Sylvan Lake is a cute little town located in western Canada. Known for its beaches, and winter celebrations, along with the replica of the famous Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, you must add this to your list of destinations when visiting Alberta. In this post, we will share the top things to do in Sylvan Lake Alberta in winter and summer!
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Where is Sylvan Lake located in Canada?
Sylvan Lake is located in central Alberta. It is situated about 25 kilometres (16 mi) west of the City of Red Deer along Highway 11 or Highway 11A, making it an ideal day trip from Calgary and Edmonton.
The town is known for water sports, boat tour attractions, and the pretty lighthouse!
Sylvan Lake Town History
A majority of the settlers in Sylvan Lake are of Finnish origin. They have the highest concentrations of Finns in Canada due to forestry and farming from the 1900’s.
With the arrival of settlers, the business community grew. There was a general store, a blacksmith, a hardware store, post office, barber, and many restaurants that were set up. Further push to its growth was the completion of the Canadian Northern Railways in 1912.
The year 1914 opened the town for more movement, and this resulted in the incorporation of Sylvan Lake in 1913. This event is commemorated as the “1913 Days”, and is celebrated every year as the town’s anniversary.
How far is Sylvan Lake from Edmonton and Calgary? Sylvan lake Directions
Edmonton to Sylvan Lake is 1 hour 45 minutes away, one way by car. You can travel via AB-2 S, and arrive in the town of Sylvan Lake. There are no direct buses to reach there, other than by car.
Calgary to Sylvan Lake is about 1 hour 40 minutes, by car. No buses on this route either. You can travel from Calgary to Sylvan Lake via AB-2 N.
Sylvan lake hotels
When we visited Sylvan Lake, we realised it is a nice little oasis away from the city, perfect for a weekend getaway. You can choose a variety of accommodation options here from 3 starts hotels and resorts, motels, and campervans (campsites nearby).
Imagine, staying at a resort facing the lake in the summer! You are only a few steps away from accessing the beach and amazing water activities. Here are our top picks for hotels in Sylvan Lake.
- Raccoon Lodge Motel: This is a perfect hotel for soaking in views of Sylvan Lake. Clean big rooms with a balcony, you will be comfortable and at ease in this property. Lakeside is only 2 minutes away, so is the town centre. Meadowlands Golf is only a minute away. Check out room availability here
- Best Western Inn Plus: Located in a perfect spot, this Best Western property is within easy access to the beach, town centre for restaurants, and Wild Rapids Water Slide (now closed). The rooms are clean and spacious. There is an indoor pool on-site, and the lake is visible from some of the hotel suites. Book your stay here
- Beachfront Resort: Close to the beach and Aspen Provincial Park, this is an ideal stay on a budget. Free parking is included. They offer room services, and evenings are delightful with campfires there. View photos of the Beachfront Resort here
Sylvan lake weather winter & summer temperatures
Summer months in Sylvan Lake are from June to August (late May is also quite warm for water activities). Temperatures range from a high of 20 to 23 degrees celsius. In the evening, the temperatures might drop down to 5 degrees (some days about 7 degrees) celsius.
Winters come in late October, and stay on until February (and sometimes March). The lowest winter temperatures are in the range of – 11 to – 18 degrees celsius (without windchill). Temperatures stay below the freezing point until March.
Things to do in Sylvan Lake Alberta in winter & summer
Here are some of the coolest things to do in Sylvan Lake Alberta all year round!
Sylvan Lake Winter Activities
Sylvan Lake Provincial Park or Sylvan Lake Park
Whether you want to soak in the sun or check out a frozen lake in winter, the Sylvan Lake Provincial Park is the number one spot to spend your time when in town.
During summers the lake does get very busy, and is filled with people and parking can become a hassle. The parking lot nearby is no longer free, and you could have a hard time finding a spot in the summer (valid from May to September).
Winters are different. It is very quiet and lovely in the winters. During winter festivals, it could get a little crowded, but rest of the time, it is very nice.
Being a provincial or state park, there are no entry fees, unlike national parks
Sylvan Lake Lighthouse Park
The Sylvan Lake Rotary Lighthouse Park got my attention. I mean who doesn’t love lighthouses! This cute lighthouse is a replica of the world famous Peggy’s Cove near Halifax in Nova Scotia. The park was opened in 2016.
This is one of the nicest places to get amazing photos for your Instagram or social media pages. It is not uncommon to see wedding and engagement photos taken here – it is just so pretty!
Downtown Sylvan Lake/ Waterfront
The waterfront area is a delightful place to hang out during your trip to Sylvan Lake. There are picnic tables and beach chairs, from where you can soak in the lake views. There are washrooms/change areas near the waterfront.
Whether it is food/restaurants, sandy beach, resort or views of the Sylvan Lake Lighthouse, you can’t miss the waterfront area!
Note: Dogs are not allowed on the Sylvan Lake Beach; they are allowed along the waterfront area, and are required to remain on the sidewalks, and on a leash at all times.
The 5 acre lush greenery that you see along the Lakeshore Drive is the Centennial Park. This area is for day-use only, and gives you direct access to the beach and lake.
You can enjoy a romantic sunset from one of the many Adirondack chairs that line the park. The entire park is beautifully groomed and landscaped with flowers and trees. You will also find the townsite’s letters sign, “Sylvan Lake” to take wonderful photos!
There is a kids playground in the park.
Pro tip: If you wish to take sunset views of the pretty lighthouse, take a walk at the park area, and you will be able to see the Lighthouse from a distance.
