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Sylvan Lake is one of Alberta, Canada’s best-kept secrets! This small lakeside community is located on the edge of Sylvan Lake, which is about 25 km (16 mi) from Red Deer, Alberta. It’s in between the larger cities of Calgary and Edmonton (approximately 150 km/93 mi away from either).
With comfortable, warm weather throughout the summer as well as tons of things to do and see, it’s a popular getaway for both locals and tourists alike!
Believe me, I know. Having lived in Edmonton for most of my life, Sylvan Lake was a regular vacation spot for my family. I’ve been there countless times, and have therefore discovered plenty of fun things to see and do in Sylvan Lake.
Even though it’s a small town, there are SO many fun things to do in Sylvan Lake to fill up your vacation!
- 1. Get out on the water with a boat or sea-doo
- 2. Paddleboarding and kayaking
- 3. Relax on the beach
- 4. Walk the marina
- 5. Visit Sylvan Star Cheese
- 6. Mini golf and go-karts
- 7. Camping at Jarvis Provincial Park
- 8. Visit the local brewery
- 9. Eat at Obee’s Pizza
- 10. Get ice cream at the Big Moo
- 11. Enjoy the vibrant nightlife
- 12. Try the best Caesar in Alberta
- 13. Axe throwing
- 14. Stay at an epic holiday home
14 Fun Things to do in Sylvan Lake, Alberta
1. Get out on the water with a boat or sea-doo
If you’re going to be hanging out at Sylvan Lake this summer, you absolutely must get out boating or sea-doing – this lake is made for it!
You can rent boats at a number of places in town, but we recommend Sun Sport Recreation which offers a variety of boats and sea-doos to choose from.
It’s pretty fun to grab a group of friends and enjoy being out on the water. Make sure you try your hand at some new sports like skiing or wakeboarding. You can also rent jet skis or sea-doos and challenge your friends to a bit of a friendly competition racing around!
Boats will typically cost about $199+ CAD/hour, so it’s definitely worth grabbing a few people to go in on it with you. Boating on Sylvan Lake is hands-down one of the best summer water activities!
2. Paddleboarding and kayaking
Sylvan Lake is a calm, still lake, so it’s perfect for paddleboarding and kayaking. If you have your own, it’s easy to bring them down to the shore and just get going. But there are also options to rent them in town! Rentals start around $30 CAD/hour.
Kayaking and paddleboarding are great options for watersport newbies because they’re easy to get the hang of and don’t require special skills. They offer a great way to get some exercise and sun while exploring the coast.
We highly recommend wearing a hat and sunscreen… And your swimsuit! You’ll definitely be jumping into the lake to cool off after a few hours!
A bonus is that Sylvan Lake is super shallow, so even if you’re not a fan of deep water you can get out to the middle of the lake with confidence.
3. Relax on the beach
If you’re in need of a chill beach day, Sylvan Lake Beach is the place to be! As one of the very best things to do in Sylvan Lake, you simply must have a beach day (or two!) You’ll find a large beach area, with plenty of grass and sandy areas to lay out a towel and umbrella to relax.
The lake itself is very shallow and the water quality is excellent. It’s the perfect swimming beach and we guarantee you’ll want to go for a dip to cool off! You can either bring a picnic lunch or walk to one of the nearby locations to eat.
Parking can sometimes be difficult to find, so it’s a good option to walk here from where you’re staying in town, if possible.
Hot Tip: Stay at the Best Western Plus Chateau Inn or Edgewater Inn which are both right near the Sylvan Lake beach area and include free parking!
4. Walk the marina
If you’re looking for a nice easy stroll – perhaps with an ice cream cone in hand! (Check out #10) – the Sylvan Lake Marina is the perfect place to go.
It’s so fun seeing all the boats docked there and just generally taking in the sites. It’s busy in the summer, so there will be a lot of activity with boats coming and going and people just enjoying being out on the lake.
If you’re in the mood for a little romance, this is also the best place in town to catch a gorgeous sunset!
5. Visit Sylvan Star Cheese
Okay, who does not love cheese? Pretty sure we all do! Especially when it’s as amazing quality as Sylvan Star Cheese. This 6th generation family-owned farm are cheesemakers that create award-winning gouda cheese and has been in operation in the area since 1995!
They are located just outside of Sylvan Lake on the way to Red Deer. The farm itself is available to tour, so you can go and learn about how the cheese is made. The best part, obviously, is trying some cheese and picking it up to go! They have their award-winning gouda (that is Lactose-free), but also mozzarella, cheddar, raclette, and so many more.
Sylvan Star Cheese is open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm.
This farm-to-table cheese is out of this world, you can thank me later!
6. Mini golf and go-karts
If you’re looking for a little fun with the family, Lakeside Go-Karts & Mini Golf is the place to go! They’re located just beside the lake, a quick walk from downtown Sylvan Lake.
