Travel advice - Calgary/Edmonton

Yes, featherlou, I’m looking at you. :slight_smile:

It seems fairly certain that I’m going to be road-tripping this summer, with one goal being to at least pass through Calgary and Edmonton, and certainly spend a night in one of the two.

My question is, outside of bowling in one of the two cities (just so I can cross Alberta off my list of places I’ve bowled), what should I do while I’m there? I’m not a big museum guy for the most part, if that’s helpful. What’s unique about these places? Help me out. Should I think about staying more than one day?

In the summer Edmonton is Festival City

Obviously I’m not featherlou, but if you like to shop, the West Edmonton Mall, a freaking huge mall (the world’s biggest), may be your thing. Amongst other things, the mall has a skating rink, an amusement park, a movie theatre with a fire-breathing dragon suspended from the ceiling (stand well back), a casino and a really large wave pool and Fantasyland Hotel. Oh yeah, it has some stores, too. In both Edmonton and Calgary you can find giant IKEA if you are an IKEA shopper.

Though you said you’re not a museum guy, if you’re in the vicinity of Drumheller, and you like dinosaurs, you may want to check out the Royal Tyrrell Museum. It’s all about the paleontology and dinosaurs, and not about art. There are also walking trails in the badlands around the museum.

In Calgary you may want to check out the Calgary Zoo.

Finally, I don’t know where you are driving in your road trip, but if you’re planning to drive between Calgary and Edmonton, you may want to consider taking a circuit, and driving Calgary to Banff to Jasper along the icefields and then to Edmonton. In the drive between Banff and Jasper, you can make stops to wee the continental divide, Lake Louise, icefields, and Castle Mountain, not in that order though.

I’m not featherlou either, but I lived in Cowgary for six years and was hard pressed to entertain tourists for more than a day or two.

It does have a nice skyline; go up to the SAIT parking lot and take a photo at sunset if you like that kind of thing. The Glenbow Museum has some pretty good Native art and artifacts; I know you’re not a museum guy but if you are at all interested in Native stuff, it’s a good place to visit.

You can go to Canada Olympic Park where, it seems, they’ve added more attractions and activities. In town, you can have a fairly quick walk to see the downtowny things like City Hall and Olympic Plaza and ogle the Plus-15 if the idea of a critter trail for humans tickles your fancy.

Prince’s Island Park is a nice cool spot if it’s a hot day and last I was at the restaurant (which was a few years ago), the food was great.

In Edmonton,

I really really enjoyed the Telus World of Science. It’s got great interactive displays - it was two adults and three kids from 6 to 11 and everybody had a lot of fun.

I like Edmonton a lot. Here’s
a link to the attractions - there’s lots. I also enjoy the Muttart Conservatory but I like seeing different sorts of plants 'n stuff.

The badlands are really interesting; if you can swing it, I’d definitely try to go see them and if you have enough time, go do the Columbia Icefield in Jasper; I haven’t yet but it’s on my list.

Thanks for the detailed responses so far, folks! And I wasn’t intending this to only be to featherlou, for the record. It’s just that her “Calgary, baby!” location stuck out in my mind, so I figured/hoped she’d be contributing to this. :slight_smile:

The icefields were the one thing I had looked up that I know for sure I’m going to find a way to do. I think I’d read somewhere that the drive between Jasper and Banff is the most beautiful in the world. And because I’m just that kind of geek, I will definitely make a stop at the world’s largest mall (thanks, PastAllReason) and the Telus, and quite possibly walk the Plus-15 (thanks, Quiddity). This is great stuff!

As for the route I’m planning, I’m visiting some relatives in northern Nevada, so I’ll be leaving from there and heading north through, I guess, Idaho and Montana up into Canada. From the Edmonton area, I intend to cut over to Vancouver, which I’ve also never been to. And then I’ll head down the coast to San Francisco to catch a game and make fun of Troy McClure when my Dodgers beat his “team.” :smiley:

If you’re coming that way, you might as well enjoy the spectacular Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, and then cross into Waterton Park on the Canadian Side.

