A sprawling mall and towering mountains are just two of the things that make these destinations special. Grab a canoe paddle or just watch a chuck wagon race to get your thrills.
Canada’s central Prairie Provinces are home to expanses of grasslands and wide-open views. Camrose, once a little railroad town, is a great home base for exploring the natural beauty of the region. Located 75 minutes southwest of Edmonton, this small town serves up the bounty of the surrounding farmlands at the many farmers markets. A number of festivals celebrate the arts, culture, foods and wildlife of the region, adding an ambiance of fun. Not far from town, several outdoor attractions entice hikers, golfers and more for fun.
The Heart of Town Downtown
Camrose is the perfect place to stroll, while enjoying the town’s history and charm. The buildings have been lovingly restored and have cheery exteriors. Inside, you’ll find quaint shops, offering arts, crafts, boutique clothing and gifts galore. For two days each June, the streets are closed to vehicles, as the Jaywalkers Festival gives shops the chance to spread their wares outdoors for a giant sidewalk fare full of fun. As you work up an appetite while shopping until you drop, Camrose’s restaurants are waiting. Whether you want to taste the region’s Scandinavian roots or enjoy fresh farm-to-table cuisine, Camrose has a restaurant for you. Then, catch a show at the historic Bailey Theatre. During the summer, the town’s artwalk guides visitors to exhibitions put on by the town’s creative pioneers.
Camrose’s Cool Waterways
Alberta’s prairie lands have a number of waterways in the lands surrounding Camrose. The Camrose County Nature Conservation Centre provides a nice swim beach for cooling off on those warm summer days. With an unusual name that dates to when the Cree Nation called the area home, Dried Meat Lake is a beautiful glacier-carved waterway that is popular with paddlers and boaters. The clear waters are framed by scenic hillsides.
Bison Burger With Gouda
Albertans are particular about their bison. Whip up this burger to please any palette. Recipe by the Good Sam Team.
- 2 lb ground bison
- Hamburger buns
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- ½ shallot, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter/patty
- Green leaf lettuce
- 1 tomato, sliced
- Optional: sliced red onion
Combine meat in a large bowl, adding olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, shallot and egg to the mixture.
Shape the meat into 5-6 pattys slightly larger than the bun.
Sprinkle each patty lightly with salt and pepper.
Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add butter.
Place patty to skillet. Cook for a total of 5-6 minutes each side.
Once done cooking, transfer to a cutting board to sit 2-5 minutes before serving. Add Gouda, lettuce and tomato.
Camrose prides itself on its well-developed parks system, which offers 22 miles of walking and biking trails in and around town. Follow the Stoney Creek Valley to Mirror Lake, where you can catch site of Camrose’s beloved swans, which gracefully glide across many of the local waterways. The town’s trails connect many recreational opportunities, including outdoor skating, geocaching, beaches and more. Hit the greens on the Camrose Golf Course or Silver Creek Golf Course. Though RVers may not be in Camrose during the winter, those who are can partake in some Canadian classics right in town, including curling, toboggan sledding and ice skating. The Camrose Kodiak hockey team competes in the Encana Arena.
As provincial capitals go, it’s hard to beat Edmonton, the seat of government for Alberta. Known as the Gateway to the North, this friendly city features plenty of lively, urban culture. However, Edmonton’s location in the heart of Canada’s prairie does not go forgotten, and there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor pursuits near the dynamic city center.
For many visitors, Edmonton is a shopper’s paradise. The West Edmonton Mall is the largest mall on the continent, boasting 800-plus retail stores along with a water park and an amusement park. Other popular attractions include the Telus World of Science, which features a variety of interactive exhibits for kids and adults, mostly focused on science, technology and space.
Creativity on Display
Put the Muttart Conservatory on your list of Edmonton destinations. It’s also worth a visit for its numerous gardens and pyramid-shaped greenhouses, while the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is a living history museum that shows how settlers lived when they first came to the area in large numbers in the late 1800s.
