The Calgary Zoo welcomes a quartet of giant pandas this May (photo: Toronto Zoo)

Things to Do in Alberta: Summer 2018

By AMA Staff

Furry friends, fun, food and thrills throughout the province—from May to September 2018.

FROM CHINA WITH LOVE
Starting in May, Cowtown will welcome a different kind of emblematic animal, as four giant pandas take up residence at the Calgary Zoo. The zoo’s $14.5-million Panda Passage habitat is symbolic of friendly Canada-China relations, offering a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Albertans to see these icons of the global conservation movement in person. Two cuddly cubs, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue, are the big draw for 2018. But don’t wait to see them; they’ll be repatriated to China next year while the zookeepers in Calgary focus on helping the cubs’ mother, Er Shun, conceive another baby panda or two.

FOODIE FUN
As if you needed another reason to visit Waterton Lakes National Park: The Taste of Waterton food festival offers culinary events across the townsite, which was thankfully unharmed by last September’s wildfires. This year, a trip to the land where the prairies meet the peaks gives foodies the chance to nosh at chef’s table dinners, soak in the vibes at Thirsty Bear Socialhouse and more. The pie cruise is always a highlight, what with its triple treat of sailing (on Waterton Lake), stunning views and slices of pie from local eateries. May 25–June 3

EXTRAORDINARY EXHIBIT
Brothers Brendan and Jude Griebel want to pique your interest in a trip to rural Alberta. They’ve assembled a one-of-a-kind collection of curiosities, the Museum of Fear and Wonder, in a renovated army barracks near Bergen. The journey to the community, 100 kilometres northwest of Calgary, is part of the experience. Upon arrival, you’ll enter a museum like nothing you’ve seen. Their oddities, from a 150-year-old Dutch death mask to a Namibian “divination basket,” express themes of human experience, identity and myth making. By appointment only, June–August

Save room for pie in Waterton Lakes (photo: Tim Gainey/Alamy)

FOR THE BIRDS
It’s the perfect time to celebrate a seasonal resident of Camrose. The purple martin—North America’s largest swallow—flies thousands of kilometres back home after wintering in the Amazon basin. For the flocks that reach central Alberta, more than 100 specially designed birdhouses await, as does a fête just for the feathered friends. At the annual Camrose Purple Martin Festival, take a tour of the town’s nest boxes to learn how the abodes helped to counteract the species’ decline, and how you too can become a martin landlord. Fun activities for kids, naturalist talks and, of course, lots of bird watching, round out the festivities. Afterward, check out local attractions like the circa-1911 Camrose Railway Museum & Park, or take your clubs to one of the dozen golf courses within a half-hour’s drive from town. June 16 

WORTH THE WAIT
Five years after flooding ravaged the Kananaskis Country Golf Course, the 36-hole course is set to reopen in May. The Mount Kidd and Mount Lorette layouts—named for the peaks that backdrop their fairways—have been restored and fine-tuned to be more forgiving to the average player. Mount Lorette’s tricky opening tee shot, for example, now has a more generous landing area, and bunkers have been minimized across both courses. Non-golfers can also find enjoyment: Pop in for a bite to eat on the expanded clubhouse patio, or just stop to admire the transformed landscape that’s overcome immense destruction.

FELINE GREETINGS
Family adventures await at Innisfail’s Discovery Wildlife Park, home to orphaned wildlife, former exotic pets and animals from other zoos. Guided by the belief that conservation begins with education, the park offers daily animal presentations, evening experiences for guests of its new campground, and adventure packages by advance reservation. Walk with black wolves Nisa and Lupe, or go behind the scenes with cats like tigress Sheera, lions Griffen and Zendaya, and jaguar twins Magnum and Mia. Ask about Mia’s recent procedure to alleviate arthritis, which involved a cutting-edge treatment usually reserved for humans.

Soul man Booker T. headlines the Edmonton Blues Festival (photo: Piper Ferguson)

HOW BLUE CAN YOU GET?
Marking its 20th year, the Edmonton Blues Festival is an intimate celebration of sizzling licks and rootsy soul, with performances that span the blues, rock ‘n’ roll, zydeco and more. This year’s event sees marquee names like Booker T., Samantha Fish and Monkeyjunk taking the stage. It’s one of the best parties of the summer—and AMA will be there with a few surprises for members. Aug. 24–26

HISTORICAL STAY
Game of Thrones may be on hiatus, but you can live like a Lannister at a medieval encampment in Three Hills, 125 km northeast of Calgary. The immersive glamping experience features deluxe, double-occupancy tents (or a Tudor-style pavilion for larger families) with four-poster beds, wood furniture and more. After an in-tent breakfast, don a costume and take in sword fighting demos and minstrel performances, or pick up a longbow for an archery session.