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10 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Edmonton & Choosing Your Route 

10 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Edmonton & Choosing Your Route 

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Alberta is a great place to go on a road trip with the Rocky Mountains, prairies, hundreds of lakes, and forests to explore. The two largest cities in the province are Calgary and Edmonton, so naturally, driving between these two destinations is common.

Luckily, the drive from Calgary to Edmonton (or Edmonton to Calgary) doesn’t have to be boring. And if you’re not in a rush, you can actually stop at some cool attractions along the way.

In this blog, I’ll take you through the absolute best stops on the drive from Calgary to Edmonton. I’ll also break it down into the most popular routes, so you can easily plan your road trip based on what you want to see and do.

About the Drive from Calgary to Edmonton 

I’ve done this drive many times because I have family living in Edmonton and family living in Calgary. There are two different main routes you can choose from – the direct route from Calgary to Edmonton, or the scenic route.

Edmonton is about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Calgary, so you’re in for about a three-hour drive. The most direct route takes you on Highway 2 (aka Queen Elizabeth II Highway) and passes through Red Deer around the halfway point. The second option is the more scenic route that takes some of the secondary highways in the area. It’s the longer option at around 600 kilometers (372 miles) and should take around six hours.

Both routes will take longer with stops, but road trips are more fun that way!  

This drive, no matter which route you take, is a busy one. So expect lots of traffic along the way.

Note: There are many other routes you can take from Calgary to Edmonton, the two mentioned in this blog are simply the most common. If you’re purely looking for a very scenic road trip through the mountains, be sure to drive through Banff National Park. You can either cut onto Highway 2 past Rocky Mountain House or continue a longer loop up the entire Icefields Parkway to Jasper, and then make your way from Jasper to Edmonton. This route is much longer (800 km/497 mi) though and is a very roundabout way of driving from Calgary to Edmonton, however, it is stunning!

Choosing Your Route between Calgary and Edmonton  

Badlands photo of a canyon near Drumheller, AB
Should you take the scenic route or the quick route!? Horseshoe Canyon is one of the scenic stops!

Whether you’re driving from Calgary to Edmonton or Edmonton to Calgary, the first thing to decide is which route you want to take. You can choose between the most common direct route on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway or the more scenic route that takes you on some backroads (that are all paved!) with a few more interesting stops and scenery along the way.

There are a few other things to consider when deciding on a route:  

Are you short on time?  

If the answer to this is yes, pick the quicker route. It’s the busiest highway in the province, but it has two lanes of traffic in both directions the entire way. You’ll get from Calgary to Edmonton in about three hours.

The more scenic route will add at least two-three hours to the trip and longer depending on how often you stop.  

Are you looking for the best scenery and stops? 

Then the scenic route that winds through Drumheller, Stettler, and Camrose is the way to go! The drive is more interesting and the stops along here are a bit more unique passing through some of the best places to visit in Alberta. If you have the time and aren’t in a rush, the scenic route is the best.  

Related Read: Plan an epic road trip from Calgary to Vancouver!

10 BEST Stops between Calgary and Edmonton – Direct Route  

Taking the QEII Highway (aka Highway 2) from Calgary to Edmonton is the fastest way from point A to point B. You won’t be alone taking this route – it’s the busiest stretch of highway in the entire province! The route is 300 kilometers (186 miles) and will take you three hours without any stops. 

While some might consider this the less exciting drive (it’s pretty much straight the whole way with not much scenery), there are still some great stops here to check out along the drive. Or at the very least, get out and stretch your legs!

1. Calgary 

View of Calgary hockey stadium
Calgary really is a beautiful city.

First off, don’t forget to explore Calgary before you leave! Even if you only spend one day in Calgary, I’m sure that you will enjoy it!

Calgary is great because it has the bustling feel of a big city with more than 1.4 million people here and lots going on. It’s the largest city in Alberta, so there’s plenty to keep you busy!  

What’s nice is even though the winters can get cold, it’s still likely to be sunny here. Calgary has the most days of sunshine of any other Canadian city – about 333 days a year! That makes all seasons a great time to visit. But even if you have a rainy or chilly day, Calgary has plenty of fun indoor activities as well!

