Canada — O, Canada — land of red-jacketed mounties and gravy-soaked poutine, you might think. But there’s more, so much more. Point your car true north for a true mix of outdoorsy and urban pursuits that will make you feel like a true Canuck. Uncover Canada’s brand of Old West charm on a road trip from Calgary to Edmonton, winding though national park majesty for swoon-worthy views that will make all your Instagram friends jealous.
Your Olympic dreams can become reality behind the wheel of a bobsled on the summer course at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park. On your team? An expert pilot who will steer while you just catch air on the 50 mph ride. If the Jamaican bobsled team can do it, so can you.
The culinary scene in Calgary is booming. So, before you hit the road, fuel up at River Café, where the ingredients are locally-sourced and all the bread is homemade. Save room for dessert and order milkshakes at Peter’s Drive-In. They’re worth every calorie.
But you’re still not ready to leave Calgary, because on top of Olympic dreams, you’ve got a thing for dinosaurs. Between Calgary and Banff lies the Dinosaur Provincial Park. This nature preserve has the highest concentration of dinosaur bones in the world from dozens of species. It’s like stepping on to the set of “Jurassic Park”. Tours sell out in the summer, though, so make sure you book in advance.
Leave the animals of the prehistoric past in exchange for the present-day creatures in Banff National Park, Canada’s first — and the world’s third —national park. Here, you’ll see them in their natural home surrounded by glacier lakes and snowy mountain peaks. If you want even more epic views, take to the sky in a gondola.
Banff isn’t just mountain views and wild animals. The city boasts a wild nightlife as well. Grab a genuine Canadian Rocky Mountain brewed beer at the Banff Ave. Brewing Co. or wrestle the mechanical bull at Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon.
You haven’t posted nearly enough on Instagram. Head northwest and grab breakfast at Lou Lou’s on your way to Jasper National Park. Ditch the car for a boat tour of Maligne Lake to see Spirit Island, one of the park’s most photographed spots. Then, lace up your hiking boots and find one of the red Adirondack chairs strategically placed throughout the park for optimum mountain viewing and snapping.
Afterwards, soak your muscles in the Miette Hot Springs – if you can stand the heat. The mineral water at Miette is the hottest in the Rockies.
For a more laid-back tour of the park, ride the Rocky Mountaineer or drive the Icefields Parkway. Both serve up views that put postcards to shame. Plan to stay at the park until the sun goes down. Jasper is a dark sky preserve, which means there’s no artificial light visible at night. You’ve never seen so many stars!
Unless you decide to camp out in Jasper, you’ll arrive late in Edmonton. But with 18 hours of summer sunlight, you’ll have plenty of time to roam the city come morning .
Start with a run along the riverbank or a cerebral game of giant chess in Sir Winston Churchill Square. Then, go to the not-so-ordinary West Edmonton Mall. Inside this entertainment mecca, you’ll find a waterpark, roller coaster, pirate ship, penguins, sea lions and more.