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Alberta

Photo © bobrk607

Travel Guide North America Canada Alberta

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Introduction

Bow Lake, Banff NP

Bow Lake, Banff NP

© All Rights Reserved davidarow

Often thought of as Canada's wild west, Alberta is a land of strong urban development as well as striking natural beauty. From badlands and prairies to rocky mountains, along with one of Canada's most densely populated corridors, Alberta is a unique part of the Canadian west.

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Geography

Alberta is part of western Canada, bordering Saskatchewan to the east, British Columbia to the west, the Northwest Territories to the north, with the United States (Montana) sitting directly below the 49th parallel.

In the southwest section of the province, snaking along the border with British Columbia, the Canadian Rocky Mountains are located, giving way to foothills and eventually plains as one heads east. In southeastern Alberta, where the Red Deer river crosses the flat prairie land, deep gorges and land forms such as hoodoos create a striking landscape known as the Badlands

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Cities

The two largest cities in Alberta are Edmonton (The capital) and Calgary (The province's largest city). Both cities have metro-area populations of around 1 million. Calgary and Edmonton are anchors to the provinces "Calgary Edmonton Corridor" and within this 400km strip of land stretching between, and including the two cities lives nearly 75% of Alberta's population[1]. Included within this corridor are some of the provinces smaller cities of Red Deer, Wetaskiwin, Leduc and Airdrie.

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Sights and Activities

Rocky Mountaineer

The http://www.rockymountaineer.com|Rocky Mountaineer]] is two-day tour through the Canadian part of the Rocky Mountains. The train travels during the day, so you can enjoy the magnificent landscapes in the western part of this country, including canyons, rivers, valleys and glacial lakes. There are several trips possible, including the First Passage to the West route from Vancouver, British Columbia via Kamloops to Banff or Calgary in Alberta. Another one is the Journey through the Clouds route from Vancouver via Kamloops to Jasper, also in Alberta. The Rocky Mountaineer company also offers less popular but also spectacular trips to Whistler and Prince George, north of Vancouver, on the Rainforest to Gold Rush route (travelling via Prince George to Jasper) and Whistler Sea to Sky Climb, the latter being a daytrip from Vancouver.

  • Arguably Alberta's most popular sights are within the Rockies. Jasper and Banff National Parks feature the striking beauty of the Rocky Mountains, as well as many different recreational activities such as hiking, camping and skiing.
  • West Edmonton Mall, which for many years held the title of of being the largest mall in the world is a popular destination for visitors. The mall includes a huge indoor water park showcasing the worlds largest indoor wave-pool as well as a large indoor amusement park. West Edmonton mall is also home of many big name stores that cannot be found elsewhere in western Canada.
  • Banff National Park and Jasper National Park are both great parks with beautiful scenery and lots of outdoor activities including hiking and in winter skiing.

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Events and Festivals

Edmonton, known as Canada's festival city is home to many exciting summer festivals.

Calgary also features many festivals and events

  • Lilac Festival - Hundreds of food and entertainment vendors set up in the streets for an exciting and popular day.
  • carifest - One of Calgary's largest festivals featuring arts and culture of the Caribbean.
  • Calgary Folk Music Festival - Popular music festival including markets and a variety of music and artists.
  • The Calgary Stampede, held in July every summer in Calgary, showcases the rich cowboy heritage of this modern western town. It calls itself the 'Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth'. The main goal is to preserve western heritage and values, and there are a number of argicultural events like rodeos and chuck wagon races. However, there is much more than only horses and western heritage. In the city, many bands play during the week and a half long festival, and there is a lot of partying and drinking. The Calgary Stampede itself though takes place at the Stampede Park, located southeast of downtown Calgary in the Beltline District. It's one Canada's biggest annual events, with well over 1 million visitors each year.

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Weather

Alberta, like much of Canada, has warm summers and bitterly cold winters. Average summer temperatures (June to September) are between 20 °C and 24 °C with rather chilly nights, around 10 °C. Winters last from December to March, with daytime temperatures averaging below zero and nights averaging between -10 °C and -30 °C, though up north temperatures can drop even lower at night. Conditions are often sunny but rain is possible year round, except for the wintermonths when most of the precipitation falls in the form of snow. Still, because temperatures can be very low, snowfall is rather light and most of it falls shortly before and after the coldest months. The Rocky Mountains form a part of Alberta and here summers can be a bit cooler while winters are cold and sometimes see much more heavy snowfall compared with the lower areas or more to the north.

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Getting There

By Plane

There are several airports in Alberta with flights to other Canadian cities as well as international destinations.
The main airport is Calgary International Airport (airport code: YYC) with dozens of flights within Canada and to the US as well as places further away, including Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. Air Canada connects Calgary to more destinations across Canada, the USA and the rest of the world direct from here. WestJet flies from Calgary to destinations in western Canada. In addition, many US airlines fly to Calgary.

Edmonton International Airport (airport code: YEG) has a significant amount of flights as well. The airport has domestic flights to most locations in Canada, as well as many major American hubs. Some direct flights are also available to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.

By Train

The Canadian operates by ViaRail travels between Vancouver and Toronto, stopping in several cities in Alberta. The Skeena travels from Jasper to Prince Rupert along the Pacific Coast of British Columbia.

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Getting Around

By Train

The Canadian (see above) is the only train service with services between several cities in Alberta.

By Car

Renting a car is the best option to get around Alberta and gives you maximum freedome to explore as many places off the beaten track as possible. Be sure to get a 4x4 vehicle if you are planning on driving on unpaved roads. Some of the options to rent a car include the following companies:

By Bus

Greyhound Canada offers services to most major and also smaller cities and towns. Red Arrow has services between major cities.

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Eat

The greatest variety of food can be found in Edmonton and Calgary. Besides being famous for producting high-quality beef, Alberta does not have a distinct cuisine. However, like much of Canada, the multicultural make-up of the province provides for many excellent restaurants providing food from almost anywhere in the world.

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References

  1. 1 http://geodepot.statcan.ca/Diss/Highlights/Page9/Page9d_e.cfm

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This is version 20. Last edited at 15:20 on Jun 30, 13 by Sander. 22 articles link to this page.

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