwin and seeing the Outback has never been easier, although delays and track trouble still plague the line. Stops at Katherine and Alice Springs allow time for optional tours. The Ghan generally runs once a week, although two services operate weekly between June and September.

The Ghan, Australia

7. Blue Train -South Africa

The South African Blue Train is world-renowned for its luxury service, boasting butlers, two lounge cars, an observation car and private carriages with gold-tinted picture windows. The train takes passengers nearly 1,000 miles between Pretoria and Cape Town. Originally, the service was meant to connect passengers from Johannesburg to England-bound ships in Cape Town. There was a time when four routes were offered, but all have been discontinued except the route between Pretoria and Cape Town. The train makes at least one stop in either direction, allowing guests to explore the Open Mine Museum at Kimberley Station or enjoy a glass of sherry at Matjiesfontein. The journey takes passengers between inland and coastal areas, showcasing the spectacular scenery of the South African landscape. Passengers will journey across scrubland, through mountain foothills and across rivers in the height of luxury. Bring formal wear for your dinner engagement.

Blue Train, South Africa

6. Trans-Siberian -Russia

Not just a single line, the Trans-Siberian Railway is rather a collection of lines that traverse the huge expanse of the Siberian hinterland, connecting European Russia with the Russian Far East, the Sea of Japan and branching into Mongolia, China and North Korea. It is the longest railway in the world, spanning 5,772 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok, and is still being expanded. Even before its completion in 1916, it had become a hotspot for travelers, who then wrote about their experiences. The journey from Moscow takes about six days and crosses seven time zones before dropping passengers on the Pacific Coast. The line is still incredibly important for the transportation of goods and people between Moscow and the Russian Far East, and its historical importance cannot be underscored enough. The journey might not be the most luxurious, but it is certainly a fascinating view of Russia.

TransSiberian Railway

5. Royal Scotsman -UK

If you look at many top-10 lists for rail travel, you’re almost bound to run into the Royal Scotsman, a luxury liner that offers charter tours of the Scottish Highlands in the UK. With a variety of tour options, ranging from two nights in the Highlands to the seven night Grand Tour of Britain, the journey makes plenty of time for stops at local attractions, such as castle ruins, whisky distilleries and iconic natural wonders. Some journeys even include outdoor pursuits like shooting clay pigeons. As you travel, the observation car provides spectacular views of the glens, lochs and villages that make up the Highland vistas. Dining makes use of the best local ingredients and experiences are mixed between formal and informal. Combining luxury with an amazing tour of the Scottish landscape like you’ve never seen before, it’s little wonder the Royal Scotsman ranks highly on so many travelers’ bucket lists!

Photo by: Simon Pielow via Flickr
Photo by: Simon Pielow via Flickr

4. Glacier Express -Switzerland

While the Glacier Express isn’t a very quick trip—in fact, it has a reputation for being the slowest express train in the world—you probably won’t mind as you pass through the Alps between St. Moritz and Zermatt in Switzerland. The 7.5-hour journey takes passengers across 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and across the Oberalp Pass. Large portions of the railway use a rack-and-pinion system for ascending through the steep Alpine inclines—up to 6, 670 feet at its zenith! Running east-west almost across the length of the country, the train travels through a number of important sites: the Albula/Bernina section of the trip are part of a World Heritage Site and the train journeys through the Rhine Gorge and up to the Matterhorn in Zermatt. Since the 1980s, the trains have run year-round, which means this spectacular trip can be enjoyed by travelers no matter the season.

Glacier Express, Switzerland

3. Eastern & Oriental Express -Thailand to Singapore

The Oriental Express is an actual train service, journeying through the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and, since 2007, Laos. The tour starts in Singapore and stops in Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth and Kanchanaburi before arriving in Bangkok. A guided tour of the River Kwai and a tour of Georgetown, near Penang, are included on the most popular route, although there are nine routes to choose from. The Singapore-Bangkok route takes three days to complete. The journey has been awarded a place on the Society of International Railway Travelers’ “Top 25 Trains” list, earning points for service, dining, beauty and off-train experiences. The service is operated by Belmond, a renowned name in luxury train travel, and is considered one of the best ways to explore Southeast Asia. In 2015, two new “signature journeys” were introduced.

Photo by: Simon Pielow via Flickr
Photo by: Simon Pielow via Flickr

2. Hiram Bingham -Peru

Hop aboard this luxury liner and ride the rails between the city of Cusco and the ancient Inca capital of Machu Picchu. This ride consistently makes the top-10 lists for travelers visiting Peru, and not only because it heads up to the sacred Inca city. Part of the Orient Express, the train operates in both directions and is named after the discoverer of Machu Picchu. Combine slithering through the soaring Andes in the Incan outback with fine dining and a relaxing four hour trip. Guests have brunch on the trip to Aguas Caliente, and dinner if they catch the late train back to Cusco. A local band provides live entertainment during the trip and guests can sample the Peruvian drink pisco as the train rumbles alongside the Urubamba River, which flows from the Sacred Valley. The observation car features an open deck for passengers to better enjoy the view!

Hiram Bingham, Peru

1. Rocky Mountaineer -Canada

The Rocky Mountaineer isn’t one route, but four routes running between Alberta and British Columbia in Western Canada. Formed in 1990, the company operates the busiest privately owned passenger rail service in North America, with more than one million passengers having boarded the train since its inception. The Rocky Mountaineer is a perennial favorite among train travel enthusiasts, having been named the “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train” seven times and the Society of American Travel Writers’ top train ride in 2009. All four routes run through the rugged Canadian Rockies, some of them following historic routes such as the Canadian Pacific. In 2013, it was announced that a three day trip from Seattle would be offered. All trains operate during the day, with some overnight stops, between May and September. The “Journey through the Clouds” takes passengers over the Canadian National railway through the Rockies, between Vancouver and Jasper.

Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com
Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com