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17 Best Day Trips from Edmonton (by an Edmontonian)

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Looking for the best day trips from Edmonton? We’ve got you covered. As an Edmonton local who has called this vibrant city home for more than nine years, we’ve come to cherish the opportunity to escape the daily grind through the myriad of destinations accessible right from our doorstep. 

fall colors in Edmonton
Best day trips from Edmonton, Alberta

Edmonton’s position in Alberta offers a launchpad to a remarkable blend of destinations, each providing a unique glimpse into the region’s natural beauty and cultural offerings. 

In this journey of local exploration, we’ll guide you through the standout experiences that lie a short drive from our urban center. From tranquil parklands to bustling attractions and cultural landmarks to picturesque getaways, the options for adventure and leisure are as diverse as the landscapes of Alberta itself.

Best Day Trips from Edmonton (by an Edmontonian)

Best day trips from Edmonton Alberta pin
Best day trips from Edmonton, Alberta

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1. Elk Island National Park: A Local’s Escape

  • Distance from Edmonton: 35 to 40 minutes
  • Perfect for: Outdoors, snowshoeing, northern lights viewing, wildlife, picnic

We have hit the trails of Elk Island National Park more times than we can count. Just a short drive from Edmonton, this gem offers an abundance of wildlife and pristine nature. 

Elk Island National Park canoe tour in the fall
Elk Island National Park canoe tour in the fall

Begin your adventure early in the morning, as the sun rises, casting a golden glow over the landscape. Bison, moose, and elk roam the park, so keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready. 

Remember to maintain a safe distance from the animals – they’re wild.

Choose from various trails, but I’d recommend the Wood Bison Trail for those seeking a moderate hike. It’s well-marked and meanders through diverse terrains.

Bison at the Elk Island National Park: Best day trips from Edmonton Alberta
Bison at the Elk Island National Park: Best day trips from Edmonton Alberta

As you walk, listen to the songs of native birds, a peaceful serenade that enhances the experience. This is the only trail where you can see wood bison. 

For lunch, claim a spot on the shores of Astotin Lake. The picnic areas are equipped with tables and fire pits. The gentle lapping of the water creates a serene soundtrack for your meal. 

If you’ve packed a kayak or canoe, the afternoon is your chance to glide across the lake. Paddling on the tranquil waters offers a unique perspective of the park and a chance to spot turtles or beavers. 

Elk Island National Park Sunset tours
Elk Island National Park

If you don’t own a kayak, rentals are typically available but check ahead for availability. We booked a summer sunset tour on one of our day trips, which was amazing!

Wrap up your visit with a leisurely drive around Park Loop Road, where you might catch a final glimpse of the majestic bison herds. Take your time, soak in the views, and breathe in the fresh Alberta air. 

A day at Elk Island National Park is one I assure you’ll want to repeat.

2. Sylvan Lake: Lakeside vibes

  • Distance from Edmonton: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Perfect for: Outdoors, lakeside views, food, water sports

Located in the heart of Alberta’s parkland region, Sylvan Lake is a popular summer destination for Edmontonians looking to escape the city heat. This charming town offers plenty of activities to entertain you all day.

Sylvan Lake best day trips from Calgary Alberta
Lighthouse near Sylvan Lake in Alberta, Canada

Start your visit with a stroll along the lakeside promenade, taking in the views of turquoise waters and the pretty lighthouse. You’ll also find a variety of shops and restaurants along the way, perfect for some window shopping or grabbing a bite to eat. 

For those seeking adventure, many water sports are available on the lake, including paddleboarding, kayaking, and jet skiing. If you prefer to stay dry but still want to enjoy the water, rent a boat or sunbathe.

If you’re visiting in the winter, don’t worry; Sylvan Lake has you covered, too. The lake freezes over, creating a natural ice rink for skating and hockey. It’s also a popular spot for ice fishing.