And if you’re into walking/running/biking/blading, Edmonton’s River Valley Park System is the largest urban park in the world. Link

The drive between Jasper and Banff is a mind blower, for sure.

If you are driving from Jasper to Vancouver, you really can’t go wrong in picking routes, but I suggest west on Hwy 16 to Tete Jaune Cache, south on Hwy 5 to Kamloops, west on 1/97 to Cache Creek, north a little to Hwy 99, take Hwy 99 west and then south into Vancouver. That sounds complex but just have a look at it on a map. If you take that route you are in for some premium-grade awesomeness. I’ve driven those roads countless times and it still takes my breath away…

And when the sign says 'LAST GAS FOR 150KM" they aren’t shitting you. Watch out for the speedtrap between TJC and Valemount. And the Albertans towing boats and/or RV’s. The move at the speed of mammal evolution.

Can’t believe we got this far into a thread about “what to do in Calgary in the summer” and nobody has mentioned the Calgary Stampede. If you will be in Calgary between July 6 and 15, Asimovian, it is a must-do. The Stampede itself is a giant rodeo/fair and lots of fun to go to; but at stampede time, the city basically puts everything on hold and parties for ten days straight. That would be a great time to come to Calgary, if you can manage it.

Actually, that is exactly when I’ll be there. My best estimate right now would put me in the area about July 11th. So I will definitely try to check that out. The downside is that I assume Calgary hotels during that time are going to be pricey, and since I’m doing this on a budget, I’ll probably have to stay in Edmonton. No biggie, though.

Shamozzle, your route pretty well matches what Google suggested other than taking 99. I assume this is more scenic than Highway 1? I’ll be glad to take your idea.

Annie, thanks for the heads-ups. The car gets about 1000KM to the tank at highway speeds, so I shouldn’t have a problem unless I’m already running low. That is, unless, diesel is hard to find in Canada, but I somehow doubt that. :slight_smile:

Calgary also has several festivals going on in the city, depending when you are here. Calgary Stampede is just the biggest one in this town.

We have our own Taste of… festival (though I miss the green onion cakes from Edmonton), during the summer practically every day there is Shakespeare in the Park at Prince’s Island Park downtown. Even if you don’t go to see Shakespeare, the park is a great place to wander. There’s lots of paths and on one side of the island there’s artwork tucked in among the trees that you just sort of stumble upon while walking.

I just like going there to relax. :slight_smile:

We also have our own Telus Science Centre, as well as Fort Calgary, Heritage Park and the Zoo. Drumheller and the Royal Tyrell Museum are a short drive away, as is Black Diamond, which boasts Canada’s only remaining Soda Shop. 17th street has a lot of nice shops in Calgary and if you like books I’d suggest popping in to McNally Robinson along 8th Ave/Steven Ave Walk. Really nice multi level store with a huge selection of books (and a few other items).

A swing through Lake Louise or the Columbia Icefields is reccomended (we went as a kid, it’s pretty nice). Banff is definitely a touristy town, but when I manage to get there I always hit the fudge shop or the candy store. The park at the top of Main is real nice, but be warned there is a lot of construction happening right now in the downtown. The top of the gondola has a nice view.

Either Jasper or Banff, I’d reccomend the hot springs and if you have the time there is a nice easy hike to the old hot springs that starts from the parking lot of the new in Jasper.

Edmonton, a walk along Whyte Ave would be a good thing to do. Again, lots of little shops with different things. Lots of bars and pubs along the road to, O’Byrne’s at the top of Whyte makes a really good Shepherd’s pie. This is not far from the river valley, or the Legislature building, also nice places to wander.

Fort Edmonton is a fun place. I always enjoyed going there, though I haven’t been in years. In the same area is the John Jansen Nature Centre which has a nice walk along the valley.

