Calgary Summer Festivals

Calgary 2016 Summer Festivals

As warmer weather approaches Calgarians are ready to burst out and celebrate. For the summer of 2016 there are dozens of festivals and events for every age and interest. Whether you live here or are visiting, check out this roundup of some of the best summer festivals in Calgary.

Calgary summer festivals

The 4th Street Lilac Festival

June 5, 2016, 10am to 6pm

  • This free one day event is the start up to Calgary’s vibrant festival season.  
  • Enjoy the unique and pedestrian friendly 4th Street venue, offering an array of musical talent, artisan vendors, quality entertainment and some perfect people watching.
  • There are six stages hosting over 30 performances throughout the day, and over 500 vendors that vary from artisan crafts to street food.
  • website

Calgary Greek Festivalgreek_logo

September 16 – 18

  • Greek food and entertainment for the whole family.  
  • Bring your family out to Calgary’s longest running festival.
  • EAT, DRINK, DANCE – GREEK!
  • website

Sled Island Music Festival

June 22-26, 2016

  • The annual Sled Island festival features over 250 bands plus film, comedy and art across 30+ venues in Calgary!
  • website

Calgary Stampedechampios-buckle-up

July 8 – 17, 2016

  • At the biggest festival of all, the whole city joins in the world famous Calgary Stampede.
  • Parade, rodeo, midway, music, and food.
  • Events throughout the city including numerous free pancake breakfasts with entertainment.
  • website

Calgary Folk Music Festivalcow-bg

July 21 – 24, 2016

  • The 37th annual Calgary Folk Music Festival at Prince’s Island Park features acts from 16 countries on 9 stages.
  • The festival includes an interactive family area, international craft market, global culinary delights, a record tent and tree-shaded beer garden.
  • Over 70 artists from around the globe present roots, blues, world music, funk, country, and bluegrass.
  • website

Pet-A-Palooza

July 23 & 24, 2016

  • Pet-A-Palooza is a FREE family-friendly and pet-friendly festival.
  • Bring your pet to sample treats & food. Shop for toys, collars, coats and beds! And best of all get hooked up with FREE SWAG!!
  • Join us at Eau Claire to meet over 80 exhibitors, local rescues, listen to live music, check out Running of the Bulls – French and English Bulldog Races! And, you did what with your wiener?! Raced em’! New this year wiener dog races!
  • website

Calgary International Blues Festival

July 25 – 31, 2016

  • The Calgary Bluesfest takes place at Shaw Millenium Park, offering non-stop mainstage performances, a beer tent and nightly dance parties that run late into the night.
  • This family friendly event draws audience members from around the world, who enjoy the grass-roots feel and fun for all.
  • Starring Crescent City’s iconic guitar great Walter “Wolfman” Washington; Grammy award-winning giant, Bobby Rush, the pairing of two legends, Amos Garrett & Geoff Muldaur, and many more, the weekend promises to set the town on fire with its world-class, non-stop blues!
  • For an up-to-date artist line-up visit the festival website

Inglewood SunfestfooterLogo

July 30, 2016

  • A summer festival in the heart of historic Inglewood, with activity for all ages.
  • Street performers, music, unique shopping, and food outlets.
  • website

Expo Latino Festival

August 5 – 7, 2016

  • Celebrate Latin Culture at Calgary’s hottest outdoor festival experience.
  • World-class performers, sizzling dancing, exotic foods, arts and crafts, and more.  In the heart of Calgary’s downtown at Prince’s Island Park.
  • website

 

Afrikadey! World Music Festivalstatic1.squarespace

August 10 – 13, 2016

  • A week-long celebration of the music, food, dance, theatre, film, literature and visual arts of Africa.
  • These events take place at different venues all over the city with a final day of music on Prince’s Island.
  • website

Marda Gras Street Festivalcta-mask

Sunday, August 14, 2016

  • The streets of Marda Loop will come alive at this 32nd annual New Orleans themed festival.
  • Purple, green and gold pageantry; a variety of high quality cultural performers, dance groups and musicians; outdoor activities; and a wide variety of delicious cuisine draws kids of all ages.
  • website

Opera in the Village
production_hero

August 13, 14, 20 & 21

  • Calgary’s East Village RiverWalk Plaza will once again be bursting with music and mirth as Canada’s only outdoor summer opera festival returns for the third annual Opera in the Village!
  • website

GlobalFest

August 18 – 27, 2016

  • An international fireworks festival and celebration of Calgary’s diverse cultural; with cultural pavilions, ethnic food booths and a night market.
  • website

Illuminasia Lantern & Garden Festival

September 8 – October 16, 2016

  • Experience more than 230 authentic Chinese lanterns and authentic Chinese, Japanese and Indian entertainment and programs that spotlight food, art and culture in the Calgary Zoo’s botanical gardens.
  • website

For information on even more Calgary festivals, check out www.visitcalgary.com.


