Alberta Real Estate
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history of the province
The most convenient way to think about Alberta is to split it across the middle. The northern part of the province is dominated by bands of subarctic and boreal forests, full of poplar and willow trees. For the last ten thousand years or so, the First Nations hunted, fished, and gathered for food and furs. Peoples such as the Chipewayn prospered here despite the cold winters and the snow. In the south, where the forests give way to the plains, First Nations like the Cree and the Blackfoot lived on enormous Buffalo herds. These herds covered the land from horizon to horizon, and still roam Alberta today, though in much smaller numbers.
In the eighteenth century, the English and the French arrived in Alberta, setting up forts and trading posts in the north. Large-scale euro settlement did not occur until the late 19th century with the coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The town of Calgary sprang up on the western edge of the Great Plains, founded by the famous Canadian Mounted Police, or “Mounties.” Edmonton, farther to the north, was founded earlier than Calgary but grew up later, taking in immigrants from as far away as Ukraine. Over the years, a healthy rivalry formed between Edmonton and Calgary, which persists today, especially between their respective sports teams.
It wasn’t until 1947, when extensive oil deposits were discovered throughout the province that Alberta became the economic powerhouse that it is today. The production of this oil quickly dominated Alberta’s economy and has been a mainstay for the province ever since. Still, Alberta strives to diversify its economy, and as of 2017, the oil and natural gas industry made up only 16% of its GDP. Alberta is therefore poised to demonstrate to Canada, and to the rest of the world, that a rural, isolated place near the northern edge of the world can be a diverse, vibrant, and prosperous place. The winters might be long and cold, but the summer sun shines eighteen hours a day.
As we said, Alberta is a big place, and getting anywhere will take some serious travel. The Trans-Canada Highway crosses Alberta east-to-west in two places, Calgary and (you guessed it) Edmonton. These two cities are connected north-to-south via Highway 2. With distances between most towns and cities on a Great Plains scale, a car with high fuel economy should be one of your main considerations. However, it’s no secret that the winters in Alberta are intense, to say the least. It might be wiser to prioritize using a vehicle that can manage foul weather better than it can eat up the kilometres from Calgary to Banff.
If you don’t have a car, but you still want to get around, there’s still the air and the rails. Both Edmonton and Calgary have international airports, so you’re never too disconnected from the rest of the world. Rail routes from Calgary connect to Banff and even cross the Rockies to Vancouver. VIA Rail’s ‘Canadian Train’ also offers overnight sleeper routes from Toronto to Vancouver.
things to do in Alberta
Alberta is enormous. In Canadian terms, placed in the east, it would stretch from Toronto to Halifax. Compared to the east coast of the United States, it could reach from South Carolina to Massachusetts. It’s big, and a list of even one hundred places could not adequately cover all the things to do in Alberta. We’re going to try to cover ten.
- Visit Calgary. – We’re probably going to rub more than a few Edmontonians the wrong way by placing Calgary first, but Calgary is the most populous city in Alberta. Calgary won worldwide fame when it hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, and its Olympic Park is open to the public for winter and summer sports. You might be surprised to see Calgary’s skyscraper-studded skyline rising up out of the plains, with the Rocky Mountains rising even higher in the distance. Calgary boasts a city-wide culture rivalled only by Toronto and Montreal and, of course, Edmonton.
- Visit Edmonton– A little under three hundred kilometres to the north of Calgary, Edmonton is truly the “Last City on the Plains.” Edmonton hosts several music festivals throughout the year, namely the TD Edmonton International Jazz Festival and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Edmonton is also home to the largest open-air stadium in Canada, Commonwealth Stadium, where Edmontonians can watch football, soccer, and major concert acts throughout the year.
