Beyond Banff: 7 Day Trips From Calgary to Get Your Outdoor Fix this Summer
Remember how nuts it was in the mountains last summer? The good news is you can still get your family an outdoor fix without all the crowds thanks to these easy day trips close to Calgary.
The Village at Pigeon Lake
Tucked away on the southern side of Pigeon Lake lies this charming village brimming with shops, restaurants and a family-friendly hotel. The best part? It’s super affordable compared to city and mountain resort prices. There’s a pile of toys for kids to play with at Daisy McBeans while you nurse a latte. Village Emporium has a fantastic children’s toy and book section, while The Market sports outdoor games, seasonal items and a full grocery store, so there’s no need to pack up your cooler.
Black Diamond and Turner Valley
These two towns are only 3km apart along Alberta’s famed Cowboy Trail. There’s a paved trail linking the towns, making it worth bringing bikes to roam between them. Outdoor city pools may not be open yet, but the Turner Valley outdoor pool is. Cool off there after spending the day at nearby Sheep River Falls. For affordable eats, Soft Rock Bistro in Black Diamond dishes out kiddie favourites, plus posh foodie fare. Also not to miss in Black Diamond is Marv’s Classic Soda Shop. In addition to table-side juke boxes, they sport a massive selection of soda, ice cream and old fashioned candy. Head to Black Diamond on a Sunday for organic eggs, veggies, pottery, plants, and more at the Makers And Growers Guild And Market. Make a weekend of it and stay overnight at Windflower, a laid back, family and pet-friendly B&B in Turner Valley.
Ready, set, wibit! It’s about an hour and a half drive from Calgary to Sylvan Lake Aqua Splash, the first water park of its kind in Alberta. Featuring interlocking inflatable modules that sit on the lake surface, it’s an ideal way to cool off during sweltering summer days. Heads up: Children need to be at least six-years old to play on this floating obstacle course.
Day trip to this pretty town south of the city, and you might never want to leave. Stroll around the historic downtown and nip into shops such as Pixie Hollow, where children’s toys and giftware seamlessly mesh. There’s a nature playground at Birchwood Park, but don’t skip the stately George Lane Park for a play, either. Just past the George Lane campground, you’ll find a riverside trail that anchors the outskirts of town. For quick eats, locals line up at Hitchin Post drive-in for seriously thick shakes (cash only, though). Need a break from the sun? Catch an afternoon matinee at the art deco Wales Theatre.
Heritage Ranch, Red Deer
Remember that show Mantracker? Well Ranch Tracker is alive and well in Red Deer. Families keen to outwit and outrun the man on the saddle head to Heritage Ranch for an epic outdoor adventure. Budget half a day to experience life on the lam with your brood. Win or lose, you’ll want to treat yourself to a meal after your adventure, and scrumptious Westlake Grill is located on-site. Thursday to Sunday, the ranch offers pony rides and one-hour trail rides. You’ll want to call ahead to make a reservation. There’s a great playground on-site.
Photo: Kristina Cajipe
It’s less than a two-hour drive to get to this authentically western town. Pick a hot day, pack a picnic lunch and prepare to spend all day at the outdoor pool. Strike it up with a spot of glow in the dark bowling at Bassano Bowling Alley, a three lane five pin facility. Or, burn off energy outdoors at the playground at Kinsmen Park. Before heading home, tuck into an authentic Italian dinner at Armondo’s.
Snuggled within the Alberta Foothills, many families don’t know about this little gem. The town center is tiny, but it’s worth strolling through to suss out their general store, boutiques and antique shops. At nearby William J. Bagnall Wilderness Park, you’ll come across picnic areas, a playground and a swimming hole with a rope swing. Easy hiking trails ensure the wee ones get an appreciation for the outdoors, but not too tuckered out.