While in Calgary, be sure to check out all the fun activities on offer. Get the best view of the city from the highest 360-degree observation deck on the globe at the Calgary Tower for only $20 CAD! Take in the views of downtown and the Rocky Mountains in the distance and step onto the glass floor if you’re brave. You can even eat here at the revolving restaurant Sky 360.   

If you’re here in July, grab a cowboy hat and take in the Calgary Stampede! The 10-day event features one of the largest rodeos in the world, a parade, a midway, shows, concerts, chuckwagon racing, and more – it’s easily one of the best things to do in Calgary!  

If you find yourself in Calgary in winter, I love skating at the Olympic Plaza skating rink right downtown. It was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics hosted in Calgary and this is where the medal presentations took place.

It is the only refrigerated outdoor rink in the city, so the ice is always ready to skate on – even on a warmer day. Bring your own skates or rent a pair for $12 CAD.  

If you want to see the top sights of the city efficiently I recommend this 2-hour city scooter tour. The best part is that it only costs $55 CAD per person which is drastically cheaper than the other Calgary city tours. At each stop, you’ll learn some history from your guide.

An alternative if you’re into street art and beer is this 3-hour craft beer and street art tour. You will explore the streets and learn the stories behind the artist and art you are seeing while making stops for some local beer samples! I can’t think of a better way to do two things at the same time!

To make your time in Calgary complete don’t forget about visiting the Calgary Zoo. It’s open all year and has almost 1,000 different animals and exhibits including giraffes, tigers, lemurs, and more. Make sure to visit in the mornings to catch my favorite attraction – the penguin walk! Every morning at 10 a.m., the penguins take a 15-minute walk through the zoo for their exercise – it’s adorable and a perfect time for pictures.  

Where to stay in Calgary

Within the central city area, the Wicked Hostels Calgary is a good choice for budget travelers. The hostel is clean, comfortable, and located in a good area. Plus you can book on either or which are two of my favorite websites to snag a great deal.

If you can spend a bit more the Coast Calgary Downtown Hotel and Suites is perfect. The suites have a full kitchen which is perfect for homemade meals which can save you a lot of money.

For luxury travelers, check out the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire. This hotel overlooks the river valley, comes with an indoor pool (with waterslide), hot tub, fitness center, hair salon, and gift shop.

2. CrossIron Mills  

one of the entrances to CrossIron Mills mall on the outskirts of Calgary
One of the many entrances to the mall. Photo Credit: CrossIron Mills

Just a few minutes north of Calgary is a great shopping spot! CrossIron Mills is an outlet shopping paradise that is the largest one-level shopping center in Alberta. It’s a staggering 1.4 million square feet!  

It has over 200 stores and premium brand outlets with everything from Calvin Klein, Bed Bath & Beyond, Hugo Boss, Coach, Bass Pro Shops, Levi’s, Oakley, Sephora, and even the largest Toys ‘R’ Us in Alberta for the kids.  

There are also some unique design features here inspired by the geography, landmarks, and cultural icons of Alberta.

The whole shopping development is divided into six themed neighborhoods that are all connected and surround a giant 1,200-seat food court. If you’re hungry starting your road trip or after all that shopping, there will be something here that everyone will like! 

3. Nose Creek Regional Park  

snowy pine trees covered is christmas lights
If you’re driving from Calgary to Edmonton around Christmas, be sure to stop and see the light show!

Stop in nearby Airdrie just outside Calgary to see Nose Creek Regional Park. This is a great park for a picnic with 20 acres of green space and plenty of picnic tables. There’s even a concession area, fire pit, and nature trails.  

In the winter, the park transforms into the Airdrie Festival of Lights. Colorful Christmas light displays fill the area. It’s the largest, free outdoor display that you can walk through in Western Canada!  

If you’re here in the summer (and maybe picked up some fishing gear from Bass Pro Shops at CrossIron Mills!), the Nose Creek pond is stocked with trout for fishing. 

4. Collicutt Siding Golf Club  

Play a round of golf on the prairies at Collicutt Siding Golf Club only 20 minutes outside of Calgary. There are two different nine-hole courses that are good for beginners and more experienced golfers.  

The golf club itself is a non-profit benefitting the entire community of Crossfield. They also have the largest junior golf academy in Canada – so the next golfing superstar could come from here! 

