Out-of-province friends or family coming for a visit and you want to show off Alberta? My Toronto-based world-traveling cousin is (ahem – finally) visiting her Alberta relatives, and we have one week to tour the province. It’s going to be a whirlwind with highlights in Edmonton, Jasper, Banff, and Calgary to show off the best of what Alberta has to offer! Here’s my itinerary for 1 week in Alberta.
For someone who doesn’t really hike I have more than my share of trail guides. Some are better than others, and I’ve developed a serious appreciation for a well researched guide book. “Stoked on Waterfalls” is up there with the best.
Stoked on Waterfalls: Volume I by Jason Walchuck is an exhaustive reference of waterfalls within a half kilometer of a public road in Alberta. Some are visible from a major highway, a few require driving down rough back roads and doing some serious bushwhacking, but they all meet the requirement of being within 500m of a non-private road.
Updated Juky 2, 2023
Going to Banff is a fun experience for the whole family but sometimes it can be hard occupying the kids all of the time. This is especially true if you’re not familiar with what there is to see and do. We’ve got 10 kid-approved ideas on how to keep busy with the kids while visiting Banff!
Kid-approved activities to do with kids when visiting Banff
This mix of cheap and free things to do in Banff should give you a wide range of activities in the National Park that your kids will love and talk about for years to come!
Did You Know: You Can Hike To a Cold War Bunker in Alberta!
Hiking with kids is always… interesting. I find that if I can entice mine with an end goal to hike to they do MUCH better. Usually we try to find a hike with water (lakes, rivers, waterfalls, etc) to get to, but this time we wanted something different so we tried the Heart Creek Cold War Bunker Hike just east of Canmore.
When you tell the kids there is an old, abandoned cave to explore at the end of the hike they move FAST!
Heading out of town with the kids can be expensive but if you’re willing to get outside, there are lots of winter activities in Jasper for your family for free.
Jasper has lots of hikes, but not all are great for kids. If you’re going in winter and you don’t already have ice grips for your shoes, rent some from a local sports store and that will help with the icy conditions (we rented ours from Jasper Source for Sports).
I’ve lived in Alberta my whole life, in Edmonton for almost 20 years and I’d never been to Elk Island National Park until this past week.
I know what some of you are thinking. What took you so long? Honestly, I don’t know. Many friends had told me about all the fun they’d had, I’d seen amazing pictures from my photography friends and I always thought to myself that I need to get out there some day. Thanks to my very good friend Allison, who offered to take us out there, 2 moms and 4 kids set out on an adventure.
Looking for more activities? Check out these posts:
- Short Day Trips from Edmonton
- Roadside Attractions day trip to the northeast of Edmonton
- Head East of YEG!
- 8-day/7-night Alberta highlights
We started by going down Bison Loop Road, to see the grazing beauties & stopped at the Big Red Chairs, before driving to the beach to eat our supper.
The lake. It sure is beautiful and was a perfect place for supper.
After supper, we checked out the Living Waters Boardwalk.
We did the loop & hit the playground. Then we walked up and checked out the old house.
The sun was coming down in the sky so we hit the car again to head out for a 2.5Km hike down Amisk Wuche Trail.
The sun was almost down as we finished up the last bit of the hike and it was amazing.
The kids had spent the whole time looking for markers, discussing the fairies that lived under the mushrooms, watching a teeny tiny tree frog hop across the path and generally being as loud a possible.
It was my favourite play date this summer and I highly recommend it! Be sure to check out their events page too. They have sessions running every weekend over the summer.
Updated: July 3, 2023
The 3rd Saturday of July is Parks Day across Canada! That’s July 15 in 2023. First recognized in 1990, Parks Day exists to encourage everyone to discover the treasures and natural beauty around us. This is something that we can definitely get behind! There is nothing more soul reviving than connecting with nature, exploring the great outdoors and celebrating the amazing and pristine outdoor spaces that we are so lucky to have in Canada.
Risky play, adventure play, imaginative play or whatever you want to call it is a topic parents are talking about. Encouraging kids to take risks and test their abilities has become the new trend to counter the “helicopter parenting” we have seen in the past. Kids are now being encouraged to climb, use tools (see why I let my own 5 year old use real tools and knives instead of pretend ones HERE), and take more risks.
Summer is a perfect opportunity to encourage your children to go out and explore! The most important thing with risky play is to let the child lead and show you how they will use the items. Don’t tell them how to use the materials provided. I promise you will be amazed by what they come up with given the opportunity.
- Pocket knife – of course depending on their age you will have to supervise this one but take this opportunity to teach them about how to use it properly. Cut away from their body, fold it down properly, don’t walk or run with it open. This is your chance to teach them how to use a knife the right way to cut ropes, whittle a stick, or carve their name into firewood.
- Rope – This can be used for fort making, imagination play, and more.
- Containers – Various sizes of containers (save old yogurt ones, ice cream buckets or hit up the Dollar Store before you go) are great for stacking, collecting things, and carrying water.
