Another must hit destination in Central Alberta is the summer resort town of Sylvan Lake. Noted for its well-maintained lake and uber-popular outdoor water slide park, Sylvan Lake’s popularity keeps on growing. Located less than two hours from both Calgary and Edmonton (and a brief 15 km from Red Deer), Sylvan Lake definitely deserves a couple of summer days to explore.
One whole afternoon will spent at Wild Rapids Water Slide Park located on Lakeshore Drive (really the only road a traveller needs know anything about), the park offers more than a dozen outdoor water slides ranging from toddler sized slides to speedy examples catered for older tastes. The “Sidewinder” was once of particular interest in the 1990s, as a group of two or three people ride an inflatable raft down a steep grade, rise to the opposite peak, and hang on as gravity pulls you back down and back up the other side. As a young person, “Hell’s Gate” was always a favourite as it is possible to remain in the winding slide for a half an hour or more due to the numerous landing pools situated throughout the ride.
The park offers a full concession area has a picnic location near the front entrance (stamps will always allow readmission throughout the day). One great feature they have added for families who know when they will be in the area a few weeks in advance of the season is a pre-ordered two for one coupon if the tickets are purchased before June 15th (approximately two weeks before the park opens for the season). Those are pretty big savings. Another bonus of the park is that the gates don’t open until noon, which gives families plenty of time to breakfast themselves, drive in from another community, and allows the sun to warm the whole pool area.
The lake itself is wonderful to experience. It is quite a large lake and and actually very little of it is used for swimming (only the south shore). The swimming area is more than enough, with a very gentle grade perfect for various levels of swimmer and great for different activities, whether one prefers frisbee or lounging on a tire tube. The lake is meticulously well-maintained and kept clean. At one point, leeches were not uncommon and then sometime in the 1980s, the township passed a de-leeching program that has kept the lake clean ever since. Beyond just swimming, the lake is great for fishing and boating (speed boats are welcome and sectioned off from the swimmers to keep everyone safe).
Perhaps the one drawback of the lake itself is the usual absence of a sandy beach. It does have a natural beach, but the waters levels have been too high in recent year to really enjoy the sands. The grassy area is very well-shaded though and is an excellent alternative. It is worth noting that the council is debating bringing in a whole new beach (Cancun style) and actually spending the money to create a permanent sandy area.
I have to mention the Big Moo (and More Moo) as it would be criminal not to tell you about it. The Big Moo is no less than one of the most impressive eateries for hard ice cream that I have ever seen. Usually featuring more than 96 flavours, these companion diners are worth the visit alone. They call themselves the Big Moo because outside the parlour stands a statue of a brightly coloured cow (perfect photo spot!) that has been a mascot for the city for more than two decades. The Moos also cook up burgers, sundaes, chicken strips – pretty much everything that defines what summer eating should be.
Sylvan Lake is an impressive tourist spot that is becoming more and more popular. Check it out!