The Tsuu T’ina Indian Rodeo and Pow Wow

If you enjoyed the Calgary Stampede, here’s your chance to see top level rodeo up close at the Tsuu T’ina Nation Indian Rodeo and Pow Wow, on July 22 – 26, 2015. This is one of North America’s top Indian rodeos, combined with First Nations culture and the excitement of a traditional pow wow.

This event is held in the scenic Tsuu T’ina Nation, at the Redwood Fairgrounds near Bragg Creek, Alberta (about 30 minutes from Calgary). Last year we had the opportunity to attend both the rodeo and pow wow, and highly recommend it for the whole family.

Rodeo…up close and personal

This is the Tsuu T’ina’s 41st annual rodeo and pow wow. Top native cowboys and cowgirls from across Canada and the U.S. are competing for cash and prizes in excess of $100,000 in added prize money.

At this rodeo you are so close to the action you can see the determination on the cowboy’s face as he tries to stay on top of a bucking bronco. The announcers are entertaining and a big screen lets you see the action complete with replays. Their are more than 300 competitors in events including: bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing, saddle bronc, and bareback riding.

The Pow Wow – a feast for the senses

The pow wow is both a competition and a celebration of native culture, with hundreds of the best traditional dancers, singers and drummers from across North America participating.

As the pow wow begins, it’s a thrill to hear the steady beat of the drums, the voices singing, bells ringing. And then it’s time for the grand entry of native dancers from across North America in beautiful and elaborate traditional garments.

pow wow ladies

More keep filing in, joining the rest in the centre of the building, until the room is a swirl of colour and dancing.

When you go:

  • There are rodeo events daily, with the top finishers in each category competing in the finals on Sunday
  • Pow wow gets underway at 7pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday
  • Fireworks each evening
  • Plenty of food concessions are on the grounds, with everything from hot dogs and mini donuts, to very tasty Indian tacos
  • There are also booths selling traditional crafts, jewelry and clothing, and more
  • Admission in 2014 was $10/adult for the rodeo. (discounts for children/seniors)
  • Location: Redwood Meadows Arena, 12 km northeast of Bragg Creek, Alberta on Highway 22

For more information check the event website at www.tsuutinarodeo.com

This post is part of the Travel Photo Monday linkup.

Simmons Building Calgary East Village

The Simmons Building – Calgary’s Cool New Dining Destination

The historic Simmons Building just opened as a unique dining destination in Calgary’s East Village. It brings together three of Calgary’s food favourites: Charbar (an offspring of Charcut), Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, and Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.

The Simmons Building is right next to the Bow River Pathway, and we just happened to be riding our bikes past and noticed it had opened. Time for some research!

A great East Village location next to the Bow River Pathway

With the development along the Bow River Pathway and the opening of the Simmons Building, the vision for Calgary’s East Village is beginning to take shape.

Before entering we noticed Charbar’s outdoor seating area, and others sitting on the nearby benches with food and drinks from Sidewalk Citizen and Phil & Sebastion.

Simmons building in Calgary East Village

Inside, it is a beautiful building with an industrial modern feel, and the restaurants flow easily within the open space. It is an upscale casual place, but as it was a warm Saturday afternoon we saw several others in their biking clothes like us.

Charbar

Although it was opening day, service was good, with only a few minor hiccups. Charbar is a Canadian/Argentinian inspired restaurant with a large dining space on the main floor as well as a raw bar for seafood. There is more dining space on the second floor including space for private dining. Since we were there they received their liquor license, and so their rooftop terrace should be open too. It will no doubt be a popular nice weather destination, with its great views of downtown and the river.

It was Saturday noon and Charbar was serving their weekend brunch. We already had our eggs earlier in the morning, so we decided to try their famous burger. We were sharing as we planned to have dessert and still had to bike home.  The server offered us a choice of still or sparkling water, and it is FREE!! 🙂   Yay!!  The trend of upscale restaurants charging for water is a pet peeve of ours, as Calgary has excellent tap water.

Charbar burger and fries

This is their Gaucho Burger, with provoleta (an Argentinean cheese), crushed avocado, and chorizo bacon. It was delicious, with two beef patties and a generous amount of avocado. We would normally ask for ketchup with our fries, but once we tried them we didn’t even ask because they were so tasty! We asked our server the secret of the fries, and he told us when they cook their beef, they reserve the drippings, and use a little to flavor them after they’ve been fried.

