photo: Arterra Picture Library/Alamy

Things to Do in Alberta: Spring 2017

By AMA Staff

Spend some time this spring discovering these colourful, sweet and unique peeks into Alberta’s past and present.

Canada turns 150 in 2017! To celebrate, CAA clubs across the country have partnered with Passport 2017, an initiative funded by the Government of Canada. It’s a website and mobile app loaded with events and news to help you celebrate our milestone birthday. You’ll find recommendations of things to do and places to see throughout the year—all tailored to you. As you visit events and landmarks, and read stories about Canadian culture, cuisine and history, you’ll earn virtual badges to track your own journey on the mobile passport. How many can you collect?

Family Day weekend offers an excellent chance to spend quality time on a frozen lake, waiting for that fateful tug on your line. For three days in February, anglers don’t need an Alberta Sportfishing Licence to land the likes of arctic grayling, bull trout or northern pike. Or maybe you’ll hook a lake sturgeon, which is one of the most ancient (and largest) of freshwater fish species. Want to fish but don’t know how? Register for a Kids Can Catch event on February 18 at Wabamun Lake. Feb. 18-20

The history of the West is a story both of settlers from the East and the First Nations peoples who were already here. The marriage of Cree women and French-Canadian voyageurs helped establish the first Métis communities; eventually these pioneers were joined by missionaries, businessmen, doctors and more—many of them from what was then called Lower Canada. The annual Calgary Maple Festival des Sucres celebrates these Francophone roots. The event at Heritage Park features all manner of traditional family fun, including live music and folk dancing, Métis fingerweaving, a lumberjack show, historical exhibitions and, true to the festival’s name, lots of maple syrupy treats. March 4 & 5

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Canolli at Sweet Capone’s in Lacombe (photo: Deanna Besuijen/1000 Words Photography)

Lacombe’s historic main street is often named among the prettiest in the country because of its collection of restored Edwardian edifices. Those heritage sites are now home to modern businesses, including one with a proud history of its own. Italian bakery Sweet Capone’s—which recently relocated to occupy the 110-year-old M&J Hardware building—is known for its cannoli. Using a recipe passed down by her nonna, co-owner Carina Moran and her staff turn out more than 1,000 of the cream-filled pastries each day. Get to the shop early as the cannoli often sell out—though biscotti, a dozen Florentines or a pesche dolci (peach cookie) are worthy consolation prizes.

Though it has fewer than 50 residents, the ghost town of Wayne, outside Drumheller, welcomes thousands of visitors each year. One reason? The Last Chance Saloon, a watering hole decorated with trophy heads and mining ephemera—plus a bullet hole in the wall above the piano (rumour has it a bartender once shot at a patron who tried to leave without settling his bill). Ask the staff to fire up the one-of-a-kind vintage band box, a jukebox-style contraption with mechanical figures that “perform” big band-era swing tunes.

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Installing the latest lights at Edmonton’s Neon Sign Museum (photo: City of Edmonton)

Paris and Las Vegas aren’t the only cities of lights: Edmonton also has a history of being lit—by neon signs. Dozens of them illuminated downtown during neon’s mid-20th-century heyday. Though many of the signs were eventually taken down, some are now enjoying a second life as part of Edmonton’s Neon Sign Museum. Last year, 11 new gas-filled lights were added to the colourful outdoor collection, including a spiffy circa-1950s W.C. Kay Jewelers sign that had never actually been lit, and “the old lady in the rocking chair” from the now-closed Hayden’s furniture store. Almost 20 restored signs glow on the side of the TELUS building at 104 Street and 104 Avenue plus the historic Mercer Building directly across the street.

Experience the charms of a bygone era at Red Deer’s Heritage Ranch. While snow remains, a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the ranch’s woodlands is perfect for a fun family affair or an intimate evening of courtship. Warm your hands at the fire pit pre- or post-ride, then tuck in for a more modern comfort: fine dining at the on-site Westlake Grill. Or schedule a Sunday outing to take advantage of the sizable brunch menu.