Bodies of Wonderful Water
Get away from civilization by dropping a line in the winding North Saskatchewan River, which flows through town. Capilano Park and Laurier Park both have boat launches to the waterway that are open from April to November (weather permitting). In the northeastern part of the city, Hermitage Park allows nonmotorized boating and canoeing on the river. There are plenty of great opportunities for fishing, with stocked ponds nearby that yield rainbow trout. Fishing in the North Saskatchewan River usually requires a license, but it’s free during the Alberta Family Day weekend and at the tail end of National Fishing Week in late June.
The vast prairie surrounding Edmonton harbors lots of recreation possibilities. The 192-mile Waskahegan Trail runs right through town and out into the countryside and is popular with hikers and runners alike. The trail also goes through one of the largest urban park areas in the country: River Valley Parks, a collection of 20 parks featuring miles of hiking trails along with plenty of playgrounds, campsites and even tennis courts and swimming pools. In the northernmost reaches are all sorts of creatures, from moose, deer, elk and bison to pigmy shrews, not to mention hundreds of species of birds.
History Comes Alive
Like much of North America, the area now known as Edmonton was settled by First Nations people for millennia. It was inhabited by Europeans in 1795 and grew alongside the fur trade, with large influxes of migration toward the end of the 1800s and into the 20th century. Today, travelers wanting to learn more about the roots of the city flock to Fort Edmonton Park, the largest living history museum in the country. The park is split into different historical periods, with sections devoted to 1846, 1885, 1905 and 1920, each with era-specific activities, displays and costumed interpreters.
Superb Street Car
For a unique view of the city, hop aboard Edmonton’s High Level Bridge Street Car. The bridge opened in 1913 and was outfitted with three sets of tracks on its top deck; Canadian Pacific Railway trains ran down the center and local streetcars traveled on the outside. Operated by the Edmonton Radial Railway Society, the streetcar is a restored 1912 model that runs daily between May and September, and on weekends through Thanksgiving Day (in Canada, it’s mid-October).
To the south of Edmonton, nestled at the base of the Big Hill in the Bow River Valley, Cochrane sits in the heart of cattle country and the historic Cowboy Trail. Known for its Western hospitality, the Town of Cochrane developed around the location of the Cochrane Ranche, the site of Alberta’s first large scale livestock operation in 1881. It’s a small town with big heart and special character.
Known for its outdoor activities, visitors can enjoy hang gliding, biking, fishing, golf, horseback riding and white water rafting nearby. The Links of GlenEagles invites golfers into a serenely beautiful course that is second to none, boasting beautiful panoramic views. Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park offers seven park trails; Yodel Loop, Tiger Lily Loop, McPherson Trail, Badger Bowl, The Narrows, Scott Trail and Glenbow Trail. The Historic Cochrane Ranche Site is a 136-acre public park with two fire pits, picnic tables and an outdoor stage. Hike the park to be swept away by the beautiful vistas, prairie grasslands and sandstone outcrops.
Park of Plenty
Mitford Park offers two baseball diamonds, a covered stage and an adjoining soccer/rugby pitch. Mitford Pond at the park is stocked with trout in the summer. In winter, it’s maintained for ice skating. Enjoy whitewater river rafting in nearby Banff with Chinook Rafting, where you can raft along the family-friendly Kananaskis River. Take a chairlift to 7,000 feet for spectacular views over Banff. In the colder months, grab a pair of snowshoes and head to Cochrane Ranche for the snow-filled meadows and pristine views.
Routes & Road Trips
A short drive from Calgary, Alberta and Banff National Park, this charming Cochrane is rich with Western heritage and awe-inspiring views. Driving west from Calgary on Crowchild Trail to experience some of these Canadian Rockies landscapes. And whether enjoying a local day trip or exploring the Rockies, Cochrane is a fantastic place to start your cycling routes. The highways dip and careen through beautiful countryside and are very well maintained. Experience the Horse Creek/Grand Valley Loop, where grades are gentle, and the scenery is rich with farms, ranchland and views of the foothills and mountains. Cochrane is a great place to start a road trip to Banff or Vancouver via the Coquihalla Highway.
