Activities & Indigenous Places to Visit in Alberta this Summer
May 29, 2021
Alberta is an often-overlooked province because it doesn’t house the main seat of government in Canada, nor is it on the coast. The majority of the population in Alberta lives in its two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton, but the lifestyle of the province is rural and rooted in hunting and farming. From the Rockies to the boreal forests, Alberta is known for its scenic beauty throughout the year.
Winters in northern Alberta can be brutal, but the southern areas in Alberta are protected from much of the harsh weather by the Rocky Mountains. Did you know? Alberta is home to six UNESCO World Heritage Sites and has many of the most beautiful national parks in the world. If you’re looking for an adventure amidst natural beauty or seeking cultural experiences, Alberta has it all. Here are some of the best indigenous places to visit in Alberta.
Summer is probably the best season to take in all Alberta has to offer. Hiking, fishing, paddling, and summer festivals are only a few of the activities you can experience throughout this province. Enjoy an indigenous experience to fully appreciate the heritage of Canada.
Dinosaur Provincial Park, Iddesleigh
This park is an active exploration site where over 150 fossilized skeletons have been found. Plan at least one full day, maybe even two, to take in this World Heritage Site. It features outdoor fossil sites, hiking trails and camping. This park is one of the best places to take pictures of the badlands. The park is open year-round, but you’ll be able to sign up for guided tours from April to October.
As Canada’s largest national park, you’ll find all types of wildlife here. It was established in 1922 to protect the bison, and today it has one of the last herds in northern Canada. This national park is also home to one of the last remaining natural nesting sites of the whooping crane. It’s a bird lover’s paradise as it has one of the most concentrated nesting environments for ducks and geese on the planet. In the summer, it’s a great place to watch the Northern Lights.
Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum, Banff
This museum offers interpretive tours by local Elders and many events to celebrate the rich heritage of the First Nations peoples. It’s a return to the days when the native people followed the buffalo. It’s the story of how the European people blended with the native people to create the Métis culture. This museum links the past to the present, helping Canadian citizens learn to look toward the future together to create a society that honors the diversity of the land.
The rodeo season runs from April to September. There’s almost no better way to experience the cowboy lifestyle than attending a small-town rodeo and watching cowboys and cowgirls compete in roping, riding, and barrel racing. The Calgary Stampede is one of the largest festivals that celebrates the western culture and spirit. It’s held every year in July.
This park is open from May to October and is a fun way to explore the rich culture of Red Deer. Red Deer River Crossing was one of the safest points to cross the river before the railway connected Edmonton and Calgary. This location commemorates the First Nations and Métis peoples who influenced the community. It’s next to the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, which is open all year long for environmental education.
Elk Island National Park, Fort Saskatchewan
July and August are the best months to visit this national park where you could, if you’re lucky, find yourself in a bison traffic jam. The park is open year-round, but many of the activities are naturally appropriate for summer. It’s an oasis of calm where you can enjoy a day picnic, biking, kayaking, bird watching and photographing. Stay overnight to enjoy stargazing without light pollution.
Visit Stony Plain, Stony Plain
This town features 39 life-size murals that were created by Canadian artists. These works of art represent the heritage of the area, from the First Nations peoples to the European settlers who carved out their lives in Stony Plain. You can take a walking tour, bicycling tour or even a horse and wagon tour to enjoy these beautiful cultural representations. Stick around to explore the two local museums and Crooked Pot Gallery.
Alberta Springs Golf Resort, Red Deer
Half the fun of golf is enjoying the natural setting and beauty of the outdoors. This resort in Alberta offers breathtaking views of the landscape with four tees and excellent customer service. It’s a beautiful place to spend the afternoon, even if you’re not a pro golfer.
Lundbreck Falls, Pincher Creek
This waterfall is often compared to Niagara. The Crowsnest River plunges 12 metres into a deep pool. It’s known for its trout fishing, so this is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. If you have time to spare, take in the local heritage at Kootenai Brown Village, an outdoor heritage facility with 27 heritage cabins that are restored and furnished with period furniture. The area hosts many local festivals and family events.
Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site, East Coulee
When you live in an urban area, mining can feel like a thing from the past, but this site is an authentic coal mine. Experience coal mining in a new way to understand some of the current concerns about mining and how it affects the indigenous peoples of Canada.
Take a train ride to experience the history and landscape of the Alberta prairies. Tours last about 3 hours, with different experiences throughout the year. The circus train runs on Wednesdays in July and August. The season lasts until December 31, with trains in November and December themed The Polar Express.
Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, Lethbridge
A Japanese garden is a cultural and artistic experience that is unique to each setting. This garden not only celebrates Japanese art and culture, but also Canadian art and heritage. It was created by Japanese artists out of friendship to Canada. The winding path through the leafy retreat gives you spectacular views of the Alberta prairie, one scene at a time so as to not overwhelm the senses and to let you fully appreciate the Canadian landscape.
Although there seems to be a shortage of indigenous restaurants in Alberta, many chefs are trying to focus on First Nations cuisine. Edmonton has the second largest indigenous population of any metro area in Canada, only following Winnipeg. There are a few chefs running food trucks to get the flavors out there.
Indigenous foods vary by location, but most would say that the basis of indigenous cuisine is using local, fresh ingredients and sharing food around the table to bring families together. Food is one thing that preserves a culture. Here are a few restaurants offering indigenous flavors in Alberta, but you can expect to see more in the future.
Little Chief Restaurant, Calgary
Little Chief Restaurant is one of the dining options at the Grey Eagle Hotel Resort on the Tsuut’ina Nation. Not all its offerings are indigenous, but you’ll find a good variety of native foods on the menu, from pemmican, fry bread, maple syrup and salmon.
Homefire Grill, Edmonton
Homefire Grill utilizes open flames and prairie flavors, such as bison and elk to create fire-roasted comfort food that has indigenous roots. Enjoy bannock, bison stew or an elk lasagna followed by a bannock bread pudding.
Blackfoot Grill, Stand-Off
Blackfoot Grill started as a food truck by a father-son duo from the Blood Reserve. Today, their operations include catering and daily lunch services to locals. Their menu is inspired by indigenous cuisine.
Native Delights, Edmonton
Fresh, homemade bannock made daily is just one of the features of this restaurant offering pickup and delivery in Edmonton. It features some delicious indigenous inspired foods, poutine, Newiyawak tacos and buffalo smokies.
Aahksoyo’p Indigenous Comfort Food, Calgary
This catering company offers indigenous comfort food through a catering menu. Although they only serve groups of 15 or more, it’s worth noting that the menu includes bannock, Indian popcorn, Saskatoon berry soup and many more specialty items.
Métis Crossing, Smoky Lake
At Métis Crossing, we have lunch options that tie to the Métis people and heritage. We also offer family style banquet meals that give you the Métis experience. Meals change with the season because we rely on what nature shares with us.
Outdoor activities and experiences
The indigenous peoples of Canada traditionally lived their life outdoors. If you’re looking for a place to get off the grid and experience the activities of yesterday, here are some great places to visit in Alberta.
Hideaway Adventure Grounds, Kikino
This rustic campsite welcomes guests to enjoy a camping experience and to re-energize in the wilderness. Come out for a special weekend to learn indigenous life skills, plant knowledge or how to make leather creations. Learn to cook bannock over an open fire. Make the crafts of the Métis. Share the stories, music and dance of the Métis. Learn to snowshoe in the winter.
If you really want to experience life as a cowboy, Boundary ranch features horseback riding, wagon rides, campfires and more. It’s open year-round, with dog sledding and sleigh rides in the winter. Boundary Ranch is located in the Canadian Rockies and has all types of adventures that await.
Painted Warriors Indigenous Outdoor Experience, Sundre
Reconnect with nature at the foothills of the Rockies when you experience the Ojibway, Cree, and Mohawk cultures. Enjoy wildlife viewing, Aboriginal stories and heritage, and hunting traditions at this camp that is open year-round with seasonal experiences, such as horse-back riding, snowshoeing and glamping. Learn to track moose or shoot a bow-and-arrow. Take a nature hike to identify medicinal plants. You’ll take away memories that will last forever.
Adrenaline junkies will have the time of their life at this park that isn’t just for winter. This facility boasts North America’s fastest zip-line. Skating, mountain biking and tubing are just a few of the activities you can enjoy at this site. Check their calendar for special events. For the tamer members of the family, mini golf might be just the ticket for an afternoon of fun.
Métis Crossing tells the distinct story of the Métis and its heritage, a fusion of European and Aboriginal cultures. Come for a day to learn more about the Métis experience. Camp and take part in educational experiences designed to showcase the Métis culture. Signature experiences let you get close to the Métis by paddling a canoe or walking in our mocs. Métis Crossing hosts weddings, business events and special events.
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