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One of the realities we live with in Edmonton, Alberta is the fact that we are kind of far away from, well, everything. At least it feels like that in Canada’s furthest north major city.
But even once you’ve run out of things to do in Edmonton, there are a surprising number of day trips worth considering. It only takes one day from the city to appreciate why many consider Alberta to be Canada’s most beautiful province.
Below I’ve compiled 25 easy Edmonton day trip ideas, all tried and tested in my years growing up here and now raising kids in Edmonton!
Easy Edmonton Day Trips
The first 20 day trips in my list are all within two hours of the city, with some of them just outside of the city limits. Some of these ideas can also easily be combined – I’ve indicated when this is the case.
Elk Island National Park
Edmonton is blessed to have a national park right on its doorstep, only 30 minutes from downtown by car. Elk Island National Park is the smallest but most accessible of Alberta’s five national parks.
Elk Island features a preserved prairie and marshland ecosystem, with opportunities for hiking, kayaking, camping, snowshoeing, and wildlife viewing. They’ve also got one of the best playgrounds in Edmonton. The park has played a key role is conservation of the plains and wood bison; you are practically guaranteed to see them.
Elk Island is also part of the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, so it is suitable for stargazing and Northern Lights viewing.
Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is an excellent living history museum. It recreates a Ukrainian settlement in Alberta from 1899 to 1930.
Costumed interpreters stick to their roles amidst a beautifully restored train station, grain elevator, church, school, shops, farmhouses, and more. Don’t miss the chance to sample authentic Ukrainian cuisine (including modern adaptations like pyrogy poutine) before you leave!
Ukrainian Village is just past Elk Island National Park on Highway 16, so it’s easy to combine the two in one day trip from Edmonton.
Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area
For those who prefer to get off the beaten track and have the trails all to themselves, there’s Cooking Lake Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area.
This large and mostly wild area lies directly south of Elk Island National Park. Like Elk Island, it belongs to the Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve, but with even viewer facilities, it offers even darker skies for stargazing.
There are about 20 different hiking trails in the area, with one of the best being the Lost Lake and Neon Lake Loop. The expansive park can accessed from four different staging areas, which are clearly indicated on GoogleMaps.
Jurassic Forest features moving, growling, life-sized animatronic dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures along a series of trails through the forest. There’s also dinosaur-themed mini golf and reasonably priced dino souvenirs in the gift shop.
Jurassic Forest is located near the town of Gibbons, about 30 minutes’ drive north of Edmonton.
Edmonton Corn Maze
In late summer and early autumn, the Edmonton Corn Maze makes for a fun Edmonton day trip with kids, and it’s only a few minutes’ drive west of the city near Devon.
The corn maze is enormous, and the design changes every year. The aerial image of the maze posted near the start can serve as your map, but DO expect to get lost.
Besides the corn maze, there’s also a highly photogenic sunflower maze, farm animals to feed, a potato gun, and over a dozen children’s games and activities.
Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary
Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary is a small and serene gem southwest of the city. There, a super easy boardwalk trail leads around a marshy landscape, with a high concentration of birds and other wildlife to be spotted.
Due to its location, you can easily combine this Edmonton day trip with the Edmonton Corn Maze (see previous entry).
Wagner Natural Area
Another nature reserve a short drive west of Edmonton is Wagner Natural Area. Like Clifford E. Lee Nature Sanctuary, it has an easy boardwalk trail, mostly through wetlands and boreal forest.
Uniquely, you’ll have the chance to spot wild orchids! Around 16 species of wild orchid, more than half the total varieties in Alberta, can be found in Wagner Natural Area from June to August.
Wagner Natural Area is near Spruce Grove, and could easily be combined with the following entry.
Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area
Yet another natural area west of Edmonton is Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area. This is an excellent alternative to Elk Island National Park, with fewer people and a similar environment.
A handful of short and longer hikes provide access to several lakes and swamps. Watch for beavers! Chickakoo is a short drive past Spruce Grove on Highway 16.
Alberta Railway Museum
For history and train lovers, the Alberta Railway Museum is well worth a visit. The outdoor museum features dozens of old train cars, equipment, and the original St. Alberta train station.
Because of its location a short drive northeast of the city, you could consider combining Alberta Railway Museum with a day trip to Elk Island, Cooking Lake-Blackfoot, or Jurassic Forest.
The museum is totally volunteer run. It is only open on weekends in summer.
St. Albert & U of A Botanic Gardens
To appreciate flowers and impressively manicured gardens, the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens near Devon is one of the most popular day trips from Edmonton. The expansive area includes a Japanese, indigenous, and Islamic garden. You could also combine it with a visit to Clifford E. Lee Sanctuary and/or Edmonton Corn Maze.