Lighthouse in Sylvan Lake Alberta
Things to do in Sylvan Lake Alberta winter

We visited the lake in the winter, and it was perfect for a day out. 

As the day winds down, grab some ice cream from one of the many vendors along the lake and find a spot on the beach to watch the sunset. The sky turns into a canvas of pink and orange hues, creating a picture-perfect end to your day trip from Edmonton.

3. Alberta Beach: Small-town beach vibes

  • Distance from Edmonton: 1 hour
  • Perfect for: Beach vibes, relaxation

For a more laid-back and rustic experience, head to the quaint town of Alberta Beach. Tucked away on the shore of Lac Ste. Anne, this hidden gem offers a peaceful escape from the city.

Alberta Beach

This village was incorporated in 1920 when the Canadian Northern Railway built its Edmonton–Vancouver line. It is primarily used for recreation and is a great way to enjoy a short drive out of the city and soak in amazing sunset views. 

Besides recreation, you can visit the Alberta Beach Museum and explore 11 historical buildings on-site. You can also enjoy walks and strolls along the lakeside. 

After eating, head to the beach for sunbathing, and relaxation. Don’t forget to bring your sunscreen and a good book!

Girl in Alberta in fall

Alberta Beach also offers camping options for those looking to extend their stay. Spend the night under the stars and fall asleep to the soothing sounds of nature (May to September annually). 

Before returning to Edmonton, indulge in local cuisine at one of the town’s charming restaurants or cafes. Don’t forget to try some bannock, a traditional Indigenous food item, and a staple at many local eateries.

4. Smoky Lake: Small town and history

  • Distance from Edmonton: 1 hour and 30 minutes
  • Perfect for: History, small-town vibes, nature

Smoky Lake is the place to go if you’re looking for a unique day trip experience. This small town may not be on many people’s radars, but it’s worth the drive. There is so much greenery as you drive from Edmonton to Smoky Lake. 

You will find a dozen restored historical buildings in the cute village, including a schoolhouse, church, and blacksmith shop. We enjoyed checking off the many Ukranian Churches we found along the way – they were very charming. 

We stopped by the Our Lady Of Atonement Roman Catholic Church (4904 50 Street), and Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church and were impressed by the architecture. 

Victoria Settlement Provincial Historic Site is another must-visit in Smoky Lake. This complex engages as you navigate the premises and learn from costumed interpreters. They share the history of Victoria Settlement and enact how life was in those times.

CN train Smoky Lake
CN Train Station

Next, we recommend stopping at the CN Train Station site, also home to a small museum. 

You will also find a cute pumpkin park near it with large pumpkins!

The Smoky Lake Pumpkin Festival is held annually in October, making for a great fall trip. This festival is famous for its giant pumpkin weigh-off, showcasing pumpkins weighing over 1000 lbs. 

Pumpkin Park
Pumpkin Park in Smoky Lake

There are also food vendors, live music, and activities for the whole family during the festival.

If you are into golfing, head to the Smoky Lake Golf Club. You can play one of the finest 9 Hole Courses in Alberta at an affordable price! 

As you can see, there’s no shortage of unique experiences in Smoky Lake; it’s worth adding to your day trip list. 

5. Metis Crossing: History and Naturescape 

  • Distance from Edmonton: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Perfect for: Metis history, educational, relaxed atmosphere
  • Entry fees: Tickets and hours here

When in Smoky Lake, you can also visit the beautiful and tranquil Metis Crossing. 

Metis Crossing Smoky Lake

Metis Crossing is a remarkable and pioneering cultural center, proudly holding the title of Alberta’s first major Métis establishment.

Situated just a short 10-minute drive from the Smoky Lake center, it offers an immersive experience into the vibrant world of Métis culture. 

Through engaging workshops, educational gatherings, and captivating events, visitors can delve deep into the heart of this rich heritage.

Metis Crossing

What we loved about this place is that it is so calming and is perfect for learning about Metis culture. 

