Ah, yes. There is no place quite like Alberta, Canada. From the Edmonton Fringe Festival to the Calgary Stampede, Alberta has something that will pique everyone’s interest. Maybe you love the city life- fascinating architecture, gastropubs and wine bars. Or, perhaps you are ready to eschew all that and set out on a rugged mountaineering trek: just you, your pack, and the trees.

You’re in luck, friend. Summer is when the Canadian countryside is at its most stunning, and cities all over the province host festivals, events, and maybe a wine tasting or two. Sure you could spend a small fortune at that overpriced Caribbean resort or get walked into and screamed at in the blistering heat of New York City, but don’t overlook the beauty right in your backyard.  Here are 5 vacations that you won’t want to miss this summer in Alberta:

1#. Unwind in Banff National Park

Banff is Canada’s oldest national park, dating back to 1885. It stretches an enormous 6,641 square kilometers over the rocky mountains, so don’t be afraid to bring an extra wide tent. There will be room. Kick back and drink in the one-of-a-kind natural beauty in Banff. Huge jagged snow-capped peaks, shimmering turquoise blue lakes, and torrential, cascading waterfalls can all be found here.

If you are the kind of visitor who enjoys an organized activity or two, strap on a helmet and do a little whitewater rafting or join a canoe tour. Don’t be surprised if you see a bear or two! Banff is the perfect destination for hiking, camping, or climbing some seriously epic ascents in the rockies. Definitely a must visit.

2#. Alight in Edmonton

Edmonton is Alberta’s capital, and hopefully you already knew that. Now is the time to check the capital out though, because there is simply loads to do here. Edmonton is renown for its theater scene, so make sure you buy tickets to a show or two when in town. If you are looking for a family friendly spectacle, check out the Jurassic Forest. This 40-acre prehistoric forest preserve is filled with life size replicas of all the most popular and well known dinosaurs. Tours and additional activities are available for an action packed day with the kids!

Seeking out something a little quirkier? Look no further than the Telephone Historical Centre! Edmonton also has an incredible line-up of festivals and events that are packed into the summer months. Keep your eyes out of the Blues Festival, Folk Music Festival, Sustainival (the world’s first green carnival), and more!

3#. Drop by Calgary

If you are on your way to or from Banff, chances are you are going to spend a night or two in Calgary. Not only are there tons of tours and expeditions that start here and enter Banff, but Calgary itself is a fantastic city with a warm (summer’s only!) and inviting atmosphere.

Heritage Park historical village is definitely worth a visit. Enjoy a blast from the past with over 100 exhibits and rides that are based on village life from 1860-1950. Studio Bell, the national music centre, is five whole floors that explore and showcase the history and legacy of music in Canada. Not enough of an adrenaline dump for you? Swing by Calgary Olympic Park and scream down the summer bobsled course.

4#. Stay awhile in Wood Buffalo National Park

Photographed by Karl Johnston © Parks Canada

All the way to the Northeast sits Wood Buffalo National Park. This gargantuan preserve is the second largest National Park in the world, after Northeast Greenland National Park. Here you will have access to pristine, untouched wilderness that stretches all the way to the horizon. If you stay long enough, you are almost guaranteed to see some wild critters…and they don’t get much more wild than the animals that live in Wood Buffalo. Bears, American bison, and even entire wolf packs are common sightings around these parts. Don’t forget to hike to the salt plain and collect a year’s worth of organic salt!

5#. Stay even longer in Jasper National Park

Photographed by ©Neil Zeller

I know, I know. This list is pretty heavy on the national parks. Well, if your home had access the kind of natural landscapes that Alberta has, than your list would be all mountains and vistas too. Jasper is Banff’s cooler, younger brother located just to the northwest. The geology and mountainous formations are completely different and totally unique. Check out Spirit Island and Maligne Canyon on the Jasper Discovery trail. Take in the heart stopping panorama from the Jasper SkyTram and definitely bring your binoculars.

Just miss winter too much? Join an Athabasca glacier tour and get your snow fix. Of course, keep your eyes peeled for ubiquitous wildlife that live the park. While not technically in the summer, reserve your return dates to Jasper in October for the Dark Sky Festival, one of the premiere stargazing and astronomical events in the world!

As you can see, there is more than meets the eye in Alberta. Pack up the car or book your airline tickets and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime in the wild countryside. When you are ready for civilization again, the good news is that Alberta hotels are very reasonably priced on sites like Expedia. Explore a museum, take in a show, or find a festival in one of Alberta’s marvelous cities. Wherever you travel in the province, you are sure to remember it for years to come. See you out there!