If the price of the U of A Botanic Garden is a turn-off for you, then consider visiting the totally free St. Albert Botanic Park. It’s much smaller, but stunning nonetheless when all the trees and flowers are in bloom. There’s also a lovely walking trail along the river beside it.
The excellent Reynolds-Alberta Museum is just an hour’s drive south of Edmonton in Wetaskiwin (Cars Cost Less in Wetaskiwin!)
The museum features vintage cars, airplanes, motorcycles, farming equipment, and other machines. It’s mostly indoors, but with some displays outside as well.
Just off Highway 2, the museum is an easy stop en route to Lacombe, Red Deer, or Calgary. If you’re visiting with young considers, consider stopping at the Dinosaur-themed playground in Leduc on the way.
Day trip to the Lake
The quintessential Alberta prairies/boreal forest summer experience is going on a day trip to the lake. Luckily, there are dozens of lakes within day-tripping distance of Edmonton, and many of them have sandy beaches.
Some of the best lakes for day trips around Edmonton include Wabamum Lake to the west, Long Lake to the north, and Pigeon, Gull, Miquelon, or Sylvan Lakes to the south. All of these lakes have excellent day use areas and campgrounds.
Fruit Picking & Farm Day Trips
From early summer through to early fall, there are loads of U-Pick farms around Edmonton. They offer the chance to pick your own strawberries, Saskatoon berries, raspberries, and increasingly nowadays, veggies and other crops, too.
Giants of the Prairies Day Trip
Did you know that Alberta is famous for its many giant roadside attractions? Edmonton itself has a handful of them, but for the best ones, you’ll have to make one or several day trips around Edmonton.
Some of the best giants, including the Giant Easter Egg, Pyrogy, and Sausage are found to the northeast of Edmonton. In this article, I’ve created five different Alberta roadside attraction driving routes to visit as many of these giants as you can in a single day trip.
Brewery Day Trip
If you ever get tired of Edmonton’s roughly 20 microbreweries, why not go on a day trip to visit even more! Some of the best breweries in Alberta are within road-tripping distance of Edmonton.
Heading west toward Jasper, hit Apex Predator in Edson, followed by my personal favorite, Folding Mountain Brewery in Hinton, right on the doorstep to Jasper National Park.
Driving south, you can do an boozy loop of Hawk Tail in Rimbey, Snake Lake in Sylvan Lake, Troubled Monk and several others in Red Deer, Field & Forge in Innisfail, and the excellent Blindman in Lacombe. Don’t drink & drive, kids.
Besides Blindman Brewery (see last entry), the town of Lacombe has several other attractions making it more than worthy of the 1.25-hour drive from Edmonton. After a few day beers, explore Lacombe’s lovely historic centre on foot.
Next, just outside of Lacombe, the Kraay Family Farm is Lacombe’s answer to the Edmonton Corn & Sunflower Maze. A short hop from there, Aspen Beach Provincial Park on Gull Lake is perfect for a swim.
Before returning home, spoil yourself at Cilantro & Chive, the best restaurant in town.
Often disregarded as nothing more than a place to stop for gas and snacks on the way from Edmonton to Calgary, Red Deer has a lot going for it.
Alberta’s third-largest city features a historic downtown area, several excellent breweries, large parks and bird sanctuaries, a historic fort, sports museum, and water tubing for kids at Discovery Canyon.
Find out everything you need to know for planning an epic day trip in my guide to the best things to do in Red Deer.
Alberta Prairie Railway, Stettler
At two hours away from Edmonton, this day trip idea just barely qualifies for this “easy day trips” section. But for anyone who loves historic train rides, it’s worth the trip.
The Alberta Prairie Railway runs fun excursions from Stettler into the surrounding prairies on old steam trains, with treats for the kids. In winter, they also offer the Polar Express.
Stettler is a straight shot east of Red Deer, so this could be an add-on to a Red Deer day trip.
If you don’t want to travel all the way to the Rockies for a skiing day trip from Edmonton, don’t forget about Rabbit Hill Snow Resort just outside of the city.
Like the other ski hills right in Edmonton, Rabbit Hill is in the North Saskatchewan River Valley, a short drive southwest of Edmonton near Devon. But Rabbit Hill is the largest of them all, with over 10 runs ranging from green circle to black diamond.
Day Trips Further Afield
The following day trips from Edmonton require 2–4 hours of driving (each way).
Yes, eight hours behind the wheel is a bit much for a day trip. But if all you’ve got is a day, you can check off some of the best places to visit in Alberta in a single day trip from Edmonton if you get an early enough start.
To say you’ve finally been to Saskatchwan is reason enough to visit Lloydminster, which straddles the AB-SASK border 2.5 hours east of Edmonton. You can’t miss the exact spot, thanks to the largest border markers in the world.
