With five National Parks, spectacular Rocky Mountain landscapes, world-class ski resorts, cultural cities, six UNESCO World Heritage Sites (including Canada’s newest UNESCO addition of Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park), First Nations culture and dramatic Badlands scenery filled with dinosaur heritage, there are already plenty of reasons to visit Alberta next year. However, if that’s not enough, here are 10 unmissable events taking place throughout 2020.
- Edmonton’s Ice Castles (December-March): Edmonton’s breath-taking ice castles are back at Hawrelak Park this winter. Explore an acre-sized winter wonderland crafted by hand using only icicles and water, with sights resembling organic formations found in nature, such as frozen waterfalls, glaciers or ice caves.Entry costs from $13.95 (around £8.50) for adults and $10.95 (around £6.50) for children (aged 4-11). icecastles.com/edmonton
- Ice Magic Festival (15-26 January): Set amidst the spectacular surroundings of iconic Lake Louise, the Ice Magic Festival is a world-class ice carving event held at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park. Watch as talented ice artists from around the world skilfully combine gruelling physicality with precision artistry in the ice carving competition, or walk through a winter wonderland and marvel at the finished ice sculptures, ice castles and ice bars over the following nine days. Tickets to enter the Ice Magic Competition Carving Site lakeside at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise are only required during peak visitation over the competition weekend at a cost of $12.50 (around £7) for adults and $5 (around £3) for children 12 and under. ALL other days and times are FREE. banfflakelouise.com/ice-magic-festival
- Jasper in January (17 January – 2 February): Set in Jasper National Park, Jasper in January is the ultimate winter festival celebrating the beauty and spirit of winter with three weeks of fat biking, dark sky storytelling, ice skating, skiing, brewery tours, wildlife camera safaris, dog sledding, sleigh rides, slalom races, and ice walks around Maligne Canyon. Events and activities are priced individually. www.jasper.travel/january
- Boardwalk Ice on Whyte Festival (23-26 January and 30 January-2 February): Celebrate the 16th annual Boardwalk Ice on Whyte Festival with two long weekends of winter fun held in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona neighbourhood on Whyte Avenue. Wrap up warm and take part in an ice carving lesson in the climate-controlled ice bar of -2°C or watch the professionals in the International Ice Carving Competition (requiring 15 blocks of crystal-clear carving ice) all accompanied by live music and food trucks. Entry costs $7 (around £4) for adults and $4 (around £2.50) for kids age 2-13. iceonwhyte.ca
- Waterton Wildflower Festival (18-23 June): Taking place in Waterton Lakes National Park in southern Alberta, come discover why Waterton is the wildflower capital of Canada. Celebrating its 17th annual year in 2020, the event features more than 1,000 vascular plant species located in the Rocky Mountain region, including 175 species that are considered rare and 20 species that can only be found in this special corner of the province of Alberta. The festival celebrates natural beauty with wildflower photography and painting classes, wildflower identification activities, horseback rides, the iconic Waterton Lake Cruise wildflower tour and afternoon tea with local wildflower experts. Ticket prices and sales available from April. watertonwildflowers.com
- The Calgary Stampede (3-12 July): A high-energy annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held in Alberta’s largest city, which offers a true introduction to the Wild West. Daytimes see cowboys and cowgirls compete in an attempt to reach Showdown Sunday – Rodeo’s Richest Afternoon and win over $2 million in prize money. Evenings are focused on the GMC Rangeland Derby and the Bell Grandstand Show which combines nine heats of four chuck wagon races with elaborate song and dance numbers, acrobatics and fireworks. Park admission is $18 (around £11) for adults and $9 (around £5.50) for children and senior citizens. Advance tickets for the Stampede Rodeo and Evening Show start at $40 and include Park admission. calgarystampede.com
- Taste of Edmonton (16-26 July) / Taste of Calgary (13-16 August): Local summer foodie festivals that celebrate talented chefs, local ingredients and popular restaurants that the cities have to offer. Geared toward food-enthusiasts, the festivals offer visitors the chance to sample dishes from a wide range of cooking styles. Complementing the range of flavours are live performances by local musicians. Free event entry. Food sampling tickets from $1 (around 60p). tasteofedm.ca / www.tasteofcalgary.com
- The Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede (22-25 July): A tradition since 1997, Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede is one of the oldest stampedes in North America. A trip to Medicine Hat’s annual event offers a great taste of the Wild West and a chance to explore a lesser known area of Alberta located just three hours from Calgary – the Badlands. Entry costs from $20 (around £12) for adults and $14 (around £8.50) for kids (aged 12 and under). mhstampede.com
- Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival (13-23 August): Taking place every year in August since 1982, Edmonton International Fringe Festival is North America’s largest and longest-running Fringe Festival and the second biggest in the world after The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Attracting 700,000 visitors each summer with 1,600 live performances from worldwide artists, the 10-day festival takes place in Edmonton’s Old Strathcona district. Individual show tickets range between $5 (around £3) and $13 (around £8) plus GST and a $3 service fee. fringetheatre.ca
- Jasper Dark Sky Festival (October): As daylight hours begin to recede in Jasper National Park, stargazers come out to explore the night sky. Named one of Canada’s largest Dark Sky Preserves, Jasper National Park has very little light pollution, making it an ideal location to see the stars. Lucky stargazers are sometimes treated to a performance by the elusive Northern Lights. During the festival, night sky experts gather to provide tours of the constellations, stars and planets above, while during the daytime, space-related activities take place around the Rocky Mountain town of Jasper. Most events are free entry, but some activities may be ticketed. jasperdarksky.travel
GET THERE: Frontier Canada (020 8776 8709 / https://frontier-canada.co.uk) has seven nights in Alberta, Canada from £998 per person. Valid for travel in late January 2020, the price includes return Air Canada flights from London Heathrow to Calgary, seven nights room only accommodation at the Elk & Avenue in Banff and seven days mid-size SUV car hire for two drivers. The price is based on two adults travelling and also includes three incredible winter excursions: an ice walk at Banff’s Johnston Canyon, a sleigh ride in Banff and entrance to the iconic Banff Hot Springs.
For more information on Alberta, visit www.travelalberta.com/uk