- Magnifying Glass – What better way to see that bug’s antennae or look at a leaf up close. You can get great ones from Education Station that are bigger and perfect for little hands.
- Tarp – You can get these at the Dollar Store now! They will be very useful for making forts, putting on the ground to sit on and for collecting things they find in nature so it doesn’t have to come into your tent or trailer.
- Duct Tape – you never know when you could use some duct tape!
- Notebook – Whether it is used to write or draw what they find or it is used to make paper airplanes with secret spy codes written on them, paper is always useful in imaginative play.
- Paint – You are outside so this is a perfect time to get messy! Paint rocks, paper, leaves or whatever they find! The less direction the better.
- Elastics – Show them how to shoot them, make a sling shot, bunch things together, or wrap around twigs. You will be amazed at how often these will be used.
- A Net – Useful for catching bugs, scooping things out of the lake, or transporting things around the campsite.
You gave them the stuff now what?
These are just ideas to get them started! Use things you find to encourage risky play. Make an obstacle course using fallen trees and stumps while camping. Climb a tree. Look for interesting rocks and start a collection. Let them ride their bikes further than you would usually let them. Use sticks they find as a sword or to build a fort. By encouraging them to take risks they are gaining confidence that they can do it. The bonus for you is there will be no “Mom guilt” when you sit in your lawn chair and let them play. Maybe you can even get to that book you have been meaning to read since they were newborns.
What are your kids’ favourite “Risky Play” activity? We would love to hear and get some ideas from you!
Sue Em writes because she loves words. Her blog missusemwrites.wordpress.com is where she writes about all sorts of interests including crafting, books, writing, hiking, and food. Sometimes it is an opportunity for her to write about herself in the third person. Sue is a mama originally from Singapore who now calls Calgary, Alberta home. She enjoys life as a busy person who loves wearing many ‘hats’ – educator, homemaker, chef, maker, artist, traveler, and mom. You can also find her on Instagram @missusem. In real life, you can sometimes find her in Calgary working as a presenter and facilitator at the Telus Spark Science Centre. Because yes, she loves science too.
A fun way to explore with your kids when you’re in the Bow Valley region is through hiking. There are many trails in the region for beginner hikers and are suitable for families.
Grassi Lakes trail is rated a beginner hike by Tourism Canmore, so, with my kids in mind during a moms weekend away, I decided to hike the Grassi Lakes trail to see if this would be something my kids would be interested in doing.
What you’ll need
- Real Shoes. This is not the hike for flip flops! Sensible shoes are a must for this hike (sneakers or hiking boots) because the hike can be very steep and depending on the route you take, it can be precarious at times.
- Sunscreen! I love the Rocky Mountain Soap Company’s natural sunscreen, it’s an SPF 31 and made with 100% natural ingredients. Plus Rocky Mountain Soap is a local company, and so when in Canmore…
- Water. All the water. It’s a good hike, uphill on the side of the mountain, you’re going to need to keep hydrated.
- Snacks. There are some really great spots at the top of the hike next to the turquoise lakes to settle in for a little picnic. Chances are, if your kids are like mine, they will be starving 5 mins into the trip. There are no garbage bins on the trail, so be prepared to bring whatever you brought up on the hike back down with you.
Grassi Lakes trail is located 2 km past the Nordic Centre and gets very busy during the summer months and on weekends. There are two places to park, either on the Smith Dorien Spray Trail (Three Sisters Parkway) or down at the entrance of the hike at Ken Richie Way.
The trail is divided into two routes, the “Easy”, and the “More Difficult.” I’m not much of a hiker or adventurer, so I took the Easy route and left the “More Difficult” route to the pros on the way up. After 5 minutes on the Easy trail, I was starting to wonder at what point this was going to be easy. To be fair you’re essentially climbing up a mountain on a fairly steep slope, so if you’re a prairie dweller like me, stretch those muscles before you go walking up the path.
It’s not stroller friendly (it’s essentially a gravel path) so pack your little ones in the carrier or have them walk. There are boulders along the way if the kids (or you) need a little break for water.
Once you get to the top, the views are unreal! Beautiful panoramic views of Canmore as well as two turquoise lakes and lots of things for kids to climb on and explore. Perfect place for a picnic as well.
I decided on the way down to take the “More Difficult” route, you only live once right? Well, I wish I had taken this trail on the way up! So much more to see including a huge waterfall. It was just spectacular. Do not take this trail if you’re with littles though. It’s quite steep and stepping over roots and narrow walkways do not lend themselves to toddlers or parents carrying babies on their backs. If you have older kids, this is definitely the way to go. Lots more to see and feels more like a hike than climbing a (very) steep hill.
Lastly, although the trail is fairly busy, you should still be aware of wildlife. Wildsmart has lots of information on keeping safe while on your wilderness hikes this summer, from what to look for and wildlife corridors in the Rocky Mountains.
Have a great hike!
Other posts you may be interested in:
Be sure to check out some of our other posts!