In our quest to explore places beyond our immediate horizons, we often fail to reach out and embrace the opportunity for adventure in our own backyards. As an Albertan, I often find myself guilty of doing just that – of believing that the world outside Alberta is far more exciting than anything I’d experience if I took a vacation in my own province. No more! That’s not to say that I won’t venture further in the future but, for now, there’s so much to explore right here – particularly in and around Alberta's diverse southern regions.
If you’re looking for sunshine – go no further. Calgary is the sunniest of Canada’s large cities, enjoying an average of 2396 hours of bright sun each year spread over 333 days! So, along with the sunshine, why would I choose to vacation in Southern Alberta? The Canadian Rockies come first to mind. From Calgary it’s an easy day trip to Banff, Lake Louise and many of the sights close by. If you’re looking to explore the area in more depth, a camping vacation might be the answer. When you rent an RV
, you have access to everything - dining, sleeping, living, exploring and spontaneity - all in one neat package. The road is your compass and you’ll never have to wonder where you’ll eat or sleep each night.
The Trans Canada Highway takes you through the breathtaking Rockies. On the left, a photo near the town of Banff and on the right, a view of downtown Calgary and Prince's Island Park.
To the east of Calgary, Drumheller
is a great option for geology and history buffs and those interested in dinosaurs. The Canadian Badlands are home to the one of the largest dinosaur digs outside of the Gobi desert, and the world famous Royal Tyrrell museum features more than 40 mounted dinosaur skeletons unearthed in geological digs in the area. Along with the museum, the area offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, camping, biking and generally exploring. If you’re there in mid-July, make sure you take in a performance of the Badlands Passion Play. There are some great RV parks all over the Prairies so make sure you check out companies who do RV rentals before you leave Calgary.
East of Calgary you'll find this landscape, the "Badlands".
To the south of Calgary, the Rockies stretch to the US border and beyond. Jewel of the South is Waterton Lakes National Park – an oasis amongst the mountains. It’s not as busy as Banff and Lake Louise but it’s equally as spectacular. The national park campground hugs the waterline here and it’s not unusual to watch deer and elk wandering by your picnic table. From your RV rental
parked at this campground, it’s an easy walk into town – perhaps you’ll catch sight of an owl or two en route.
Take the boat trip on Waterton Lake down to Goat Haunt – it’s actually in the USA but passports are not required as long as you’re boarding the boat back to Waterton same day. A drive out to Cameron Lake or Red Rock Canyon will most likely have you seeing bears along the road – but remember not to get too close. If you’re feeling adventurous and have passports with you, consider a visit across the border to Glacier National Park and the Going to the Sun Road (usually open late June to late August).
Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada) borders Glacier National Park (Montana, USA). Goat Haunt is pictured on the right.
Back in Calgary itself, culture and ethnic diversity abounds. At last count, Calgary
was home to more than 160 different visible ethnic minority groups and this translates to boundless dining opportunities.
To learn more about this city, which was once known as the “Heart of the New West”, visit Heritage Park and see how life was when Calgary was rising from the Prairies more than 100 years ago. A visit during July means Stampede! 10 days of fun, rodeo, concerts and entertaining. The Calgary Stampede is possibly the most well-known western exhibition in North America, attended annually by more than 1,000,000 people.
Calgary's "Peace Brigde". This bridge connects both sides of the Bow River and can be used by only pedestrians and cyclists.
So, for locals and visitors alike, there’s no need to venture far to “feel the energy” in Southern Alberta, particularly when you’re experiencing it in an RV.
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