Sandwiched between the city of Edmonton and Elk Island National Park, Strathcona County, Alberta is a specialized municipality within the Edmonton Metropolitan Area. This is an area that is both rural and urban and is home to less than 100,000 people, more than half of whom live in the small village of Sherwood Park.
Sherwood Park is the most visited area in Strathcona County because of its proximity to the city of Edmonton. In addition, it has many attractions that tourists can enjoy. Nonetheless, all areas are well worth a visit, especially if you enjoy the outdoors. Whether you live in Edmonton or in a specialty borough, it’s worth a visit. These are the 15 best things to do in Strathcona County.
1. Enjoy the outdoors
Outdoor enthusiasts who haven’t spent time at the Beaver Hill UNESCO Biosphere should visit Strathcona County. This is one of Canada’s oldest protected areas, a forest reserve dating back to 1892.
The Beaver Hill UNESCO Biosphere is home to many unique areas, including the Strathcona Wilderness Center, the Beaver Hill Dark Sky Reserve, and the Ministik Lake Game Bird Sanctuary. It also happens to have over 100 kilometers of trails and nearly 700 campsites.
The Biosphere is an animal lover’s paradise as it is home to waterfowl, songbirds, deer and moose. Visitors can go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, mountain biking, walks and picnics.
2. Learn about science
This can be done in the beautiful outdoor setting of Strathcona Science Provincial Park. The park is located on the east bank of the North Saskatchewan River at an altitude of 625 meters.
The site was originally an Aboriginal camp, and the Alberta government built a 2.9-square-kilometer park to protect it. Today, most of the interpretive building is unused, but its outdoor areas are still lively.
Strathcona Science Provincial Park is home to the Sunridge Ski Area, Biathlon Center and Model Aerospace. Activities that visitors can enjoy in the park include cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and tobogganing.
3. Ride a roller coaster
Not just any roller coaster, but the tallest and longest indoor roller coaster in the world! Mindbender is an endless roller coaster located at Galaxyland Amusement Park. The amusement park happens to be housed within the largest mall in North America; the West Edmonton Mall.
The amusement park has plenty of other rides to get your adrenaline pumping, such as the 36.5-meter Space Shooter, Rock of the Century and Cosmo’s Space Derby Bumper Cars. Galaxyland Amusement Park actually has over 25 rides to enjoy.
If you want to ride more than just a roller coaster, don’t miss a chance to ride the Galaxy Orbiter – Canada’s first spinning roller coaster. Those smaller can also enjoy corners and hills on the Autosled.
4. Tasting local wines
Barr Estate Winery is located at the southernmost tip of Sherwood Park. Founded by Rick and Amy Barr, the winery produces three different wines, none of which are made from grapes.
If you want something completely different, head to this winery for wines made with raspberries, rhubarb and strawberries. Visit the winery to learn not only how the wine is produced, but also where all the fruit is grown.
Tours and tastings take place on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sunday afternoons throughout the year. There are seven tours per week, and visitors must be 18 or older to participate.
5. Search for bison
Wood bison is the largest land mammal in North America, and Elk Island National Park is home to many of them. In fact, the park plays an important role in protecting them, as well as other bison species.
The park is in the Beaver Hills area, but it’s an attraction in itself. It’s open 24 hours a year and offers camping, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and of course, wildlife viewing.
In addition to bison viewing, Elk Island National Park is home to other animals such as black bears, elk, deer, coyotes, lynx, and pygmy shrews, the smallest land-based mammals on the continent. There are also many birds, including great blue herons, American white pelicans, red-tailed eagles and trumpet swans.
6. Back in Time
Experience the history of Strathcona County and its surrounding areas at the Museum Fort Heritage District in Fort Saskatchewan. Go back more than 140 years by exploring the historic village while walking through its authentic architecture.
Let your guide take you around the village to see the many artifacts and hear all the stories. The tour takes approximately 2 hours and is highly recommended as most buildings can only be visited by a live guide.
Take a leisurely walk around the grounds and learn all about the history of Western Canada. You even have the chance to climb the stairs to the fortress of the fort, sit in the 1902 school and spend time in the 1909 courthouse.
7. Experience local food, art and music
All of this can be done in one sitting at the Savor Strathcona County Music Festival. The event is held every July at the Strathcona County Community Center in Sherwood Park.
The annual event celebrates the city’s food and art, with local restaurants, food trucks and artisans showcasing their art. There’s also live entertainment to liven things up.
