With Alberta’s volatile spring climate, planning for May weekends is a bit like going on a blind date: you hope for heat but prepare to weather a storm. The good news is that, rain or shine (we won’t utter that other s-word), there’s plenty of fun to be had across the province.
STEP INTO HISTORY AT CALGARY HERITAGE PARK
Delight in a bygone era at Calgary Heritage Park, which celebrates its season opening from May 20 to 22. Feel like Laura Ingalls as you make old-fashioned ice cream, enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride, or take a trip on the thundering steam train. There’s also an antique midway, including ferris wheel and carousel, and the chance to cruise on a half-size replica of the S.S. Moyie, a famous Gold Rush-era paddlewheeler. The park is open 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. throughout the long weekend.
CHOW DOWN AT THE WILDER INSTITUTE/CALGARY ZOO
One of Calgary’s best-kept brunch secrets is Safari Sunday at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo. Located in the heart of Destination Africa, the elaborate family affair includes gourmet and comfort foods alike, including a chocolate fountain with fresh fruit, silky eggs Benedict, a Belgian waffle bar and made-to-order omelettes. Arrive before noon to score an Early Bird Combo Rate that includes zoo entrance and brunch; AMA members save an additional 20% off park admission.
ROCK OUT AT JUBILATIONS DINNER THEATRE
Ferris Bueller’s School of Rock is playing until June 18th at Jubilations Dinner Theatre in Calgary. The three-act musical romp imagines what might happen if, 30 years after his infamous school-skipping escapade, Ferris were to find himself in the role of teacher. In Edmonton, the 80s theme continues with Flashdance: An 80s Flashback. The show price includes table service with a four-course meal, and AMA members save as much as $23 per ticket ($5 in reward dollars per admission can also be earned by purchasing ticket vouchers at any AMA centre). Oooooooh yeaaaaah!
GET CREATIVE AT THE BANFF CENTRE’S CHILDREN’S FESTIVAL
At one point or another, all parents joke that their children belong in a circus. So why not send your young ones to circus school? The fun activity is among the many highlights of the Banff Centre Children’s Festival, which also includes storytelling, creativity rooms, family dance, a noted Canadian magician, live shows and more. Best of all, everything is either free or low-cost! The festival takes place all day on May 20.
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GET YOUR FILL AT THE SUNSHINE SKILLET FESTIVAL
Head to Medicine Hat to watch home chefs battle it out for cash prizes and bragging rights. The Sunshine Skillet Food Festival gears up for its fifth anniversary May 20. Hit the Cypress Centre in the morning to watch competitors whip up their best dish using mystery-box ingredients. Later that evening, take a seat at the Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede for a collaboration dinner between five chefs.
SPREAD YOUR WINGS AT ELLIS BIRD FARM
Have your feathers ruffled by this incredible bird conservation centre dedicated to mountain bluebirds, tree swallows and other native cavity-nesting birds. The working farm in Lacombe houses the world’s largest collection of bluebird nesting boxes, but the big draw is the flocks of purple martins, the only bird species dependent on humans for housing. Opening weekend kicks off on May 22, with the first public appearance of Ellis and Albert, the farm’s Great Horned Owl chicks born this past winter.
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GET YOUR ANIMAL FIX AT EDMONTON VALLEY ZOO
Whether you’ve got kids in tow or are doing your own grown-up getaway, the Edmonton Valley Zoo makes for a fun way to spend a day. More than 350 animals make their home at the zoo, located in southwest Edmonton a few blocks from the North Saskatchewan River. Don’t miss the thoroughly entertaining Arctic Shores area, which features harbour seas and northern fur seals. The Siberian tiger and red-necked wallaby are also ultra-popular. AMA members save 10% on regular-price admission.
SOAR THROUGH THE AIR AT SNOW VALLEY
Pack the car and head to Snow Valley Aerial Park, the newest attraction next to Snow Valley and Rainbow Valley Campground. Kids and adults can test their agility on a variety of rope bridges, ladders, climbing walls and chain loops spread over three levels. In all, there are over 100 games that can take two to three hours to complete. At level three, you’ll find yourself 15 metres above the ground, literally skimming the treetops. Watch for the Edmonton river valley-themed obstacles—such as a coalmine cart, a travel trailer and kayak—as you make your way through the courses. Anyone over 140 cm tall can access levels one, two and three. (Anyone under 11 years and between 125 and 140 cm must be accompanied by a harnessed adult.) There’s also a ground level featuring 19 games for kids under 140 cm. It’s recommended that you book online and arrive 30 minutes ahead of your scheduled time. Snow Valley Aerial Park opens May 20.
DISCOVER WATERTON LAKES
Ready to take a big bite of the smallest national park in the Rockies? Head to the Waterton Food Festival, southern Alberta’s newest culinary event. It’s back again for a third year from May 26 to June 4, with each weekend offering fantastic foodie fun. Among the top options are a four-course chef’s table dinner, food tasting event at Thirsty Bear, pie cruise of Waterton Lake, and even an opera performance and dinner.