The burger was $18, which is not cheap, but Charbar uses top quality ingredients and the portion is generous. (and they don’t charge for water!)

We planned to have their peach bourbon sundae for dessert, but sadly it wasn’t yet available. So we each had a cappuccino and decided to pop over to Sidewalk Citizen Bakery for a sweet fix.

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery

Sidewalk Citizen Bakery features fresh-baked croissants, decadent desserts, and more. They also have a full menu of sandwiches, savory pastries, salads and pizza. The items can be packed up to go, or eaten at their lunch counter or tables. We picked up a couple dessert items to go.

Sidewalk Citizen Savarin Cake

This is savarin, a brioche cake soaked with rum syrup, and topped with creme chantilly.  It was light, fresh and delicious.

 

Rosetta & Pistachio Cheesecake from Sidewalk Citizen

Rosetta & Pistachio Cheesecake

Next we tried the Rosetta & Pistachio Cheesecake, with whipped cream & almond syrup. I’m actually not sure what Rosetta is (should have asked), but I can assure you it was delicious and quickly devoured.

 

Old School soft drinks at Sidewalk Citizen

Old school soft drinks at Sidewalk Citizen to go with your picnic sandwiches

With its location next to the Bow River, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery is bound to be a popular place to pick up picnic items to enjoy in the nearby parks.

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters

Phil & Sebastion Coffee

Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters was started by two engineers turned coffee nerds. I’ve been a fan since they started up at the Calgary Farmer’s Market in 2007, and they’ve had a lot of success since then. In 2012 they brought together the people of Charcut and Sidewalk Citizen to check out the East Village Simmons building. They all immediately saw the potential of creating a unique culinary experience with collaboration between all three partners. As an example of this, Charbar uses Phil & Sebastian to supply their coffees, and Sidewalk Citizen Bakery to provide fresh bread.

Coffee from Phil & Sebastion

The cappuccinos we ordered at Charbar were provided by Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.

The historic Simmons Building is a great location and concept. When you are in town I recommend checking out Calgary’s cool new dining destination.

Peace Bridge

Calgary by Bike on the Bow River Pathway

I love exploring new places by bike, and lately I’ve been doing the same in my hometown. Calgary has an extensive network of bike paths that can take you from the downtown core to almost anywhere you want to go. Exploring Calgary by bike on the Bow River Pathway is one of the best ways to experience the city.

The Bow River Pathway, near Eau Claire, Downtown Calgary

The Bow River Pathway, near Eau Claire, downtown Calgary.

Why Bike?

  • I can cover a lot more ground by bike than walking.
  • It’s easier to stop and explore interesting places than it is by car.
  • I seem to discover more new places by bike than by walking or by car.
  • It’s a good workout. At least it offsets the bakery I’m bound to discover along the way.
  • It’s fun!

The Bow River Pathway

This route is a favourite of mine, and follows the Bow River Pathway from Edworthy Park at the west end, through downtown Calgary, to Pearce Estate Park at the east end. It passes by some of the inner city’s most interesting neighborhoods, including Kensington, downtown’s Eau Claire and East Village, and historic Inglewood. There are plenty of places near the path to stop for a bite, or have a cold drink on a patio. Several parks along the way provide a green break from the city, and also make a nice spot for a picnic.

Calgary Bike Map

The ride is about 12 km one way, and takes about 40 minutes at a moderate pace. But you could spend all day depending on stops you make along the way. The Bow River pathway runs along both sides of the river, so it’s easy to do a loop of about 24 km, and you can start your loop at any point. There are also several bridges along the way so you can make your ride shorter or longer. There is free parking at Edworthy Park if you’re driving. For more details, here’s a link to the route on Google Maps.

Art along the Bow River Pathway

There is a lot of art on display along the Bow River Pathway, including this sculpture in the revitalized East River district.

 

Historic Inglewood

Inglewood is Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods; and one of Calgary’s most interesting areas to explore, with unique shops, antiques, and restaurants. Ninth Ave, originally Main Street is just a couple blocks from the bike path.  I’m hiding out here from a rain shower that left as quick as it came.

 

Near Inglewood looking towards downtown Calgary

Near Inglewood looking towards downtown Calgary.

 

Pearce Estate Park

Pearce Estate Park – An unexpected scene a fifteen minute ride from downtown Calgary.