You’ll have so much fun ripping around the track in your go-kart or bumper car – it’s just like being a kid again! Their mini golf course has 18 holes for you to perfect that swing!
It’s an affordable way to have some fun, the go-karts are priced at only $11.95 CAD for an adult or $8.50 CAD for a kid. There’s also mini-golfing which costs $13.95 CAD for adults and $8.95 CAD for kids. This is easily one of the best family-friendly activities in Sylvan Lake.
Related Read: If you like go-karts, be sure to visit DRIVE, the newest attraction in West Edmonton Mall.
7. Camping at Jarvis Provincial Park
There are a lot of great places to stay in the area, and of my favorites is Jarvis Bay Provincial Park. Camping here is the perfect way to enjoy being in nature and close to the lake, but also not too far from town for shopping, food, and amenities.
The campground has sites for tents, trailers, and RVs and is connected to a trail system for biking and hiking. It’s got all the features you need – fire pits, power, flush toilets, and potable water. There is a playground for the kids, too, so an excellent family-friendly option!
While there are views of the lake from the campground, you’ll need to head to Sylvan Lake’s main beach for swimming and water access.
The nightly camping rate is $41 CAD for a sight with power and if you want both power and water these sites are an additional $8 CAD a night.
Related Read: Camping is also one of the best things to do in Banff, Jasper, and Canmore – all other amazing places to visit in Alberta.
8. Visit the local brewery
What would a trip to a lakeside town be without tasting the local brews? Snake Lake Brewing Company in Sylvan Lake has a whole bunch of award-winning craft beers for you to try!
Their tasting room is open seven days a week (with varying hours) to try out a pint or flight, or you can fill up a growler and take it back home with you! Some of their perfect summer brews are the Prairie Dreams NE Pale Ale or the Ice Cutter Vanilla Latte Stout.
If you’re able to make it out on a Thursday, Snake Lake Brewing has live music! Every second Thursday at 7 pm you can check out some local talent while enjoying a beer and some light bites off of their menu – what could be better?
Related Read: If you love breweries, be sure to head to Calgary where there are literally dozens! Check out all of the best indoor activities in Calgary – breweries and more!
9. Eat at Obee’s Pizza
I don’t know about you, but a day in the sun at the beach leaves me hungry! And my favorite place to fill up in Sylvan Lake has got to be Obee’s Pizza. It’s located just a few blocks up from the beach and serves the best pizza and pasta in town.
As the name suggests they do in fact offer a 2-for-1 deal on all pizzas and pasta so you can eat to your heart’s content! How amazing is that?
This is a family-owned business that makes all the dough and sauces right on its premises. Besides pizza, they serve pasta, ribs, donairs, wings, and panzerotti – a savory turnover from Italy, kind of like a calzone! I guarantee this place will hit the spot after a long day outside at the lake.
Obee’s Pizza is open Sunday through Thursday from 4 pm to 9:30 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 4 pm to 10:30 pm.
10. Get ice cream at the Big Moo
… after all that pizza and pasta, you’re going to need some ice cream! We’ve got you.
Head to Big Moo Ice Cream Parlour, located right along the beach at Sylvan Lake. They have the best ice cream around, so definitely go for the 3-scoop cone and try some flavors like Nanaimo brownie, Caramel Candy Apple, or Paradise Rainbow.
What makes their menu special though is their Outrageous Ice Cream Sandwiches! Picture two massive cookies jam-packed with ice cream and there are 6 unique flavors to choose from.
They’ve also got a bunch more options that are gluten-free as well as dairy-free sorbets so there really is something for everyone here!
Oh, and did you even visit Sylvan Lake if you haven’t taken the iconic photo with the Moo Cow?!
11. Enjoy the vibrant nightlife
Since Sylvan Lake is a popular holiday destination for Albertans and tourists alike, it should come as no surprise that enjoying the nightlife is one of the best things to do! Lakeshore Drive is the main street that runs parallel to the beach and is full of places to have a drink or go out dancing – it’s busy here every weekend!
Fireside is one of the more popular places to go and while it doesn’t look like much from the outside and the food is honestly nothing to write home about it has a lively atmosphere to play some pool, hang on the patio with a drink, or watch and sporting events on their TVs.
Buckwildz always has a great lineup of live local musicians playing all kinds of styles from country to pop to rock. Just check their schedule to find out beforehand! It’s also a lively lunch spot where guests love to grab a seat out on their patio.
Right next door to Buckwildz is Chief’s Pub & Eatery serving typical pub fixing in a very modest setting but it’s a local favorite so the vibes here are nice too. But honestly, just put on your favorite outfit and head out – you’ll have no problem finding a busy bar to go and grab a drink and have a night on the town!
