Zippin’ around at WildPlay Wood Buffalo Element Park (photo: Cinnabar Vista Productions)

Things to Do in Alberta: Summer 2017

By AMA Staff

Get out and discover these amazing, family-friendly, Alberta summer attractions and events.

Adventure is the watchword at WildPlay Wood Buffalo Element Park, an outdoor obstacle course east of Fort McMurray. But this isn’t just any arrangement of ladders to climb and tires to step through: Here, visitors age seven and up can safely push their physical and mental boundaries climbing, jumping swinging and zip-lining through the treetops. Obstacles hover between two and 12 metres off the ground, and become higher and more challenging as you go. Book in advance to ensure the best chance to test your limits.

On a hot summer day, the craving to cool off is strong. Luckily, you can spend some time floating down Calgary’sBow and Elbow rivers. Local outfitter Lazy Day Raft Rentals offers rafts for four to 10 people—plus paddles, life jackets and shuttle service. Choose to meander along the Elbow—a slower, shorter trip perfect for families with young kids—or the Bow, which is larger, faster and colder, with multiple entrance and exit points to pick from. The company even offers picnic lunches, which you can stop and savour at one of the many parks along the way.

Step back in time to learn about a discovery that changed the course of Alberta’s history. Petroleum first sprayed out of the Dingman No. 1 well in Turner Valley 103 years ago, ushering in a century of oil-and-gas exploration and processing. The find also led to the construction of the Turner Valley Gas Plant, Alberta’s first natural-gas processing facility, which operated for nearly 70 years. Today, it’s a national and provincial historic site, housing informative exhibits and offering tours to visitors every summer.

things to do in alberta summer 2017 big valley roundhouse railway
Roundhouse ruins in Big Valley, Alberta (photo: David Michael Drew)

At least two-dozen railway roundhouses dotted Alberta in the early 1900s. The iconic buildings, once essential for servicing and storing locomotives, have nearly disappeared; just three remain—in Strathcona, Big Valley and Hanna. The latter’s Canadian Northern Railway Roundhouse is the most intact of the trio, and was declared a Provincial Historic Resource in 2015. Locals are currently spearheading a restoration of the site, which includes a large facade, turntable and water tower foundation. The Roundhouse is open for events—check online to find out what’s happening this summer.

See what’s happening this summer in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, too!

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.

things to do in alberta summer 2017 elk island bison huckleberry festival
Get to know a bison, or harvest a berry bounty this summer (photos: Parks Canada; Castle Mountain Resort)

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. 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. July 28-30

Set your gaze to the ground in Southwestern Alberta during Castle Mountain Resort’s annual Huckleberry Fest. The weekend-long event takes place during prime picking season for the tartly sweet, blue and black (and sometimes red) fruit, which thrives at higher elevations. Ride a chairlift to reach the mountainside bushes at this once-a-year harvest, then make your way back down to the resort—picking as you go—where live bands, kid-friendly activities, a craft and bake sale, and an evening pig roast await. August 25-27