 

Mama and her babies at Pearce Estate Park

Mama and her babies at Pearce Estate Park

 

Eating Along the Way

Delicious Albacore Tuna from the River Cafe, Prince's Island Park

Delicious Albacore Tuna from the River Cafe, Prince’s Island Park

Any food you eat while out on a bike ride doesn’t count, right?

  • Parkdale: Lazy Loaf and Kettle (breakfast, lunch and fresh baked goods), Leavitt’s Ice Cream Shop
  • Kensington: Many pubs and restaurants to choose from, including Higher Ground for coffee, Vero Bistro Moderne (on 10 St), and Julio’s Barrio.
  • Prince’s Island Park: The River Cafe is splurge-worthy, both for its food and setting in the park. Their early bird dinner is a good value.
  • Downtown: Several places in the Eau Claire area, and many more throughout downtown, including on 8th Ave (the Stephen Avenue Mall).
  • East Village: Right next to the bike path, check out the Simmons Building, with options for dining in or takeout: Charbar, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, and Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters.
  • Inglewood: Again, many options, including Spolumbo’s (for deli sandwiches), Minh Chau Vietnamese, and Choklat for an excellent chocolate fix.

 


Here are four bike rental places near the route.

  • Eau Claire Rapid Rent  Eau Claire Market 200 Barclay Parade SW, phone: (403) 444-5845
  • Prime Ski and Bike #6, 7 Parkdale Cresent NW, phone: (403) 452-2142
  • BikeBike 1501a 17 Ave SW, phone: (403) 457-2453
  • Sports Rent 4424 16 Ave NW, phone: (403) 292-0077

For further information on the City of Calgary’s Bike Paths click here.

 

Calgary Lilac Festival

The 4th Street Lilac Festival

This past Sunday we joined (practically) everyone in Calgary for the 4th Street Lilac Festival. It was a perfect sunny day and everyone was happy to get out and enjoy the live music, food, artists and people-watching.

4th Street is part of Calgary’s Mission District, with numerous great restaurants, shops and art galleries. Today the street was pedestrian only, with more than 500 vendors showcasing arts and crafts, organizations and charities, and of course lots of food.

A sunny day at the 4th Street Lilac Festival

Lots of music

People of all ages

Dancing in the street

Lilac Festival dancing

Food and unique shopping

Many of the food vendors were mini versions of 4th street restaurants, so it was a great way to sample their offerings. Our favourite was the bratwurst from Wurst.

If you missed the 4th Street Lilac Festival, don’t despair! Here’s a roundup of Calgary summer festivals.

If you would like more information about the next Lilac Festival check the official Lilac Festival website.

Do you have any festival plans this summer?

Calgary Summer Festivals

Calgary 2015 Summer Festivals

Yay! The warm weather has arrived, and if the recent Lilac Festival is any indication, Calgarians are ready to burst out and celebrate. For the summer of 2015 there are dozens of festivals and events for every age and interest. Whether you live here or are visiting, check out this roundup of some of the best summer festivals in Calgary.

Calgary summer festivals

Calgary Greek Festivalgreek_logo

June 19-21, 2015

  • Come and enjoy the delicious Greek food, Greek wines and craft beer, and of course Greek dancing.  
  • Bring your family out to Calgary’s longest running festival.
  • EAT, DRINK, DANCE – GREEK!
  • website

Sled Island Music Festival

June 24-28, 2015

  • The annual Sled Island festival features over 250 bands plus film, comedy and art across 30+ venues in Calgary!
  • website

Calgary Stampedechampios-buckle-up

July 3 – 12, 2015

  • For ten days each July the whole city joins in the world famous Calgary Stampede.
  • Parade, rodeo, midway, music, and food.
  • Events throughout the city including numerous free pancake breakfasts with entertainment.
  • website

Calgary Folk Music Festivalcow-bg

July 23 – 26, 2015

  • The 36th annual Calgary Folk Music Festival at Prince’s Island Park features acts from 16 countries on 8 stages.
  • Over 70 artists from around the globe present roots, blues, world music, funk, country, and bluegrass.
  • website

Calgary International Blues Festival

July 27 – August 2, 2015

  • The 11th annual Calgary Bluesfest has a full week of non-stop music at Shaw Millienium Park followed by nightly Twilight Blues dance parties.
  • This family friendly event is renowned for its great music, relaxed atmosphere and warm hospitality!
  • Starring Crescent City’s iconic guitar great Walter “Wolfman” Washington; Grammy award-winning giant, Bobby Rush, the pairing of two legends, Amos Garrett & Geoff Muldaur, and many more, the weekend promises to set the town on fire with its world-class, non-stop blues!
  • website

