Building a Perfect Alberta Itinerary

There are many ways travel agents can build an Alberta itinerary By: Debbie Olsen
Clients can explore Alberta on horseback. // © 2011 Alberta Tourism
Clients can explore Alberta on horseback. // © 2011 Alberta Tourism

The Details

Travel Alberta
www.travelalberta.com

Alberta is home to Canada’s first national park and its largest mountainous park. The province is also home to North America’s largest shopping and entertainment complex, the world’s first international peace park, the largest ski area in North America, the first North American fringe theater festival and one of the world’s largest known deposits of dinosaur fossils. It is a year-round destination with a variety of recreational activities, sports events and cultural activities that visitors can enjoy at reasonable prices  — it is the only province in Canada with no provincial sales tax.

The challenge of building a perfect Alberta itinerary comes in selecting the attractions and activities that are best suited to the season. Here are some suggestions — in each of the four seasons — to consider when creating an ideal itinerary for clients.

Fall
In the fall, clients should start with a three-night stay in Kananaskis. After a flight to Calgary, it’s a 90-minute drive away. Wildlife viewing is a good way to start an itinerary — thousands of golden eagles fly over Kananaskis Country during the fall migration. Agents can arrange for a tour by a local guide or suggest that clients head to Hay Meadow where scientists conduct research on birds.

Next, clients can take an aerial tour of the region. Kananaskis Helicopter Tours offer a 60-minute alpine helicopter tour, or the more adventurous can choose a heli-hiking adventure.

Another activity to suggest during a stay at Kananaskis is day-hiking. Clients can head to the Grassi Lakes Trail near Canmore (a waterfall, two lakes and a petroglyph are highlights). Other possibilities include cycling on a paved or mountain trail, golf at one of the three area courses or a visit to the spa at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis.

On day four, clients can drive from Kananaskis to Banff for a three-night stay. Start their Banff experience with more wildlife viewing and suggest that they take a day trip to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, watching for bull elk along the way — fall is mating season. Another activity to recommend is a hike to Larch Valley from Moraine Lake. This is particularly stunning in fall when the larch trees begin to drop their needles.

Clients should also be sure to ride the Banff Gondola, which will provide them with some of the best views in the Canadian Rockies. Other suggestions include a mountaineering or climbing excursion, a soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, a trail ride, shopping on Banff Avenue, golf at the Banff Springs course or a spa treatment at one of several local spas.

For a longer stay, suggest a drive along Icefields Parkway to Jasper where clients can spend a few days exploring the glaciers before flying home from Edmonton.

Winter
Clients should begin a winter itinerary in Edmonton to check into the Fantasyland Hotel inside the West Edmonton Mall for a two-night stay. Suggest they visit the indoor water park, the indoor amusement park and the shops, dining and entertainment venues inside the mall.

On day three, clients can head to Jasper for three nights either by car or by train. An ideal way to get to Jasper is on Via Rail Canada (www.viarail.ca). One of the most stunning winter activities is the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk in the Canadian Rockies. Agents can book a walk with any of the following operators: Jasper Adventure Centre (www.jasperadventurecentre.com), SunDog Tours (www.sundogtours.com) or Walks and Talks Jasper (www.walksntalks.com).

After an ice walk, clients can continue their outdoor adventure at one of Jasper’s natural ice-skating rinks. Skate rentals can be found at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge or at Pyramid Lake. Another popular outdoor winter activity is cross-country skiing. With more than 185 miles of cross-country ski trails, Jasper is one of the largest cross-country ski destinations in Canada.

Other possibilities clients can consider are downhill skiing at Marmot Basin, snowshoe tours, dogsled adventures, guided winter wildlife walks, ice climbing or guided cross-country ski trips. Recommend they visit the Jasper Adventure Centre to book an activity.

For a longer stay, suggest that they drive to Banff and spend a few days exploring before flying home from Calgary.

Spring
Start a spring Alberta adventure in Banff, which is within driving distance of Calgary. Agents should suggest that clients stay for approximately four days to get the full feel of the destination. Visitors can start their journey with spring skiing. Clients can purchase a tri-area ski pass and enjoy three area resorts — Sunshine Village, The Lake Louise Ski Area and Mt. Norquay (www.skibig3.com).

Other possibilities include caving in the Rat’s Nest Cave with Banff Adventures (www.banffadventures.com); riding the Banff Gondola, a soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, shopping on Banff Avenue or a visit to one of several area spas.

On day five, clients can head to Drumheller for a two-night stay and to explore the Alberta Badlands. Suggest that they start with a stop at the Royal Tyrell Museum to see the 110,000 fossil specimens and 40 dinosaur skeletons. The next stop should be a hike in the Hoodoos, which are found in the Alberta Badlands and form a landscape that seems otherworldly. Next, suggest they check out some of the trails in Dinosaur Provincial Park.

On day seven, visitors should make the 90-minute drive back to Calgary. For a longer stay, suggest they drive south to visit Writing on Stone Provincial Park where they can see an amazing collection of First Nations petroglyphs and pictographs before returning to Calgary.

Summer
In the summer, suggest clients head to Calgary during the Calgary Stampede (www.calgarystampede.com). On day one, clients arrive in Calgary and stay at an area hotel for three nights to experience the event. They can enjoy free pancake breakfasts, parades, midways, the Indian Village, agricultural displays, western hospitality and top rodeo action at the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” On day four, suggest that visitors travel by car from Calgary to Kananaskis for their own western adventure with a multi-day horseback pack trip with Brewster Adventures (www.brewsteradventures.com). They can also enjoy a three-night stay at the Outpost at Warden Rock, which is accessible on horseback or via a genuine stagecoach (www.outpostatwardenrock.com). Another option is a stay at an area guest ranch, such as Rafter Six Ranch or the Brewster Kananaskis Guest Ranch (www.raftersix.com or www.kananaskisguestranch.com).

Keep clients busy by suggesting that they go whitewater rafting, canoeing or kayaking on the Kananaskis River. Clients can also go hiking or golf on one of three area courses. On day seven, they can return to Calgary or, for a longer stay, clients can spend a few days exploring Banff and Lake Louise.

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