Weekends are made for getaways, and in Central Alberta, there’s no shortage of sights to see. It doesn’t matter if it’s solo, with a date or a best bud, or with a carful of kids, new memories and stories to share for years are just down the highway. Here are just some of the locations to plot into the GPS.
- Recharge in the great outdoors in Nordegg, nestled on the eastern slope of the Rockies. Take “The Road Less Travelled” (also known as Highway 11) to this relatively unknown wilderness escape. Whether you’re lacing up your hiking boots, channeling your inner cowboy while horseback riding, getting the adrenaline pumping on a mountain bike, or just relaxing by a mountain stream, you’ll find the perfect way to relax. While you’re in the area, spend the night at the David Thompson Resort. Forty two kilometres west of Nordegg, you’ll find the “Best Kept Secret in the Canadian Rockies.” Hotel, campground, cabin – there’s accommodation available for whatever your sleeping style. And you’ll need a place to rest your head after so much fresh mountain air.
- Looking for more excitement in your mountain getaway? Rocky Mountain House is where the adventure begins! From kayaking, fishing, and golfing in the summer, to ice climbing, snowmobiling, and skiing in the winter, there’s an adventure for every outdoor enthusiast in the family. In the daytime, keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, deer, wolves, and more. Learn about life at a trading post at the Rocky Mountain House Historical Site. At night, turn your eye to the sky and try to catch a glimpse of northern lights over the peaks. Make sure to check out the local events. There is always something going on – rodeos, concerts, farmer’s markets, and more.
- Looking for a weekend with more arts and culture? Drayton Valley is a thriving community with a growing reputation as a getaway destination. Have a history buff in the family? Take a walking tour downtown and view historical buildings from the town’s beginning in 1957, including the local movie theatre, or learn a thing or two at the Museum. Grind and flip at 4-S Skate Park, and give your pooch a chance to run off some energy at the Arc Bark Park. If it’s raining, Park Valley Pool is the place to be for all ages and abilities.
- If camping’s more you’re style, take a trip to Pigeon Lake. You’ll find campsites for individuals and groups, but you may need to book ahead. Not sure about roughing it? Comfort Camping’s the way to go! Pigeon Lake Provincial Park has Yurts available in various sizes, with an electric heater for cool evenings and wide windows for sunny afternoons. You’ll still have the fire pit, but you’ll collapse into a real bed at the end of the day. The Village at Pigeon Lake has restaurants and shopping (including a fantastic farmer’s market and gift shops). Take a tour of the beaches and stop by Ma-Me-O Beach, Zeiner, and Mulhurst Bay as you circle the lake until you find the perfect place to play. There are also four well-renowned golf courses in the surrounding area to take a swing at so don’t forget your clubs!h
- Halfway between Alberta’s two major cities, Red Deer invites you to visit its vibrant community. You’re guaranteed a warm welcome from a young population in an active city. Learn about life in the past at the Old Court House or the Canadian Pacific Railway Station, check out local events at Westerner Park where there’s always something going on, and catch a performance of the nationally-recognized Red Deer Symphony Orchestra. Bower Place is home to world-class retailers and The Market at Red Deer holds unique treasures from local vendors. All in the same weekend, get your outdoor fix at Sylvan Lake – central Alberta’s recreation destination! Just 18 km west of Red Deer and with a beautiful lakeshore and well-developed waterfront, Sylvan Lake has a long history as a thriving resort town. From toddlers to seniors, it’s the place for families. Experience the evolution of water play at Sylvan Lake Aqua Splash, go head to head at Lakeside Go-Karts & Mini Golf, find the perfect picnic spot at Centennial Park, or grab a bite at the local favourite Pete’s at the Beach.
- Find your new favourite family memories with a weekend trip to Lacombe County. Discover sandy beaches and scenic boardwalks at Alberta’s first provincial park: Aspen Beach Provincial Park. Get lost in the corn maze at Kraay Family Farm, build a birdhouse at Ellis Bird Farm, or take riding lessons at Flying Cross Ranch. Discover the pioneer heritage with museums, blacksmith shops, and take a self-guided walking tour to see the murals throughout the town. Get the small-town feel with outdoor concerts in various parks and farm-to-table meals at restaurants like Cilantro & Chive and Ellis Café, local favourites with local food.
- For a change in scenery, take a getaway to the badlands. To have a great trip without all the crowds, try the area around Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park. Shady riverbanks make it unbeatable for bird watching, especially from a canoe on the Red Deer River. There are day use areas, but you can also grab a site at the Tolman Campground. Learn about the Jump and how it played a part in Alberta’s history and explore some off the beaten track hiking trails. While you’re in the area, take a relaxing retreat at St. Ann Ranch, find out about French settlers in Trochu, and book a tee time at area golf courses.
- Enjoy beautiful parks, down-home hospitality, and amazing events like Big Valley Jamboree, Prairie Fun Days, and Jaywalkers with a trip to Camrose. See who has more local knowledge at Camrose & District Centennial Museum and Heritage Railway Station & Park. Get a grown up game of hide and seek going with the local geocaching sites and find your inner aviator at Alberta’s Littlest Airport just east of the city. The Bailey Theatre boasts an intimate stage with state-of-the-art lighting for unforgettable performances. With ice skating, splendid groomed cross country skiing trails by Camrose Nordic Club, and even a luge track, the area has just as much to offer for winter weekends!
- What better place for a weekend getaway than the “Heart of Alberta:” Stettler. Take the time to shop on Main Street for unique and diverse shops, making sure to pick up an infamous “Cream John” at Blokes Bakery, let the world and your worries slip away when you fish in the local pond, drift down the river on a tube, and enjoy free entertainment on summer evenings in West Stettler Park (don’t forget the bug spray!). But the must-do for this trip is travelling back in time with Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions on a steam train. Watch out – you may experience a robbery! If you want to camp out on the shores of a Lake, you have a choice of Rochon Sands Provincial Park and Old Mcdonald Resort on the shores of Buffalo Lake.
- Stay on the move with destinations close enough to visit several in one weekend. Innisfail area has several family-friendly farms allowing you to get back to nature. Find fresh honey at Nixon Honey Farms or pick berries and veggies yourself at Eagle Creek Farms or The Jungle Farms. Float along the Red Deer River or get face-to-face with a tiger at Discovery Wildlife Park. Just down the road, Markerville is full of history and definitely worth driving through. Take a tour at the Creamery, maybe grabbing an ice cream cone while you’re there! Dickson is where the past comes to life. Costume interpreters take you through the Dickson Store Museum. A visit to The Danish Canadian Museum, that features 7 acres of Danish gardens with an Island Castle & Drawbridge and a small Danish Church in its grounds and Stephansson House Provincial Historic Site, will give you a feel of what it would be like to take a step back into Alberta’s past.
There is no shortage of weekend getaways in Central Alberta… What are you waiting for?