Set against the backdrop of the original river lots once inhabited by Métis settlers dating back to the 1800s, the cultural center boasts a breathtaking setting.

At Metis Crossing, there are many activities to partake in, ranging from museum exploration and overnight camping to live events, workshops, and serene picnics. 

Each experience offers a glimpse into the captivating tapestry of Métis life while also providing awe-inspiring views that will leave a lasting impression.

6. Skaro Shrine: Religious pilgrimage 

  • Distance from Edmonton: One hour
  • Perfect for: History, Ukrainian culture, religious
  • Entry fees: Free

Tucked away in the small town of Skaro lies a hidden gem often overlooked by tourists – the Skaro Shrine. 

Skaro Shrine, one of the day trips from Alberta

The Skaro Shrine, lovingly constructed by Polish and Ukrainian believers, is a testament to their faith and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They painstakingly gathered and hand-built this magnificent grotto using 600 wagonloads of stone. 

But the real gem of Skaro is its annual celebration. Every year, on August 14-15, thousands of pilgrims gather here to seek blessings and pay tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a place of reverence and spirituality that continues to captivate visitors from near and far.

Whether you’re interested in history or culture or just want to discover hidden gems near Edmonton, this is a must-add to your list!

7. Town of Vegreville

  • Distance from Edmonton: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Perfect for: Iconic Easter egg, history, golf course

We often embark on spontaneous road trips, letting the endless Alberta Prairies guide us. This freedom to explore brings us to charming locations like the town of Vegreville (which we first visited on a road trip from Saskatchewan).

Vegreville Small town Alberta
Vegreville, small-town Alberta

Known for its impressive Ukrainian heritage, this small town‘s pride is the world’s largest pysanka, a giant Ukrainian Easter egg. Stopping here provides a unique photo opportunity and a peek into the cultural tapestry of Alberta.

Along this journey, the vast landscapes themselves are attractions worth admiring. Golden canola fields, rolling hills, and the wide, open sky inspire a deep appreciation for the region.

The Ukranian Cultural Heritage Centre is also located nearby. Golfers will love to hang out at the Vegreville Kinsmen Golf Course.

8. Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village: Historic Heritage

  • Distance from Edmonton: 25 to 39 minutes
  • Perfect for: History, Ukrainian culture, educational
  • Entry fees: $15 CAD for adults

As an Edmonton local who loves the region’s rich history, I love exploring the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. This open-air museum is a testament to the cultural legacy of the Ukrainian immigrants who settled in east central Alberta. 

A stroll through the village is a journey back in time, where authentic buildings and costumed interpreters offer a glimpse into the lives of these pioneering families from 1899 to 1930.

You can engage in historical activities, where the air is filled with the scent of traditional Ukrainian bread baked in clay ovens. You might join in on a dance or learn a few words in Ukrainian from characters that embody the spirit of the settlers.

With over 30 relocated and restored buildings, each corner of the village tells a story of hardship, resilience, and community.

The village holds special events throughout the year, so check the calendar to coordinate your visit with a vibrant festival or harvest celebration. These living history experiences enrich our understanding and foster a deep appreciation for the pioneers who shaped Alberta’s cultural landscape.

9. Wetaskiwin: The Past Comes Alive

  • Distance from Edmonton: 1 hour
  • Perfect for: History, museums, culture, aviation enthusiasts

A day trip to Wetaskiwin is a must for those interested in history and culture. This charming city has deep roots in Alberta’s past and offers several interesting attractions. In fact, it is one of the oldest cities in Alberta.

Start your visit at the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, a large facility preserving the province’s transportation history.

You’ll find various exhibits here, including vintage cars, trucks, airplanes, and farm equipment. Kids will love the interactive displays and activities like driving a mini-car or riding in a biplane simulator.

Next up, head to the Wetaskiwin & District Heritage Museum to learn about the city’s history and local culture. The museum has an impressive collection of artifacts showcasing Wetaskiwin’s past, from its early days as a trading post to being an important railway hub.