The courses showcase natural prairie grasses and water features. Give yourself about two hours to play nine holes or four hours for the full 18. It costs about $34 CAD for nine holes and $51 CAD for the entire course on a weekend. But there are cheaper rates on weekdays and evenings.  

5. Innisfail  

family playing minigolf at the DINO Centre in Innisfail
Stop at the DINO Centre for a round of mini-golf! Photo Credit: DINO Centre

This small town right along the highway is close to the halfway mark of the Calgary to Edmonton road trip. It has been a place to stop on this route for hundreds of years – back in the days of stagecoaches when there was a small collection of shacks here! Once the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived, the town of Innisfail was born – its name is a Celtic word meaning “Isle of Destiny.”  

One of my favorite spots here is the Discovery Wildlife Park. It’s a truly unique facility that provides a home for orphaned wildlife or any zoo animals who need a place to live. There are bears, wolves, lions, cougars, and more. Catch one of the daily presentations to learn more about the animals, get your photo taken with a bear (from a safe distance!) or even take a wolf for a walk. The park is open from May 1 to Sept 30 and admission is around $20 CAD.  

The DINOS Centre (Discovery Institute of Nature, Origins, and Science) is a fantastic spot for families. Stretch your legs with a round of indoor mini-golf or play laser tag in an ancient city with animatronic dinosaurs, blacklight murals, and a river with a waterfall running right through it. There’s also a Bible History Museum to learn about ancient civilizations and see a replica of the Great Isaiah Scroll and a diorama of Jerusalem.  

Finish off your visit to Innisfail with a stop at the RCMP Dog Training Facility to see the amazing dogs and their handlers in action. This is where all the police dogs for the Mounties are trained to staff their more than 100 Police Dog Teams across the country. You can watch free demonstrations every Wednesday afternoon from Victoria Day until Labour Day at 2 p.m.  

6. Gasoline Alley  

woman stand outside of Peters Drive in on Gasoline Alley
It’s never too cold for a Peter’s milkshake!

If you need to stop to fuel up with food or gas, this is the place to do it! The collection of gas stations and businesses at the south end of Red Deer is easy to access off the highway, making it a popular road trip stop.  

If you’re hungry, I recommend stopping at Peters’ Drive-In. It’s known for its saucy burgers, thick milkshakes, and friendly service. When they first opened this location in Gasoline Alley back in 2005, the line-up was so long, people were waiting three hours for burgers!  

Another great spot is The Donut Mill – look for the giant windmill on top of the building! True to their name, the donuts here are what make them famous. Everything is baked fresh daily with donuts like Maple Rolo, Orange Creamsicle, Chocolate Venetian, Apple Pie, Vanilla Lemon, or the flavor of the month.  

Related Read: Gasoline Alley is also one of my favorites pitstops when I make the drive from Edmonton to Banff!

7. Red Deer  

a winter display in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame
There are some cool exhibits in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. Photo Credit: Alberta Sports Hall of Fame

This is the halfway point of the drive from Calgary to Edmonton! While it’s a popular spot to briefly stop and grab a bite to eat, there are lots of things to do in Red Deer if you have some time. 

Check out Discovery Canyon Water Park – a free outdoor waterpark built around a river-fed water pool. You can rent tubes here and ride them down the small river or visit the wading pool, beach, and boardwalk. It’s open from June until the September long weekend.  

For sports enthusiasts, Red Deer is home to the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. It’s full of archives on some of the province’s greatest athletes. There are also interactive games and a gallery completely dedicated to hockey.  

I also love checking out local craft breweries and Troubled Monk is a fantastic spot for that. Most of the malt they use is sourced locally and grown right in Alberta. Visit the taproom at the brewery to taste local favorites like Golden Gaetz Golden Ale, the light caramel malt with orange citrus called Rebels Red Ale, and Pesky Pig Pale Ale that has grapefruit in it. For something different, try their Troubled Tea, a hard iced tea that is just the right amount of sweet!

If you like history you might be interested to have a quick look at Fort Normandeau located just 10 minutes from the center of town. This fort is an interesting piece in history before the creation of the Edmonton and Calgary railroad because it was the safest place to cross the river for border crossers coming and going between northern and southern Alberta.

