Ever since we bought a place at Gull Lake, we’ve spent the summers there. Now that we’ve moved here full time, I’m trying to get to know the area more. It’s amazing how many things we still haven’t seen. Here is my go-to list of Central Alberta Tourist Attractions (updated for 2021) that come highly recommended for a visit in the summer. (Click on the name to go to more information).
Have we done all of them or will we do all of them this summer? Doubtful but at least we have a great list of things to try. So know that I have NOT tried everything on this list but if I haven’t it comes recommended by someone I know and trust (though I do realize that things can change over time).
As we all know, regulations and places being open is always in flux these days. Please contact where you want to visit directly to MAKE SURE they are open before you drive. I have done my best to give you a link to where you can find contact information for each attraction/venue.
Also, for the purpose of this post, I am sticking to around 50 km east and west of Highway 2 (usually closer).
See something I missed? Please, please, please let me know in the comments!
Things to Do in Central Alberta – General
- Visit a small town movie theatre – Last year we visited the theatre in Lacombe. It is much cheaper than the city and has a more intimate feel. It’s great for one of those rainy summer days where you need to find something to do to get out of the house. Currently, the Lacombe theatre is open for popcorn and candy take out. They also offer private family movie bookings!
- Visit a local U-pick – Check out this website that lists local U-picks, what they offer and when. We love visiting the Saskatoon Orchard near us and all the Saskatoon pies and Saskatoon muffins we make after. Yum!
- Visit local farmers markets and greenhouse stores – Central Alberta has TONS of local growers. Some of our favourite markets are the Red Deer Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, Lacombe Farmers Market on Friday mornings, Bentley Farmers Market on Saturday afternoon and Rimbey Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Most open on May long weekend and run through September long weekend (but check each market to make sure). With the local increase in precautions, make sure to check with each market to see when/if they are opening.
- Visit kitschy roadside attractions – Who knew Alberta had so many! Check out this great post about Alberta roadside attractions by Calgary Playground Review. Not all of the attractions in her posts are in Central Alberta but some are. It’s a fun way to see the province and get some great pictures. You HAVE to stop at the World’s Largest Fishing Lure in Lacombe!
- Visit great playgrounds through Central Alberta – While you are driving around, these are great to visit if the kids get antsy.
Things to Do in Central Alberta – Bentley Area
- Downtown Bentley -Downtown Bentley is FULL of cute little shops, including mine (Merry’s Mercantile). Kid’s will love The Kite Guys kite store and getting an ice cream cone at the local IDA Drugstore. Parent’s will enjoy a latte from The Drop or a Caesar at The Monkey Top Saloon (a cowboy/biker bar that is known all over Alberta…kid’s are not allowed, though).
- Head to the Beach! – Head to Aspen Beach Provincial Park or Ebeling Beach for a sandy beach and shallow water. Perfect for a family beach trip.
Things to Do in Central Alberta – Lacombe Area
- Ellis Bird Farm near Lacombe- We visit Ellis Bird Farm each and every year. We love it so. Definitely ask for the scavenger hunt upon arrival.
- Pick up lunch at Eastside Eatery for a picnic at the park! They have house made soups and sandwiches Tuesday – Saturday.
- Kraay Family Farm near Lacombe – Life is fun on the farm, especially when there is a giant corn maze! Kraay Family Farm is planning to open in July with over 40 attractions and amenities.
- Experience Nature at the JJ Collett Nature Area – With over 18 km of maintained trails, take a walk through the natural area types of Central Alberta including shrubs, wetlands, Aspen groves and more.
- Bike the Trans Canada Trail – Bike the 8 km dedicated biking/pedestrian trail between Lacombe and Blackfalds. Check out the map so you know where the day use areas, bird watching boardwalk, restrooms and more are along the trail.
- Cilantro & Chive in Lacombe – This is our favourite restaurant in Central Alberta. Cilantro & Chive focuses on fresh and delicious food featuring local producers. They also have EXCELLENT cocktails and feature tons of Alberta craft beers on tap. The picture above is of their Caesar flight with original, garlic, hot pepper and bacon Caesar’s. They also do great Moscow Mules. Thinking this sounds like an adults-only place? Not so! They also have an excellent kid’s menu. Evan highly recommends their house made mac and cheese. Reservations are highly recommended if you plan to drop in and they have an extensive patio and take out!
- Grab a yummy, handmade chocolate treat and Oodles of Chocolates in downtown Lacombe.
- Take in the horse racing at The Track On 2 in Lacombe – Open to all ages and they have a restaurant on-site. (Make sure to check their schedule. The restaurant is open.)
- Visit Flying Cross Ranch – Learn to ride or for one of their summer events. They have a petting zoo and a Sunday farmer’s market starting in May!
- Lacombe Museums – Take a step back in time by visiting the Michener House and the Blacksmith Shop. Check the Lacombe Historical Society website for more information about when they are opening and different activities they run throughout the summer.
- Stop by Tollers Bistro for donuts, a coffee or lunch (I recommend the California BLT)! Donuts make everything better!
Alberta Tourist Attractions – Edmonton Area
- Snow Valley Aerial Park in Edmonton – I know, I know, I wasn’t including Calgary and Edmonton BUT this aerial park is perfect for some of my more adventurous readers! It will tentatively open in June 2021. Read about Raising Edmonton’s experience at Snow Valley Aerial Park.
- Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village – We visited the Ukrainian Cultural Village last year and had a blast. Many of the volunteer interpreters speak Ukrainian and they ALL do an amazing job staying in character to teach you about the lives of Ukrainians who settled in Alberta. You also MUST eat Ukrainian food at their cafe when you visit. They are only open in the summer so expect an opening announcement in late May.
Things to do in the Red Deer Area
- Paddle Boats at Bower Ponds in Red Deer – Rent paddle boats for some water paddle boating fun! You can also rent kayaks, canoes, water balls and more for even more water fun.
- Donut Mill in Red Deer Gasoline Alley – Yummy donuts in all shapes and flavours are the perfect pick me up when you are exploring Central Alberta. Their location on Gasoline Alley in Red Deer makes them super convenient too.
- Little Ice Cream and Soda Shoppe – This WILL be happening for us this year. I asked where to go for great ice cream and 10 out of 12 comments was for this place. I’ve been convinced! It is only open during the summer and they only take cash.
- Kirk’s Alpaca Farm – This is actually in Three Hills but it is only 45 km off of Hwy 2 and there are ALPACAS! Visit their farm store and hang out with the alpacas. Kids (and big kids like ME will love it)!
Tourist Attractions That Are Likely Closed for 2021
I’ve included these because WHO KNOWS. Definitely give them a call and see if they are opening as we head into 2021.
- Ride the Stettler Steam Train in Stettler – Take a step back in time on the Stettler Steam train. Embark on a 4 to 6 hour trip through the prairies and learn how people travelled when Canada was new. Looking for more adventure? Book on one of their murder mystery trips! Currently trips are on hold but fingers crossed they will start again soon. Definitely a fun family adventure!
- Discovery Canyon near Red Deer – Discovery Canyon was closed for the 2020 season and I would bet it will be the same for 2021. Check the link, though, because you never know.
- Small town rodeos and fairs – I would be VERY surprised if any go forward for 2021. I’m leaving this item because next year you should totally check them out. Usually they have great parades where they still throw candy. Fun for the whole family!
So what did I miss? What is on YOUR summer bucket list for Central Alberta tourist attractions? Share with your friends who will be in Central Alberta this summer too!