Things to do in Canada in summer: the Prairies
In our new series of articles, “Things to do in Canada in summer,” Canadian Immigrant has been giving you tips and ideas on Canadian places you won’t want to miss as you plan your summer vacation.
The following article, part three in our series, has the low-down on the Prairies. If you’re a newcomer to Canada, and you’re thinking of planning a trip to the middle of our fine country, the Prairies (also known as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) have plenty of attractions and places of natural beauty that you’ll want to put front and centre on your travel itinerary.
Check out parts 1 and 2 of this series if you’re heading to B.C. or Ontario and Quebec.
Top must-do attractions and adventures in the Prairies
Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise
For many years, Alberta was known as farmland central, but these days, with two of Canada’s largest cities —Edmonton and Calgary — there is plenty to see other than endless fields.
If you’re heading to Alberta, you will no doubt want to check out one of the national parks, of which there are five, but the most famous ones are Banff and Jasper, both of which are in the heart of the world famous Rocky Mountains.
While you’re in Banff National Park, be sure to put Lake Louise at the top of your sightseeing list: this world-famous lake is known for its awe-inspiring emerald green waters and glaciers, and during the summer months it’s the perfect place for a picturesque hike or canoe ride to take the perfect summer selfie.
During the summer, there are plenty of extra events and attractions to keep you busy in Banff, a European-inspired alpine town you’ll simply fall in love with. Art lover? The Banff Centre has lots of concerts and outdoor events that have something for the whole family.
Shopping, roller coasters and escape rooms – Oh my!
If you want to beat the Prairies dry heat, then perhaps a trip inside the West Edmonton Mall might be right up your alley. When we say alley, why yes, you can go bowling there, too. In fact, if shopping isn’t your jam (but as the largest shopping mall in North America, there will be plenty of stores for all), this mall is more like an indoor city than a shopping centre, with all the attractions it has to offer: waterparks, escape rooms, mini golf, as well as North America’s largest indoor amusement park. The West Edmonton Mall really is a shopping experience like no other you’ve had before.
Everybody Walk the Dinosaur
It’s hard to believe that the dinosaur capital of the world is in Canada, but if getting up close and personal with the Jurassic age is your thing, then no trip to Alberta would be complete without a pit stop in Drumheller. Be sure to visit the Royal Tyrell Museum, a museum dedicated to paleontolog and home to one of the largest displays of dinosaurs in the world.
Heart of Winnipeg
Meanwhile, if you’re planning to head to Winnipeg, Manitoba’s capital city, make sure you save a day to spend some time in Assiniboine Park. Right in the heart of Downtown Winnipeg, this famous and century-old park is home to world-class attractions like the Assiniboine Park Zoo, Qualico Family Centre and Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. The park also has a ton of summer special events and concerts, including Ballet in the Park, free shows from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet that run nightly from 7.30 p.m. from July 25-27 in the park’s Lyric theatre.
Winnipeg’s famously warm summer weather also makes Assiniboine Park perfect for renting a tandem bicycle, a trail walk or a picnic — just don’t forget your bug spray!
If your summer plans involve a trip to Saskatchewan — don’t believe the hype –— there is more to this flat expanse of Canadian land then you’d first expect. Not only is the landscape amazing for picture perfect sunrises and sunsets, but this province is a wonderful chance to get up close and personal with Canada’s history from yesteryear. At the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, you can learn all about Saskatchewan’s natural history and rich Indigenous cultures.
If you’re looking for a real Prairies fun day out, then perhaps you should spend the day at the Queen City Ex held in the heart of Regina, this annual five-day fair is a highlight of the summer for many in the Prairies. From August 1-5, this traditional Canadian fair has something for the whole family: carnival rides, nightly concerts, farm exhibits. And no trip to the carnival would be complete without sampling some classic fair foods: corn dogs, mini donuts, funnel cakes and cotton candy — a true Canadian experience at its deep-fried sugary best!
One thing you’ll notice when you take a road trip across a country as large as Canada – they love a tourist attraction as giant as they are. All over Canada, you can find giant landmarks and the town of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, is no exception. Mac the Moose is 10 metres tall and weighs a whopping 9,000 kilograms — you can find him towering over the local visitors centre — the perfect place to get the low-down on summer events in the area.
Off-the-beaten-path in the Prairies
Back in Alberta, if you haven’t had enough of dinosaurs, go further to the Dinosaur Provincial Park and the Badlands on your checklist. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to some of the most significant dinosaur fossil finds in the world and is home to 35 species of dinosaur, some of which date back as far as 75 million years.
If getting off the usual tourist track is more your thing, there are plenty of hidden gems that are sure to pique your interest. If you want a trip with a little a little bit of magic, check out The Crooked Bush, near Hafford, Saskatchewan, a small town with a population of less that 500, about 100 kilometres outside of Saskatoon. The aspen trees in this area are a botanical mystery, and they were declared one of the 54 Wonders of Canada by CBC’s Morningside show. These particular trees, have a genetic mutation that makes them grow in a very interesting way and because they are the only ones like it in the world, it makes them extremely rare and special.
If checking out Canada’s natural beauty is what floats your boat, then Lac La Ronge, one of the largest provincial parks in Saskatchewan, is a nature-lover’s dream. The park has close to 100 lakes and more than 30 canoe routes, many of which follow the old fur trade routes from days of yore. Visitors from across the country and all around the world, come to Lac La Ronge during the summer for the wildlife, fishing, camping, boating, sailing, canoeing, cycling, hiking and to see the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, the oldest standing building in the province.
Meanwhile, if you’re up for a truly intrepid summer adventure, then Churchill in Northern Manitoba is the road trip for you.
Although Churchill is known as the polar bear capital of the world (prime polar bear viewing is in the fall), the summer is also a popular time to visit this far-flung northern Manitoban destination. For not only can you still view the polar bears from a distance, the warmer summer months are a chance to swim and kayak with belugas, and it’s also a fabulous time to go bird watching, summer dog sledding, and to spy some unique Canadian wildlife like caribou, fox (red and Arctic), wolves and moose.
Elk Island National Park, which is about fifty kilometres outside of Edmonton is a big draw for locals and tourists alike, and with over 80 kilometres of nature trails it has hikes for all abilities. There is plenty of wildlife to see at Elk Island — including herds of wild bison and elk roaming freely.
As you can see from all the highlights that we’ve described, the Prairies really is a marvellous place to create some magical summer memories — happy travels!