Spectacular mountain scenery accentuates Alberta's vast agricultural lands. Banff and Jasper national parks, the major visitor attractions in the province, attract more than two million visitors annually. It's not hard to understand why: Together, these adjoining parks contain what is generally considered to be the most spellbinding scenery in the Canadian Rockies.
One of the best and easiest ways to appreciate the beauty of the two parks is to take a ride in a gondola. The Lake Louise Gondola trip up Mount Whitehorn offers one of the longest rides in North America, more than 2000 m/two miles in approximately 15 minutes. The ride ends at Whitehorn Lodge, 550 m/1700 ft above the valley floor. The lodge is one of the most scenic vantage points for photography in the Rocky Mountains.
The Jasper Tramway is located on The Whistlers. Once at the top, you'll discover how the mountain got its name. Before setting out on the scenic routes through the parks, be sure to pick up an auto tape tour. They're available in both Banff and Jasper. Hiking and riding are also popular with visitors. Other ways to experience nature include the three-hour Athabasca River raft tour and the six-hour bus tour to the Columbia Icefield, which includes an optional Snowcoach ride on the Athabasca Glacier.
When you need to get back to civilization, Alberta's two principal cities cater to almost any visitor's whim. Each of the main cities boasts a full complement of sightseeing and cultural attractions along with a well-known annual event. In Calgary the big event is the Calgary Stampede; in Edmonton, the provincial capital, it's Klondike Days.
The West Edmonton Mall in West Edmonton rivals the Rocky Mountain national parks in sheer attendance figures. Depending on which has had more recent construction, the shopping and entertainment complex vies with the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the title "Largest Mall in the World."
Outside the cities, you'll find numerous sites celebrating Alberta's varied cultural heritage: cowboy, native, and Ukrainian, to name a few. You'll also find the fantastic Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller. This well-known dinosaur museum contains the requisite scary models ? life-size recreations of some of the badland's first residents.