If you’re visiting Central Alberta any time in the near future, chances are that you will have to pass by Red Deer in order to travel between Edmonton and Calgary. As Alberta’s third largest city, Red Deer does have several destinations of interest that are worth checking out if you have a day to spare (especially if you bring a young family).
Red Deer hosts Alberta’s Sports Hall of Fame and one could easily spend a whole day discovering the province’s sports heritage through interactive games, artifacts, art galleries, and lectures exploring everything from hockey to cricket. An entire family only costs $12 and the facility is always devising new ways to create group activities. Erected in 1999, the museum is continually developing and now carries more than 11,000 pieces of history ranging from the 1660s to even predicting sports in the future. Make sure to check out the 200 metre wheel-chair challenge and spend some time on the climbing wall. Only a few minutes walk from the museum is Heritage Ranch with a full restaurant, walking trails meandering their way through the luscious parkland and river area, and horseback riding.
In the warm summer months, Red Deer is also home to Discovery Canyon – a man-made series of water slide like rapids fed by the natural river waters of the Red Deer River. Perfect for young children, this free seasonal water park is delightful. On site, tire tubes can be rented cheaply (or bring your own if you have them) and spend hours sliding down the mellow slopes or wade in the pool at the bottom, soaking under the 30 foot fountain. Bring a picnic or drop a few bucks at the concessions, Discovery Canyon is a perfect way to spend an afternoon of idling or playing.
Might as well check out the Red Deer Museum while you’re in Red Deer. Its postcard was once given the title of “Most Boring in the World” in 1978, but there is a lot to see in the newly renovated building. With a focus on local artwork, its collections of clothing, as well as archeological/ paleontological examples, you will find a short but educating picture of the changes that have shaped Central Alberta for generations. Only a short drive from the Museum, check out Kerry Wood Nature Centre. This small museum tracks the Red Deer area from prehistoric times all the way into the new millennium. The museum showcases everything from the weather, to birds, to city development and its impact on the surrounding river. What I find most enjoyable are the trails circling the parkland behind the building. These trails circle around the Gaetz Lake Bird Sanctuary and take on a comforting kind of silence uncommon for a city. It is not unusual to see deer, muskrats, and moose during your walks even though you are still well within the city limits.
As a city of 100,000, Red Deer isn’t without an ample selection of restaurants, shopping centres, hotels, and evening entertainment. The city is home to a WHL hockey team, has a symphony orchestra, dinner theatres, street festivals, public markets on Saturdays, professional musical artists, and provides an excellent rest stop on your travels. If you are planning on spending any larger length of time in Central Alberta, Red Deer is the best option as a hub. Equidistant between Edmonton and Calgary, puts Red Deer in the centre of everything and it makes a logical starting point for any extended travel in the region.