photo: Sean Thonson/Travel Alberta

Things to Do in Alberta This July

By AMA Staff

There’s something magical about July in Alberta—and we’re not just talking about Calgary’s Kensington transforming into Diagon Alley (of Harry Potter fame) for a day. From medieval glamping to barn dances, drag racing to music festivals, there’s no better time to fall under summer’s spell. And for more ways to save with your AMA membership, even without a car, visit justacard.ca.

CAST A LINE WITHOUT A LICENCE, ACROSS ALBERTA
The weekend of July 8 and 9 offers an excellent chance to spend quality time at your nearest lake, waiting for that fateful tug on your line. On this summer’s Free Fishing Weekend, anglers need not have an Alberta Sportfishing Licence to land the likes of arctic grayling, bull trout or northern pike in any of the province’s waters. (Note, however, that all other sportfishing regulations remain in effect.) Want to fish but don’t know how? Drop into a Kids Can Catch event in Provost, Stettler (both July 8) or Coronation (July 9).

SWING YOUR PARTNER AT THE GREAT CANADIAN BARN DANCE, HILLSIDE
Years ago there was only one way to christen a newly built barn: invite the neighbours over for one helluva party. That tradition continues every Saturday night until September 30 at the Great Canadian Barn Dance in Hillspring, just a stone’s throw from Waterton Lakes National Park. The evening’s activities kick off with a roast-beef dinner served up by the Kunkel family. Once the plates are cleared, guests get a crash course in polka, jitterbug, line and square dancing, before graduating to the main event: a two-and-a-half-hour shindig hosted by The Barn Dance All Stars. Should you tire of swinging your partner around, there’s room on this 22-heactare property for 75 RVs. Those who’d rather not rough it can bed down at the Kunkel’s B&B.

“GLAMP” IN MEDIEVAL SPLENDOUR, THREE HILLS
Just as Game of Thrones returns to the screen, spend a night or two living like a Lannister at a medieval encampment in Three Hills, about an hour’s drive northeast of Calgary. The immersive “glamping” experience by Good Knights Entertainment puts guests in deluxe, double-occupancy tents (or a Tudor-style pavilion for larger families) outfitted with everything from four-poster beds, wooden furniture, warm linens and more. After you’ve enjoyed an in-tent breakfast, don a period-appropriate costume and take in sword fighting demonstrations and wandering minstrel performances, and pick up a longbow for an archery session.

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Village Ice Cream (photo: Ayngelina Brogan)

DO A DIY ICE-CREAM TOUR, CALGARY
Of all the food holidays, National Ice Cream Day (July 16) is surely the most vanilla – and chocolate, and strawberry. Celebrate the occasion with visits to some of Calgary’s most iconic purveyors of the childhood treat: Village Ice Cream, for house-made artisanal ice cream; Fiasco Gelato, for old-world gelato and sorbetto made with quality ingredients you can actually pronounce; and Marble Slab, where the Wonka-esque selection of ice cream mix-ins make your order as individual as you are. AMA members save 15% every day at Marble Slab, but on August 2, National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, AMA members can visit any Marble Slab location in Alberta and get a free ice cream sandwich. That’s a really cool deal!

SPEND A DAY IN KENSINGTON’S DIAGON ALLEY, CALGARY
If you know an animagus from an auror, and a Sorting Hat from a snitch, then this Harry Potter-themed event is for you. On July 30 from 10 a.m. til 5 p.m., Calgary’s Kensington will earn its O.W.L. in Transfiguration by transforming into Diagon Alley. Drink butterbeer on a variety of extended patios, participate in the costume contest, watch a Quidditch match at Hillhurst Sunnyside field, enjoy street performers, and shop for Hogwarts merchandise. Last year, more than 40,000 people came out for the free event, so be sure to manage your mischief accordingly.

GO BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN SOAP COMPANY, CANMORE
This Alberta company is famous for its natural beauty and health care products. Its bath bombs are, well, da bomb. If you’re in the Canmore area, sign up for a tour of Rocky Mountain Soap Co.’s manufacturing facilities and see how they make their products from start to finish. It’s the perfect indoor activity when rain and clouds sock in the mountains.

MAKE A SPLASH AT AN AQUATIC SPORTS PARK, SYLVAN LAKE
Aqua Splash is what it would look like if American Ninja Warrior were staged on a giant bouncy castle in the middle of a lake. The inflatable jewel of Sylvan Lake is every kid’s dream, with a 15-foot tower and climbing wall, 15-foot slide, oversized trampoline, giant launch bag, trapeze swing, lily pads and other water obstacles. The aquatic sports park is newly expanded for 2017 and suitable for ages six to eight (at least 3’6″ with a paying adult) or nine and up (no adult required with a signed waiver).

SEE BIG-TIME BIKES, PONOKA
Every July, the stampede grounds in the Central Alberta town of Ponoka hosts a different kind of rodeo. Motorcycle enthusiasts from across North America gather here for the Ponoka Vintage Rally, July 28 to 30. The biggest vintage motorcycle event in Western Canada is a family-friendly affair with on-site camping plus a number of activities spread over three days, including a show and shine, steak dinner, pancake breakfast and motorcycle-themed Jeopardy. Canada’s 150th birthday is this year’s theme: Organizers plan to highlight Canadian-made bikes.