- Banff National Park – Banff National Park is breathtaking, and there’s really no other way to describe it. Not as large as the American behemoths of Yellowstone or Grand Canyon, Banff is nevertheless another stunning example of the conservation of the natural world. Only 100 kilometres west of Calgary, Banff is a must-visit for any Albertan. Enjoy hot springs, mountainside hiking trails, and glaciers during the winter months. As Canada’s oldest national park, Banff is a legendary name in the minds of every nature-lover in North America. A refuge for grizzlies, cougars, wolverines, and moose, Banff will satisfy the wild drive in every visitor who comes to stand in the shadows of its snow-capped mountains.
- Canadian Badlands – Located about 70 kilometres to the northeast of Calgary, here the grasslands give way to a dusty, sun-beaten stretch of canyons, hoodoos, and other natural wonders of erosion. The town of Drumheller, located here, is an excellent springboard for any nature lovers interested in hiking, climbing, or spelunking in the area’s caves. Take a trip through the badlands to see what happens when the wind goes to work. The random outcroppings and freestanding pillars of carved stone are sure to keep you fascinated every time you venture down into this alien corner of Alberta.
- Dinosaur Provincial Park – Also located within the badlands, Dinosaur Provincial Parks offers something for everyone. For those obsessed with prehistoric plants and animals, Dinosaur Provincial Park might seem too good to be true. For those more inclined to the here and now, the stunning landscapes and the living flora and fauna are more than capable of satisfying the craving for the outdoors.
- Athabasca Falls – Though not quite as grand as Niagara, the Athabasca Falls offer an unforgettable display of nature’s power as white water plummets almost 25 metres from a picturesque turquoise river. These falls are roaring with snow melt in the spring and summer, but if you come in the winter, you’ll be greeted by an even more impressive site. When the water freezes, the falls cling as an icy glaze to the dark stones of the river bed, creating a beautiful gorge of white and startlingly clear blue.
- Jasper National Park – Encompassing the legendary Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park rides the spine of the Rocky Mountains. Situated almost perfectly between Calgary and Edmonton and twice as large as Banff, Jasper is a perfect getaway from Alberta’s two big cities. With icefields and peaks over ten thousand feet, Jasper National Park will last you a lifetime. Jasper is to Edmonton what Banff is to Calgary. We don’t know if their rivalry extends to these national parks, but if it does, we’d be at a loss to choose between the two. Both have beautiful lakes, awe-inspiring mountains, and a lifetime of experiences to offer their visitors. The only thing we know for certain is that Alberta is lucky to have them both.
- Grassi Lakes – If you haven’t noticed by now, much of Alberta’s beauty lies in the mountains to the west. Grassi Lakes is another gem of natural wonder easily accessible to the majority of the population that lives in and between Edmonton and Calgary. Right on the doorstep of Banff National Park, the Grassi Lakes are low-key spots to be savoured again and again over the years.
- Fort Edmonton Park – As much as we love the outdoors, let’s return to Alberta’s cities for our last two spots. Fort Edmonton Park is a much-beloved attraction in Edmonton. Fun for the whole family, the park features recreations of pioneer Albertan life at key points throughout history, focusing primarily on the 19th century and the traditional indigenous lifestyles of the First Nations who first called the lands of Alberta home.
- Heritage Park Historical Village – Of course, if Edmonton has a historical park, then Calgary must have one too! We won’t get into which is better, but we will say that Calgary’s Heritage Park offers at least as many fun activities for the family as Fort Edmonton Park. Indulge for a little while in some Old West nostalgia, and get a glimpse of the life of old Calgary when it was a cattle town at the western edge of the Great Plains.
Alberta City Directory
- Bow Island
- Cold Lake
- Crowsnest Pass
- Drayton Valley
- Fort Macleod
- Fort McMurray
- Fort Saskatchewan
- Fox Creek
- Grand Prairie
- Grande Cache
- High Prairie
- High River
- Medicine Hat
- Peace River
- Pincher Creek
- Rocky Mountain House
- Saddle Hills
- Sherwood Park
- Slave Lake
- Spirit River
- Spruce Grove
- St. Paul
- Three Hills