Ice Skating and Ice Marathon at Sylvan Lake
During winters you can ice skate in the natural ice rink at the frozen lake.
During family day celebrations, and winter festival events, there are many ice skating related friendly competitions to participate in. There is a 2.5 km ice skating loop to enjoy an ice marathon. You can also speed things up, and enjoy 5KM, 25KM or 100KM runs.
Sylvan Lake’s Winter Village
There is something special in Sylvan Lake in winter. They are the only Winter Village in Alberta. Starting in December up to March, the entire town is decked up for Christmas, New Year, and Family Day celebrations.
There are light events, decor, bonfires, with music along the lakeshore every weekend. We enjoyed taking a walk along the area, and admire the beautiful festive set-up!
Sylvan Lake Family Day Event – Winter festival
Sylvan Lake is a treat in February during Family day celebrations. There are tons of festivities for the entire family to enjoy from face painting, snow games, dog sled races and tours, snow bowling, and more events!
Sylvan Lake’s signature Polar Bear Dip is a must watch, this is where participants take a dip in the frigid waters of the lake for a charity of their choice. You can participate in the Polar Bear Dip or just watch.
Indoor Farmer’s Market
Spend some time browsing through the delicious and local foods offered at the Farmer’s Market. Most popular items on sale/display include crafts, baked goods, jams, meats, soaps candles, clothing and more.
Fireworks on New Year, Family Day
You can enjoy fireworks from the comfort of your resort or while being wrapped inside a warm blanket by the lakeside! Fireworks take place in the winter annually on New Year and during Family Day celebrations.
Sylvan Lake Ice Fishing
You can enjoy ice fishing in Sylvan Lake. It is actually known to have some of the best fishing sites in Alberta. There are whitefish, walleye, burbot and pike in the lake (walleye and pike must be released). You can book an ice fishing cabin here for your trip!
Snowshoeing at Jarvis Bay Provincial Park
Just 10 minutes from downtown Sylvan Lake is the Jarvis Bay Provincial Park. This park is perfect for snowshoeing in the winter!
Sylvan Star Cheese
Before you reach Lakeshore, you will see a cheese market (on your left) that’s the Sylvan Star Cheese, known for farm made Gouda. Their extra aged gouda, also called the “Grizzly”, is actually ranked #4 in the world.
You can visit the farm, book a cheese tasting session and buy some for home. They are open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 5 pm.
Sylvan Lake Summer Activities
Sylvan Lake Aqua Splash
The aqua splash at the lake is a great place for families and groups to hang out in the summer. It is actually the first ever open water park in the province of Alberta. The park boasts of a 15 feet slide, cliffhanger, and tower for your enjoyment.
You can check out their website for hours, and entry fee information.
Sylvan Lake Water Park (closed in 2016)
Wild Rapids Waterslide Park was a waterpark that was located on the shores of Sylvan Lake. However, it was closed in 2016.
Sylvan Lake Paintball
Open in the late spring and summer months, Sylvan Lake Paintball is a great place to enjoy a fun day with friends and family. The park has 4 unique fields spread over 7 acres of beautifully wooded, landscaped terrain.
Wood Shed Axe Throwing
Another fun activity is to enjoy axe throwing, at the Woodshed Axe complex. They offer 8 lanes of axe throwing with super interactive targets that are very engaging. (open for everyone age 10 onwards). Previous travelers have given good reviews about this experience.
Jarvis Bay Provincial Park – Sylvan lake camping
From hiking, camping to biking, Jarvis Bay Provincial Park is an outdoorsy lover’s treat. The park is only 10 minutes away from the town centre, and is home to 115 unserviced sites and 52 powered sites.
There are cook shelters, fire pits, firewood (for purchase), flush toilets and showers, playgrounds, sewage disposal on-site, and is also wheelchair accessible.
Lakeside Go-Karts & Mini Golf
Operational from the late spring to summer months (April to June), you can enjoy go karting, and 18 holes of mini-golf here. Check for opening hours (there was a fire breakout at the site, so it was not open when we visited).
Sylvan Lake Beach Rentals
If you are looking to rent a boat, you can do so at the Sylvan Lake Boat Rentals. Hourly rates start at $100 CAD/hour. More details here
Go golfing at the Meadowlands Golf Club – Sylvan Lake
Meadowlands Golf Club is a great spot to go golfing. The golf course has 18 beautiful holes, with open fairways, and small, tough greens.
Meadowlands welcomes novice and most seasoned players, and you will find a driving range, and a restaurant and beverage cart service. Their clubhouse features a spacious lounge area to spend a nice afternoon or a lavish dinner.
You can also check out wildlife especially deer peeping through while you are golfing.
Lakewood Golf Resort is another option. It is located on the east side of Sylvan Lake.
Places to eat in Sylvan Lake
Enough of sights and activities, here are some places to pig out in Sylvan lake. We were quite surprised to stumble upon so many cute places to eat and hang out here
- Sun of a Beach – Restaurant and Pub
- Spinnakers Cafe – Vietnamese
- The Big Moo and More Moo – Ice cream (buy from the window, reminds me of school days!)
- King Donair
- White Castle
You will also find Tim Hortons, and a Subway restaurant in town.
So from outdoor activities in winter and summer, festivities and food, Sylvan Lake will delight you for a weekend away or a short day trip to escape from the city!
Have you been to Sylvan Lake? Would you consider visiting?