For lunch, head to the Glens Grill and then take a short drive to the Alberta Central Railway Museum to glimpse Alberta’s railway history. This outdoor museum features restored locomotives and train cars that you can explore. Their staff is amazing and will provide helpful insights into Wetaskiwin’s history.

Wetaskiwin is a fascinating destination that will transport you back in time and give you a greater appreciation for Alberta’s history. Keep an eye on their event calendar, as they often host special events and festivals. 

10. Lacombe and Aspen Beach Provincial Park

  • Distance from Edmonton: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Perfect for: Nature, beaches, camping, relaxation

For a peaceful and relaxing day trip from Edmonton, look no further than Lacombe and Aspen Beach Provincial Park. This hidden gem is located on the shores of Gull Lake and offers stunning views of Alberta’s prairies and foothills.

From Edmonton, it is less than a 2-hour drive to Lacombe. Fuel up and enjoy the quaint town known for its historic downtown area. Stroll through the streets lined with charming boutiques, cafes, and galleries. 

Be sure to stop by the Flatiron Building Museum to learn about Lacombe’s history as a bustling railway town.

Traveling with kids? Hit the Kraay Family Farm and enjoy a few hours of mini-train rides, zip lines, corn mazes, and more. 

Next, head to Aspen Beach Provincial Park for outdoor fun. The park features a sandy beach, perfect for sunbathing or building sandcastles. You will also find a section at the beach where you can swim. 

In the winter, you can snowshoe, hike, and ice fish. For those looking to stay overnight, the park offers several RV and tent camping options with stunning lake views. 

Read: Best photo spots in Edmonton

11. Red Deer

  • Distance from Edmonton: 2 hours
  • Perfect for: Mid-size city, charming parks and nature trails

I’ve resided in Edmonton for over nine years, and Red Deer emerges as a perfect stop when we head to the mountains. Red Deer is halfway between Edmonton and Calgary, so it is great if you wish to extend your day’s itinerary by exploring this mid-size city. 

Red Deer

Having said that, we also like visiting Red Deer in the winter. Popular places like the Bower Ponds and the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame are perfect for winter hikes, snowshoeing, and ice skating. 

Thriving in the chill requires proper attire – so don’t forget to think of cozy layers, a sturdy pair of boots, and accessories that seal in warmth. Red Deer’s scenic beauty under a blanket of snow invites photographers and nature lovers to capture and marvel at the serene white wonderland.

Other Red Deer attractions include the Discovery Canyon (waterpark), Sunnybrook Farm Museum, Heritage Ranch, Three Mile Bend, and more. In the summer, floating down the Red Deer River is a popular activity.

12. Pembina River Provincial Park Day Trip

  • Distance from Edmonton: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Perfect for: Outdoors, river tubing, camping, bonfires

For those seeking a day full of adventure and relaxation, look no further than Pembina River Provincial Park. This hidden gem is located between Entwistle and Evansburg, and we often stop here on our way from Edmonton to Jasper National Park

Couple at the Pembina River Provincial Park
Pembina River Provincial Park

The main attraction here is river tubing, a popular summertime activity where you float on an inflatable tube. The tranquil waters of the Pembina River are perfect for this, with its gentle currents and stunning scenery. 

After your tubing adventure, find a spot along the river to set up a picnic and enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation. Or explore the park’s hiking trails.

If you want to extend your day trip into an overnight adventure, Pembina River Provincial Park offers camping facilities. Spend the evening roasting marshmallows over a campfire and soaking in the dark skies of rural Alberta.

With its scenic views and peaceful atmosphere, Pembina River Provincial Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers.

13. University of Alberta Botanic Gardens in Devon: Botanical Gardens

  • Distance from Edmonton: 15 minutes
  • Perfect for: Nature, tranquility, relaxation, educational experience

The University of Alberta Botanical Gardens in Devon is a hidden gem outside Edmonton. This 240-acre property boasts different themed gardens, including a butterfly, herb, rose, and more. 