Enjoy Italian, Thai, Japanese, Mexican and Indian cuisine prepared by local restaurants, or enjoy perogies, grilled treats, tacos or ice cream from the food truck. Afterwards, shop for souvenirs made by local artisans.
There is no better place than Broadmoor Lake Park. Located in the Sherwood Park area, the Great Park is a great place to spend the day and have a picnic.
Broadmoor Lake is the main attraction of the park, with a path that loops around it, benches along the shore and many trees around. In winter, the lake is transformed into an amazing outdoor ice rink.
If you’re visiting with kids, take them to the large playground and splash in the spray park. In winter, they’ll really enjoy sledding down the park’s hills.
9. Look at art
Take a walking tour of the city and take time to admire the public art. This could be a mural on the exterior of a building, a sculpture in a park, a memorial or a mural.
Strathcona County currently has 32 public artworks, most of which are in Sherwood Park. These include a colorful mural on the stairs of the county hall, a stainless steel screen in the community center’s west plaza, and an 11-foot-tall Dalmatian sadie outside Fire Station 6.
The Ardrossan Recreation Complex has 3 public artworks and is well worth a visit. These are community collages depicting important figures in the community, beautiful glass panels and sports celebrations in glowing glass.
10. By train
Drive north of the city to Camrose in less than an hour and spend the day on the train. The train travels on the Battle River Railway, passing through some beautiful scenery and historic sites.
Enjoy lunch at an old-fashioned hotel, visit a historic Catholic church, and see the largest ball glove in the country.
There are also special events like the Oktoberfest train and the night of the murder mystery. Eat sausage, drink beer, or find out who made it at the local troupe.
11. Play a round of golf
There are many places to play golf in and around Strathcona County, both public and private. No avid golfer gets bored while touring the city.
Elk Island Golf Course is one of the best golf courses and the oldest golf course in Alberta. It has a nine-hole course and a clubhouse that serves gourmet food.
The public Broadmoor golf course is a great place to play and learn how to golf, while the private Belvedere Golf and Country Club has a championship course. Other golf courses in or near Strathcona County include Country Side Golf Club, Victoria Golf Course and Rundle Park Golf Course.
You can do this no matter where you are, but in Strathcona County, eating out is truly an experience, especially if you have a sweet tooth. There are plenty of places that cater exclusively to sweet tooth lovers, offering freshly baked cinnamon buns, donuts, cookies and pies.
For a unique dining experience, try some of the local restaurants such as Vivo Ristorante, That Bar-BQ Place and Sumo Sumo Sushi Bar and Grill. Or head to Common Ground Community Café or Roasti Coffee Co. for a great cup of coffee.
Whether you want to taste Indian, Japanese, Italian or Thai food, there is a restaurant for you. There are even Ukrainian, Mediterranean and Mexican restaurants to enjoy.
13. Go through the ice castle
Yes, you can visit an ice castle right next door to Edmonton. The Ice Castle is an award-winning attraction built in six North American cities, Edmonton being one of them.
The man-made frozen attraction is spectacular, constructed from hundreds of thousands of icicles hand-placed by ice artists. The attraction also includes the Frozen Throne, LED illuminated sculptures, ice tunnels, fountains and more.
Walk through the ice castle and take Instagram-worthy photos. Open only in winter, the ice castle is sure to leave unforgettable memories for anyone visiting.
In Alberta, it makes sense that anyone visiting the area would want to go skiing. Fortunately, there’s a place to do this next to Strathcona County on Edmonton’s western edge.
Located along the North Saskatchewan River, Sunridge Ski Resort is part of Strathcona Science Provincial Park. It has 11 runs, 45% of which are Black Diamond.
If you want to enjoy other winter activities, you are in luck, as the ski area also offers snowboarding, skiing and cross-country skiing. It also has two terrain parks where you can practice your skills.
15. Learn about the city’s history
The Strathcona County Museum and Archives showcases the history and heritage of Strathcona County under one roof. Walk through the museum and learn everything about the city and its inhabitants.
The museum’s permanent exhibits include the historic train station, drawing room, church, blacksmith shop and dairy farm. Don’t forget to visit the Aboriginal exhibit, or the Natural History Walk, which showcases an extensive collection of butterflies, dinosaur bones and fossils.
Everything is modeled after a rural community in the 1900s, taking you back in time to learn all about Strathcona County’s history.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Strathcona County, Canada
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