Inglewood SunfestfooterLogo

August 1, 2015

  • A summer festival in the heart of historic Inglewood, with activity for all ages.
  • Street performers, music, unique shopping, and food outlets.
  • website

Afrikadey! Festivalstatic1.squarespace

August 5-8, 2015

  • A week-long celebration of the music, food, dance, theatre, film, literature and visual arts of Africa.
  • These events take place at different venues all over the city with a final day of music on Prince’s Island.
  • website

Marda Loop Marda Gras Street festivalcta-mask

Sunday, August 9

  • A variety of performers, dance groups and musicians; outdoor activities; and a wide variety of delicious cuisine.
  • A fun day for kids of all ages.
  • website

Opera in the Villageproduction_hero

August 13-22, 2015

  • Calgary’s East Village RiverWalk Plaza will once again be bursting with music and mirth as Canada’s only outdoor summer opera festival returns for the third annual Opera in the Village!
  • The centerpiece of this year’s Opera in the Village is Gilbert & Sullivan’s comedic opera, The Mikado. There will also be family friendly matinee performances of The Scorpions’ Sting. Both will be performed in our 900-seat open-air tent.
  • website

GlobalFest

August 20 – 29, 2015

  • An international fireworks festival and celebration of Calgary’s diverse cultural; with cultural pavilions, ethnic food booths and a night market.
  • website

Expo Latino Festival

August 28 – 30, 2015

  • Celebrate Latin Culture at Calgary’s hottest outdoor festival experience.
  • World-class performers, sizzling dancing, exotic foods, arts and crafts, and more.  In the heart of Calgary’s downtown at Prince’s Island Park.
  • Sneak Peek on Friday, Aug. 28 *free admission*. Daily passes $25. Weekend passes $35. Special rates for youth and seniors.
  • website

 

Vero Bistro Moderne Calgary

I recently had a really great brunch at Vero Bistro Moderne, a Calgary restaurant on 10 St. NW, just off Kensington Rd. So last night we decided to give it a try for dinner.

Vero Bistro features modern interpretations of Italian & French cuisine, and executive chef Jenny believes in sourcing fresh, healthy food from local producers and suppliers. It has a cozy atmosphere, modern but romantic, with black & red decor.

A Wonderful Start

To start our server brought out fresh baked focaccia, served with olive oil and 25 year aged balsamic vinegar. The bread was delicious, with bits of roasted peppers, crusty on the outside and delicate on the inside. (For brunch their croissants are also fresh baked, so don’t skip the bread at Vero!)

Fresh baked focaccia with olive oil and a reduction of 25-year aged balsamic vinegar

Next we shared Vero’s signature hand rolled sweet potato gnocchi, with wild boar bacon, gorgonzola, walnuts, maple syrup, and 25 year aged balsamic vinegar. The dumplings were flavourful, and a generous portion, plenty to share for a first course. Although I would have been happy to have leftovers for breakfast this morning.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

The Main Course

For my main course I had pan roasted fresh wild halibut, as recommended by our server, being the freshest time for halibut (for Calgary). I love fish but hate it overcooked, so I was hoping for the best. It was cooked perfectly, and was fresh tasting and yummy, served with manilla clams, asparagus, carrots, mashed potatoes, and piccata sauce. There was a nice balance of fish to vegetables in the meal.

Pan Roasted Fresh Wild Halibut

Darrell had seafood risotto “paella”, with mussels, clams, prawns, scallops, calamari, fish and saffron. It was flavourful and the seafood well-cooked…more risotto than paella. For Darrell it was a little too rich, and the flavour overpowered the delicate taste of the seafood. It would have been more enjoyable with a lighter starter such as a salad.

Seafood Risotto “Paella”

Save Room for Dessert

Even though we were pretty full already, I couldn’t resist a little dessert to finish the meal. So we decided to share the chef’s dessert of the day, which was mango cheesecake, with white chocolate balls and raspberries. This balance of rich but light cheesecake and tart fruitiness was a perfect ending, and disappeared in a flash.

Mango Cheesecake

Overview of Vero Bistro

Overall I would easily recommend Vero Bistro for a special dinner, or their excellent brunch. Chef Jenny’s dishes are creative, with quality ingredients, and well-presented. The diners next to us really enjoyed the seafood for two, and it looked spectacular if you want something really special.