There’s lots of things to do. :slight_smile:

Well, be aware that Edmonton is three hours away from Calgary. It’s possible to go from one city to the other for some business and back again in a day (I’ve done it), but I’ll leave that to your judgment.

You might find something in the towns near Calgary, though. Airdrie, Cochrane, Okotoks, High River–these and others within a half-hour drive of Calgary all have Comfort Inn-type accommodations that should not be as pricey, or as booked-up, as Calgary hotels. Even Red Deer and Canmore, which are much bigger than these other places, are only 90 and 60 minutes away, respectively. Maybe you should see about prices and booking now; if you find a place in or near Calgary for that time at a price you like, you can book it. And if you end up not wanting it, you can always cancel the booking.

I spent two weeks around Banff & Jasper a couple of summers ago - and could not recommend it more, even if it’s just to drive the road through the place (and try to do it heading south, better views of glaciers). And if you manage to get Glacier National Park into the itinerary as well, you’ve got two entries ticked off in this book (a fantastic guide for planning big holidays, by the way). Banff itself left me cold, with Jasper being much more my kind of place.

Following on from Spoons’ comments, I’d recommend Canmore as a base for Calgary. I liked the town a lot, and is also gives you a useful position for heading up into the national parks.

Another little suggestion en route, if you’re coming up from Montanta - a very eccentric creation: “Oh, we’ve been given a WW2 bomber. Let’s build a museum around it.”

Jeeze, I go out for wings, and you guys have a whole thread without me! :smiley:

I think just about everything Calgary is covered already. If you’re not planning to stay in Calgary, can we at least take you out for lunch in between the Science Centre and the Plus-15’s?

The #1 highway (aka The Transcanada Highway) is the major people mover, not the most scenic route from east to west in the mountains. If you stop at towns in Federal Parks like Banff, you will be expected to have purchased a park pass, or you might get a fine. We mess around in the mountains all the time without park passes, but you have to time your stops carefully (we stop in Canmore before the Park, and in Radium Hot Springs which is considered outside the Park). If you want to see a bunch of things that are within park boundaries, you’d probably be better off just purchasing a pass that will let you go anywhere and be done with it.

I highly recommend a stop in Radium Hot Springs to take advantage of their hot pools there (at night, not during the day, unless it’s a cold, raining day). The little motels off the main strip might be a little cheaper and are just fine - we always stay at one of them. They have excellent German schnitzel at Helna’s Stube or the Old Salzburg - you wouldn’t go wrong eating at either place.

We just did the trip out to Vancouver Island, and if you’re going to Vancouver, I recommend paying the exorbitant fee and doing the Island, too (especially if you don’t think you’ll ever make it back that way). Be prepared for a $45 one-way price for your car on the ferry, but the ferry ride and the Island and the cities on it are all extremely scenic. It’s an experience just going on a ferry that size, let me tell you.

I was beginning to think you weren’t going to show up! NOW it’s a party. :slight_smile: As for your very generous lunch offer, that sounds awesome – I’ll have a better idea of my itinerary as the dates get closer.

So here’s the route I’m looking at taking. I think this is doable in the amount of time I have available. Tentatively, here’s how I think this might work:

  1. Leave early Sunday morning, July 8, from Elko, NV. Suck it up and bomb all the way to Calgary in one day (a long day, but certainly doable). Crash in/around Calgary for the night.

  2. Monday morning, explore the town, maybe have an early lunch, putz, then head to Edmonton. Spend the evening exploring the town.

  3. Tuesday morning, have breakfast, visit anything I missed the night before. Drive to Jasper, then down to Banff. Make stops and snap pictures along the way. Probably spend the night in Banff.

