Central Alberta

Central Alberta
Photographer
Jeff Bartlett

Central Alberta

At the heart of Alberta there’s a unique mix of small towns and ranches for miles. And in between parks, prairie and waterways ripe for exploring. From vast golden plains, to the monolithic Rocky Mountains and abundant coniferous trees, Central Alberta is picturesque in every way. The region pays homage to its roots with a selection of rodeos, festivals, and jamborees that celebrate its western heritage. In Red Deer, head to the pretty river valley for an afternoon of paddle boating or a round of golf at one of the many golf courses. In winter, snowshoe, skate, cross-country ski. Or, head out with a guide to learn the art of ice fishing. Red Deer, the region’s largest city, is home to over 9,000 farms. Agriculture plays a large part in the economy of the region, which is the most densely populated rural area in the province. Stop by some of the many farms or markets to meet a farmer and buy fresh eggs or cheese right from the source. 

Province
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    Nestled in the Foothills, on the Cowboy Trail, Sundre is where you’ll find good old-fashioned Western hospitality, unlimited recreational opportunities, and best of all a break from busy, city life.

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    We are about to be robbed. Gunsmoke and pistol reports fill the prairie sky, as horses and riders bear down on us. Watching from the train car, my two sons and I are spellbound.

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    In Clive, AB – a town of just 700 northeast of Red Deer – even the ghosts know how to have a good time — sometimes well past closing time. At least, that’s according to Dale Bright, co-owner of the Clive Hotel.

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    Ask for recommendations on where to go for a quick romantic getaway in Alberta, and the town of Trochu probably won’t top the list. But somehow, like a hot prairie day that slow cooks a sultry evening tempest, the town has simmered into a romantic getaway destination.

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    Mainstreet marquees, heritage buildings, boutique shops, craft stores, cafes and good restaurants anchor downtown, the Camrose County Nature Conservation Centre and Miquelon Lake Provincial Park give reign to the wilds just beyond town limits.

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    Mirror is place where you have to slow down, take your time and appreciate the finer things of rural living, like heirloom furniture, hardy vegetables, bright flowers, horse riding, fresh homemade baking and downhome rural Albertan hospitality.

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    As you head east through Central Alberta, through Red Deer County from Highway 2 to 2A to Highway 21, the towns seem to get progressively smaller and the space in between get wider. No — not wider, that doesn’t quite capture it. Bigger, broader, more open and expansive. I don’t know if there’s a single word that exists to explain the sensation: the feeling of leaving behind the urban buzz of modern life for the solitude of wind blowing through long grass. This is prairie-raised Alberta writer W.O. Mitchell’s territory, out beyond where the sidewalk ends.  

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    Growing up in a small prairie town in the ‘80s, like I did, you had to make your own fun. It was an era of fast cars, wild fashion and some pretty darn good rock and roll. Probably a good thing most of us were too young to drive. But that doesn’t mean we’re too old to party now. And Three Hills gives you licence to let loose.

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    How did a community in central-east Alberta score a manmade lake that would go on to make the region a prime spot for a Provincial Park?