If you’re up for a detour, head to Sylvan Lake from Red Deer. It is only about a 30-minute drive and this summer destination is super popular for Albertans wanting to enjoy a large, beautiful, big lake! Such a fun vibrant town!

8. Wetaskiwin Rest Center 

This is a quick stop if anyone in the car needs a bathroom break. It’s a nice washroom facility and there’s a small place to get food and snacks. It’s open year-round and there are some picnic tables and a little park area to sit in. You can find the location on Google Maps.

9. Leduc  

an exhibit about fossil fuels in the Canadian Energy Museum in Leduc
Ready to learn about fossil fuels? Photo Credit: The Canadian Energy Museum

As you get closer to Edmonton, Leduc is another community along this main highway. If it’s a nice day, stop into the Telford Lake area to walk around the 8.2 kilometer (5 miles) trail. It’s a fantastic spot for bird watching and boating. The lake hosts dragon boat competitions in the summer!  

Also, check out the Alberta Wheat Pool Grain Elevator Site. It’s a treasured local landmark right in the center of Leduc. It’s the last wooden grain elevator built in Alberta. 

Oil and energy are very important to this area and the Canadian Energy Museum in Leduc is a great place to learn more about the industry. Tours here will take you through pipeline safety, information about the oil sands, and renewable energy trends. The museum offers tours from Tuesday-Saturday for $6 CAD per person.  

10. Edmonton  

Bailey walks across the Walterdale Bridge in the river valley in Edmonton Alberta
The Walterdale Bridge!
Outside of Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton, Alberta
Muttart Conservatory

You’ve arrived! Taking the direct route means a quicker trip here, so more time to enjoy all the city has to offer. Edmonton is known as Canada’s “Sunshine City,” with more hours of sun than any other major Canadian city!

It is also the second largest in Alberta (behind Calgary) and has a population of 1.1 million.

Of course, the West Edmonton Mall is a huge draw. It’s the second-largest mall in North America! The West End is a major destination with more than 800 stores, attractions like a water park, indoor skating rink, roller coasters, two hotels, and restaurants galore. While shopping until you drop is fun, there are a lot of other fun activities in West Edmonton Mall too!

One of the best things to do in Edmonton is to explore the beautiful River Valley. It’s 22 times the size of Central Park in New York! It’s a great destination in any season with 150 kilometers (93 miles) of trails – many of which are cleared throughout the winter or perfect for cross-country skiing. 

A cool tour option here is this 90-minute segway adventure which allows you to tour this massive park on a segway vehicle! Make sure to check out one of my favorite spots to see the city skyline with a walk over the Walterdale Bridge!

You can even explore the river with fun Edmonton summer activities like a relaxing cruise or a fun speedboat ride around the islands with Black Gold River Tours.  

Don’t forget to check out Edmonton’s Neon Sign Museum! This is a great night-time activity as all the signs light up 104 street on the east side of the TELUS building and the south side of Mercer Warehouse. There are more than 20 neon signs that have been restored and showcase some of the well-known businesses of Edmonton’s past. I like grabbing a drink across the street at Mercer Tavern to have a great view of the signs.  

Even if you’re visiting Edmonton in winter, there are plenty of fun things to do and see. Try cross-country skiing at the River Valley or go ice skating surrounded by Christmas lights at one of the many outdoor arenas.

There are also plenty of delicious restaurants in Edmonton too. This big city is a major foodie destination, and you’ll be treated to plenty of top-rated restaurants. Jasper Ave and Whyte Ave are both areas featuring many trendy restaurants, bars, and cafes.

For some more ideas check out all the awesome tours available in Edmonton here!

Related Read: If you’re itching for another road trip, check out our customized itineraries for all the best drives in Alberta!

11 BEST Stops between Calgary and Edmonton – Scenic Route 

For a more interesting drive with better scenery, this is the route to take! After leaving Calgary, you’ll head to Highway 9 and then follow a variety of secondary highways depending on where you want to stop, finally entering Edmonton via Highway 16.

The entire trip is around 600 kilometers (372 miles) and takes closer to six hours if you follow this route without stops. But this route is designed for stopping! If you aren’t in a rush, leave Calgary early in the morning and take the entire day to explore this route, and then finish off with supper in Edmonton! Or if you have time, plan to spend a night in

1. Horseshoe Canyon  

A lady stands on the viewing platform at Horseshoe Canyon near Drumheller
Horseshoe Canyon is so cool!