And… it is just a 15-minute drive away from the city and is perfect for a year-round visit. 

At the gardens, visit the Aga Khan Garden, a stunning 4.8-hectare Mughal-style garden boasting water features, pavilions, and over 25,000 trees and shrubs. It’s also an educational experience, with informational signs throughout the grounds.

Japanese gardens in Devon

Next, head to the Kurimoto Japanese Garden for a peaceful stroll through traditional Japanese landscaping. You’ll feel transported to another world as you admire the koi pond, zen garden, and tea house.

The ​​Indigenous Garden is home to plants traditionally used by Indigenous Peoples for medicinal, dietary, and ornamentation purposes. 

For a unique experience, head to the indoor showhouses. Here you can learn about plants through various showhouses, from tropical plants, arid to temperate, and check out various plants, shrubs, trees, and more from different climates.

The gardens also host events throughout the year, such as date nights and winter fests (like the Luminaria). The University of Alberta Botanical Gardens is a hidden oasis outside Edmonton, making it the perfect day trip destination for nature lovers.

14. Miquelon Lake Provincial Park, Camrose

  • Distance from Edmonton: 1 hour 
  • Perfect for: Outdoors, camping, bird watching

If you want to escape the city and immerse yourself in nature, Miquelon Lake Provincial Park is the perfect day trip destination. This park offers a variety of outdoor activities and is a popular spot for camping.

Begin your sightseeing at Miquelon Lake, one of the largest in the park. The sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing or building sandcastles (however, swimming is impossible here). 

There are also several hiking trails in the park, ranging from easy to moderate difficulty. Keep an eye out for wildlife, including deer, moose, and many bird species. The park is a designated wildlife sanctuary known for its diverse bird population.

After a day of outdoor fun, set up camp at one of the many campsites in the park. Enjoy a cozy bonfire as the stars light up the night sky.

If camping isn’t your thing, there are also day-use areas for picnics and BBQs. 

Miquelon Lake Provincial Park is a natural playground that offers something for everyone in the family. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, this hidden gem is the perfect day trip from Edmonton. 

Read: Best places to eat in Edmonton

15. Whitecourt and Hard Luck Canyon

  • Distance from Edmonton: 2 hours
  • Perfect for: Outdoors, scenic drive, hikes

If you’re up for a longer day trip and seeking an outdoor adventure, head to Whitecourt and later drive to explore Hard Luck Canyon. This hidden gem is one of Alberta’s best-kept secrets and offers spectacular views and hiking opportunities.

Drive to Whitecourt and fuel up at the charming downtown area, and then visit the Forest Interpretive Centre to learn about the forest and forest industry in Whitecourt.

You will love the natural attractions near Whitecourt. Start with Coal Mine Hill Lookout, located about 13 km from the centre, which welcomes you to a view of rolling fields and forest. 

Then, head to Hard Luck Canyon for a moderate hike through the rugged terrain.

The highlight of this hike is the breathtaking falls cascading down the canyon walls with views of ancient cliffs. Watch for wildlife, including deer and moose, as you enter the canyon.

After hiking, head back to Whitecourt and explore this small town’s charming streets. You’ll find locally-owned shops and restaurants, perfect for a mid-day break and some souvenir shopping. 

If you visit in the summer, you can hit the farmer’s market and other stores. 

End your day with a delicious meal at one of Whitecourt’s restaurants, or hit the popular Fermented Moose Brewing Equipment & Co. for chilled beer!

16. Strathcona Wilderness Centre: Winter Wonderland

  • Distance from Edmonton: 50 minutes
  • Perfect for: Outdoors, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter activities

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a day trip from Edmonton. The Strathcona Wilderness Centre offers a variety of winter activities and is the perfect destination for those seeking an outdoor adventure.