Dinner at Vero Bistro Moderne is not cheap, but in line with Calgary restaurant prices. A pet peeve of mine is paying for tap water–when asked if we preferred still or sparkling we requested tap ($1.50 each). However, the serving size is generous, and it looked like the chef often included fresh bread or a small appetizer to compliment the diner’s meal. Reservations are recommended, and available even for brunch, which is a welcome change from the usual long lineups for weekend brunch in Calgary.

Vero Bistro Moderne

209 10th street NW. Calgary, Alberta T2N 1V5 | (403) 283-8988

www.verobistro.ca

 

Vero Bistro Menu Sample

Icefields Parkway Alberta

Our Epic Road Trip on the Icefield Parkway – Banff to Jasper, Alberta

If there is one road trip that is “bucket list” worthy, a summer drive on Alberta’s scenic Icefield Parkway from Banff to Jasper certainly qualifies.

We had a free weekend last June, and decided this was a great opportunity for us to do the famous Icefield Parkway road trip in the Canadian Rockies. The weather was great, spring flowers would be blooming, and we were just ahead of the summer high season. We live in Calgary, so we booked our accommodation in Jasper, and off we went.

“Drive of a Lifetime”

There is so much to enjoy in Banff and Lake Louise, and further west into British Columbia, that we hadn’t yet ventured north to Jasper. We had high expectations, as the highway had even been featured in National Geographic as a “Drive of a Lifetime”, and we were not disappointed. This is definitely a case where the journey is as great as the destination. Although the Icefield Parkway is only 230 km, we allowed a full day to enjoy the experience and stop along the way.
Banff National Park gate

Banff National Park Gate

The Icefields Parkway (or Highway 93) runs through Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, along the Continental Divide. If you are leaving from Calgary, take the TransCanada Highway west to Banff, and continue just past Lake Louise, where you will take the exit north to the Icefield Parkway. [How can you pass by Banff and Lake Louise without stopping? If you haven’t been, you can’t! You’ll just need to add a couple more days to your trip.]

Highway 93 – The Icefields Parkway begins

Epic Road Trip Highway 93

Highway 93 – The Icefields Parkway

You will see beautiful lakes, waterfalls and rivers…

Count on making lots of stops along the way to just take it in.

Beautiful mountain lakes that range from brilliant blue…

…to vibrant green.

wildlife…

Big horn sheep crossing the highway.

I think this is a young elk.

A black bear munching away on berries and other plants.

forests and flowers…

We visited in late June, a great time to see spring flowers. If you go, be sure to stop along the way, take a walk on one of the numerous trails, and experience nature for yourself.

Tiger Lily

A very determined alpine flower in the rocks.

Is this a black-eyed Susan?

…and spectacular mountain peaks and glaciers.

Allow plenty of extra time to stop along the way.

The Athabasca Glacier is the most visited glacier in North America. It has been receding for the last 125 years.

The Athabasca Glacier is part of the Columbia Icefield, which the Parkway is named for. To get a sense of scale in the photo above, look at the cars in the parking lot. The Columbia Icefield is about 100 square miles and hundreds of feet deep, making it the largest in the Rocky Mountains.

I would highly recommend walking up to the edge of the glacier.

You can easily walk right up to the edge of the glacier, but walking on the glacier is dangerous. People have died there by slipping into one of the deep crevasses.

Across from the glacier is the Columbia Icefield Interpretive Centre. The Centre sells food and tickets for the Ice Explorer, which are large vehicles specially-designed to drive onto the glacier, where you can also walk on it with a guide. You can also get tickets for the recently opened Glacier Skywalk.

The recently opened Glacier Skywalk

There are numerous trails along the Parkway, including this one where you can see the Sunwapta Falls.

There are numerous trails throughout the region.

Sunwapta Falls


The mountains along the Icefield Parkway are probably the most spectacular I have seen. Around each bend was a new vista, and we couldn’t resist stopping to take another photo.

Curvy Mountains

Jagged Mountains

Snowy Mountains

If you go…

  • Fill your tank with gas before you leave, as services are limited and expensive on the Parkway.
  • Watch the road for wildlife, and also for cars stopped to view wildlife.
  • Keep a safe distance from ALL wild animals, and be prepared for possible bear encounters.
  • Allow plenty of time to stop along the way for activities, hiking, or to take in the magnificent views.
  • If you plan to spend more than a day, book your accommodations in advance.
  • Bring a picnic and snacks to eat along the way.
  • A national parks permit is required to travel on the Icefields Parkway, and can be purchased at the park gates, information centres, and partner locations.
  • The Parkway can be cycled from Banff to Jasper over three to five days, and campgrounds are available along the parkway. (plan in advance)
  • The best time to go is June to September. Some facilities, including the Columbia Icefield Centre, are closed mid-October to mid-April.
  • If you go during the winter, check ahead for road closures.