Unique Stores & Dining
Check out the historic downtown and its unique stores and restaurants, as well as Fifth Avenue and the Quarry area for larger stores. With over 30 independent restaurants, it’s easy to tantalize your taste buds at this emerging foodie destination. Enjoy farm-to-fork cuisine, local beer and their craft distillery and coffee roastery. Cochrane Coffee Traders will delight with rhubarb crumble, fresh coffee and iced Himalayan tea. Fence & Post restaurant changes up its menu of Canadian cuisine to include seasonal ingredients, shining a spotlight on what is produced locally. Enjoy a MacKay’s ice cream and visit the three-story Rockyview Hotel, one of the oldest operational hotels in western Canada. It’s the atmospheric place where people drink and dance on the main floor and the rooms are above. And if you’re a fan of Western art, visit the Men of Vision statue of a cowboy on his horse overlooking the broad Bow Valley.
Festivals & Events
Enjoy festivals and events including the Canada Day Family Festival, Lions Labour Day Rodeo, Cochrane Street Market, Cochrane Fair, the Prairie Girls Vintage Market and Great Cochrane Outhouse Races. The Cochrane Labour Day Parade dazzles with dozens of floats. Discover the bounty of Alberta’s farms, ranches and artisans at the Cochrane Farmers Market, where you can pick up fresh veggies, bison steaks or sparkling mead. The Cochrane Fair begins with the Amateur Rodeo Competition, and includes live music, more bull riding, Wild Angels Trick Riders, shopping, beer gardens and awesome food trucks.
Known as the “Swan City,” Grande Prairie is a bustling and vibrant town less than 62 miles from Alberta’s border with British Columbia. One of the larger towns at the southern end of the scenic aspen parkland known as Peace River Country, its picturesque landscape is best known as the nesting ground for the iconic birds but also boasts serene provincial parks, miles of hiking trails and world-class museums that delve into the region’s prehistoric past.
Visitors rave about the one-of-a-kind interactive exhibits at the Phillip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum just west of town. Dedicated to experiential learning, the museum features educational tours, fossil beds, augmented-reality videos and special events throughout the year, all of which bring guests closer than they’ve ever been to Alberta’s paleontological past.
History buffs can continue their deep dive at Heritage Park Historical Village, which features 14 restored buildings, including an 1896 Hudson Bay Outpost. Tours of the grounds and adjacent museum give visitors an in-depth glimpse into the challenges and joys of life for the area’s early settlers.
Nestled on the shores of Saskatoon Lake, the Saskatoon Island Provincial Park serves up tranquil views, calm water and the chance to see migrating trumpeter swans. This bird species earned its name for its loud, trumpet-like call, but it might be best known for its graceful appearance. Wingspans often exceed 10 feet.
Trails to Natural Treasures
Running through the heart of Grande Prairie, Muskoseepi Park is an innovative and extensive 1,100-acre green space that has been a gathering place for locals since the earliest settlers. These days, there are six distinct areas of the park, including a fishing pond stocked with rainbow trout.
Days of Music and Rodeos
Grande Prairie locals have learned how to take advantage of the region’s pleasantly mild summers. The result is a series of festivals that celebrate the rugged history and fun-loving mentality of today’s residents. Stompede, a five-day rodeo held in June every year since 1977, sees as many as 50,000 visitors converge on the city for pro-level rodeo competition. Spectators can watch thrilling chuck wagon racing, win stuffed animals on the midway, peruse arts and crafts and enjoy tasty treats. The Bear Creek Folk Festival is another summer classic, featuring 30 artists from across the country on four stages. Despite its considerable size and scope, Bear Creek is the rare family-friendly music festival.
For More Information
City of Camrose
Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association