On the Alberta side, grab a fresh pint at the 4th Meridian Brewery. Head over to Saskatchewan for the Lloyminster Museum & Archives, which includes one of the largest taxidermy collections in North America. North of Lloyd, Sandy Beach has a diving board, while Cold Lake has some excellent campgrounds.
Torrington Gopher Hole Museum
Would you be willing to devote a day of your life to seeing dozens of taxidermy gophers displayed in a variety of human-like scenes? If so, then promptly make your way to Torrington Gopher Hole Museum, about two hours and 15 minutes south of Edmonton.
If not, this can also be a little stopover en route to Calgary or Drumheller.
Dry Island Buffalo Jump
Remote Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is an off-the-beaten-track spot 2.5 hours south of Edmonton.
Like its more famous cousin in Southern Alberta, Head-Smashed-In, this is a spot where indigenous people once hunted bison by driving them off cliffs.
Dry Island Buffalo Jump is on the Red Deer River upstream from Drumheller, so it features the same stunning badlands scenery, but minus the screaming kids.
At three hours away, the Dinosaur Capital of the World is doable as a long day trip from Edmonton. Drive the Dinosaur Trail on the way in, hitting Horsethief Canyon, Little Church, and of course the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Next, climb the word’s largest T-Rex, see the hoodoos, and if you’ve got time, squeeze in a tour of Atlas Coal Mine and a beer at Last Chance Saloon. Take Highway 9 west to leave town, stopping at Horseshoe Canyon, then make a beeline for Highway 2 for the fastest route back to Edmonton.
Forget about your sports rivalries, and take a day trip to Alberta’s other (bigger, but I won’t say better or worse because I don’t want to start a fight) city.
When you’ve already seen and done everything there is to do in Edmonton, you can start all over again in Calgary. The Calgary Zoo and Telus Spark are great for kids, Heritage Park is a huge living history museum, and Peace Bridge and Calgary Tower are iconic sights.
You can’t do Calgary in a day, so I suggest breaking it into multiple days trips, perhaps covering one of the city’s four quadrants per visit.
Edson & Hinton
For most Edmontonians, Edson are Hinton are pee stops on the way to Jasper. OK, I’m not going to lie, there isn’t a whole lot to do in Edson. But Apex Predator Brewery, northwest of Edson, is excellent, when their small patio is open. The same goes for Rocky Mountain Big Horn Distillery’s tasting room, where you can sample a variety of craft gins and other liqueurs (hello Apple Pie in booze form!)
Hinton is the gateway to Jasper National Park, but has some attractions of its own. Beaver Boardwalk is great with kids, while the Athabasca River Front Park is also lovely. Just past town, Wildhorse Lake has gorgeous mountain views, while William A. Switzer Provincial Park is among the most beautiful in Alberta.
Last but not least, beautiful Folding Mountain Brewery, just before the entrance to Jasper National Park, is my personal favorite in all of Alberta.
Jasper National Park
As Edmontonians can be heard saying, “We are ONLY three hours from the Rockies.” It’s a little far for a day trip, sure, but the mountains are always worth the drive, even if you’ve only got a day.
Choose from countless hikes, stunning lakes, snowshoe trails, or spend the day skiing at Marmot Basin. Jasper is simply stunning anytime of the year.
The honest truth is that every Edmontonian is envious of how close Calgary is to the mountains. For Calgarians, Kananaskis and Banff are only an hour away.
But Kananaskis can still be done as a day trip from Edmonton, if you don’t mind a 3.5-hour drive on each side. In fact, Nakiska Ski Resort in Kananaskis is a slightly shorter drive from Edmonton than Marmot Basin in Jasper, which we normally consider to be the closest Rocky Mountain ski resort to Edmonton!
Canmore, the main access town to Kananaskis, is just outside of Banff National Park and is a favorite holiday spot among Albertans. It’s a sin to only visit as a day trip, but I’ve personally done it because I’ll take any bit of Canmore I can get.
Canmore is like a less touristy version of Banff, but with the same dramatic scenery. The artsy, outdoorsy town is surrounded by incredible lakes, mountains, and hikes. They’ve got some excellent breweries and a distillery, too
Banff National Park
While I absolutely don’t recommend visiting mighty Banff National Park, Canada’s first and best, as a day trip all the way from Edmonton, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.
Whether it’s to bag a once-in-a-lifetime hike, photograph turquoise lakes at sunrise, or hit the slopes of the park’s three ski resorts, any of the above can be done in one long ass day trip from Edmonton (minimum 4 hours each way).
Well, that brings us to the end of my guide to the best day trips from Edmonton. I hope that even for those of you living in Edmonton, you’ve found at least a few new ideas!