ENTERTAIN AN ANIMAL ATTRACTION, ELK ISLAND NATIONAL PARK
Despite its name, Elk Island National Park’s claim to fame is its renowned bison conservation program (though elk are also found in the park). Sizeable herds roam the 194-square-kilometre area; over the years, their numbers have contributed to reintroduction initiatives everywhere from Montana to Alaska to Sakha, Russia. Elk Island visitors can now get a behind-the-scenes look at the park’s conservation efforts during a Bison Backstage Tour. Offered on weekend afternoons starting in July, the guided, hour-long experience leads you through the bison corrals for a new perspective on the beasts’ place on the Canadian Prairies and plains around the world. Pre-register for the tour at the park’s visitor centre. AMA members can pick up their free Parks Canada Discover pass at any AMA centre.

LEARN ABOUT ABORIGINAL LIFE, THE BADLANDS
One hundred and forty years have passed since the signing of Treaty No. 7, an agreement between the British Crown and several Plains First Nations bands in what is now southern Alberta. The treaty remains controversial today, and there are few better ways to gain an understanding of its impact—as well as the history, culture and present-day circumstances of the signatories—than at Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. Nestled along the Bow River, the centre is itself marking its 10th anniversary, and offers varied programming that promotes the language, culture and traditions of the Siksika (Blackfoot) peoples.

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Watching the Canadian Passion Play in the Badlands (photo: Ron Nickel/Travel Alberta)

WITNESS A RESURRECTION, DRUMHELLER
The stunning natural landscape of the Badlands is the perfect backdrop for a story of epic proportions. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in July, Albertans can flock to the Canadian Passion Play outdoor amphitheatre, where hundreds of actors and musicians offer a dramatic depiction of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. After the show, dig into Drumheller’s other claim to fame: the Royal Tyrell Museum. AMA members save 10% on admission.

SPEND TIME AT THE TRACK, EDMONTON
Feel the rumble beneath your feet and the energy in the air as drivers test their mettle—by putting their pedals to metal—at the Castrol Raceway. If you’re a racing enthusiast, stop by and get your dose of adrenalin at events such as sprint car, stock car, motorcycle, and quarter-mile drag racing. AMA members save 10% on spectator admission.

HIT THE CRAFT BEER MARKET ROOFTOP PATIO, EDMONTON
On sunny days, get a taste of the high life and hit the Craft Beer Market rooftop patio located on Rice Howard Way. Craft has a lot going for it, including a delicious and extensive menu that serves up modern pub grub such as burgers, sandwiches, flatbreads and killer appies. Out-of-towners take note: this utterly fabulous space is steps away from The Westin, The Hotel MacDonald and Marriott hotels. AMA members receive a complimentary appetizer with the purchase of two entrees.

GET THE PICTURE AT THE ART GALLERY OF ALBERTA, EDMONTON
New this summer, the Art Gallery of Alberta offers free admission on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The AGA’s newest exhibit, Cutline, casts an eye backwards in time, showcasing photographs from The Globe and Mail’s archives. While these photos capture defining moments of Canadian history from the 1950s through to the 80s, don’t expect your typical, polished iconic images. These snaps are taken through a haunting and edgy lens that shows Canada as it was.

BRUNCH AT THE UKRAINIAN HERITAGE VILLAGE, EDMONTON
If breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, make it a good one at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village east of Edmonton. So carefully crafted is chef Cory Rakowski’s brunch menu that you feel like you’re stepping back in time to when Ukrainian settlers first arrived on the Prairies. Delve into house smoked bacon and eggs and pan fried potato cakes. If there’s one thing you need to try, it’s the baked babka cake served with a heap of blackberry compote and fresh fruits. You could quite happily while away your entire Saturday and Sunday afternoons here. AMA members save 10% on admission.

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Finding Dory (and more) at TELUS World of Science–Edmonton

DISCOVER PIXAR’S FILMMAKING SECRETS, EDMONTON
Find out how some of your favourite animated films are made at The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition, opening July 1 at Telus World of Science – Edmonton. Did you know, for example, that 90% of the monsters in Monsters Inc. had Mike’s tongue? That Ratatouille animators saved time by not giving toes to the human characters? Or that it took 10 artists more than a month to create the 1,000 unique props in the interior of WALL*E’s truck? The cheerful exhibition is a celebration of science, technology, math and magic, all set to the backdrop of Pixar’s beloved movies. Best of all, your AMA card will score you 10% off regular admission to The Science Behind Pixar Exhibition, which includes Science Centre access for the day.

BREAKFAST AT FOOTLOOSE CABOOSE, TOFIELD
Less than an hour’s drive southeast of Edmonton in the community of Tofield, you’ll find Footloose Caboose, a quartet of decommissioned rail cars that have been turned into a small inn and restaurant. The Mount Lefroy dining car is the main attraction, featuring throwback decor and a weekend brunch menu designed for insatiable appetites. The “king sized” hobo omelette with potatoes and smoked sausage will keep you chugging along all day.

PERK UP YOUR EARS AT SEVEN MUSIC FEST, ST. ALBERT
The lineup at this year’s Seven Music Fest has indie cred that sets it apart from the folksier feel of similar outdoor shows. Headliners for the July 8 event include the Juno-winning Strumbellas, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Frazey Ford, The Elwins, The Royal Foundry and others. Bonus points for the cool location: As Sam Roberts once put it, “It doesn’t get more Canadian than a music festival on a toboggan hill.”