For more information about the town of Jasper and it’s local attractions, click here.

You’ve arrived at the town of Jasper.

 

Must See Highlights of Jasper National Park

Seven Bears and Lemon Squares

I live in Calgary, Alberta, so Jasper National Park is essentially local. It attracts visitors from around the world, but crazy as it seems I have never been there until now. We visit Banff National Park several times a year, but I was blown away by the spectacular natural beauty of Jasper. Whereas in Banff there is more of a focus of the town itself, in Jasper it’s all about experiencing nature, whether by foot, bike, horseback or paddle.

i-6r3JGPC-X2

Highlights of Jasper National Park

Lots of Wildlife

After only 48 hours in Jasper I saw seven bears!  That’s more bears than in my entire life living near the Canadian rockies. Spotting a bear is quite exciting, preferably from a good distance or the safety of our car. I have always been a bit paranoid about meeting up with a bear but this time we were prepared. Check my post on what to do if you see a bear.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

On this trip we also saw big horn sheep, deer, elk and birds.

The Jasper Skytram

The Jasper Skytram was a definite must do on our list, and the views from the top are simply spectacular. Once you arrive at the upper station you can simply take in the views of the surrounding mountains, glacial lakes, rivers and the town of Jasper, or you can follow the trail further up to the summit of the mountain for even more awesome views. We arrived first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, and it was a perfect day with blue skies, so we could see for miles.

If you are just going up the Skytram no special footwear is necessary, but if you are continuing further up the trails, runners with a good tread or hiking boots are helpful.

  • Tram Upper Station altitude of 2277 metres (7472 ft)
  • Website: www.jasperskytram.com
  • Adults $35 (youth/family pricing available)
  • Well behaved dogs are welcome
  • 8 km from Jasper
  • Before hiking further up the mountain we stopped for some breakfast at the cafe. A great spot for a table with a view!

Maligne Canyon

Beautiful, free and must-see! Maligne Canyon is a deep narrow crevice carved into the limestone and can’t be seen until your are upon it.  There are good pathways along the canyon, and lots of spots to view the water rushing through. In the winter the water becomes ice and you can explore it from the bottom. We brought a picnic but there is also a cafe onsite.

  • 11 km from Jasper

Maligne Lake

It’s not surprising that Maligne Lake with its bright turquoise water is one of the most photographed in Canada.  The view of the glacial lake surrounded by mountains is stunning, and if you take the boat cruise to Spirit Island you will see many more shades of blue along the way. If possible, plan your visit on a sunny day for the best viewing.

After our cruise we stopped for a snack in Maligne Lake’s View Restaurant. They have salads, sandwiches, homemade soups, stews and baked goods. Along with other tasty treats I spied lemon squares so I had to try them.  I’m a lemon square aficionado, as my mom makes the best lemon squares, but I have to say these were really delicious and pretty much perfect!

dsc06505-2

Next time I’ll have to try the traditional afternoon tea at the Chalet, which includes a selection of tea, sandwiches, treats and strawberries.

  • Maligne lake boat cruise tickets: Adults $64 (recommend checking out combo packages)
  • Canoe/kayaks available for rent
  • Maligne Lake’s View Restaurant
  • Afternoon Tea at the Maligne Lake Chalet (reservations essential)
  • For more info check their website: www.malignelake.com
  • 48 km from Jasper

Pyramid Lake and Island

Just a short drive from Jasper is Pyramid Lake, and connected by footbridge, Pyramid Island. It’s a photogenic, peaceful place for a walk, picnic or paddle.

  • Canoe/kayaks available for rent
  • 7 km from Jasper

Gaze at the Stars

Jasper National Park is the world’s largest accessible official Dark Sky Preserve at 11,228 sq km. For more info check jasperdarksky.org or on a clear night step out and look up!

Dine out at The Raven Bistro

We enjoyed a lot of great food in Jasper, but our best meal was easily at The Raven Bistro. We chose the “Kitchen Confidential,” which is the chef’s choice and changes regularly. Ours had a small soup, 4 tapas-sized plates including a tuna dish and an excellent venison, and a chocolate dessert. The service was friendly, the food tasty and well presented, and at $26 it was a bargain.

IMG_2647r

Reservations recommended
504 Patricia Street, Jasper, Jasper National Park, Alberta
phone: 780-852-5151

Highlights of Jasper National Park Map

jaspermap

Save some money and avoid the line-ups

There are combo tickets available for Skytram/Maligne boat cruise, or Maligne boat cruise/Afternoon tea and others. Check the websites to see what packages might interest you in advance to save money and avoid waiting in line for your ticket.

