CELEBRATE CANADA WITH THESE TRUE CANADIAN EXPERIENCES
What’s great about Canada Day is that you can turn it into anything you want. Party large, keep it quiet, get active or kick back cowboy style: you’ll find it all in Alberta. Here are four uniquely Canadian ways to celebrate Canadian confederation in Alberta.
Saddle up along the Cowboy Trail
The pungent scent of lodgepole pine wafts over the foothills as you clip-clop your way through high ranching country. Cowboys have been moseying along the Cowboy Trail by horseback for over a century, and now it’s your turn to take the reins and discover this dramatic landscape.
Highway 22 south of Calgary is laced with several outfitters to put you in the saddle. Western fantasies are easily fulfilled overnighting on the open range or at a dude ranch. Hungry? Longview Steakhouse oozes ambiance and prime cuts of Alberta beef, whereas the bar at the Black Diamond Hotel is where you’ll want to go for a more raucous Canada Day celebration. You know how to dance the two-step, right?
Roam with the Buffalo at Elk Island National Park
Nobody likes being stuck in traffic, especially on a long weekend, but when the gridlock is caused by bison meandering across the plains, the stress of the city traffic becomes a distant memory. Elk Island National Park is where bison were brought back from the brink of extinction, so this is the place to set up for prime wildlife viewing.
Entry to national parks is free on Canada Day, so this is the perfect time to take in First Nations performances, or make like a pioneering voyageur in a massive canoe slicing across Astotin Lake, where rentals are available at Haskin Canoe.
Here, you can forget about the traditional Canada Day fireworks offered elsewhere because you won’t need them. The dark night sky in the park is undiluted by city lights so you’ll be dazzled by stargazing from the comfort of your equipped campsite.
Take a Jurassic journey to Drumheller
The windows are down, your carefully edited playlist of Canadian tunes is blaring (Neil Young, The Tragically Hip, Arcade Fire) and you’re breezing past the Canadian Badlands on your way to a classic Canadian party. Drumheller is your destination for pancakes, a quintessential small-town parade, and enough kiddie activities to tire out the youngsters.
You’re not done yet. Taste the bounty from local producers at a traditional farmer’s market, before grooving to live music all afternoon. Eat some beef on a bun, or partake in a few beverages inside the beer gardens. The world renowned Royal Tyrrell Museum is but a few minutes outside of town, where the dinosaur fossils are sure to instill a sense of awe. And if that’s not enough awe for you, stay until dusk when fireworks burst over the world’s biggest dinosaur sculpture.
Step back in time in Fort Macleod
There’s no need to for a time machine in Fort Macleod. Not when performers in traditional police attire perform on horseback just as they did in 1876. Canadians swell with pride when witnessing the pageantry of the NWMP Musical Ride, as a troop of Redcoat riders and their horses perform intricate figures choreographed to rousing music.
Before the show, join the Groom-a-Horse program to learn first-hand about horse care, get a chance to inspect the regiment, and then settle in to VIP seats for the show.
Layer the trip with a visit to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and you’ll have a good perspective of how the west was once. Only a 20-minute drive from the Fort, this UNESCO World Heritage Site preserves and memorializes to a 6,000 year First Nations hunting practice along one of the world’s largest and best preserved buffalo jumps.