Just before you reach Drumheller on your Calgary to Edmonton road trip, stop at Horseshoe Canyon. It’s a huge U-shaped canyon showcasing the beauty of the Canadian Badlands. It feels like stepping back in time here and the views are incredible of the layers that make up the canyon walls.  

There are some platforms at the top that are good for photos or hiking down into the canyon for a unique view and picnic spot. Make sure to wear good shoes for the hike! Keep an eye out and you might spot some animal footprints and cactus plants.  

2. Drumheller  

Taking a picture with the "Drumheller" sign
Welcome to Drumheller!

Drumheller is the Dinosaur Capital of the World and it’s easy to see why! The Alberta Badlands area is famous for dinosaur fossils. New fossils are uncovered frequently as rain and runoff remove soil from the Badlands, exposing the treasures underneath.  

The Royal Tyrrell Museum here is the only museum in the country exclusively dedicated to paleontology. It has one of the largest displays of dinosaurs on the globe with hundreds of thousands of fossils – including many discovered right in Alberta. It will make you feel really small when you stand next to one of the many dinosaurs in their gallery! Admission is $21 CAD per adult.  

While in Drumheller, one of the best things to do is to visit the World’s Largest Dinosaur and get a great view of the area from inside the dinosaur’s mouth! The dinosaur, named Tyra, is 86 feet tall (about 4.5 times the size of a real T.Rex!). Climb up the 106 stairs inside to make it to the top. There’s enough room for 12 people inside the dinosaur’s mouth – a great viewpoint! Admission is $5 CAD per person.  

For a non-dinosaur-themed activity, check out Red Deer River Adventures. They offer canoe and kayak rentals or guided tours on the river. One of the most popular tours will take you past downtown Drumheller.  

For food, Bernie and the Boys is a top restaurant choice for burgers made with Alberta beef including the famous Mammoth Burger – a giant 24 oz patty! Or cool off with a drink from Drumheller’s first microbrewery. Valley Brewing has a great patio to enjoy drinks like Discovery Raspberry Ale with fresh raspberries or Full Steam Copper Lager with notes of baked goods, light caramel, and toffee.  

Where to Stay in Drumheller:

Drumheller is the perfect place to break up your road trip from Calgary to Edmonton and spend a night or two. There are a few nice hotels to choose from in Drumheller.

For budget travelers, the Travelodge is a decent option. Although some reviews aren’t that good, I think it’s an alright hotel for the price. 

If you would like a little more luxury the Ramada would be my top pick. The hotel is in the moderate budget category but offers really nice facilities such as a swimming pool with a hot tub and an included breakfast. They also have rooms with jacuzzis!

3. The Little Church 

the Little Church in Drumheller
Isn’t the church cute?

This is a long-standing landmark just outside Drumheller. The Little Church has a pulpit and six pews that can seat one person each. It’s tiny! The local saying is this church seats 10,000 people, six at a time.  

The Little Church is free to enter and is a cool spot for photos as it’s in the middle of the Badlands. It was originally built as a place of worship and meditation back in 1958. Now, it’s a popular tourist spot, although it can be booked for small (very small!!) weddings or other ceremonies. It’s located north of the Royal Tyrrell Museum on the northeast side of the North Dinosaur Trail.  

4. Horsethief Canyon  

Horsethief Canyon, Drumheller
The views are spectacular!

Horsetheif Canyon is about 20 minutes northeast of Drumheller and larger than Horseshoe Canyon, which you may have visited earlier in the trip. Horsethief Canyon is supposedly named for the outlaws who hid stolen livestock here more than a century ago.  

Stand at the top of the canyon at the lookout area for spectacular views of the deep canyon with its unique rock formations and barren landscape. If you’re up for an adventure, hike down into the canyon to explore. It’s a steep trail and if you’re here in the summer, it’s warm in the canyon without much of a breeze, so have water with you and hike earlier in the day if possible.   

5. Orkney Viewpoint  

Orkney viewpoint, Drumheller
The view of the Red Dear River is why you come!