Getting there

The drive to Jasper from Banff via the 232 km Icefields Parkway has been called the most scenic drive in the world. Highly recommended.

Where to stay

As with most mountain park accommodations, if you can visit in shoulder season, June or September, your wallet will thank you.

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

This 700 acre resort has lots of amenities, including a world-class golf course, spa, restaurants, and a beautiful setting next to Lac Beauvert. It has more of a rustic style than other Fairmont accommodations such as the Banff Springs Hotel. There are renovations happening at the Lodge, but our room hadn’t been and it was a little tired. I would still recommend the Lodge if you get either a good price or a renovated room. Pet-friendly.

Tekarra Lodge

These cosy cabins are located just outside the town of Jasper along the Athabasca river. The cabins are rustic but charming and they really provided the mountain park atmosphere we were looking for. They have wood-burning fireplaces, kitchenettes, and chairs on the small decks to enjoy the outdoors. There is also a nice pathway and chairs with a great view overlooking the river. Tekarra Lodge is also pet-friendly.

Prepare for the Bears in Canada’s Mountain Parks

On our recent trip to Jasper National Park we saw seven black bears!

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

It was pretty thrilling when this black bear looked up and acknowledged our presence. Like all the bears we spotted, we were watching this one from our car pulled over at the side of the road while in the Jasper area. You may spot one yourself or see other cars stopped to view bears or other wildlife.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Bears are great to see in the wild, but if you do, watch from the safety of your car or a safe distance. Many people we saw seemed to think the bears were a tourist attraction rather than the unpredictable wild animals they are. Some even brought their small children out of their cars for a closer look. One guy was even walking towards the bear calling it like it was a puppy.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

 

Here are some tips from Parks Canada to stay safe in bear country:

Got my bearspray!

Got my bearspray!

Prevent and prepare

  • Keep your distance – at least 100 metres away.
  • Don’t feed the bears – it’s illegal to feed any wildlife in a national park.
  • Carry bear spray and know how and when to use it.

Avoid a surprise bear encounter

Most bears will want to avoid an encounter with people, help them out by letting them know you’re there.

  • Talk and make noise to avoid surprising a bear.
  • Hike in a tight group on established trails and only in daylight.
  • Keep children close and within sight.
  • Use extra caution near rushing water or into the wind, as a bear may not be able to hear or smell you coming.
  • Stay in the open as much as possible.
  • Use caution when travelling near natural bear foods: berries, fish and carrion (dead animals) are all food sources for bears.
  • Keep dogs on a leash at all times and never leave them unattended.
  • If you see cubs, leave the area. Mother bears may become aggressive if they feel their young are threatened.
  • Watch for and obey area closures – it is illegal to enter a closed area.
  • Bear warnings are posted in areas when there is bear activity and the chance of an encounter is heightened. Use caution in these areas.
  • Cyclists’ speed and quietness bring added risk for sudden bear encounters. Slow down through shrubbed areas and when approaching blind corners. Make noise, be alert and always look ahead.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

If you encounter a bear

  • Keep calm.
  • Pick up small children and stay in a group.
  • Back away slowly and talk in a soft voice, avoiding direct eye contact.
  • Don’t run. Bears can easily outrun you.
  • Leave the area or make a wide detour. If you cannot leave, wait until the bear moves out of the way and ensure that it has an escape route.
  • The bear may approach you or rear up on its hind legs. If one stands on its hind legs, it is most likely trying to catch your scent; this is not necessarily a sign of aggression. Back away slowly and talk in a soft voice.
  • Do not drop objects, clothing or food to distract the bear. If the bear receives food, it will have been rewarded for its aggressive behaviour, thereby increasing the likelihood that it will repeat that behaviour again.

Bear attacks

Bear attacks are very rare, but it’s good to know what to do.

IF YOU SURPRISE A BEAR and it defends itself:

  • If you have bear spray, use it.
  • If contact has occurred or is imminent, PLAY DEAD! 
  • If the attack continues, FIGHT BACK! 

IF A BEAR STALKS YOU and then attacks, or attacks at night:

  • DON’T PLAY DEAD – FIGHT BACK!
  • BUT FIRST – try to escape, preferably to a building, car or up a tree. If you can’t escape, or if the bear follows, use bear spray, or shout and try to intimidate the bear with a branch or rock.
Keep your distance from bears to stay safe!

Keep your distance from bears to stay safe!