12. Try the best Caesar in Alberta
If you need another reason to grab a drink during your stay in Sylvan Lake, it’s this one: you’ve got to try the award-winning Caesar at Buckwildz!
If you aren’t Canadian, a Caesar is a cocktail similar to the Bloody Mary that is made with lime, tomato, and clam juices, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vodka, and a celery salt rim.
Kjery Dakin, who is the owner of Buckwildz, won the award at the Calgary Stampede Mott’s Clamato competition a few years ago. Beating out competition from all over the province – that’s when you know it’s pretty incredible!
While you’re at Buckwildz sipping on your Caesar, try some of their delicious eats, too – burgers, steak, poutine, and deep-fried Oreos to top it all off! Buckwildz has a really nice large patio overlooking the lake and is a go-to destination in Sylvan Lake for both locals and tourists.
Related Read: While traveling around, be sure to check off all of these other fun things to see and do in Alberta!
13. Axe throwing
I bet you wouldn’t think to head to a lake for vacation and end up throwing axes like a lumberjack! But I guarantee you will have so much fun. The Wood Shed Axe Throwing is located just a little bit outside of the downtown core and is a fun place to go with a group of friends – they’ve actually rated the #1 group activity in Sylvan Lake!
There are eight lanes of axe throwing with interactive targets and digital lanes that keep track of your scores! They also have coaches to teach you the technique and give you tips and tricks.
Wood Shed allows you to bring in your own food, so you can grab something from a local place and enjoy it! They serve alcoholic beverages, soda, and light snacks on site. Prices vary on the time of day and the number of people, but if you have a small group of 2-8 throwers, it’s just $20 CAD/person for one hour of fun or $30 CAD/person for 2 hours.
Trying out Axe Throwing is the perfect thing to do in Sylvan Lake when it’s raining too because it’s an indoor activity.
14. Stay at an epic holiday home
We already mentioned camping as one good option for where to stay, but another great choice is a home or cabin! Thanks to VRBO and Airbnb, there are so many beautiful options. Not only can you find something unique and different, but you can have all the comforts of staying in a home – kitchen, bathroom, real beds. It can also really keep the costs down on a trip because you can share it with a bunch of friends and family and do your own cooking.
One of our favorites is this awesome A-frame cabin (pictured above.) It’s only half a block away from the beach and within walking distance of just about everything on this list! It’s super cute and cozy, with a gorgeous modern interior. We loved the front deck, fire pit, reading nook, and large soaker tub!
Another great choice is this lakefront property. You can’t ask for better views or location – gorgeous lake views from just about every location in the house! I love having my morning coffee sitting up on the balcony overlooking the lake. This is a large house that can sleep up to 15 people, making it a great choice for a bunch of friends together. It’s about a five-minute walk away from the beach and boardwalk, so close enough to be accessible, but not right in the business of it all!
Where to Stay in Sylvan Lake, Alberta
There are tons of great places to stay in Sylvan Lake. From budget motel rooms to large holiday homes that sleep over 15 people, there is something for everyone!
For a budget-friendly room for a couple or small family check out Edgewater Inn. It is as central as it gets and the property has a BBQ grill and terrace to make use of. The prices are great averaging around $81 CAD a night.
For something a little more luxurious, you can’t pass on the Best Western Plus Chateau Inn. It is located just outside of the downtown area but within walking distance. The reviews are also outstanding – it’s the perfect option for anybody looking for a nicer hotel stay (to be honest, there aren’t a lot of these in Sylvan Lake). The prices don’t break the bank either as you likely won’t need to spend much over $100 CAD a night.
If you’re looking for an Airbnb or holiday home you have a few options too. This 3-bedroom loft has a central location just steps from the beach and sleeps up to 6 people. This place is made complete with its full kitchen.
If you’re traveling with a larger group, this Lakeshore Guest House sleeps up to a whopping 18 people. It is only a 5-minute walk to the beach and features a fully stocked kitchen, a balcony, a washer and dryer, and a pool table!
Renting a Car in Alberta
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 DiscoverCars.com. 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!
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter, crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $37 CAD and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part, though? It comes in pink!
Bear bells: These are a must, and for the price, you shouldn’t hike without them. The bear bells I use are only $9 CAD and they come with a silencer (a must) so you can easily travel with them.
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment, so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in handy so many times, especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $25 CAD and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Thanks for reading!
A beach to relax, an awesome lake for swimming, great food, nightlife, and tons of fun outdoor activities – Sylvan Lake has it all! This small community just outside of Red Deer is packed with amazing things to do in the summer.
I hope you go check it out and love it as much as we do!
If you’re looking at traveling to some other epic destinations nearby, be sure to check out the rest of our Alberta and BC blogs. Some you might like include:
Best things to do in Vernon, BC
Easy day hikes in Canmore, Alberta