When it comes to getting away for the weekend, you won’t find a more breathtaking destination than Northern Alberta. Vast boreal forests, stunning views, far-reaching waterways, and small communities are ready to welcome you with open arms. In this area of the province, the journey is just as important as the destination, so no matter where you go, it will be unforgettable.
1. Peace River Valley
When it comes to majestic views and getting back to nature, you can’t go wrong with the Peace River Valley. Nestled in the valley, the town of Peace River is perfect to relax and just enjoy life. Hiking, cycling, skiing, and walking are the usual order of the day, especially when each turn presents you with a new picture-perfect vista – so make sure you have a camera on hand. Shopping, restaurants, clubs, and lots of local entertainment are waiting when it’s time to get out of the sun. The Town of Fairview, “The Heart of Peace,” is a little town with big hospitality, prompting visitors to linger and experience small town fairs, splash park, pioneer museum, and more. Nearby Nampa’s museum preserves local culture and artifacts and provides tourist information during the summer months. Cross-country skiing and curling are perfect activities under the winter sun.
2. Slave Lake Region
Twice the size of PEI with 1/5 of the population, the Slave Lake Region really feels like getting away from it all. World-class recreational activities include fishing, hunting, boating, swimming, hiking, motocross, skiing, snowmobiling, and much, much more. Lesser Slave Lake Provincial Park boasts 7 km of untouched beach to explore and the beginning of the TransCanada Trail – a hiker’s dream. The northernmost bird observatories in Canada make it a first class destination for bird watching. In Slave Lake, there are events and festivals throughout the year, celebrating all the history and culture of the area, so you’re sure to catch some local flavour while you’re there. Live like a local in a B&B and take in a game between hometown hockey teams at the Multi-Rec Centre.
4. Grande Prairie
You may be surprised at just how much there is to do on a weekend getaway to Grande Prairie! Take a step millions of years into the past at the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Muesum and learn what it was like to walk with dinos. The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie is home to the Peace River area’s largest collection of public art. Visit the only pioneer log building in the city of Grande Prairie: the Rev. Forbes Homestead. Take a tour of the building, first built as a hospital in 1911.This vibrant and growing city has plenty of places to choose from when it comes to finding a place to rest at the end of a busy day, so pack your bags and head up north.
5. Dunvegan Provincial ParkHead north along Highway 2, along the Deh-Cho Trail, to Dunvegan Provincial Park. History buffs will love the park and all the opportunities within. The Dunvegan Historic Site includes a Hudson’s Bay Company Factor’s House, St. Charles Church and Rectory, teepees traditionally set up by the local Dunne-za peoples. Costumed interpreters guide you through what it was like to live amongst First Nations, fur trade, and early missionaries. Top it off by traversing Alberta’s longest suspension bridge. It’s not all history, though. Live in the moment with river adventures, hiking trails (maybe come face-to-face with some wildlife!), and mountain biking on the hills leading up from the riverbank.
Why visit Manning? The giant Manning Moose roadside attraction is just the beginning. One of northern Alberta’s newest towns, it still showcases the area’s forestry and agricultural history at the Battle River Pioneer Museum. The Battle River Rodeo in July is a huge draw for visitors. Stay at the nearby Notikewin Provincial Park, with its sweeping hills at the junction of the Peace and Notikewin Rivers. Or, catch some Rainbow Trout at Twin Lakes Provincial Recreation Areas, whose campgrounds are accessible year round. The restaurant just outside the campground is a favourite for many passing through.
7. Wood Buffalo National Park
If you’ve ever dreamed of a wilderness adventure in a remote location, Wood Buffalo National Park is a definite must. One of the biggest parks in the planet and the country’s largest dark sky preserve, the Park is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spot incredible numbers of free-ranging buffalo and endangered whooping crane populations. At night, you’ll be amazed at the number of stars you can see without the light pollution of any nearby civilization. Watch the Northern Lights dance across the sky from the comfort of your sleeping bag. Meander through the Salt Plains, swim in a sink hole, and explore the Peace-Athabasca Delta in this park that’s sure to linger in your memory long after your weekend getaway.
The Athabasca Region is rich with history and interesting people. From great shopping in the downtown district and vibrant nightlife to the family-friendly Athabasca Riverfront Park with spray and skateboard parks, there’s something for everyone on a weekend trip the Athabasca. The calendar is full of events you won’t want to miss, including festivals and rodeos. Eat where the locals do at small cafés such as Paddymelon Gifts, Espresso & Eatery, where every nook and cranny has something new to delight you. The surrounding area includes communities of Boyle, Amber Valley (whose full history is celebrated through local museum tours), Calling Lake, Wandering River, and more make for unique forays out of the main city.
9. BarrheadOkay, admittedly you might not hear Barrhead and immediately think of a great weekend getaway. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll find when you arrive. It has all the appeal of small town Alberta, with all the amenities of a big city. The Klondike Trail Viewpoint was a key stop over during the Klondike Gold Rush and still gives unparalleled views of the area. The Vega Sand Hills is an unique sand dune formation with hiking, biking, and horseback riding. One of only seven remaining ferries in the province, the Vega Ferry on the Athabasca River runs April to October, at which point an ice bridge allows crossing. Get adventurous with the whole family at the nearby Thunder Lake Provincial Park, Lac La Nonne, Peanut Lake, Rotary Park Campground, and more – all showcasing the best of what the area has to offer.
10. St. Paul
While the Town of St. Paul is a great place for everyone to get away for the weekend, the biggest draw is likely one for your favourite “geek.” In 1967, a proposal was made by the town and the government of Canada got on board – and the world’s first UFO Landing Pad came into existence. Celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2017, the Landing Pad is not only a local landmark, but is also a UFO exhibit designed to educate. That’s not all the town has to offer, though! Make sure to plan time for a visit to the Mother Teresa House, the Mannawanis Friendship Centre, and the St. Paul’s Visual Arts Centre. Lagasse Park is full of family activities and community events are always a draw for kids and adults alike.