  4. Wednesday morning, drive from Banff to Vancouver. Explore Vancouver in the afternoon/evening.

  5. Thursday morning, possibly explore a bit more, then drive to either Seattle or Portland to spend the night.

  6. Friday morning, head down to San Francisco.

I should point out that I have to be in San Francisco by Saturday the 14th in the early afternoon for the baseball game, so by my estimates, I should have enough leeway to let a day slide by along the way and still make it on time. Still, it’s a rather ambitious trip. Here’s hoping I can pull it off. :slight_smile:

Don’t underestimate, or under-allot, time for the drive down from Jasper. At the posted limits, and with plenty of RVs in front of you, it’s probably about 4 hours, and you also want lots of time for stopping and going ‘oooohh’ (or ‘oooh look at the bear/moose’).

FWIW, here’s some opinions on the parts of your journey I feel I sort of know:

It’s a thousand miles from Elko to Calgary. Doable, yeah, but anyway you slice it that is a long damn day – 14 hours in the car if you make no stops and can average 70 mph the whole way, which you probably won’t. (Although through MT at least, you’ll have a 75 mph speed limit on Interstate 15.) Wave at the town of Helena as you jet past; it’s my hometown. :slight_smile:

I’d be more concerned about getting a motel room in Calgary at all during the Stampede than I’d be concerned about the cost; if you haven’t made a reservation, you might want to do so right away.

Interstate 15 takes you through the Sweetgrass (MT) border crossing, which is open 24/7 (because it’s on the Interstate) and which almost never has any wait times (because it’s in the middle of nowhere). If by any chance you decide to cross somewhere else in MT, not on the Interstate, and you think you’ll be trying to cross early morning/late evening, then you may want to check on the hours of operation to make sure you don’t get stuck at the border.

Again, I’d suggest you look at making a reservation if you don’t have one already. Banff is gorgeous and Tourist Central at this time of year; if you just pull off the road, you may not find a room.

If you have a passport, take it; you don’t technically have to have one yet to travel to and from Canada, but US. Border Customs and Immigration may very well hassle you if you don’t (they did me). This will not be an issue getting into Canada but may be an issue getting back into the States at the Blaine, WA, crossing. The Blaine crossing does get backed up with traffic, especially on the weekend, but you should be fine on a Thursday morning.

Vancouver to Portland is again almost 1000 miles, with a busy border crossing thrown in – a luh-ong day. I would probably stop in Seattle, or somewhere south of Seattle. If you decide to pull for Portland or someplace south of Seattle, you might want to try to time your trip so you aren’t driving through the Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia area any time around afternoon rush hour (4 to 7 pm), unless you really like sitting in your car. :slight_smile:

That is an awesome itinerary but it seems quite rushed. You’ll be covering some huge distances there.

Like this one: “4) Wednesday morning, drive from Banff to Vancouver. Explore Vancouver in the afternoon/evening.” That isn’t really a drive you do “in the morning”, in my book. And if you did, you’d be pretty tired to explore Vancouver in the afternoon/evening. You gotta stop and smell the roses!!

Asimovian, that is indeed an ambitious car trip (15 hours from Elko to Calgary!). We took three days to go from Calgary to Las Vegas (with stops along the way for Little Big Horn and Yellowstone Park), and took basically two days to go from Vancouver to Calgary. If you give yourself some leeway on the trip, I’d make room for extra time in the Rocky Mountains. Don’t forget that summer is construction season on the highways, too. Expect to be delayed at least a couple of times on the highways.

(Don’t speed in Idaho. Those bastards’ll ticket you as soon as look at you. And do bring your passport if you have one. We have used ours on our last two U.S. trips, and it couldn’t have gone smoother. Except for when they confiscated my grapefruit.)

Yeah, please don’t think I’m raining on your parade but you will be putting in some serious time in your car and you won’t really be spending enough time in any one city / large town to really see it. I’m not raining on your parade because I like these kind of flying car trips myself and no doubt you will be seeing a lot of country, but I wouldn’t expect to both cover these distances and be up for city exploring. I know I wouldn’t be, but maybe that’s just me. :slight_smile: When I do these sort of “see the world” trips myself (and I do, I love 'em), I stay in small town roadside motels, eat in diners, and don’t even try to get into the cities. But again, maybe that’s just me. I admire your ambition. :slight_smile: