Presented in partnership with Chinook Country Tourist Association
If you’re looking to go on a road trip that features some fantastic small towns, along with stunning scenery and big city amenities, then make sure you leave time this summer to explore southern Alberta. We try and make it a point to go once a year and always find surprises and some unforgettable experiences.
So charge your camera and any other gadgets you might have, because a few hours south of Calgary, you’ll find some truly incredible and affordable destinations! Here are some of my favourite spots!
I’ve been writing about Alberta trips for some time now and it was always my secret shame that I had never seen Writing on Stone Provincial Park, because it’s seems to be the park that every knows and loves. And with good reason, the park is situated on what has been sacred land for thousands of years. Not only is its history fascinating, its geography is simply stunning. A mix of green fields, big trees, clear blue water and badlands combine for one of the most visually places I’ve ever seen in in the world, let alone Alberta. Before you arrive, make sure you bring an extra battery for your camera, trust me, you’ll need it.
One of the most amazing features of the park are the large number of aboriginal rock carvings and paintings, many of which you can see on walking or guided tours.
I had been wanting to check out the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation ever since I heard about it a few years ago and this particular trip to the Lethbridge area was partly motivated by not wanting to wait anymore. The foundation helps conserve birds of prey, as well as, rehabilitating and releasing injured birds of prey back to the wild. They also do captive breeding and release of endangered species. It’s quite the remarkable place, especially considering it’s located just outside of Lethbridge in a town called Coaldale, population just over 7000.
The price to enter is incredibly affordable ($5.50 to $9.50) and it’s a great activity for families. We didn’t have any kids with us, but we could only imagine how excited kids would be to participate in the flying demonstrations, or letting an owl rest on their arm.
For us, it was a great way of seeing these stunning animals up close, with the comfort of knowing our admission was helping these animals live better lives. Plus, having an owl chill out on your arm was pretty cool.
You’re instantly forgiven if you never heard of Warner. It’s a small town outside of Lethbridge with a population of just over 400 people. But what it lacks people it makes up for in dinosaur fossils.
The Devil’s Coulee discovery was first made in 1987, while a young girl discovered a dinosaur eggshell in the area. This lead to the eventual discover of the nesting site of some Hadrosaur (duckbill) dinosaurs, the first in North America and only second in the world! Now, many of these fossils can be found in the museum, or during site visits arranged through the museum.
The Devil’s Coulee Dinosaur Heritage Museum is a quick visit, it’s really just two rooms and admission is between $6-$8, so it’s a perfect pitstop along your way.
When you think of Alberta, you likely think of the rocky mountains or the vastness of the badlands, but somewhere in between, you’ll find the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, easily one of Alberta’s most beautiful gardens. Located smack-dab in the middle of Lethbridge is this Japanese oasis, with a fascinating history and probably some of the nicest photos you’ll take this trip. Admission is only $4 to $9 and you’ll probably spend at least an hour or so wandering the gardens. Depending how much of a hurry you’re in, you could definitely spend longer relaxing by the water.
Actually, Lethbridge offers another opportunity to get away from it all. Out of all the places we visited, I need some more time to visit The Helen Schuler Nature Centre, located in Indian Battle Park, but there’s nothing wrong with wanting to plan a second trip. Inside the centre you’ll find state of the art exhibits, but outside is a beautiful walk that takes you along Lethbridge’s famous train bridge and eventually leads you to Old Man River. We arrived just as the sun was setting, so the area was filled with golden colours, and right on cue, we also spotted a deer. This place seems like it would be a photographers dream, especially if they have some mosquito repellant with them. I already can’t wait to go back.