Rent cross-country skis or snowshoes and explore over 12 kilometers of groomed trails. The park also offers a skating rink, tobogganing hill, and warming hut with hot chocolate and snacks available for purchase.

If you’re looking for a more relaxed day, take a leisurely walk through the snow-covered trails and admire the beautiful scenery. 

The Strathcona Wilderness Centre is open all year round, and you can go camping and hiking in the summer. There is a golf course on-site. 

You can also go wildlife viewing – the wilderness center is home to moose, white-tailed deer, snowshoe hares, fishers, porcupines, and frogs that live along the trails. It is perfect for sight birds such as chickadees, woodpeckers, and owls, and migratory birds include Canada geese, ducks, hummingbirds, and swallows. 

Escape the city and embrace the magic of winter at the Strathcona Wilderness Centre, just a short drive from Edmonton. 

17. Gibbons and Jurassic Forest

  • Distance from Edmonton: 45 minutes
  • Perfect for: Family-friendly, educational, outdoor adventure

Travel back in time and visit Jurassic Forest in Gibbons, just a short drive from Edmonton. This immersive attraction lets visitors explore a prehistoric forest with life-size animatronic dinosaurs.

Visit the Interpretive Centre to learn about the dinosaurs that once roamed the area and see fossils and artifacts on display. Then, take a guided tour through the forest and explore the 40-acre prehistoric preserve. 

Kids will love the scavenger hunt and playing in the playground modeled after a dinosaur skeleton. A mini-golf course, Discovery Trail, and a food and gift shop are also on-site.

After your adventure in the forest, head to Gibbons and explore the quaint streets. You’ll find unique shops, restaurants, and an outdoor pool perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day.

Jurassic Forest is a unique day trip destination that will be enjoyed by both kids and adults alike. Don’t forget to bring your camera for some epic dinosaur photo opportunities!

Note: Dinosaur Provincial Park is different and is located 4 hours and 45 minutes from Edmonton. 

Combine day trips from Edmonton for an epic itinerary: Travel Tips

Edmonton is Alberta’s capital city and is set amongst the beautiful wilderness of the North Saskatchewan River Valley. It is one of Canada’s largest northernmost metropolises and is a perfect base for travel and work. 

From outdoor adventures to lakeside relaxation and cultural experiences, there are lots of options to choose from. Here is how you can make the most of your day trips by adding roadside attractions and stops:

Edmonton > Sylvan Lake > Red Deer > Abraham Lake

You can visit Sylvan Lake on a short day trip from Edmonton. Then head south to Red Deer, and you can travel further to see the water bubbles on Abraham Lake. 

Edmonton > Red Deer > Calgary > Banff National Park

The Edmonton to Red Deer day trip is great, and to extend the trip, you can go to Banff National Park with stops in Calgary and Canmore. 

Edmonton > Pembina > Entwistle > Rocky Mountain House

When you visit the Pembina River Provincial Park, you can also hit side attractions like Matthews Crossing Natural Area (north of Entwistle).

From Entwistle, you will be at the Rocky Mountain House in another hour. 

The Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site is a remarkable testament to the significant role of the fur trade in the Western region. You can embark on a journey to explore this historic trading post nestled along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, where captivating tales of Indigenous Peoples and legendary explorers await. 

Edmonton > Smoky Lake > Metis Crossing > Skaro Shrine > Josephburg (return)

Drive to Smoky Lake and visit the Metis Crossing from there. On your return trip, stop at the Skaro Sharine and Josephburg. 

Till Next Time: Edmonton Day Trips

We hope you found this post on the best day trips from Edmonton useful. As an Edmonton local, we have enjoyed these trips and side stops over the years (and all year round). 

Whether it’s the serene landscapes of Elk Island, the historical whispers of Wetaskiwin, or the mesmerizing hues of the Devonian Gardens, nearby adventures abound.

So pack your bags, grab your friends or family, and hit the road for a memorable day trip in Alberta! 

Happy travels!

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