Stop here for a great road trip photo op! Orkney Viewpoint is up high on the red rock cliffs and has stunning views of the Red Deer River as it winds its way through the valley. There’s lots of parking here and it’s easy to access. There are also washrooms and a few benches to sit on to enjoy the view.  

6. Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park  

the sign at the entrance of Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park

This is a bit of a hidden gem and worth the trip. It’s like a tiny version of the Grand Canyon with stunning views of the Red Deer River Valley. This used to be the hunting grounds for dinosaurs millions of years ago. Now it’s one of the stops that make the scenic route from Calgary to Edmonton well worth it – sunsets here are particularly breathtaking.  

You can find the scenic viewpoint here on google maps but the park itself is an excellent place to see birds with more than 150 species in the area from tiny warblers to golden eagles to turkey vultures. There’s a boat launch for canoes or kayaks if you want to see the park from the water as well. This park is for day use only with picnic areas and firepits available.  

7. Stettler 

a train at Alberta Prairie Railways in Stettler
Time for a train ride! Photo Credit: Alberta Prairie Railway

Stettler is a small town worth stopping by for some unique experiences and amazing sweet treats!  

Climb aboard a vintage passenger train with the Alberta Prairie Railway. The journey lasts a few hours which you can enjoy sightseeing, dining, and an old-fashioned train robbery (don’t worry, the spare change collected in the “robbery” is donated to Alberta children’s charities). Book ahead as these are popular trips with themed train rides throughout the summer, fall, and winter.  

The prices vary depending on what type of train ride you choose but the standard Adults-Only Special to Country Hideaway begins at $120 CAD.

Step back in time at the Stettler Town and Country Museum. It’s a small pioneer village with over two dozen buildings to wander through. They are filled with historic antiques showcasing the town’s history. The museum is open every day in the summer and weekdays in the off-season and admission is by donation.  

West Stettler Park is a great outdoor destination on a nice day. There’s a pond you can fish at, a spray park, playground, sports fields, a skateboard park, and a nice paved pathway. If you need to stretch your legs, this is the perfect spot to walk around.  

For a sweet treat, we always like to stop at Bloke’s Bakery in Stettler. Everything is made fresh daily and the cream-filled Long Johns are incredible! Grab a couple for the drive – they won’t last long. 

8. Big Knife Provincial Park  

This is a smaller provincial park that’s a nice spot for a hike or stretch break. If you’re up for camping, there’s a variety of sites for tents or RV that are good options. This isn’t typically a busy place to camp, so it’s generally quieter and peaceful here.  

There are two hiking trails, each offering different views of the park’s scenery. The most popular is the River Flats Trail. This trail showcases the amazing erosion patterns in the hills and a small area of hoodoos – rock formations shaped like columns with caprocks balancing on top.  

The Highlands Trail is the other option and mostly goes through the forest and then has stunning viewpoints overlooking the Battle River Valley. Make sure you have bear spray as black bears like to hang around this area.  

9. Camrose  

Camrose is a great little city to stop in for a couple of hours. The historic downtown is more than a century old and is fun to wander around. It’s lined with locally-owned shops for everything from trendy clothing at Twig Boutique to soap from Lakehouse Naturals Soap Company. Come on a Thursday during the summer to visit the Camrose Outdoor Famers Market!  

Not far from downtown Camrose is the beautiful Mirror Lake. This lake was originally a water reservoir for the Canadian Pacific Railway for steam locomotives passing through the area. Now it’s a beautiful spot to walk around with little bridges and a fountain. Or in the summer, take the Mirror Lake Express Train around the lake! It’s a small, handbuilt train that carries 24 people.  

If you’re here for lunch or supper, try the best fish and chips in town and enjoy the fun décor at the SteamPunk Café. The Fox & Fable Book and Game Café is also a great stop for food and entertainment – grab one of the more than 200 board games they have available to play while you’re here.  

10. Beaverhill Lake Heritage Rangeland Natural Area – Beaverhill Bird Observatory 

the entrance building at Beaverhill Bird Observatory
Bird lovers will be in paradise here! Photo Credit: Beaverhill Bird Observatory

This area is well-known for its wetlands and the birds who call it home. More than 270 different types of birds have been spotted here! There are a variety of marshes, fields, and aspen woods surrounding Beaverhill Lake which is the home to the Beaverhill Lake Bird Observatory.  

