You don’t have to leave the province and spend a fortune to make the most of your summer holidays. From vibrant festivals to local attractions and outdoor endeavours, there’s plenty to do right here at home. Here are our top five ideas for a fun staycation that will also help you save cash this summer.
1. Take in one (or more) of Edmonton’s many festivals.
Did you know that Edmonton has a festival, sometimes two or three, going every single weekend of the summer? There’s bound to be a festival that suits you. Some favourites include the Freewill Shakespeare Festival, Boardwalk Sand on Whyte, Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Taste of Edmonton, Cariwest Caribbean Arts Festival and the Edmonton Heritage Festival. Many of these festivals cost little to attend but promise a big and memorable summer experience.
Savings Tip: While some festivals have free or low-cost admission, you might have to pay for certain things once you’re in the gates. Set a budget and take out some cash before you go. This will make it easier to have some fun without overspending.
2. Go wild at a nature centre.
There are nature centres throughout the province that offer educational activities, interactive displays, nature walks and beautiful views for people of all ages. Crawl through a beaver lodge at the Bow Habitat Station in Calgary, learn how bees make honey at the John Janzen Nature Centre in Edmonton, walk the interpretive trails at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre in Red Deer and learn about local wildlife and the unique ecosystem at the Helen Schuler Nature Centre in Lethbridge.
Savings Tip: If you’re planning to spend the day at a nature centre, try packing a picnic lunch instead of paying for one on-site. It will make the nature experience more enjoyable and help you save a few bucks too.
3. Float down the river.
Nothing says “summer vacation” like a lazy float down the river on a hot summer’s day. In Calgary, you can take a trip down the Bow River or Elbow River. Pick up an inexpensive inflatable dinghy or rent a kayak or raft from the Paddle Station. If you call in advance, they’ll have your vessel, equipment and safety gear ready to go when you arrive. Pembina River Tubing offers similar services to tube down the Pembina River, just outside of Entwhistle, east of Edmonton.
Savings Tip: Renting gear and paying for transportation is the most convenient option, and if you’re not sure what you’re doing, it’s also the smarter and safer choice. If you’re familiar with the area, use your own equipment and coordinate free transportation with a friend.
4. Go camping in Alberta parks!
While the big national parks require early reservations for the summer, there are dozens of Alberta Provincial Parks and hundreds of other recreation areas that don’t need as much advance booking. They make the perfect home base for outdoor exploration or just relaxing in nature. Check out William A. Switzer Provincial Park for pristine lakes in the foothills, Garner Lake Provincial Park for lazy beach days, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park for mountain hikes or Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park for hoodoos and ancient petroglyphs. Whether you’re solo camping or taking the kids, there’s a spot right here in Alberta that you’re going to love.
Savings Tip: Compared to the national parks and private campgrounds, camping fees at Alberta Parks are typically inexpensive. If you have the time to go midweek or early in the morning, skip the online reservation fee and try for the first-come, first-served sites.
5. Spend a day at the zoo.
Zoos and wildlife sanctuaries are not just for kids, though the kids will love this one. Zoos throughout the province offer up-close encounters with local and exotic wildlife, educational activities and even culinary experiences. You can check out the Edmonton Valley Zoo or Calgary Zoo or take in a different experience and see orphaned and rescued local wildlife at the Discovery Wildlife Park in Innisfail. A lesser-known zoo that’s great for kids is the Border City Petting Zoo in Lloydminster.
Savings Tip: If you think you’ll visit the zoo more than once this summer, consider a membership. Zoo members often get discounts for admission and special events. Also, many zoos allow you to bring your own lunch and snacks, as concessions can be pricey.
With plenty to see and do right here in Alberta, you can have a memorable staycation without throwing off your monthly budget and savings plan.