Getting here requires driving through a cattle pasture – it’s a bumpy ride to the parking lot at the end of the pasture and then a short hike to the Bird Observatory. This is a protected area, so make to leave things exactly as you found them, slow down when driving through, and don’t bother the cows!  

The Beaverhill Lake Bird Observatory is the second-oldest facility in Canada that monitors bird migrations. Staff and volunteers are on-site from May until November. When you come to visit, you may even be lucky enough to watch them banding songbirds or owls to track their migrations. Banding takes place every day in the spring and the fall starting half an hour before sunrise and continuing for the following six hours that day.  

11. Elk Island National Park 

A bison in Elk Island National Park
Seeing bison is a highlight!

This park is an amazing find to end off your Calgary to Edmonton trip. It’s great in all seasons with hiking trails, firepits, and a lake you can boat on in the summer and skate on in the winter!  

Elk Island National Park is one of the best spots to see wildlife – there’s even a herd of bison that live right in the park! You also can spot deer, elk, coyotes, and lots of different birds.  

If you’re here on a clear night, you’re in for a treat! The park is part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve so the starry sky is spectacular with no city lights in the way. Bring a blanket and lie down to stargaze – this is especially popular during meteor showers when you’ll see them shooting across the sky.  

Admission to the park is around $8.50 CAD for adults and anyone under 17 is free. Make sure you have a full tank of gas before you get here (I recommend filling up in Camrose) as there’s no gas station located here.  

Driving From Calgary to Edmonton in Winter

view of Calgary in the wintery month of December
Calgary is beautiful in winter!

If there’s a chance of wintery weather conditions (anytime from October to March), make sure to check the weather and road conditions before heading out. If you aren’t used to winter driving, stick to the main highway and the more direct route. The QEII highway is the busiest in the province and is prioritized by snowplows to keep it clear. 

It’s a good idea to make sure your car (or rental car) has winter tires or at least all-season tires to tackle any ice and snow you may encounter, no matter what route you take. If you need to, there are places to stop between Calgary and Edmonton to spend a night if the weather changes mid-way through the trip.  

If this is a summer road trip and weather conditions aren’t a factor, the scenic route is a great option!  

Where to Stay in Edmonton

the inside of the princess themed room in Fantasyland Hotel, West Edmonton Mall
For something super unique, stay at one of the theme rooms in the Fantasyland Hotel in West Edmonton Mall! Photo Credit: Fantasyland Hotel

There are tons of different hotels to choose from spread across Edmonton. My best advice is to choose one in a location that’s closest to all of the activities you want to do.

Many hotels are located on the west side of the city near West Edmonton Mall. This is a great area to stay if you want to explore all that the mall has to offer.

Stay in one of Fantasyland Hotel’s gorgeous theme rooms for something really special. You can choose between family-friendly rooms like the Princess one above, or for couples, opt for the more Romantic Roman Room or Hollywood Room.

If you’re on a budget, opt for the West Edmonton Mall Inn that’s located just across the street. The rooms here are comfortable and the location couldn’t be better for enjoying the mall with ease. Plus, they have pet-friendly rooms for anybody traveling with fur babies.

Staying downtown is perfect for anybody who wants a central stay with easy access to most of the activities and attractions in this blog. To be right near Rogers Place and Jasper Ave, stay at the luxurious JW Marriott. This is one of the nicest hotels in Edmonton and it’s simply stunning. They also have an indoor pool and hot tub.

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey at the hoodoos in Alberta, Canada
Thanks for reading!

Whether you are driving from Calgary to Edmonton or Edmonton to Calgary, there are so many fantastic places to stop to explore this part of Alberta. The direct route is the fastest, but still worth working a few stops in if you can. If you’re up for scenery and a bit more exploring, take your time with the more scenic route.

No matter which way you go, there are some hidden gems and well-known stops that will make this drive memorable.  

I hope my blog has helped you enjoy this road trip! Be sure to read more of our other informative blogs including:

BEST activities in West Edmonton Mall

FUN things to do in Drumheller

BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Kamloops

BEST stops on the drive from Edmonton to Jasper